Fondant is surprisingly easy to make, but also surprisingly difficult to work with. It’s sticky, takes incredible clay-sculpting skills, and patience. It took me about an hour to decorate seven or eight cupcakes. This chiffon cake is also one of my favorite recipes because it’s a light, moist cake — and I tend to dislike cakes (but love frosting). So the lack of my favorite thing in the world — thick, buttercream frosting — can attest to how good this chiffon cake really is. Because I love it. To death. The only thing keeping me from devouring these cupcakes is the fact that I spent so much time decorating them with fondant.
Someone recently sent me a youtube video of Buddhist monks working on mandalas, the beautiful sand paintings that they famously perfect for hours only to wipe away their masterpieces upon completion. This demonstrates their ability to detach from material goods and their lack of some sort of selfish pride in their artwork. In making these cupcakes, I find myself in a completely separate mindset than the monks. Perhaps, after mastering the art of fondant cake decorations, I will be able to let go of my creations. But for now, I can sit and admire my fireworks and star-spangled banner bikini cupcakes — until someone asks if they can eat one. It’s a dilemma in my head, naturally, of pride and personal satisfaction: I obviously adore the appearance of the cupcakes, but the fact that my friends see them, love them, taste them, and then love the taste in addition to all of that adoration? It’s what keeps me in the kitchen.
It’s a busy weekend — lots of people are coming into town to celebrate the Fourth of July at my happy home in Washington. Hope everyone has a fabulous holiday! This is, after all, my second-favorite holiday of the year
For the chiffon cupcakes:
5 eggs, separated
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
For the fondant:
16 ounces mini marshmallows
1-2 tablespoons water
2 pounds powdered sugar
WHAT TO DO:
For the cupcakes:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then, combine the egg yolks, milk, vanilla, and butter (the butter must be cooled, or else the egg yolks will cook… yuck!)
In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients: flour, 1 cup of the sugar, salt, and baking powder. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the egg combination, and beat with an electric mixer until even.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Fold about 1 cup of the initial batter into the egg white meringue, to lighten the batter. Then, combine the rest of the batter with the meringue, and gently fold until the batters are evenly mixed. Pour into cupcake molds, about 2/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops of the cupcakes are a nice golden brown.
To make the fondant, combine the marshmallows in a microwavable bowl with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. Microwave at 30 second intervals until marshmallows are completely melted. Then, gradually combine the powdered sugar, kneading until a thick fondant dough is formed. This gets messy, and the fondant is unbelievably sticky — use crisco on your hands to keep the fondant from adhering to your fingertips.
Roll the fondant on a piece of waxed paper dusted with powdered sugar, and use cutters to decorate and form the shapes that you like. Enjoy!