Friday, March 25, 2016

EZ Colorful Cupcake Topping

Bake your favorite cupcakes, then top with icing and colored sugars, rainbow jimmies, or nonpareils, or a combination. "Gluing" colored sugars onto glaze-topped cupcakes results in festive-looking snacks that have less topping than those with swirly, buttercream mounds of frosting.

The pixstrip shows the following image areas:
  1. Cupcakes, topping ingredients, implements
  2. Glaze items
    1. Ingredients and implements
    2. Vanilla poured into pan with water in it
    3. Powdered sugar mixed into pan (3 successive images)
  3. Glazing and sugaring process
    1. Applying glaze to cupcake (I applied glaze with spoon instead of dipping cupcake top because of the cake crumbliness.)
    2. Moving color sugar-coated cupcake to rack
    3. Placing done cupcake onto pan
  4. Topped cupcakes on plate
Implements (for Topping the Cupcakes)
  • Cup for powdered sugar
  • Measuring spoons
  • Small, shallow pan for mixing the glaze
  • Fork for mixing glaze ingredients
  • Shallow bowls or saucers for colored sugars (I used 6" paper plates that I folded for pouring sugars back into their jars.)
  • Pan or rack for cupcakes
  • Spoon for distributing glaze on cupcakes if necessary (Fetched when the dip-cupcake-into-glaze attempt worked poorly.)
  • Cupcakes
    12 baked cupcakes (I used half recipe of yellow cake mix and blended in 3 tablespoons of rainbow jimmies.
  • Glaze ingredients (I used 1/2 recipe for simple powdered sugar glaze.)
    • 1 C powdered sugar
    • 1 1/2 tbsp water
    • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • Colorful sugars (suggestions as follows)
    • Colored sugars
    • Rainbow jimmies
    • Nonpareils (I skipped.)
    • Other
Note: The amount of glaze is for 12 cupcakes (a half-box recipe for standard cake mix powder, which contains approximately 15 or 16ish ounces.) Double the amount of glaze ingredients if you plan to decorate 24 cupcakes.

  • Bake or obtain a dozen cupcakes. (Suggestion: For more colorfulness, fold in 3 tablespoons of rainbow jimmies into the batter.) After baking, remove the cupcakes onto a cooling rack.
  • Make the glaze. (I used a fork to stir the water and 1vanilla into a shallow pan, then stirred in the powdered sugar.)
  • Dip tops of cupcakes onto the glaze, lightly dip them onto sugars, and set them rightside up onto the rack.
Post-recipe Thoughts
I will never, ever again use the Duncan Hines Classic Butter Golden cake mix. With my first half-box batch, I filled 12 oil-sprayed cupcake wells as I normally do. The baked cakes had encroached the top of the pan, resulting in "muffintop" looks. They were difficult to extract from the pan. Many partially crumbled.

With the second half-box batch, I sprayed oil more generously, and poured the batter over 16 wells. After baking, the cakes looked like they hardly rose. Moreover, they were also difficult to extract. The prominent fail part was trying to hold a cake in preparation to dipping it into the glaze. It was as fragile as a cornbread muffin, making it necessary to improvise and smear the glaze. In any case, the results were pretty ugly.

FWIW, the recipe calls for soft butter instead of oil, and less than half of the usual amount of water. The beating instructions required 30 seconds for initial blending, like "normal" cake instructions. However, it required 4 minutes of medium beating instead of the "normal" 2 minutes on high. The batter was very thick, and messy to distribute.

Visit my YouTube video to see more details of this recipe's process.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Pizza Boxes Part 1

I’m guessing that way more than 99% of pizza boxes function as containers for pizza. Afterward, the boxes get tossed in the trash. (A recycle advisory says to not recycle them because grease and food contaminate the boxes. A few might serve as overnight leftover pizza containers, then tossed out.

Pizza Box Uses Besides for Pizzas
I can think of three additional purposes for pizza boxes (brand spankin’ new, however), of which I’ve used for two purposes in the past.
  • Container for a pizza jigsaw puzzle (similar to some Zazzle images)
  • Storage for a Bahtinov mask, my more recent pizza box use. Some masks are professionally manufactured, some are DIY and might or might not include an embroidery hoop, as the image at the top of the article.
  • If unfolded, a surface for a partially assembled jigsaw puzzle. To make it a corral for transporting a puzzle to another tabletop, fold and tape some edges to form walls.
Note: Typical pizza places probably sell three to five different pizza sizes, so you can pick your suitable box size.

Products that are Called Pizza Boxes
Some products are referred to as pizza boxes because of shape similarities, often box-like with matching length by width and short height.
Wending from Bhatinov Focusing Mask to Pizza Box
We recently made a Bhatinov focusing mask, which included lots of tedium in gingerly and accurately cutting slots. To protect the finished mask and its embroidery hoop, I thought a pizza box, with its stiff corrugated cardboard structure, would be perfect for storage.

After measuring the mask with hoop (about 10.5" diameter), I poked around the web for pizza box info. (Read nitty gritty details about boxes in Pizza Boxes Part 2.) Anyway, we bought a new 12" pizza box for 25¢ while buying an extra large pizza to go.

Those who are interested in astronomy and astrophotography and want to know more about Bhatinov focusing masks can start with some resources as follows: