Tag Archives: watercolor

Churro Cupcakes for a Surprise 60th Birthday Fiesta!

4 Feb

I threw my mom a surprise party to celebrate her big 6-0 last month with my extended family – about 20-25 of us in all.  Given her East Los Angeles roots and inherent love for Mexican food, I decided to give it a fiesta theme.  I ordered a taco bar style set-up from a fantastic family-owned Mexican restaurant near us and of course a portion of their fantastic mole (mom’s favorite).  I made Tomatillo Salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, and three desserts for the party – Key Lime Bars with Pistachio Graham Cracker Crust (sans compote), Aaron Sanchez’s Mexican Chocolate Brownies, and these Churro Cupcakes.

Taco Bar - Who's Hungry?

Taco Bar – Who’s Hungry?

It’s been crazy busy at work the last few months, so I parceled out my time spent on crafting/planning over the course of about six weeks. For decorations, I found a few fun colorful pieces on Amazon that livened up our otherwise intentionally monochromatic home – paper buntings, serapes, festive patterned tablecloths, and pom poms.

Photo Backdrop

Photo Backdrop

Kevin and I also ended up hosting Christmas dinner which was two weeks before the party, so we had to hide everything away before she came over.  All of the streamers, party utensils, napkins, and plates were from Party City in every sort of bright color. I also bought a couple of cute craft kits from Paper Source – a mini pineapple pinata and a DIY set of six paper cacti. I used a white gel pen to add some “texture” to each cactus as well!

Cactus Kit

Cactus Kit

Jamie let me borrow her set of acrylic paints so I could add some color to the terra cotta pots I bought for the party favors.  They held the miniature cactus candles.  I also found some colorful candies to fluff up the favor bags.

Painting Pots for Favors

Painting Pots for Favors

Since Kevin and I had to go to a family wedding the morning of the party and with how long it takes to make cupcakes, I made these late the night before.  I was worried the crunchy topping that the original recipe suggested would get soggy overnight, so I skipped that component completely. Here is the recipe as adapted from Lady Behind the Curtain, without the crunchy topping!

INGREDIENTS:

For Cupcakes:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
For Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 cups confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

For Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. Whisk together both flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla, and reduce speed to low.
  4. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.  Fill each cupcake liner three-quarters full. Bake for 20 minutes.

    Cinnamon-y Cupcake Batter

    Cinnamon-y Cupcake Batter

  5. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

    Cupcakes

    Cupcakes

  6. Top with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

    Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

    Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

  7. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Set out 20 minutes before serving
For Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:
  1. In a medium bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until light.
  2. Mix in vanilla and cinnamon; add confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time until all is incorporated.

    Churro Cupcakes

    Churro Cupcakes

Not having the time to actually paint anything, I searched online for some watercolor pieces to incorporate into the DIY dessert toppers, the invitation, favors, and more.

Dessert Trio

Dessert Trio

I had to keep the surprise from my brother as well until he came over, since he cannot keep secrets.  My mom thought she was meeting at my place and carpooling with me to a restaurant nearby.  I wanted to make sure I recorded her entrance, so I had my brother let her in the community gate when she arrived.  Right before she walked in, he asked, “Are you ready?”  Good thing she wasn’t already suspecting anything!

"Which dessert do you want?" "ALL THREE!"

“Which dessert do you want?”
“ALL THREE!”

My mom was really surprised and had a wonderful time, and it’s always great to spend time with my rambunctious family!

Learning to Watercolor

30 Dec

Thought I’d share a little DIY work I did for our wedding, now that we got our photos back.

Kev and I DIY’d whatever we could for our big day, including our invites. I didn’t like any of the “free” or “close to free” printable invitation templates out there, and also needed a sort of creative suite that we could use for various assets/signage (i.e., menu, RSVP card, table numbers, etc.). We all know I can’t draw, but I figured I might be able to get away with some amateur watercoloring. It’s fuzzy and messy looking at it’s prettiest, so how could I go wrong, right? Well…

I read forum after forum (after forum after forum after forum) about anything from what sort of techniques there were to what type of watercolor paints (tube, cakes, pencils) and brushes (natural, synthetic, cheap, expensive) to buy.  I bought a pretty decent (but still inexpensive) set of watercolor paints and brushes, and a basic set of watercolor pencils to help with corrections.  I also looked around for artists whose style is similar to the aesthetic I had in mind and quickly fell in love with Yao Cheng Design‘s seemingly effortless but beautiful work.  I even tried mimicking one just as practice, but I couldn’t even figure out how to mix anything close to the colors she used let alone developing the shapes, color concentration, etc.

Yao Cheng Fail

Yao Cheng Fail

After several more tries with different looks, I finally came up wtih a few I was satisfied with.  But then I couldn’t get the watercolor to scan accurately!

Some More Paintings

Some More Paintings

After looking into a few more forums, it turns out that a lot of artists have this problem too and end up just taking photographs of their watercolor in a lot of cases with an expensive DSLR.  Purchasing a DSLR defeated the purpose of DIY’ing the invite to save money, so… I had to figure out a way to make do with what I had and scanning it.  The wreath was the one painting that had the least error, likely due to there being smaller strokes to show texture, vs letting color sit heavier in other places.  However, here is the scanned version of the first attempt (yes, there were multiple attempts).

Original Wreath

Original Wreath

For whatever reason, scanning really washed out the painting and added a grayish-yellow tinge, and it  reminded me a bit of Lamb’s Ear which is pretty but not what I was looking for. I took it to FedEx Kinko’s, scanned it at work, and went to a couple other different printers, and I even went to a few art supply stores to ask where people took their artwork to get scanned.  Turns out that our hand-me-down printer/scanner from Kevin’s mom was the most color accurate of the bunch!  Still – the above image was not what I wanted.

So I painted another “bluer”/bolder version of the wreath, thinking the scanner would balance it out.  And it worked!

Final Wreath Painting

Final Wreath Painting

I also made a few watercolor doodles with the same colors that we incorporated as accents throughout the rest of our “creative suite”:

Watercolor Doodles

Watercolor Doodles

Here’s the finished product.  I purchased blush envelopes from Paper Source (with a discount of course!) to add our wedding colors into the mix, and framed the invitation creative with a blush border to tie it all together.  I found a Pantone color guide online that broke down Paper Source’s paper color specs pretty accurately.  I designed everything in PowerPoint because I’m useless with Photoshop, and thankfully my very kind and patient friend Lingie laid it all out in a printable file that I could send off to my go-to reliable (and inexpensive!) printer.

Our Final Invite

Our Final Invite

In forgoing a design fee, we were able to get it all done including envelopes and RSVP postcards for under $125. We splurged a bit by using a really thick matte textured paper for the invite that almost looked like watercolor paper.  Here’s what the final suite looked like. Photo courtesy of Rodney Ty Photography.

Invitation Suite

Invitation Suite

I also used some little watercolor doodles to accent our address labels, favor labels, table numbers, menu, etc. Check out the gallery for more!  All of the professional photos were taken by Rodney.