I first want to thank Melissa Villa-Wilcox (one of the co-founders of Project PEARLS) for giving me another perspective in life and opening up my eyes. In our day-to-day activities we tend to put ”blinders” on to some hard truths to make it convenient for ourselves. Worrying about what to make for dinner can’t even compare to worrying about where your next meal will come from or even if you will have something to eat. Now that for me is putting it into perspective. So we need people like Melissa to remind us that there is a greater need out there. People like Melissa to continue to educate and share with us their stories and their struggles for what should be obvious for every human being–food, clothes, shelter, compassion, love. The entire premise of what Project PEARLS represent–PEACE, EDUCATION, ASPIRATION, RESPECT, LOVE, SMILES!
So please, even if it’s only a little, perhaps some school supplies, clothes, etc. visit the Project PEARLS website and see how you can help.
I also want to thank my family for being supportive in my love for baking. Baking takes time . . . and this along with two little ones, a full-time job, chores, etc. isn’t always possible. But they make it possible for me-especially my hubby. He is my biggest fan, and not to mention my personal food photographer. So to my soul mate for putting up with an obessessed crazed baker/mother/sometimes hard to deal with wife, Ai Love you lots and lots! And of course to my Ai kids, momma loves you dearly. And last but not least, my sissy for watching my Ai kids and washing those dishes that I tend to make when baking.
So songs and hope and YES, I did share SWEETS at the concert! It was cupcakes and macarons, surprise surprise right?!
For the cupcakes, I got inspired by the Project PEARLS logo. It was from staring at the “O” in Project. I saw a cupcake in the making! The light reddish “O” screamed raspberries to me! So I set off in making a raspberry type of frosting. My first attempt at some buttercream frosting with raspberry extract was awful–like raspberry flavored medicine. I find that using extracts sometimes can result in a fake or processed taste, with the exception of vanilla extract. Which is good in just about anything, but use a good quality vanilla extract. I thought that using real frozen raspberries would compensate for the fake tasting extract, but really nothing could change that taste once it was added. And with frozen raspberries came all of those stuck in your teeth seeds-yuck!
Then I dreamt of raspberry cheesecake (yes a real dream, like sleeping snoring dream). So I did an equal ratio of butter to cream cheese and found some frozen raspberry puree without seeds! But still, being the queen of fusion, I needed that something extra. A search on google came back with Chambord. And what can be better than a liquor? Absolutely nothing! So I turned to my booze expert, a good friend who I shall refer to as Capt here, asked him if he ever had Chambord. And sure enough, he said it was quite tasty and sweet. Just the answer I was looking for. So off I was to my local Bevmo and bought a very very nice fancy smancy round gold ornamented bottle of Chambord. A nice package had to contain a sweet concoction right?! Right! And so I found my last ingredient for my Raspberry Chambord Cream Cheese Frosting. I decided to pair it up with my trusty chocolate cupcakes.
But I still needed to come up with a blue heart to match the heart in the “O” in project. My first thought was fondant. But decided against it since I wanted to keep the cupcake sweet and the taste of fondant, although sweet, wasn’t the right kind of sweet I was looking for. I often look to the baking aisle or the cake decorating aisle for ideas. I found a perfect shaped heart mold in the candy making section. This mold was intended for either hard candy or chocolate. I wasn’t about to experiment with making hard candy so I chose the latter, chocolate. I used some blue candy melts and was quite happy with the results. I made these little blue white-chocolate candy hearts in no time! To give that heart an extra shine, I used some blue edible “dust” or what my daughter refers to as fairy dust. My Ai daughter helped to paint this fairy dust on each heart. She says that when she grows up she’ll have a bakery and let me work in it! Cute, but not so cute. So the end result: Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Chambord Cream Cheese Frosting.
For the macarons, my inspiration was pretty simple-PEARLS. I found these perfectly cute half-moon shells that would hold a little PEARL! I wanted to do a Chocolate PEARL, so I made some chocolate macarons dusted with cocoa powder. My choice of filling again is pretty predictable for me – ganache. But I needed to add something to that ganache. And so I remembered that Melissa loves coconut. I found some coconut “manna” (that’s what the jar says). But basically it is made entirely of dried coconut made into a paste. I used that same ganache as “glue” to adhere each macaron to the shell. And so the end result: Chocolate PEARLS Macarons with Coconut Ganache.
Melissa had a cupcake stand waiting for me, and so here is a shot of the table with the cupcakes and macarons!