summer treat: root beer float cupcakes

Hi, it’s Michele from Cakewalk Baking and I’m back with my favorite new cupcake creation – root beer float! Summertime puts me in a nostalgic mood and one of my favorite childhood memories is leaving the beach and going to the drive in A&W for burgers and floats {where they actually brought it out to your car and clipped the tray onto your window. Wow, I’m old!}...

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and tweaked it a bit, adding more butter, root beer extract and simplifying the method. I thought that root beer extract would be easier to come by but after searching all my local grocery stores, I finally found it at a homebrew/wine making store. There’s a much better selection online and I think I would try this one from Cooks next time.

For the frosting, I wanted to duplicate the vanilla ice cream, but also wanted to make sure that the overall flavor screamed root beer. I settled on making vanilla & root beer variations of my favorite Swiss meringue buttercream recipe and swirled them together. There are a couple of methods to achieve this effect – using 2 bags in one {see a great tutorial here} or you can use these very handy striper bags. Whichever technique you use, it is a little tricky to get the frosting to come out evenly, so plan on taking your time and practicing a few swirls before applying to your cupcakes. Making sure your frosting is on the softer side will make the process much easier. Happy swirling!

 {images via cakewalk baking}
Root Beer Cupcakes

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar
½ dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp root beer extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
2 cups root beer (I used Jones and I would recommend using a similar, natural soda)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and pale.
3. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix until combined
4. Sift together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda together
5. Stir together root beer & root beer extract
6. Alternately add dry ingredients and root beer to mixing bowl, scraping down after each addition. Start and end with dry ingredients
7. Fill paper-lined muffin tins with batter 2/3 full.
8. Bake at 350° for 20-22 minutes

Root Beer & Vanilla Bean buttercream

1 lb unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
8 egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tsp root beer extract (or more to taste)

1. Combine the sugar & egg whites in mixer bowl and whisk together over simmering water until hot to the touch and all of the sugar has melted and is no longer grainy
2. Transfer bowl to mixer stand and whip on high until fluffy & cool – about 10 minutes
3. With the mixer on low, add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time until incorporated. Add in vanilla. Whip until smooth (it may look curdled, but just continue to mix & it will be fine!).
4. Remove ½ of the frosting and add root beer extract to the remaining frosting.

real parties: a baking party {from scratch}

Baking parties are all the rage right now and this one is a real 'treat'. This party was photographed and submitted by Jamie Hammond and created as a little girl's 4th birthday for Gigi.  Her mother is a seamstress and designed all the aprons and chef’s hats herself... aren't they just darling?  The mini rolling pins are an inspired party favor, and the blue, pink & red colors make for a fun and girly combo. Read on below for more from about this party from Jamie...

{images by Jamie Hammond}

The party started with a little baking lesson – from washing hands to eating your creation. Then they all rolled out pre-made cookie dough, cut it into shapes, and had big sisters put it into the oven (making sure to keep everyone’s marked in their own section on the pan) while they played other games. Once they were done, the girls got to go back and decorate them to take home in their own little bakery boxes with their initials on them. As for food, there were cake balls (a frosting and cake mix dipped in white chocolate), pink marshmallows, and other candy and treats to go along with the color theme. The cake was made by a friend.

real parties: up in the airshow {clouds, planes & hot air balloons}

It's been a week of stunning European design around here... this party comes from the talented Laura of Trendinozze in Italy, and I dare you not to love it.  The tangerine and teal colors are very summer and the handcrafted hot air balloons are so unique and ingenious.  Read on below for personal details and credits from Laura, and if you like this party be sure and check out her vintage circus party here.

{images by Sweet as a Candy}

My son is fascinated with anything flying so I thought to turn this interest into the theme for his second birthday. The colors were the ones I used for his nursery, so I could use some left over fabric I had already, and it turned out very fresh and fun!
I went crazy with little airplanes and giant hot air balloons made covering paper lanterns in fabric and hung all of that under a gazebo in the garden of the farm where the party was held. Little clouds were scattered here and there too (soft pillows, paper decorations for the straws and sugar cookies and decorated the cake!). Little foam airplanes packaged in a hand made envelope were given to kids as party favors, while the grown ups were more interested into the buffet: the salty treats were typical bites of the region we live in, while the sweet table that featured cake pops (a huge hit), sugar cookies, corn flakes and white chocolate balls, the home made gelato served in little glass jars and the super chocolate-y cake topped with a little airplane.

Planning and decorations: Laura of Trendinozze
Stationery: Daylysuze
Sweets and decorations: Alessandra of Almalu's place
Photography: Federica of Sweet as a Candy

Laura, Alessandra, Federica and Suze have teamed up with other sweet friends and vendors to form the Bon Bon Studio, a full-service events and destination wedding planning group that offers the best of Italian tradition fused with a fresh and international perspective.

real parties: adorable elephant first birthday

The ladies of Dulce Sobremesa in Spain sent along this handcrafted first birthday party for Mateo, including one of the sweetest little elephants I've ever seen.  I've had a love of elephants since I was given my first babar at 7 month old... so this simple little pachyderm appeals to both my design and emotional sensibilities. Everything you see here was handmade by the dynamic Spanish duo including the garlands, labels, party hat and even the mini cake.  So very cute.

images via dulce sobremesa

FREE printables: in flight airplane favors

If you've ever been on a cross country flight with a wiggling, kicking, screaming baby... you're going to love me for this one.  As many of you know, I have a daughter who is turning one on Saturday {which is another story that involves a fab birthday party and the better part of my schedule this week}.  But the reason I bring it up is because last week we took her on vacation to the Carolinas to visit family and friends at the beach.  My husband and I were petrified of how she was going to handle the 5+ hour flight, and that sparked a brilliant idea.  Why not give the passengers around us a little something to... dare I say bribe them into submission?  So we bagged up some candy and I designed personalized labels and tied them into a sweet favor.  Oh my were they a hit.  Everyone loved receiving them, and in return were incredibly gracious and helpful throughout the flight.  Consequently, Caitlin was charming as could be. Go figure, right?

I'm sure there are other parents who want in on this, so I modified the labels into a printable with both 'he' and 'she' versions.  You can download them HERE and check out the finished favors below.  Peaceful travels to one and all. 

*** Update: I've added a 'they' version upon request.  Click HERE to download. ***

{images © birthday girl 2011}
Download 'he/she' versions HERE.
Download 'they' version HERE.

DiY tutorial: felt pom flowers

Hi! My name is Stephanie of the etsy shop stephlovesben, and I am so excited to share with y’all a tutorial for one of my favorite projects: felt pom- pom flowers!  They are the perfect decoration for any party and such a fun and easy project to make.  Let’s get started so you can see for yourself!

Step 1: First you will need to gather your supplies. You will need scissors, a needle and thread, a piece of twine or yarn (whatever you want to hang your pom with) and 9 felt circles. You can make your circles any size you want, but it is important that they are all perfect circles. It is good to use a bowl or something else circular to trace out a perfect circle.

Step 2: Next, take once circle and stitch on your twine or string. This will be covered up later so it doesn’t have to look perfect! Just make sure your string is long enough to use to hang up your pom- pom later.

Step 3: Then, take one of your remaining 8 circles and fold it in half and then in half again.

Step 4: Using your needle and thread attach the tip of the folded circle to the circle with the twine attached. Continue folding and attaching the next three circles to complete one side and then turn over and repeat on the second side.

Step 5: You’re almost done. Just fluff up the pieces and...

Now your pom-pom is ready to hang up! 

sweet treats: vanilla cupcake perfection

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”- Albert Einstein

 This is Michele of Cakewalk Baking, and I have been on the quest for the perfect vanilla cupcake and frosting for years. It seems like every recipe I tested was somehow lacking – too dry, bland, inconsistent. I couldn’t find a satisfying vanilla frosting either – too sweet, too buttery, too shorteningy...

When I made my “to do list” for the year, perfecting my vanilla cupcake & frosting recipes was high on my priority list. I’ve tried Magnolia and Billy’s and countless others, but I was never completely thrilled with the results.

When I came across Amy Sedaris’ (one of my favorite actresses) recipe, I thought it was worth a shot. To my surprise, they were pretty much perfect. My only complaint was that they were a little too dense for my liking. With a couple of tweaks, including substituting the all-purpose flour for cake flour, I got the results I was looking for – tender, moist, and flavorful!

For the frosting, my go-to has always been Swiss Meringue buttercream which I love because it’s light, has the perfect texture and tastes great – as long as you are adding some other flavor (like lemon, espresso, chocolate) to it. When just adding vanilla extract, it was a little blah and overly buttery tasting. After lots of experimentation, I found that by simply including either crème fraiche or sour cream and vanilla bean, it retained the characteristics that I love and added new depth and interest to the flavor.

I’m not sure that Albert Einstein would appreciate his words being used to describe something as trivial as cupcakes, but I found them to resonate in my search for vanilla perfection!

The Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Bring the eggs, milk & butter to room temperature (don’t skip this step, it’s very important!)
3. In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and pale.
4. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix until combined
5. Sift (yes, sift!) together flour, salt and baking powder together
6. Stir together vanilla and milk
7. Alternately add dry ingredients and milk to mixing bowl, scraping down after each addition. Start and end with dry ingredients
8. Fill paper-lined muffin tins with batter 2/3 full.
9. Bake at 350° for 18- 20 minute

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

1 lb unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
8 egg whites
1 cup crème friache or sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Seeds from 2 vanilla beans

1. Combine sugar & egg whites in mixer bowl and whisk together over simmering water until hot to the touch and all of the sugar has melted and no longer grainy
2. Transfer bowl to mixer stand and whip on high until fluffy & cool – about 10 minutes
3. With the mixer on low, add the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time until incorporated. Add in vanilla, crème fraiche or sour cream, and vanilla beans. Beat until smooth (it may look curdled, but just continue to mix & it will be fine!).

DiY tutorial: a photo envelope liner

Hi everyone- this is Paige of Paiges of Style. I created this photo envelope liner for my daughter's first birthday and I'm so excited to share the tutorial with you here!

Supplies needed
-Double Sided Tape
-Envelopes (I always use the A7 envelopes from Paper Source)
-Photo cropped and resized to be 6.5 inches wide x 6 inches tall and printed on white cardstock (can be cropped with free photo editing software such as Picasa. I use Photoshop.)


1. First, we need to create our envelope liner template. Place envelope on sheet of white cardstock.
2. Using a pencil, trace outline of envelope onto cardstock...

3. Now we need to trim down our template so that it can slide into the opening of the envelope, I measured in 3/8 of an inch from each side using a ruler and then cut out the liner.
4. Make sure that the template fits inside the envelope properly before we move onto the photo...

Note: If you want to skip these first 4 steps, Paper Source sells pre-made templates for all of the envelopes, available here.

5. Making sure to line up the edges, trace the template onto your printed photo...

6. Cut out the photo liner.
7. Place the photo into your envelope and line up the top point just below the glue line of the envelope.
8. Hold the liner in place and fold the flap down to create a crease in the liner.
9. Apply two pieces of double sided tape to the back of the photo and press onto flap to secure the liner in place...

That's it! Once you get the template made, the process is pretty fast. Plus, your friends and family will love it so much, I promise the effort will be worth it.

PS: This entire invitation suite is now available in Paige's Etsy shop.