Friday, 19 April 2013

Tutorial: Tiger cupcakes

Tiger cupcakes, as made by EJ
I love making fun cakes. I made these tiger cakes for a friend's birthday - she spends her weekends volunteering at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation (otherwise known as the Big Cat Sanctuary), where she helps to care for lions, tigers and leopards among other wild and endangered cats. It's a truly incredible place, I visited once and had the opportunity to feed the cats. As a vegetarian, raw chicken legs aren't something I'd usually enjoy touching, but hand feeding a tiger really is something else. Also the cats are massive, SO much huger than I expected - and really quite scary, albeit totally magnificent.

So - the point that I'm getting to it that she really is big cat obsessed, so I thought I'd create some cakes around that theme- and now you can too.

I used my lemon drizzle cupcake recipe as a base for these. The decoration is a combination of edible spray paint (using a home-made stencil) and edible paint, applied using a food safe paint brush. Make sure you choose a good quality edible paint for this- as these really can vary and it does pay to spend a little more. I recommend decorating these no longer than a day before you use them, as the ready to roll sugarpaste can become soft sitting on top of the buttercream - if you want to get started sooner you can prepare and paint the 5cm icing discs, ears and stencil in advance.

To decorate tiger cupcakes, you will need:

Six cupcakes (you might like to try my lemon drizzle recipe)
50g butter
300g icing sugar
3tsp lemon juice (for lemon icing, or 2tsp water and 1tsp vanilla extract for vanilla)
4tsp milk
Reshaw ready to roll icing in orange
White ready to roll icing
A food colouring pen in black
Black edible lustre spray (I used PME edible lustre spray in black)
Black edible paint (I used Sugarflair Colours maximum concentrated paste in 'black extra')
Edible glue
Cornflour (to dust your surface)


A food safe paintbrush
A 6cm round cutter
A 9cm round cutter
An A5 piece of card
A pencil
A scalpel
A clean cutting mat
A chopping board (or clean surface to work on)
A palette knife
A piping bag
A large star piping nozzle


The painted icing will need time to dry before you top the cupcakes with it. I'd actually recommend preparing the small icing discs the day before and allowing the icing to set overnight before progressing, this way you'll have a less delicate surface to work on when you get painting.

To prepare the icing discs, dust your surface with cornflour and roll out a small amount of the orange icing to a thickness of approximately 5mm. Cut two of the 5cm circles out of this and set them aside to dry for at least an hour (if not overnight). Repeat this with the white icing.

To decorate the 5cm discs, carefully draw on the tiger stripes using the food colouring pen, then fill in the design using the edible paint and food safe paintbrush to achieve an opaque finish. Set these to one side to dry for at least four hours.

In the meantime, you can make the cat ears. To do this, take a small piece of icing (about the size of a small marble) and roll it into a ball.

Then, press down with your thumb to make an indent, using the base of your thumb to flatten the icing.

Pinch the sides of the icing together and smooth over with a finger to form the ear shape. Use this process to make two white ears and two orange ears. Leave these to one side for at east an hour to set.

While the small icing discs are drying and the cat ears are setting, prepare your tiger stripe stencil. Draw a tiger stripe design on the piece of card using the pencil. Carefully cut this out using the scalpel, taking care to ensure the edges are smooth. Although you only need enough of a design to cover a 9cm diameter, it's a good idea to fill the whole card and spray a slightly larger area of icing - this way you can avoid areas where the colouring has bled out too much when you cut out your disc.

Roll out a piece of white icing approximately 3mm thick, place the stencil on top. Holding the can approximately 20cm above the stencil, spray with the black lustre spray. Remove the stencil immediately to prevent excess paint from transferring onto the icing. Repeat this process with the orange icing, then place the stencil on top of the ears and spray to add stripes. Leave all of this to dry while you prepare the buttercream.

To do this, beat the butter until it's soft and fluffy, then sift in the icing sugar and gradually add the lemon juice and milk until it is a good piping consistency.

Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle. Pipe a small swirl on top of a cupcake, use the palette knife to smooth the icing into an even dome. Do this with two of the cupcakes.

Returning to the stencilled icing (make sure the stencilled design is now completely dry), cut one 9cm circle out of each - choosing areas where the design has transferred most clearly. Position centrally and carefully smooth one stencilled icing disc over the top of each buttercream dome.

When the ears have set (and the spray paint has dried), stick them to the top of their respective tiger domes using a tiny dot of the edible glue. You may need to prop the ears up in place while the glue dries to prevent them slipping.

Tiger cupcakes, as made by EJ
To finish the remaining four cupcakes pipe a classic buttercream swirl on top of each and arrange a painted 5cm icing disc on top of each.

I think cupcakes like this make a really lovely gift, choose a pretty box - or even better, a jungle themed tin to present them in!