Sunday, March 18, 2012
Mad Men Cupcakes
Mad Men fever is back! As any fan knows, next week is the season premier after a seemingly endless break. While I don't plan to hold a viewing party, I had reason to celebrate the show this weekend because my friend Daphne's well-timed Mad Men themed birthday party was held last night. The party was such a blast, everyone really got into the spirit of theme - lots of slim-fitting suits, strands of pearls and up-dos. I thought about bringing classic cocktail-inspired cupcakes, or even the crowd-pleasing Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, especially since yesterday happened to be St. Patrick's Day (see my post from the 2011 Superbowl). In the end, I decided to go with a simple chocolate devil food cake with butter cream frosting. This would allow the time I needed to focus on a new challenge: fondant decorations. I've never worked with fondant before, so this was definitely uncharted territory for me, but felt like this would be the perfect opportunity to try something new. At first i thought of creating images of cocktail glasses, but felt like that wasn't right...it could be for any party. The challenge for me was to find something that was specific to Mad Men. That's when I realized I had the perfect tool to create the images I needed - MadMenYourself.com. I went to the site and created six new avatars - 3 men and 3 ladies:
Fun with Fondant
I bought a package of Wilton's rolled fondant which is plain white and comes in the shape of a brick. i divided it into sections to dye. i used Wilton's concentrated gel food coloring. It was very easy to work with and the fondant took the color very well. I recommend using thin latex gloves when working in the dye. Red dye especially doesn't wash off very easily - my palms were still pink after several washings.
I dyed all the fondant I thought I would need, and wrapped each color in plastic to prevent it from drying out. I then started work on getting the templates made for each character. I decided to make the images as large as possible, which meant only the head and shoulders would fit on top of the cupcake. I worked on each component in sections: head, hair, clothes and accessories. I saved the facial features for last.
Heads (with facial features partially completed), Hair, Clothes & Accessories:
When working with fondant, if it starts to get too sticky, you can use a little cornstarch on the work surface. Use only a little bit though. The fondant should be at room temperature and rolled out to about 1/8" thickness. When putting together the components, the fondant should be pliable so each piece can stick together. i kept the pieces flat in a zip lock bag until I was ready to use them. For any pieces that were not sticking together, I used some of the buttercream frosting as glue. To make the faces, i "drew" the features using the pointed tip of a wooden skewer to make the impression and then painted over it using decorating icing from a tube (I used Wilton). I don't recommend using decorating gel because it's too sheer. I also find decorating using small paint brushes easier than using a decorating tip - I find those hard to control at times, especially with very small details).
Putting together the characters was a lot of fun, it felt like playing with Colorforms as a kid.
In the end, I was pleased with the outcome. I spent a lot of time working on the facial features, which caused the fondant to dry out a bit, but they held up pretty well when applying the hair and accessories. The cupcakes themselves turned out to be the most frustrating. I tried this "one bowl" devil's food cake recipe on the package of Ghiradelli chocolate I had. It was intended for a 9x13 cake pan and when the cupcakes came out of the oven, they immediately collapsed. Pressed for time, I wound up buying a Duncan Hines devil's food cake mix. At least the buttercream I made was flawless.
Mad Men Ladies (on a vintage platter):
I love this chick, she's sassy:
Here are the six characters that are as close to the originals I created on the Mad Men site:
And here's all 18 (i made just enough to fill my cupcake display stand):