Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Nesting Baby Bird Cupcakes
I made these Nesting Baby Bird Cupcakes, originally featured on Martha Stewart, recently for a baby shower by special request. To make these adorable and fairly simple cupcakes, first bake a batch of your favorite cupcakes- I made mine chocolate filled with caramel and topped with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream.
You will need a bag of shredded coconut, a batch of swiss meringue buttercream (this is the best icing to use because it has a stable consistency for decorating), disposable pastry bags, some melted chocolate, toothpicks, and an Ateco #349 leaf tip (for the beaks) and #11 plain round tip (for the heads).
For the Toasted Coconut Nests:
Spread 3 cups of shredded coconut on a baking sheet. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until toasted and tan colored (it smells amazing!). Use a spatula to flip coconut to ensure even toasting. Set aside to cool.
For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
1 cup sugar
4 egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter (a bit colder than room temp)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Heat sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisking until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Return bowl to mixer, and whisk, gradually increasing speed from low to medium-high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla. Switch to a paddle attachment and beat until air bubbles are gone, 2 to 3 minutes more.
Set aside 1/2 of the buttercream in another bowl to be spread on top of the cupcakes.
Split the other 1/2 into another two parts (you can set aside a larger portion for the blue) and dye one part golden yellow and the other part light blue.
Scoop blue buttercream into pastry bag fitted with round tip. Scoop yellow buttercream into pastry bag fitted with leaf tip.
Spread icing onto each cupcake. Sprinkle coconut onto edges of cupcakes.
Using blue buttercream in pastry bag fitted with round tip, pipe 3 3/4 inch rounds (they should touch) onto the center of each cupcake. Try to pipe in one fluid motion, otherwise the heads will look wrinkly instead of smooth. Also, try not to touch the middle/bottom of the pastry bag, or else the buttercream will begin to get runny and the piping will be frustrating.
After all of the bird heads are piped, use the yellow buttercream in pastry bag fitted with leaf tip to pipe beaks onto each head. You will need to position the tip vertically in order for the beaks to be facing the right direction. Try to do swift, elongated motions (if that makes sense) when piping the beaks to attain the right shape and size.
Lastly, melt chocolate and apply "eyes" with the pointed end of a toothpick.
After your cupcakes are directed, place in the fridge until close to serving time. Swiss meringue buttercream does not crust, but it becomes very hard in the fridge, which preserves any designs made with it. You should allow the cupcakes to rest at room temperature so that the buttercream softens again when it's time to serve them.
Here are some of my decorating tips I came up with in the process...
I found it easiest to first sprinkle the coconut onto the edges of the cupcake and then add any extra coconut after piping the bird heads, if necessary. It was hard for me to add all of the the coconut after the birds were already piped on because the sharp ends of the toast coconut made little scratches in their heads.
I also found that I could get into a good rhythm by piping all of the heads onto the cupcakes first and then piping on the beaks. I added the chocolate eyes with toothpicks last.
Practice your piping for a good 15 minutes until you're satisfied with the results. The best part is, if you're really unhappy with how the baby birds turn out on a cupcake, it's not that big of a deal to scrape the icing off and re-do them.