Welcome to Nina’s Cupcakes!

Several blog posts in the past have shown and described my experience with making cakes and/or cupcakes for different family, friend, and church events. I have found myself loving this hobby. First of all, because there’s a high level of objectivity to it, which means this hobby presents me with a challenge – it requires skills, know-how, and patience (which is a virtue I’m in dire need of). So not only does this hobby teach me things, I’m molding my character at the same time!

If I’m not challenged, if the beauty and appeal of my completed work is subjective, I become bored very quickly. With my paintings, some may like the end result, and some may not. To someone who doesn’t know me, my (sincerely) crude skills may have very well been intentional and therefore, ingenious and even daring. So now painting has become a hobby I enjoy partaking in when I’m in the mood. I have to get a certain urge, or inspiration from somewhere to pull a canvas out and start brushing away. With baking and decorating cakes and cupcakes on the other hand, you either succeed or you don’t. If it’s burnt, it’s burnt. If it’s too dense and dry, it’s too dense and dry. If it’s undercooked, it’s undercooked. If it’s perfectly spongy and moist, pat yourself on the back! Therein lies the challenge: making moist and fluffy batter, mixing icing that’s smooth, fluffy, and rich (but not too rich), using icing tips correctly, and molding fondant meticulously. Succeeding at baking and decorating is such a reward.

Which leads into the second reason of why cake and cupcake making/decorating has become my all-time favorite pass-time. By the time you have completed a project that meets your expectations, you have made such a mess on your countertop and floors, spent so many hours, have icing and confectioner’s sugar everywhere including your face and hair, and have taken so many sitting breaks to ease your tired feet, that you feel like a sous baker and truly believe that Candace Nelson has nothing on you. To see that beautiful piece of edible art stored away nicely in a container, makes you so proud and you can’t wait to see people’s reactions – the other part of the second reason why I love baking. I love and thrive on seeing people’s reactions to their visions, their favorite theme, their favorite colors and flavors exactly as they wanted. But enough of the narrating. I want to get to the good stuff. The following is a description and pictures of a cake that I made for my dear friend Chantelle’s wedding shower about a month ago:

For this cake, I chose a new recipe (I do not recommend experimenting for an actual event) that was actually called fudge brownie cake. Sounds great, right? Well, results speak louder than words. I may have over-mixed the batter (be careful to not over-mix your chocolate cake batter – it will dry it out), but it was just because the consistency was simply not as cohesive as I was used to. The batter was thick and gooey, and the ingredients were separating. Yuck. So this specific recipe will not be a repeat in my kitchen.

I used a classic buttercream icing for layering and icing the outside of the cake. Then, i rolled and molded white fondant, painted to the  bride’s taste of colors, and applied to the cake. Voila!

Although I will occasionally use colored fondant, I have found that my personal preference is painted fondant. I think it gives cakes a more homemade, and dare I say, vintage look?

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Another example of painted fondant, and what got me enamored with the idea was when my friend Kelsey and I designed, made, and decorated her son, Fin’s second birthday party cake.

See how different fondant looks when you paint it yourself? It doesnt look so cookie-cutter. Not to mention, it looks like we cut out pictures from “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and glued them to the cake. I think we’d make Eric Carle proud, don’t you?

I might as well get to the part I’ve been itching to write about. I have a little, but exciting (at least to me), piece of news which is I’m making an attempt to broaden my client base. A very minuscule attempt because I’m still a novice, and learning as I go, but an attempt nonetheless. Baking for my husband and myself is fun and all, but I think my real learning experience will come from taking someone else’s idea, wish, or vision, and making it a reality. I’m in no way qualified to require or even want to make a profit. Quite honestly, I think as soon as this hobby turned into business for me, it would suck the joy out of everything. I simply enjoy baking, want to learn more about it, and make people’s special events all the more fun and personalized.

My precious niece and nephew (Eden and Asher) have always called me “Nina”, which stemmed from the eldest’s (Asher) inability to pronounce “Elina” – my actual name. The nickname of “Nina” has caught like wildfire and now many of my closest relatives, friends, and even my husband, call me Nina. Therefore, I have decided my little not-for-profit endeavor will be named Nina’s Cupcakes.

Nina’s Cupcakes has officially been up and running since October 13th when my dear friends Dan and Chantelle tied the knot with a beautiful fall-themed wedding. The bride wanted there to be an assortment of homemade pies and cupcakes served at the wedding reception, and I was honored to present my first official Nina’s Cupcakes – 160 of them to be exact – to the public.

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream icing and chocolate sprinkles

Mini chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream icing and yellow sugar sprinkles / chocolate sprinkles.

Vanilla cupcakes with raspberry filling, vanilla cream cheese frosting, and gold sprinkles.

Nina’s Cupcakes isn’t yet in the baby phase. It’s more in the fetal stage right now. But if you live in the Cincinnati area, have a little birthday party or shower you are in charge of, and don’t want to break the bank, contact me and I’d be more than happy to see if we can work something out.

How it works: client emails (preferable) or calls me requesting my services, I have them complete an order form, I purchase all the ingredients and save receipts, make their cake or cupcakes, deliver at the event venue, and the client writes me a check for the ingredients used. So essentially, I saved the client time and money, and I get to spend time doing my hobby and making someone happy. We all win!

I’m mostly self-taught in the art of baking and decorating, but I would be lying if I said I’m a self-made baking aficionado. I love reading and watching educational videos on the art of cake and cupcake decorating, and pulling knowledge from others. So here’s to paying it forward. Every time I make a baking-related entry from now on, I will include a “Nina’s Advice” section in hopes that you can use some of my learning experiences to make sweet yumminess in your home too. I have also been asked to provide links to information and resources that I come across and find beneficial, so expect a “Nina’s Resources” section as well.

Nina’s Advice

1. Experimenting is fun. But do it on your own time. Not if you are planning on making your work public. If you have a husband or friends like mine, even your failed experiments will not go to waste.

2. Don’t over-mix your chocolate batter. It will eliminate all the air pockets away from the batter, leaving it dry and dense. Boo.

3. If you are only detailing with fondant, don’t want to spend the extra money on colored fondant, don’t want to spend the time [and headache] coloring fondant manually, consider painting it. Gel food coloring is pricey, but it goes a LONG way.

Happy Baking!