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Q&A with “Hello, Cupcake” Author

By Jackie Burrell
Monday, April 12th, 2010 at 2:59 pm in Cuisine.

cupcake What fun! You know the “Hello, Cupcake” folks? The ones who turn candy and cupcakes into edible art? I did a Q&A recently with Karen Tack, whose newest cookbook is “What’s New, Cupcake?” And yep, this one has dozens more crazy cupcake ideas, from googly-eyed string monsters to a cupcake that appears to be covered in fried rice, complete with broccoli. Very, very clever. Here’s an excerpt from that interview, along with a recipe for Koi Pond Cupcakes…

From the Contra Costa Times/Bay Area News Group:
Karaoke microphones, Chinese takeout, koi swimming across a blue platter — when it comes to cupcake designs, normal limits don’t seem to apply for Karen Tack and Alan Richardson.

Their bestselling “Hello, Cupcake” taught America that all it takes is a zip-lock bag, some fruit chews and a little ingenuity to create awe-inspiring, edible art. Now, the Connecticut cupcake decorators are at it again.

A quarter million copies of “What’s New, Cupcake?” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 230 pp, $16.95) rushed sweetly into bookstores last week, and the new book is not so much a compendium of recipes as a well-illustrated instruction manual for achieving incredible effects — turning Laffy Taffy fruit chews and green sprinkles into broccoli for the “Chinese Takeout” cupcake, for example, or using Nutter Butter cookies and orange Froot Loops to make charming hippos.

And Tack is eager to share those insider tips. You don’t have to know how to bake, she says, to turn a cupcake into a whale or a dachshund. You just need a few key techniques and a willingness to get sugary.

Q: How did you figure out you could make a career of playing with food?

A: I went to culinary school after college, worked in restaurants and thought, ‘Oh my God, what did I get into?’ So I decided to work for a magazine and learn to food style. I met Alan and we started to get paired doing whimsical cakes. We did this one job for Good Housekeeping — a whole grid of different cupcakes — and we had so much fun doing it. Ooooh, it was like a little canvas here.

Q: You use a lot of colorful candy as your, er, artistic medium. What’s the appeal there?

A: We consider ourselves lazy decorators, in the best sense. Candy is already made and colored. It’s just wonderful for that. Taffy can be rolled out and shaped, and that’s so much fun. Cookie crumbs become dirt and fur. Spice drops can be rolled out and color added.

Q: You must look at the supermarket cookie and candy aisle in an entirely different way from most shoppers.

A: (Laughs) Oh my God, it’s like looking at art supplies. Read more of the Q&A here…

KoiPondFinished300 Recipe: Koi Pond Cupcakes
Reprinted courtesy of Karen Tack and Alan Richardson,
“What’s New, Cupcake?”

Serves 24

  • 24 vanilla cupcakes baked in blue paper liners
  • 16-ounce can plus ½ cup vanilla frosting
  • Blue food coloring
  • 48 orange circus peanuts
  • 48 orange peanut butter M&Ms
  • 24 orange cereal O’s, such as Froot Loops
  • 48 brown M&M minis

1. Spoon ½ cup of the vanilla frosting into a small zip-lock bag, press out the excess air, seal and set aside. Tint the remaining frosting pale blue.

2. For the fins, place 24 of the circus peanuts on their sides and cut lengthwise into 2 slices, to make 48 slices. Lay cut side down and cut in half on the diagonal to make 96 pieces.

3. For the bodies, place the remaining circus peanuts flat side down and make a diagonal cut from one end, to form the goldfish faces.

4. Spread the tops of the cupcakes with the light blue frosting and smooth. Place a circus peanut body on each cupcake and arrange fins, cut side up and pointed ends out; place 2 at the uncut end of each peanut body and 2 on either side in the middle.

5. Snip a 1/8-inch corner from the vanilla frosting bag. Pipe a large dot of frosting at the cut end of each circus peanut body and press two orange M&Ms on for the eyes and 1 Froot Loop for the mouth. Pipe small dots of frosting on the orange M&Ms and add mini M&Ms for the pupils.

— Reprinted with permission from “What’s New, Cupcake?” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 230 pp, $16.95)

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2 Responses to “Q&A with “Hello, Cupcake” Author”

  1. Backyard Summer Camp: Day 4 | aPARENTly Speaking Says:

    [...] if you’re looking for more ideas, here ya go – cupcakes with candy decorations by the geniuses who gave us “Hello Cupcake!”, more cupcake-candy combos but this time [...]

  2. Cupcake Forum Says:

    We’re making the koi cupcakes for my grandfather (who has a koi pond)… hope they turn out as well as in the book!

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