Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Panda Bear Cupcakes

The Diva turned 8 in October. That means time for the great Cupcake Challenge. The Diva picks a theme and I have to come up with a brilliant cupcake to go with it.

Since we started the Cupcake Challenge, we have had:
2011: Tinkerbell
2013: Puppies. I forfeited this one and we bought a bakery cake. I know.
2014: Frozen. I did make cupcakes but they were so lame that they weren't even picture worthy. Just picture a blue cupcake, a pile of white frosting with a single large shimmery purple gumball placed on top. The kids loved it - cake! gum! - but it just wasn't Challenge worthy.

So 2015 was the tie breaker year. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew in her little evil Diva heart, she was going to stump me.

She was so close. I literally put the plan together the day before the party.

My inspiration cupcakes were here, but they were mini cupcakes. I knew I was going to have to think bigger to pull it off. Well, here's what I came up with.

I love them. The Diva loved them. And they were so easy. Seriously, from cake mixing to finished decorating was an hour. There are a few things I would change and they are noted here.

2015 Cupcake Challenge success! The losing streak is over!

24 cupcakes, 2 cups mini Oreos, 1 bag M&Ms, 1 bag mini baking Kisses, 1 tub frosting (see notes below), 1 bottle sanding sugar, and 1 fine-tip tube black frosting (see notes below).
Frost cupcakes and dip into sanding sugar.
Split Oreos and place in eye positions.
Secure brown M&M's to Oreo cookie.
Place Hershey Kisses for ears and nose. Add mouth with black frosting (not shown).
Large frosting tip (optional) and frosting bag

24 baked cupcakes (I used a confetti cake mix and dressed it up with milk and real butter)
1 tub vanilla / white frosting [hindsight: I would make a large batch of homemade, or use 2 tubs]
2-4 TBSP powdered sugar (optional)
White sanding sugar
mini Oreos (I used about 1-1/2 "To Go Cups" shown here)
M&M's - you only need the brown ones. I had barely [heh] enough from one bag
Mini Hershey Kisses - I found these in the baking aisle, bonus that they came unwrapped!
Black gel frosting [hindsight: use chocolate or black non-gel next time. within a few hours the gel frosting had started to bleed into the sugar crystals so our pandas had cute little beards]

If using tub frosting, I recommend mixing it up with 2 TBSP powdered sugar per tub. This stiffens up the frosting so that it holds to the cupcake a bit better. If using homemade, make sure frosting is nice and stiff.

Frost cupcakes. I used a large Wilton 2A tip, but you can just plop it on with a spoon. It isn't going to matter how it looks as long as it covers the entire cupcake. Notice that some of mine are not completely covered as I was running out of frosting, and I only have 22 cupcakes as a result.

This next part is kind of scary the first time you do it, but trust me, it's easy. Pour the white sanding sugar into a shallow wide mouthed bowl. Invert frosted cupcake and gently press into the sugar. This will smooth out your frosting and make your panda sparkley. (Trust me, Divas looooove sparkley!)

Place two frosting dots (I used the black gel because I was out of white) towards the top of the cupcake. Split two mini Oreos, keeping the frosted half and placing it on the frosting dot. Place another frosting dot on each Oreo frosting and place a brown M&M. See what you did there? You just made Panda eyes! For fun I made the eyes looking in different directions - up, down, cross-eyed, you get the idea.

Take two mini Hershey Kisses, turn them so that the flat side is up. Press them into the side of the cupcake above the eyes (at about 1 & 11 o'clock) to make panda ears. Take one Hershey Kiss on its side with the flat side towards the eyes and the pointy side towards the bottom of the face. It's a perfect chocolate bear nose - yummy!

Using the black / chocolate frosting, make a swoopy "W" shape for the mouth. Make sure the middle of the "W" is longer and goes up to the point of the nose.

And that is how you win a panda bear cupcake challenge!

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