About two weeks ago Buzzfeed posted an article “19 Lovely Cupcakes to Make this Valentine’s Day” with #10 being heart surprise cupcakes Buzzfeed described as “actually super easy to make.” Super easy?! Super easy? Ok, Internet, game on. I will try and make your difficult looking but supposedly easy cupcakes and enlist Jesse help to bake with me so we can surprise our respective significant others.
I should mention that Valentine’s Day isn’t realllly celebrated in Israel (they have the Jewish version Tu B’Av) but many people go out to eat and restaurants attempt to be spirited with heart cut-outs taped to the windows. Originally I planned to buy heart-shaped cupcakes from a cupcake shop called Red Velvet, but making something from scratch that is both cool and “super easy to make” is worth it right? Right.
Not completely right.
Where to begin? Let’s start with the shopping. Most of the ingredients were easy to find, although not always cheap. Jesse even managed to buy a heart shaped cookie cutter which may be the most impressive part of this whole experience. The one thing that we had to hunt for, however, was heart shaped sprinkles. The most important part! And I should clarify that this search was also just to find interesting sprinkles in general. As far as I know, Israel sells the same 3 types of sprinkles: chocolate, multicolored, and “princess” sprinkles. After looking at three different stores we finally randomly found the princess sprinkles in the tiny 24/7 market called Super Baba. I felt a sense of familiarity when I saw the sprinkles, and it only took me a minute to realize that they were the same ones my friend Aleah used to bake a birthday cake for me last year.
So really, if you find another type of sprinkles in this country, please tell me.
Anyway. To the actual baking! Everything started out easily enough when I brought all of the ingredients to Jesse’s house and we made the batter. The trick with this recipe is that you take 1/3 of the batter to bake a separate cake, cut the hearts out of that, and then you place the hearts in the batter in the cupcake liners. We put some of the batter in a separate bowl and added a small amount of red food coloring to give the hearts a rich, red color. Well, in America you add a couple of drops of food coloring to something and you’ve already added too much, but in Israel, half of the bottle wasn’t enough to make a difference. We were left with a bowl of pink batter. Since pink hearts also sufficed, we got over our frustrations about weak Israeli food coloring and continued baking.
Now I should mention that I didn’t take any pictures up to this point because I thought the baking process would be pretty ordinary. But baking in Israel + trying to make something from the Internet + lack of culinary skills = document everything.
We poured the pink batter into the cake pan and it barely made a layer over the whole bottom of the pan. But, that’s fine. It will rise! It’s a cake. No worries, we’re doing what the recipe said, easy!
The cake came out practically flat at the edges and sort of thick enough in the middle. A disappointment, but i was more concerned about the super sponge-y, bubbly surface of the cake, and why it came out such a bizarre color even though the dye was well blended before baking.
Lesson learned: never trust Israeli food coloring.
Jesse’s roommate described the pink color as “meaty” and I have to admit that I agreed. Not such an appetizing color for dessert treats (but that’s what photo editing is for).
Moving on, the next step was to wait for the cake to cool. While that happened, we made the cream cheese frosting. Nothing worth mentioning there except that the frosting recipe from the website was really weird and I will never make it that way again. Putting cream cheese with regular cream and a small amount of sugar just creates…even creamier cream cheese. [The next morning when I went to ice the cupcakes all of the flavor in the icing was gone and it tasted just like cream cheese again, but luckily my roommate came to the rescue with some confectioner’s sugar which saved it a bit].
By the way, this is what a baking work station looks like when you have no dining room or living room or counter space in your kitchen
Now on to the fun part. The cake cooled and we cut out the hearts. They were a little meaty looking, and thin, but they were also cute so I don’t care.
The directions said to put two tablespoons of batter into the paper liners, stick the heart in and press it to the bottom, then cover the heart with another tablespoon of batter. I’m not sure how I would improve this step, but I can say that it does not work as simply as it is written.
Many of the hearts started tipping and we couldn’t find a balance for them in the center of the batter. Now, this may have been due to the hearts being thinner than we had planned, but I’m not sure. As soon as we were able to get all of the hearts standing we shoved the pre-cupcakes into the oven and hoped for the best.
Here is a before picture:
and here is an after picture:
As you can see we had less than a 50% success rate with this. Many of the hearts floated to the top of the cupcake, face up, and even the ones that were upright were sticking out of the batter so much that they created a less defined heart when cut open. I would say to put more than one tablespoon of batter on top of the hearts to prevent that. Or maybe the Internet is leaving out some secret step that makes this part of the process much easier. One may never know.
Since we had made 16 cupcakes, Jesse and I decided to test one out. You’re supposed to ice the cupcakes and then mark them in some fashion to know which direction you need to make your slice. And since the hearts are supposed to be perfectly in the middle, with one clean slice in the correct direction you have your surprise! Well, we iced one cupcake and half heartedly (punny) decorated it. Jesse cut down the middle, hoping for the best, but no. We got a nice pink blob. It didn’t work because even the upright, successful hearts were off-center, so there was no way to know where exactly to cut the cupcake once it was iced. That is when I came up with the solution of pre-cutting the cupcakes and then icing them, and that worked much better.
So we made the cupcakes Thursday night and iced them separately Friday morning. I’m not sure why but the cupcakes came out a bit oily (though there was no oil in the recipe) and they looked more like muffins. They were still delicious though. Here are my decorated “princess themed” sprinkled cupcakes. I must give thanks to my handy assistant decorator/roommate, Sam, who supplied much of the creativity and cuteness.
Even though they didn’t come out quite like the Internet told me they would, it was still a success. And I got to bring them to my boyfriend’s house and impress his family and make them believe I have some sort of culinary skills (I don’t).
So Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day, eat lots of chocolate and cake, and if the Internet makes something look easy, it probably isn’t.