Friday, March 9, 2012

Luau Tiki Men Cupcakes

Every year about this time the Scholastic Book Fair comes to my kid's school. For an entire week, the library turns into a book store, all decked out according to the theme. This year it's a Luau.

I'm happy to support the book fair because it benefits the school and encourages kids to read. I've even picked up some choice finds in years past. That's where I acquired Hello, Cupcake! and What's New Cupcake? but I was really excited to see Bakerella's Cake Pops book on the shelf this year.

I volunteered to bring sweet treats, and since I've been telling everybody to buy Bakerella's book I probably should've made cake pops. I thought about trying to make little tiki men shaped cake pops, but I wasn't convinced it would work, and cake pops take a lot of time.

So I decided to make mini cupcakes. You can usually get at least 72 out of a box of cake mix, so they're great for feeding a crowd. I used a box of Duncan Hines Confetti cake mix and got 78 micro cakes. I only have one mini-muffin pan, so I had to bake the batter in batches, but that gave me time in between to work on the decorations.

Not really sure how to decorate them, and totally lacking imagination, I went with the design printed on the book fair flyers. Here's what I was going for. Or, at least something similar.
To make the tiki men, I formed chocolate fondant into a log shape, and then rolled it into a snake. I then cut it into (roughly) 3/4" segments. It's best to work on them one at a time, and you'll need to keep the spares covered so they don't dry out before you get to them. Using modeling tools, my assistant and I made tiki faces in each segment and left them to dry. We used a dog bone tool (small end) to make the eye indentations, a pointed modeling stick for the eyes, the thin end of a veining tool to make the nose, and a small spatula to make the forehead marks and mouths. But really, you could do all that with the tip of your pinky, a toothpick, and a pointy spatula. I also posted a tutorial demonstrating how to make these on
I also made small green leaves and blossoms out of a gum paste and pre-colored rolled fondant blend using plunger cutters. The blossom centers are sugar pearls, and I used an angled offset spatula to make small vein marks on the leaves. These can be made days in advance.
To assemble, I piped white buttercream on the top of each cupcake, using a tip #12 on some and a tip #21 on the others. Immediately after, I dipped the cupcake edges in brown sugar to look like sand. Again, it's best to work with them one at a time so the icing doesn't crust before you get the cupcake edges dipped in the brown sugar. Also, sometimes brown sugar is sticky and likes to clump up, depending on the humidity. If that's an issue, mix in some regular sugar to help break it up. Then, I positioned a tiki, some blossoms, and a couple of leaves on the top.
I figured out, quite by accident when I got a glob of buttercream on a tiki and then wiped it away, that you can highlight the features and details by smearing a little icing across it. This white buttercream makes a nice contrast on the chocolate fondant. But, I didn't really have the time to do them all that way, so I left the rest plain.
Since these are mini cupcakes, they might be a bit top heavy, especially the ones that get a little more full because their tops are bigger. Also, some of the tiki men wanted to lean, so the blossoms and leaves help prop them up.
The thing about making the tiki guys by hand is that they all come out looking a little bit different, and they were so much fun to make! I have more pictures, possibly with an obscure reference or two, posted on photobucket.

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