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Need help choosing several cakes for an important party!

Hi everyone,

I got a call earlier from my best girl friend about her upcoming birthday party. She wants me to do the baking, and I'm more than happy to!

The thing is, she's been on a carb-free diet for a while, so she's craving all sorts of cakey things. She asked me to "surprise" her with the flavor, since she can't choose just one.

I asked how she felt about maybe doing cupcakes, or even mini cupcakes, in multiple flavors so she can have one of each and she squealed with excitement. So mini cupcakes it is.

I'm thinking anywhere from 3-5 different flavors. I know she'd love anything from a simple fluffy white cake with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles to something more complex like a sponge cake layered with pastry cream or espresso tinged mousse and ganache.

I'm not concerned with how tedious mini cupcake layering might be. She's an awesome friend and I'll spend days working on these if I have to. Mostly I'd just like your help coming up with 4 distinctly different flavors that will satisfy her carb cravings for the near future.


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  1. Chocolate, coconut, lemon poppy, carrot, dacquoise, angle food. The choices are endless!

    3 Replies
    1. re: roxlet

      I know! That's why I'd like help narrowing it down.

      I'm thinking:

      Something vanilla based and not too fussy
      Something fruity
      Something chocolatey
      Something with nuts or PB + chocolate

      My friend had just mentioned wanting me to make a tiramisu so I will definitely do a tiramisu cupcake

      1. re: nothingswrong

        For chocolate and PB - I haven't tried this, but here is a recipe for chocolate, peanut butter, and pretzel cupcakes.


        It's from a book that came out last fall, and this appears to be the recipe they gave to sites to quote.

        1. re: Skippy1414

          Those are rediculous cupcakes!!! Soooo soooo good. And a serious time consuming pain in the ass.
          Worth it though. The recipe makes a ton of frosting but it freezes really well.

    2. Cake and frosting flavor combos is my favorite topic! I have a LOT of suggestions and I hope it's not obnoxious. This is just what I've done and what I personally have liked in the past. I hope you find some of the suggestions helpful!

      I made the cupcakes for my friend's 30th birthday last year, and it was a lot of fun coming up with flavor ideas. I did chocolate chocolate chip cupcakes with chocolate buttercream (I know it's "boring," but there are a lot of die-hard chocolate fans out there), tiramisu cupcakes (these were surprisingly awesome), and plain vanilla with salty caramel buttercream (my personal go-to when in doubt).

      I LOVE salty caramel buttercream. You could put it on cardboard and it would still be delicious. It's good on chocolate but I like it best with vanilla-based cakes.

      I have also recently made "Samoas" cupcakes, inspired by the Girl Scout cookie (I knew those cookies as "Caramel Delites" growing up but apparently this has changed. Whatever!). I did a chocolate cupcake (I always add some mini chocolate chips to the batter because I like the texture), salty caramel (or you could do non-salty regular caramel) buttercream, sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes, and drizzle with a (somewhat) runny chocolate ganache.

      My baby- and bridal-shower standard cupcake in the past year has been raspberry jam cupcakes. I do a plain vanilla cupcake, pipe in seedless raspberry jam as a filing (but not too much!), make a raspberry jam buttercream, then my favorite part: brush fresh, clean and dry raspberries with egg white, then roll in hot pink sanding sugar and let dry for several hours. I stick one sugared raspberry right on the top of the frosting swirl on each cupcake and they look like cute little jewels. So easy and everybody loves it. The beauty of this is you can choose whatever fruit you like! Although I think berries are the best for sugaring. I've only done raspberries and blackberries so I can't vouch for results with anything else.

      I also made mimosa cupcakes once. I made a vanilla cupcake, subbing OJ for water, then made a champagne syrup by boiling down champagne and I forget what else (but I am sure someone else has done this on the internet and posted instructions). I brushed this onto the cupcakes GENEROUSLY, and then piped on a champagne-orange-zest buttercream. Yum!

      Good luck with your decision-making! What a fun project!

      5 Replies
      1. re: itotallypaused

        Wow, thanks for the suggestions.

        I love "plain" cupcakes with a great frosting. The salted caramel actually sounds perfect!

        Love the raspberry ones too; I was thinking of making something similar but with strawberry. Last year I came across an amazing strawberry buttercream which I put on vanilla bean cupcakes and brought them to a dinner party... People were literally moaning as they ate them. I've since made it several times, and it can be done any time of year with frozen berries. It calls for pureeing and straining the berries, then boiling down to a syrup, cooling, and then whipping with butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. It's so fresh and flavorful.

        But maybe I should do raspberry? I have to admit, I've always preferred strawberries over raspberries but I can tell I'm in the minority.

        My friend's favorite thing in the world is cherry pie, and her last couple bdays, she's asked me to bake her one instead of a cake. I wonder if I could incorporate that somehow. Or I was even thinking of just making mini cherry pies with the cupcakes.

        1. re: nothingswrong

          I think mini cherry pies are a great idea! That way you can still do a fruity cupcake if you want, without the two flavors being too similar.

          1. re: itotallypaused

            Yeah... especially since I know that's her favorite. Making mini cherry pies is not the kind of extra work I'd enjoy, but oh well!

            Maybe the other fruit pie will be lemon then. I have a lemon cake recipe that is her boyfriend's favorite, so that will work perfectly I think.


            1. re: nothingswrong

              How about doing mini vanilla cupcakes with a lemon buttercream, topped with a whole or half pitted cherry? You can also do the lemon cake with frosting and top that

              For a party, I used a basic vanilla cupcake and mixed it with ube (a purple yam), piped a passionfruit buttercream ring with a fresh coconut jam in the center. It looked really pretty and was delicious.

              A friend's mother recently turned 90. She requested an orange flavored cake. I played around with the vanilla cupcake recipe and replaced the milk with fresh squeezed orange juice. The buttercream frosting I also flavored with orange juice and orange extract. I also made candied mandarin orange slices and topped the frosting with them. I didn't want to use Grand Marnier because I wanted the flavor to be subtle.

              If you're curious about visuals, I posted up a few here. Have fun baking for your friend's birthday party!


          2. re: nothingswrong

            Do the strawberry one that's gotten you rave reviews. I don't like raspberry either and am not sure how that became the trendy fruit flavor - often the only one offered by a restaurant. Raspberry is easily found elsewhere, so strawberry would be more special.

        2. I would do mini sticky toffee puddings (British-English definition of "pudding," not like a US pudding -- it's a cake made with finely chopped dates). It gets caramel sauce rather than frosting -- so good!

          1. black forest, mocha, key lime, caramel, berry, cherry, nut, and red velvet are flavors I'd love

            1. The coconut cake as recommended by CH'er Roxlet is tasty. I made in mini-muffin form for a party - baked 20 minutes. It was great with fruit topping but her frosting recipe is also excellent.

              Her notes are at this link http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8791...

              1. What about cheesecake cupcakes. This recipe sounds good and the strawberry ones look so pretty.


                1. Carrot cake.
                  Hummingbird cake (contains banana, coconut, pineapple).
                  Coconut or pina colada cake.
                  German chocolate cake.
                  Mocha walnut cake.
                  Spice cake.
                  Red Velvet cake.

                  1. O. MY. GOD! My personal fave would be black Russian, its sooooo amazing and impossible to mess up, plus it el' give you time for any other flavours. Like amaretto sponge cake with cream cheese frosting!! Or maybe vanilla topped in butter cream. SO MANY OPTIONS! Email me if you want any of the recipes I use! Luck!!

                    1. I'd definitely include something lemony. It perks up the palate if you're eating a lot of dessert.

                      1. Just a follow up about this post...

                        The party was last night.

                        The other day, my friend called and said not to bother with the cupcakes because she didn't want to "cheat" on her diet even for one night.

                        The next day she called and asked if I'd make some flourless chocolate cake she'd found on a low-carb site. I happily obliged and went out and bought the recommended sugar substitutes.

                        She called me the next day and said she'd eaten said sugar substitutes and nearly sh*t her pants. Was up all night with horrible stomach pains, etc. and to just scratch the cake idea altogether.

                        THAT WAS NOT OKAY IN MY BOOK! The birthday girl needed a birthday cake.

                        So I spent hours calculating and came up with a low-carb cheesecake with no fake sugars. It clocked in at around 9 grams of carbs per serving, but I added a ganache and that put it at about 12 g carbs per serving.

                        She LOVED it (and it didn't make her sick).

                        The surprise of the evening was that it was devoured by everyone, and there wasn't a speck of cake left on the cake dish. Out of the 16 slices handed out, half of these people came and found me after the party to say it was insanely good. I hadn't mentioned it was a low-carb cake; they just happened to like it a lot. Score!

                        The cheesecake was made with an almond flour crust.

                        The actual cheese section was mostly just cream cheese and heavy cream, with some vanilla.

                        I'm really glad it turned out well and was enjoyed by all.

                        Incidentally, I baked off several dozen mini cupcakes in case the cheesecake was a flop. Those all disappeared too. The bday girl's boyfriend came up to me after the party and said he'd eaten "several" cupcakes in secret and wants a vat of the strawberry frosting to bathe in.

                        For the cupcakes, I just did chocolate, strawberry, and peanut butter/choc. Considering they were scarfed down, I guess you can never go wrong with simpler flavors.

                        Thanks all for the advice and input; hopefully one day soon I'll get to make some of your suggestions!

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: nothingswrong

                          You are a wonderful friend! Your pictures look delicious.

                            1. re: nothingswrong

                              Nice job, the cheesecake looks very good.

                              1. re: nothingswrong

                                Kudos to you for your ingenuity and determination! I think by the second change of plans I'd have been in "Oh, for God's sake, make up your mind!" mode and baked some brownies.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  Thanks guys!

                                  Greygarious--Lol. She is such a wonderful friend and person, so I didn't mind. But now I'm stuck with this huge box of Truvia and absolutely do not want it. I need someone to take it off my hands. Cost $9, can't throw it out...

                                  1. re: nothingswrong

                                    Craigslist free works wonderfully well for such situations - too good to toss but will never get used.

                                    1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                      Interesting, thanks! I have a bunch of junk I need to unload, might as well just pile it on the porch and stick the Truvia on top.

                                      1. re: nothingswrong

                                        If you're looking to unload, rather than sell, stuff (not just food), another option is Freecycle, if there's a group in your community (I think you've said you're in SoCal, so there undoubtedly is).

                                    2. re: nothingswrong

                                      I wonder if your local food bank could use the Truvia. Some have strict guidelines of what they can accept/use but it's worth asking around.

                                      1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                        I will. I'm sure there is someone frequenting the food bank who is diabetic or otherwise sugar-restricted. I will look into it tomorrow. Thanks.

                                  2. re: nothingswrong

                                    Look great.. and great flavour options for the cupcakes.. something for everyone! And some of those fake sugars can have, um, laxative-like qualities..