I think we should respect Mother Earth and our environment everyday (so I'm not really late at all on the Earth day posting). In my little world, everyone does whatever they can to be "green". But every now and then, I get the sense that the universe does not revolve around me and that there are still people out there driving Hummers and burning through plastic water bottles. Just a nagging feeling (did I ever mention that this is Los Angeles?). I suppose I've always been a romantic type, believing that we could change the world and make it a better place when we grew up. The environment is actually something that can be saved seeing as those who are causing harm to it, have both the wealth and ability to try to undo some of the damage. And as individuals, it wouldn't hurt to be more conscientious about daily choices we make. But what do I know, I am just a humble baker.
One thing I did know was that I wanted to mark the occasion of Earth day with a treat: chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and royal icing Earth decorations. With all the wonderful exotic flavors that I love to try, chocolate never fails to make me happy. This was a chocolate cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen I used for my chocolate peanut butter banana birthday cake last year with enough intensity to satisfy the true chocolate lover. I adjusted the recipe to yield about 20 cupcakes. I am not one for basic buttercreams, but I think a cream cheese frosting cuts the richness of the chocolate cake nicely. I used Annie's cream cheese frosting, which tasted and piped gorgeously for me in the past. I did, however, make the mistake of using a neufchatel cheese I had on hand instead of a full-fat cream cheese, which resulted in a less stiff and slightly stickier consistency (more appropriate for sticky buns I would say). Listen kids, I know your cringing that I just said full-fat. Say it with me: Full. Fat. If you skimp, it will not be as good. If I'm going to eat a chocolate cupcake, it should be an experience of chocolate insanity in my mouth. Got that? Good. Now that we've learned a lesson here, I got pretty positive feedback from these. I took these beauties to a birthday party the same night where they were promptly consumed - royal icing decorations and all. (happy bellies make me a happy baker)
As usual, I was too wrapped up in my project to take pictures. The fun of royal icing is that you can pipe up whatever your imagination designs. To make these decorations, I referenced some images of Earth I had googled. I then drew sketches to the size I thought would work. I prepared my piping bags with royal icing tinted to bright aqua and green, with couplers and #1 Wilton icing tips. I placed transparency film (the type you get at Office Depot for overhead projectors) over the sketch and outlined and immediately flooded in the continents with green - the way you would pipe on sugar cookies. I repeated that a million times, filling up about four transparency sheets. I allowed the continents to dry enough to touch and then proceeded with outlining the globe shape and flooding with the blue color icing. Once done with the blue icing, make sure to allow a couple days sitting out to dry completely. I made the mistake of trying to peel the decorations off the transparency a day after and broke quite a few of these because they didn't come off cleanly.