Karen Tack and Alan Richardson - What's New, Cupcake?: Ingeniously Simple Designs for Every Occasion

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Some of the Cutest Cupcakes You'll Ever See

Jul 27, 2011
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:unbelievably cute cupcake designs fashioned out of other baked treats and candies; creative; inspiring

Cons:none

The Bottom Line: I recommend this book to anyone that is looking for creative ways to make whimsical cupcakes.  It will inspire you to create your own designs.


What's New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson features cupcake designs for all occasions; holidays, birthdays and other special events, and just for fun. These whimsical cupcakes are created using just about every edible thing under the sun, particularly all types of candy. For example, one of the first things you'll see within the Introduction section is a two page spread showing would-be decorators how they can create a cute cupcake display that mimics a bouquet of flowers. What do you want to use for the flowers?  Four types of cookies are offered as examples. Leaves can be made from gummy fish, peppermint leaves, candy lime slices, or rolled out and cut from green apple Laffy Taffy, Tootsie Rolls, or other soft candy. Petals can be fashioned from pieces of candy corn, M&Ms, miniature marshmallows, or jelly beans, and green sprinkles, nonpareils, colored sugar or food colored coconut can become grass. What's New, Cupcake is all about getting the reader to look at things in a new way; what can I use to make this scene/animal/lookalike in cupcake form?

What's New, Cupcake was published in 2010 and is a followup book to Hello, Cupcake! (2008), a New York Times bestseller by the same authors. (Both books ended up as bestsellers on the NYT.) While some designs do utilize conventional cake decorating techniques (such as piping frosting from a decorating bag), many of them really use the candy components mentioned above to make the scene/design come alive. Each chapter features what the authors call EZ Cupcakes, designs that use a few ingredients, simple techniques, and that anyone can make.

Cupcaking Materials, Tools, and Techniques is the first chapter, and in it the authors show, through full page photos, how precisely positioned Designer Candies can create flowers, bugs, animals, etc. This section also illustrates how Roller Candies (soft jellies, taffy, and chews) can be rolled out and cut into shapes and how Flex Candies (licorice, gum, circus peanuts, Twizzlers, etc.) can be tied, bent, twisted or cut to make designs. A page called Essential Tools for Cupcaking shows items like food coloring, craft paper, scissors, spatulas, tweezers, cupcake liners, toothpicks and small paintbrushes. Just about everything shown here is likely to already be in your home. The next page, Filling Cupcake Liners, discusses just that. The authors suggest putting batter into freezer weight ziplock bags, cutting off a corner, and neatly filling cupcake liners that are waiting inside a muffin/cupcake pan. (Personally, I like to use an ice cream scoop.) Frosting Cupcakes comes next, simply showing how to apply frosting to a baked and cooled cupcake and smooth it with a spatula. Filling a Ziplock Bag and Piping Frosting come next. I like that the book shows using freezer ziplock bags as an option, but anyone that already has some experience in cake decorating will likely want to use pastry bags, either reusable or disposable ones. Since this book focuses on simple piping techniques that don't require cake decorating tips, the ziplock bags are a nice option. Building Cupcake Shapes illustrates how to use various pieces to create a more three dimensional cupcake. As an example, a duck (such as the one on the book's cover) is created by attaching a doughnut hole (the head) to one side of the cupcake and a piece of marshmallow (the tail) to the other. Then the photo shows how you can cover the duck with frosting for a textured look, add yellow colored coconut for a fuzzy look, or dip it in melted frosting for a shiny look. Dipping Cupcakes comes next, then Tinting Sugars, Nonpareils, Sprinkles, and Coconut, and Edging and Coating Cupcakes. This is followed by a discussion on Drawing with Chocolate, creating Supports for Candies and Cookies (such as “gluing” pretzels to the backs of cookies with melted chocolate to create a lollipop shape), Cupcaking with Custom Cookie Shapes, and Cupcaking with Melted Hard Candy.

The real fun begins with the first chapter of cupcake designs, April Fool's Play. All of these projects are cupcake designs made to look like something else. Side of Fries features strips of pound cake (cut with a serrated knife to mimic the look of crinkle cut fries) that are toasted to look like French fries, then piled on top of white frosted cupcakes with a red frosted cupcake as the cup of ketchup, of course. Other projects are Hold the Anchovies (a frosting and candy pizza done on top of a circle of cupcakes), Faux Foot Long (one of my favorites, four cupcakes assembled side by side to look like a sub sandwich), All Cracked Up (eggs), Chinese Takeout (one of the cutest things is broccoli made out of fruit chews and nonpareils), Banana Split, the Coals are Ready (a display of cupcakes topped with marshmallows that have been smashed together, covered in frosting, and topped with crushed chocolate cookies as the coal and red or orange sprinkles as the fire), and Bake-Sale Pies (blue or red M&Ms piled on top of cupcakes, then piped with tan frosting to create a lattice like “crust.”) The authors suggest that this chapter features cupcakes that would be good for sleepovers, birthdays, holidays, or any time you need a laugh, and I tend to agree.

You Say It's Your Birthday? Features cupcakes any kid would be thrilled to have at his or her party. Girls will like Ring Bling, Flower Power, Karaoke Cupcakes (microphones are created out of ice cream cake cones, doughnut holes, frosting, and silver dragees), and Knit One, Frost Two (cupcakes look like balls of yarn.) Boys will like Fur Balls and String Monsters, Formula One Cupcakes (cupcakes put together in the shape of a race car), and Robocup (a cupcake robot.) Gender neutral designs include Artist's Palette, Making Waves (people created out of cookies and candy floating in water, using chocolate frosted doughnuts as inner tubes), and Jungle Fever (hippos, alligators and flamingos in a cute scene.)

The next chapter is called I Thought You Ordered Chocolate Moose and shows readers how they can make various critters. A Twinkie is covered in chocolate and used to make the head of a moose and the body of a whale. Frosted Stella D'oro cookies are used as the tails of a skunk and a squirrel. Circus peanuts are fashioned into Koi fish. Cherry candy fruit slices become a red lobster. Candy-coated almonds placed side by side create Ants on a Picnic. The Busy Bees cupcake display looks like a honeycomb being visited by bees, black jelly beans with yellow stripes of frosting and sliced almond wings. One of the best things about this chapter is a reader can use these designs to spur their imagination and create even more critters using the same techniques and edible tools.

Let's Party, Cupcake! Offers cupcake designs that are perfect for baby or wedding showers, Valentine's Day, Easter, graduations, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and other special events. Teachers will love the cupcakes in An Apple a Day. Who knew cherry fruit slices could be rolled out and cut into rose petals to create A Rose is a Rose? Sweet Talk cupcakes feature pound cakes cut with heart-shaped cutters and coated with pastel melted frosting and topped with abbreviated messages to look like conversation hearts candies. The Rubber Ducky design (book cover) would be great for a baby shower or a kid's birthday party. Shower Heads features baby faces on mini cupcakes (water droplets) and a large cupcake as the shower head spilling the water down on them. Imagine creating your own Plastic Easter Eggs out of candy.......use a plastic egg as a mold and paint it with melted candy. Put two halves together to create a candy egg, first filling it with jelly beans. These candy eggs are further dressed up and nestled on the top of cupcakes covered with frosting grass. Mum's the Word would be nice for Mother's Day. Mini marshmallows are cut in half and the cut/sticky sides are dipped in colored sugars to create petals of different colors, then arranged together to create chrysanthemums. The cupcakes in Head of the Class look like heads with grad caps on them, and the Nineteenth Hole is great for dads that golf. Badminton anyone? Shuttlecocks look just like their real life namesake. Beach lovers will get a kick out of Sand Castles created with graham cracker crumbs and cake and sugar cones. There are even little flags made out of striped fruit gum and pretzel sticks.

The House That Boo Built focuses on cupcakes for fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving. It includes The Haunted House, Chilly Ghosts, Indian Corn (one of my favorites, with different colored Jelly Belly jelly beans as the corn kernels), Pantry Pets (roaches), Oh, Rats!, Mr. Bones Jangle, Jack-o'-Lanterns, If I Only Had a Brain (scarecrow), Black Cats, and Stuffed Turkeys, which look like roasted turkeys with the stuffing oozing out of them!

Finally, we have Hooray for Holly Days to cover winter and Christmas. The projects are Eye-Candy Ornaments (ornament cookies with crushed candies baked into the hollow centers to created a stained glass look), Punch-Drunk Elves, Blow-Up Lawn Santas, Blue Poinsettias, Frosty Mugs (snowman faces), Oh Tannenbaum, Polar Opposites (polar bears and walruses), On Comet! On Cupcake! (Rudolph leads the team), and Gingerbread Village.

The back of the book has a recipes section which features cupcake, frosting and cookie recipes.

Cupcakes: Perfect Cake Mix Cupcakes, Chocolate Chunk Surprise, Chocolate-Mint, Banana-Chocolate, Spice-Rum, Double-Top Banana, Pumpkin-Spice, Strawberry Supreme, Orange-Spice, and Gingerbread.

Frostings: Almost-Homemade Vanilla Buttercream, Orange Buttercream, Ginger-Spice Buttercream, Espresso Buttercream, Raspberry Buttercream, Nutella Buttercream, Peanut Butter Buttercream, Honey Buttercream, and Next-to-Instant Ganache.

Cookies: Quick Sugar Cookies and Chocolate Sugar Cookies.

All of the cake and the two cookie recipes are semi-homemade recipes in which ingredients are added to cake mix or refrigerated cookie dough. Once you make the Vanilla Buttercream, it can be changed by adding things to create the other frosting flavors, and Ganache is simply microwaved canned chocolate frosting.  Most of these recipes are different than the ones featured in Hello, Cupcake!, which offered homemade cupcake recipes and not all of the flavored frosting variations.

The book wraps up with two pages of Sources offering baking, party and craft, and gourmet candy supplies.

What's New, Cupcake? Was published in 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. The text and photographs are credited to Alan Richardson and the recipes and food styling are from Karen Tack. The book has a total of 227 pages, the ISBN is 978-0-547-24181-4, and it retails for $16.95 in the US. It has a paperback cover and measures 10 inches tall, 9 inches across, and a little more than ½ inch thick. All of the completed projects are photographed and many show additional photos that help explain the steps/assembly.

Again, I think the best thing about this book is that those that read it (or even just look at it for a little while) can get a good sense of how the various treats and candies can be used to create interesting cupcake displays. Once you realize that a Twinkie can be used to create a moose head or a shark, for example, you'll start to think about other cupcake designs you can make using Twinkies. This book really helps you think creatively and come up with ideas of your own.

Those that already own Hello, Cupcake! will surely want to add this one to their collection, but What's New, Cupcake? is a good stand alone book; you don't need to be familiar with the other book in order for What's New, Cupcake? to be useful, valuable, and most of all, fun.


Recommend this product? Yes


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