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Long Time No Cosplay Post…

Back to cosplay! Took longer than I meant because I forgot I was moving. ^_^;; But that’s all done.

So, for Otakon, we decided as a group to go as Fullmetal Alchemist. As always, I was the group seamstress. By the time everything was said and done, we had a Winry (she had to pull out last minute, but I had finished majority of the alterations on her jumpsuit), Scar, Colonel Roy Mustang, First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, General Olivier Armstrong, and Edward Elric. ~counts on fingers~ Yes, that’s it.

Summertime is green

Where I sew when I'm at home and it's warm.

Ed, I only had to make the jackets, tank and automail. She had leather pants and a belt that would suffice (though I did the belt later, too). I never finished Scar’s jacket, I am, in fact, still fighting with the sleeves. If I can’t find a way to fix the sleeve head, then I have to start over, since it’s a very touchy custom dye mix for the right shade of yellow. The rest are done, but for hemming my pants and adding fastenings. What, you think the seamstress for a group ever has the finished/best constructed costume?

Helpers

Cats: they like to help at sewing

We decided, once again, to go with “fabrics and methods that would make these look real.” This meant mostly natural or natural look fibers, since 1915 didn’t really have polyesters (rubbers were okay in boots and such). The three military uniforms are made of 25 ounce felted wool, a type called Melton that was historically used in military uniforms around the world until the mid-1900s. Hot and itchy and beautiful and, surprisingly, a dream to keep clean (incidentally why they used it for military uniforms; it sheds dirt and smell). The trimming is cotton, the undershirts are all cotton blends (rib knit black for me and Olivier, woven shirting for Mustang). For Ed, the red jacket is wool suiting with black fabric marker for the Flemel crest, black and white twill for the underjacket, linen for the tank top and eventually leather for the belt, and craft foam/spandex for the automail. Scar has a linen shirt, cotton denim pants, and, in my closet, a twill jacket. And lots of hair bleach.

The pain!

Uniform and cuff pieces for three uniforms. Yes, I kept them all straight.

Otakon went well, except for my week of four hours of sleep per night. I brought a machine and a serger to the con. See, I had a bit of an issue all last year and into this one. I couldn’t wake up, ever. I was super-sleepy, and this took my usual “finish it the night before” level of procrastination into “not going to finish in time” territory. This was a first, and I really hope our Ed doesn’t hold it against me. ;_; My lovely friends fed me caffeine and hyper, and I finished all but the automail, my jacket, and Scar’s jacket in time. I slept soooo much after Otakon. (also, they found out and treated what was making me sleepy, so all is good now!)

Post Otakon, we wanted a photoshoot. A friend has a fantastic eye, and our Ed has a fantastic camera. We got them over to my end of Pennsylvania for a very appropriately locale for FMA. Now, we did the shoot mid-August. I had a job, and was still trying to shake off the sleep deprivation from Otakon. I made the automail in the three days leading up to our shoot (and it only took that long because a few steps needed hours to overnight cure time), sewing and gluing the sleeve the morning of the shoot (when there was an earthquake! but I didn’t really feel it). My jacket only got finished for day 2 of the shoot, and Scar’s… the sleeve heads are so screwed up, I just didn’t have the time.

We ended up really, really late. I feel terrible about this.

Finally we got to Pittsburgh, enlisted our Ed’s old ‘Burgh friend for the role of Winry, since ours couldn’t make it, and headed off to the Strip for Primanti’s and pictures (not in that order).  We got some fantastic pictures in some back alleys. Scar, my brother, really played it up. I’d list the things going against us for his costume that day, but he played it up enough that you can hardly even tell.

Scarface

See him back there? Totes in character.

Ed and Scar ended up the best of friends by the time we finished shooting them in a million different fight poses on and around this steel scaffolding.I’d never done a prop before, either, so I’m very happy with how the automail turned out. So happy that I’m making a second piece for me, just for lulz.

BFF

Also, look at that automail. So proud!

We managed a few scene recreations with Winry before the sun went down. We wandered around, trying to find a good area where we could still get some shots, since it wasn’ttoo late, just dark. A row of warehouses on Smallman Street would have been marvelous, but during the day there were too many people, and at night the lighting was irredeemably yellow.

Lighting test

FMA: Now with more jaundice!

But we kept wandering and found a blank brick wall with a single spotlight. We got some amazing pictures from there, one of which is posted in the dA account I’ll link at the bottom (not mine). A few scenes we tried turned out all right, but I think I’d like to redo during the day. Finally, we finished up with Day 1 and drove home, where  finished things for Day 2.

"Mustang"

Mustang was mocking me... so I returned the favor.

Day 2 dawned hot and bright and too early. While Ed and Mustang finished getting ready (Scar was unavailable that day), me and the photographer drove out to town to pick up… something. I can’t remember what. Along the way, we got lots of delicious drinks and snacks to keep us energized. The other two finally arrived and we began our second shoot, in a small post-industrial PA town (of which there are a million, if you ever need a good post-industrial, beat-up looking location).

Automail

They threw a hand at me while I was fighting with the pins in my jacket. Mustang disapproves.

We started on the streets, using an old brick church as the background. While Ed was getting some solo shots, I fought with my jacket. They are hot. Neither Mustang nor Ed, who’d had to wear theirs at Otakon, when the temperature broke 115 one day, had any pity whatsoever for me and my accuracy-loving sewing.

Hot hot hot hot hot hot hot hot. -_-

This is the first time I ever saw myself in full uniform, thanks to our photographer and digital camera tech.

We could have wandered the streets longer, but the crown jewel of our shoot was calling to us, beckoning from so near we could have walked, had we wanted to. But we didn’t, it was summer and we were in wool and leather. We drove over to an old steel mill warehouse that is no longer used. It’s been mostly gutted, and the big bay doors are usually fully open. I was nervous about going in, but I knew of legitimate, upstanding people who used this (one had suggested it, in fact), and that it was obviously used for less-honorable means, as well. And, well, the big bay doors were open…

Unaware

As soon as Ed realized that Mustang had his antenna, Mustang was kicked.

It was fantastic. All the brickwork was gorgeous. There were footprints in a thin layer of dust all over the main floor, and evidence of parties or just a few kids getting drunk. There were old lights, lined up in one area, as well as piles of newer lumber that had sat long enough to still look okay, but had several millimeters of dust on them. Some areas and corners had literally inches of dust. I saw a ladder with the rungs piled with little triangular rows of dust on each rung, and shook it as hard as I could. It was so solid that not a mote of dust fell. This inspired me to climb, testing each rung and floor section as I went. We didn’t go very high, or to anywhere that moved even a hair.

Eventually, we ran out of time and I had to leave for a sleep study (it was negative, but did send me on a row of new doctors that led to several very helpful diagnoses, so all is well). Needless to say, the other patient that was in the waiting room and the nurses were all quite bemused by my costumed and excessively dusty appearance.

I have some pictures already posted at my cosplay.com account here: http://www.cosplay.com/costume/412076/

I’ll soon be putting more up on my dA here (and I’ll try to remember to directly link, rather than leaving this general one): http://harmoniccosplay.deviantart.com/

Ed’s already got some of our pics up on her dA here (these are a treat, we played with EL wire to get awesome alchemy effect): http://kitsunesqueak.deviantart.com/art/FMA-Into-Strength-255100773

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How could I make pony cupcakes without making a cupcake dedicated to everyone’s favorite baby dragon, Spike?

Dragons?

The cups are because dragons like gold, right?

Fiery green cinnamon cupcake with sparkling purple honey frosting.

Cinnamon as spicy as a dragon’s fire topped with sweet honey meringue could only be inspired by the sweetest baby dragon of all, Spike. A green cupcake is accented by the toasted purple frosting, and sparkling purple powder provides the shine of a dragon’s scales and his prized gems. Just don’t get greedy, if you take too many cupcakes you may turn into a monster!

At first, we were going to have Spike be chili. The more I thought about it, though, the more it didn’t really seem to fit. Chili is more bold and in your face, where Spike is a lot more gentle than that. I suddenly remembered that cinnamon can be fiery (so can ginger, but in the end I settled on cinnamon). I couldn’t think of a proper frosting, though, and a friend and I argued our way through several flavors until he suggested honey, a wonderful complement to cinnamon and a food that I’m absolutely addicted to (I’m ashamed that I had to use clover honey for this, I’d recommend pepper honey if you can get it). I’ve used meringue and buttercream equally this week, but I decided on meringue. Buttercream would probably be too sweet with the honey and then several pounds of sugar.

Recipe time!

Large

See the sparklies? Yeah, they're back.

Cupcakes:

¾ cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 ¾ cup flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon

3/4 cup milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/8 or ½ teaspoon cinnamon oil

Green food color

Cream butter and sugar together. Add cinnamon oil. Mix dry ingredients (including cinnamon) in one bowl, and wet in another. Add in installments, starting with wet. Add green food color until desired pastel green is reached. Bake at 375 degrees for 9 minutes for mini cupcakes, and 18 for large.

Green, like a dragon!

Frosting:

1 cup honey

1/3 cup water

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

2 egg whites

Purple or blue and red food color

Mis honey, water, salt and cream of tartar in a saucepan. Heat until just boiling. Remove from heat and begin to beat egg whites while slowly drizzling honey syrup into the bowl, trying to avoid cold metal edges if possible. Beat until stiff peaks form and add dye to the desired shade (liquid is better in this instance).

Mini ones are cute, but I'm now out of mini papers.

Assembly:

Food paint brush

Purple pearl powder

Set broiler to high. While it heats, pipe frosting onto cupcakes using a wide, five-point star tip. Going slowly will ensure better points in the meringue. When frosted, broil until the tops just brown (this will dry out the outside and prevent it from slowly melting off the cupcake overnight). Remove from broiler. Dip paintbrush in pearl powder and gently blow onto cupcakes until it reaches a desired level of shine.

For details on how to apply the pearl powder, see Twilight’s post. As for why I apply it after the broiling, I feel the dryer surface allows more of the sparkle and pigment to shine, rather than letting the water half-absorb it. Also, the pigment helps to color over the brown of the broiling, making the frosting look extra purple rather than brown and purple. The broiling probably isn’t necessary, but my Applejacks melted over night and every day since, so I’ve decided that meringue is broiled from now on, unless they’re for use that day (and it’d be easy enough to make the cupcakes one day, and then mix up the frosting and decorate them the day of an event and skip the broiling, if you’re making these for a thing).

Last of the cupcakes!

So, over this week I have made far more cupcakes than I ever intended to. They were all delicious, I learned a lot, and I found some flavors and/or combinations that I’d never seen before. I sort of never want to see one again (till next week, at least), but some of them are so delicious (hot cinnamon is one of those flavors I couldn’t find) that I can’t help but eat more.

Fun fact: I used to love the old My Little Ponies. When the new one started, I was really hesitant. Luckily, I have some great friends that forced me into it. As soon as I saw Spike, I had a mini fangasm. He was from the old series! As was Applejack, and the first chord of the theme song, and several other of the mane cast were obviously based on old ponies. This hooked me even more the charm of the show could work it’s magic (get it? Magic! ~Is probably the only one left who likes silly puns~).

I already have a sewing post in mind for a day or two from now, assuming I remember. I’m moving, so getting new posts up may be hard. After this, though, I think there may be the occasional cooking or baking post, too.

Thanks for reading and going through Ponycake Week with me!

Today, we finish the mane cast and my second-to-last cupcake!

Crap!

Rainbow Dash, second to last? I just saved the best for last, Dash!

After half-finishing this, I learned that today’s new episode was Rainbow Dash’s. FATE!

Rainbow!

Color me happy! ~is shot~

Dark chocolate chili cupcake with rainbow-striped cream cheese frosting

A bold flavor for the most bold of ponies, this cupcake takes beloved chocolate for a very first prize run that’s sure to win the loyalty of everypony. With an upfront attitude that rivals Rainbow Dash herself, strong dark chocolate mingles with fiery chili to produce a rainbow of flavors calmed by a colorful topping of cream cheese frosting.

So, a key component in these was chili. Big problem is, I can’t eat pepper of any kind in more than minute amounts without a weird not-allergy-but-not-just-intolerance reaction, so how was I to test these cupcakes? It’s a shame, because I love pepper, but there was no way around it. I couldn’t think of a flavor more bold and up-front to fit Dash, but I couldn’t eat it.

Enter my tester, and guest baker.

Guinea pig... I mean assistant baker!

Wave hi!

Sorry I don’t have more descriptions, I couldn’t taste more than the pre-chili batter (which is amazing), and just the tiniest amounts of post-chili batter (chili-y). The colors worked, which was fun, and I halved the recipe in the write-up because I got 5 dozen. I didn’t think it’d be so big. Recipe is adapted from http://www.nibbledish.com/people/barkcreative/recipes/dark-chocolate-chili-cupcakes with minor tweaks to make it better (to my tastes… even though I can’t taste it).

Cupcake:

6 tablespoons room temperature butter

1 ¾ cup sugar

2 cups flour

¾ cup dark unsweetend cocoa powder

½ tablespoon cinnamon

3 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground chili pepper (more to taste)

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ cups buttermilk

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

7 ounces melted dark chocolate

Cream butter. Add sugar gradually and cream together. Mix dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls, reserving the melted chocolate. Add ingredients in installments, starting with the wet. Halfway through and just after a wet addition, drizzle the melted chocolate in. Add more or less pepper to taste. Bake at 325: minis for 10-15 minutes, large cupcakes for 20-25 minutes.

cupcake

Delicious, fiery insides.

Frosting:

4 ounces cream cheese

1 tablespoon butter

4 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sky blue food color

Cream together room temperature cream cheese and butter. Slowly add powdered sugar. When incorporated, add vanilla and food color. Add milk or cream in small amounts (1 tablespoon or less) until desired consistency is reached. Double or triple for appropriate amount.

Assembly:

Rainbow gel food colors

Food paint brushes

Assemble pastry bag with largest star tip. Fold over top several inches and paint red, orange, yellow, green and purple stripes along the sides, with large gaps between. Fill bag with sky blue frosting via a second pastry bag with a narrow tip. Rinse and dry bag between refills and re-paint.

Rainbow

They should look like this. Easy, right?

Enjoy! I hope they’re as good as they look, and sorry for the short and extra-late post. It’s super late here, and also it’s harder to sing the praises of a cupcake that will kill me if I eat it. Everyone else loved them, though, and they sure are pretty!

Last cupcake tomorrow!

Pony Cupcakes Round 5: Applejack

I was torn between two cupcakes today, but decided on the most amazing Applejack. Also, I’ve experience a huge turnaround in my cupcake attitude. It’s so nice to see my master list filling out with finalized recipes.

Worm!

Not actually a Baked Bad, despite the gummy invertebrate

I didn’t actually find our big round piping tip, I used a tool used for a Norwegian dish. It’s like a super long piping tip, so it wasn’t too bad. I was pretty excited with this one, I had never heard of an apple cupcake before, but nothing else would work. Knowing that I couldn’t be the first, I scoured the internet until I found one that seemed pretty good, and used that as my base (I discarded about five for different reasons; I’m very picky about my ingredient ratios, scientist that I am (which makes Alton Brown a hero to me)). If you’re interested, the recipe is http://www.food.com/recipe/apple-cupcakes-41260 there. I did make some changes based on the reviews and my own tastes, but they’re fairly minor.The frosting was a lucky and perfect find in my usual cookbook (Better Homes and Gardens). I wanted a maple frosting, but I didn’t want to use buttercream. As good as buttercream is, I feel it’s a bit overused. I wanted something fluffy and light and maple. I was flipping through for the recipe for yesterday’s write up, and what did I see? A recipe for Maple Fluff frosting. I changed this a tad, too, I used more syrup than they wanted. It was worth it.

Minis

Now the fun part!

Moist apple cupcake with apple butter filling and red-striped yellow or orange maple fluff frosting… is that a worm?!

A deceptive cake moist and filling enough to make its case as a sweet muffin forms the base for the cupcake for the Pony of Honesty, Applejack. The truth is, these cupcakes could be dessert or a breakfast. The light and airy maple fluff frosting, held together with a red stripe reminiscent of Applejack’s hair tie and prized apples, adds only a touch of sweetness and maple flavoring to set off the apple-butter filled cake. A gummy worm burrows out of the frosting, hinting at Applejack’s greatest culinary moment.

The Baked Bad styling was the marvelous suggestion of a friend. I wanted a red stripe in there because I really love how her hair tie looks, since she’s all yellow and pale orange.

Recipe time!

Batter

The baked bads are coming along nicely...

Cupcake:

2 medium to large apples skin on, grated or chunkily pureed

1 ½ cups packed brown sugar

1 ½ cups water

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

Cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to taste

3 ½ cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ cup apple or pear butter

Heat apples, sugar, water and butter in saucepan. Add spices to taste (use a light hand, the apple is the star of this cupcake). When boiling, remove from heat and allow to cool till only warm to the touch. Add flour and then baking soda. Fill lined pan cups to the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes for mini cupcakes or 18-24 minutes for big cupcakes. Allow to cool, and inject apple butter into the center of the cupcake until the top heaves.

Frosting:

3 egg whites

¾ cup maple syrup

Yellow, red, and/or orange food dye

Heat syrup in saucepan or microwave until hot. Beat egg whites until stiff, and slowly drizzle syrup into the whites. Continue beating until soft. Add color until desired shade is reached.

inside

Don't bother dying the cupcake iteslf, this is the best I could get.

Assembly:

Gel red cake dye

Food paintbrush

Gummy worms

Assemble frosting bag with largest available round tip. Put bag into a tall, wide-mouthed cup and fold over the top several inches. Dip paintbrush into red gel dye and paint a line up one side of the bag. Fill a large disposable bag (or another, larger piping bag) with frosting. Carefully pipe the frosting into the painted bag, trying not to smear the line of dye. It may need to be pushed down with a spoon. If you  need to refill the bag, rinse and dry it (doesn’t need to be perfectly dry) and repeat. Pipe in full spirals onto cupcakes. Slide a gummy worm into the frosting so that half sticks out. For small cupcakes, use only half a gummy worm.

Swirly!

Swirly!

So, I did cheat on the frosting. I still have 12 yolks from yesterday and didn’t want to add to that, so I used meringue powder. Not as good as real egg whites, of course, but very serviceable.

Despite my cupcake overdosing, I actually licked the utensils of batter AND frosting, and want another cupcake after sampling a mini and a big. They are so good, and the balance of sweet and apple, moist and maple is perfect.

Tomorrow, the last pony (but not the last cupcake), and an ingredient I am allergic enough to that I had to bring in an assistant baker.

Thank all the gods, I’m over halfway done.

  • OH GOD CUPCAKES!  i can haz (no more) cupcake?

It’s not that I don’t like cupcakes, and it’s not that I’m not having fun. But so. Many. Cupcakes. I don’t know how bakers stand it.

Today was Rarity! I’ve actually been looking forward to her since I started, but I needed champagne and we kept forgetting to get it. Today we did! Also, I was treated to a real vanilla bean for hearing positive things back from a grad school. I’ve never used real vanilla before. I never want to not use it now. I wanted a white cake for her white coat, and then purple in spirals for her purple curly hair. I wanted to use a wide round tip, but it seems to be missing, so I had to use the star. While looking for a good white or vanilla recipe, I found a recipe for Petits Fours cakes in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It was a white cake, and vanilla-y, and light and tasty. And refined, because only refined people eat tea cakes. It was exactly what I was looking for. The recipe below only has a few little changes (buttermilk for milk, extra vanilla, butter for shortening (I hate shortening)). And with the champagne frosting? Magnifique!

Tasty, but so many of them...

I had a nightmare last night that cupcakes were attacking me.

Vanilla Petits Fours cupcakes with royal purple Raspberry Champagne frosting and blue raspberry sprinkles

A cultured and dainty tea cake for a cultured and dainty pony. An airy cake as white as Rarity’s pristine coat supports a perfectly spiraled mound of purple frosting, all dusted over with a sprinkling of small blue gems of sugar. Champagne frosting accents the bold vanilla of the cake, offering a toast to Rarity and her designs without even having to open a bottle.

The raspberry elements aren’t necessary, I just love raspberry and we saw a raspberry champagne, sooo…

Time for the recipe! But first, don’t double this unless you have a party or something. I did, on the urging of my friends. I have 4.5 dozen cupcakes. And a batch yesterday, and another tomorrow.

Seriously, don't double

I'm not kidding about the nightmare.

Cupcake:

½ cup butter at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 pod of vanilla seeds

¼ teaspoon almond extract

2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup buttermilk

6 egg whites

¼ cup sugar

Cream butter. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, creaming till light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla extract and seeds and almond extract. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well with each addition. If in electric mixer bowl, remove ingredients to a large bowl and wash the mixing bowl, removing all grease. Add egg whites and beat till foamy. Very gradually add ¼ cup sugar and beat until soft (not stiff) peaks form. Fold into batter. Fill cupcake cups (lined preferred, oiled works but won’t hold frosting later) 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes for mini cupcakes and 16-18 minutes for full cupcakes, rotating once during baking.

Frosting:

1 cup champagne

1 tablespoon champagne

6 tablespoons butter

1 pound of confectioner’s sugar

Light cream or milk

Lots of purple dye

Cook 1 cup of champagne in saucepan over medium-high heat until only about two tablespoons remain. Let cool entirely, and add 1 tablespoon from bottle. Cream butter. Slowly add half the sugar. Beat in champagne, starting slow and building speed. Gradually blend rest of sugar and add milk or cream until desired consistency is reached (champagne can be used here, but I recommend using at least two tablespoons of cream). Add dye until royal purple is reached.

So white and fluffy! And without a liner, they can't really support the frosting.

Assembly:

Large blue colored sugar sprinkles

Fill a piping bag (or large Ziploc bag with a corner snipped off) with frosting, fit with a very large round or star tip. Starting at an outside edge, pipe wide, full lines in a spiral. Every six cupcakes, stop and apply sprinkles (if they buttercream dries, they won’t stick).

Note: Real vanilla seeds are not necessary, but greatly increase flavor. If not used, add extract as needed until strong vanilla flavor is reached.

Yields 2 dozen, double at your own risk.

Enjoy! I know that I will… maybe. Tomorrow I get to make more, and I also now have a dozen egg yolks to do something with. I’m thinking custard. Lots of custard, with lots of cupcakes.

… I need more champagne.

Pretty minis!

Day 3 of the cupcake situation. I don’t seem to have gained a million pounds yet, but I have found my tolerance for sugar, something that no one thought I had. Today, I made a cupcake combining the two best stimulants in order to honor everypony’s favorite student, Twilight Sparkle.

Sparkles!

Sugar AND Caffeine!

There was a big debate as to whether Twilight Sparkle would drink black or green tea. I was on the green tea side of things, but we were evenly matched. Then I looked up and saw Lady Grey tea with little lavender flowers in it, and I immediately thought it was a perfect fit. I made a bunch extra of these, and am donating them to a local university’s newspaper office tomorrow for their production night. Also, they’re delicious!

Lady Grey with Lavender tea purple cupcake with lavender buttercream frosting in navy with purple and pink accents and a glitter dust.

A refined yet powerful taste is the mark of this unique cupcake, inspired by Celestia’s top student, Twilight Sparkle. Lady Grey tea with dried lavender blossoms are ground and mixed into the pale purple batter, accented perfectly by buttercream with the faintest hint of fresh lavender, dyed and piped to mimic the colors of Twilight’s hair. Finally a touch of glitter is dusted along the surface. And did I mention that it has trace amounts of caffeine from the tea leaves? Every student needs more caffeine.

Cupcakes forever!

See the sparkles? See them?!

Now for the boring-unless-you-want-to-eat-them part:

Cupcake:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 ¾ cup flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 teaspoons Lady Grey tea with Lavender (loose leaf preferred, can be harvested from bags)*

Blue and red or purple food color

Heat half of the milk in saucepan over low to medium heat. When warmed, add 1 teaspoon of Lady Grey leaves and gently stir till milk begins to simmer. Remove from heat and steep for five minutes, and then strain leaves. Mix other half of milk and let settle to room temperature. Grind the remaining 3 teaspoons of tea leaves in a coffee grinder, food processor or blender.

Cream butter with ¼ cup sugar. Slowly add the remaining sugar. Combine dry ingredients in one bowl (including tea leaves), add wet ingredients to milk. Slowly add to the butter in installments, starting with milk. Blend until combined. Add food color until it reaches slightly less than your desired color (it darkens when baked). Fill lined cupcake pan cups half full. Only half full, they rise a lot and stick badly. Bake mini cupcakes for 8-10 minutes and full sized cupcakes for 17-20 minutes. Rotate once through baking. Allow to cool completely.

The purple color, for me, took about 16 drops of blue and 24 drops of red. I think I’d like to cut slightly back on the red ratio, and slightly back on the dye to get the color absolutely perfect. It got darker after I baked them.

did not cooperate

Picture break! Also, purple!

Frosting:

6 tablespoons butter

1 pound of confectioners sugar

About ¼ cup of milk or any combination of light or heavy cream

½ teaspoon vanilla

2 sprigs fresh lavender, no flowers (3 sprigs dry lavender)*

Food dye proper to make navy blue, bright pink and royal purple.

Cut the lavender into small, 1/8 segments (don’t be precise, just free the juices). Heat milk in saucepan as for the cupcakes, but add the lavender instead of tea. Remove from heat and allow to steep for at least five minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature before proceeding.

Cream butter. Add a small amount of sugar and mix until it blends. Continue slowly adding half the sugar. Beat in vanilla and 2 tablespoons of milk. Slowly add the rest of the sugar. Add milk in 1 tablespoon increments until it reaches the desired consistency (make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of bowl at least once near the end!).

If making colored stripes: Remove no more than ¼ cup of frosting into each of two bowls (or simply use your judgment for what you’ll need to color). Color one bowl bright pink, and the other bowl royal purple. In main bowl, dye to a navy blue (this can be achieved with a crap ton of blue and a large amount of black, added in small increments). Prepare piping bag with large zigzag tip and carefully lay pink frosting down in a line up the side, about ½ inch thick and between ½ and 1 inch wide. Repeat with the purple directly alongside. Carefully spoon in the blue and prepare to pipe. (method here, use spatula method http://www.wilton.com/decorating/icing/coloring-icing.cfm)

Colorful

From top down, what it should look like.

Assembly:

1 vial of edible white pearl powder**

Food brush***

Assembly

Paint brush used only for food, and vial of pearl powder.

Finally, an easy assembly! Pipe the frosting straight up, to mimic the straight lines of Twilight’s hair style. Refill bag as needed. When all cupcakes are frosted, dip brush in pearl powder. Hold brush several inches above cupcake and gently blow straight down onto the cupcake. Repeat until desired sparkle is reached.

*If you can’t find Lady Grey with lavender, Earl Grey could be used, but it has a more citrusy flavor. I’d recommend getting Lady Grey and then buying extra lavender to mix in when you get the lavender for the frosting. If you can’t find any, look for a local tea shop, a well stocked loose leaf tea shop will have dried herbs like lavender (and I mean a real one, not Teavana (which is good, but sort of like the Starbucks of loose leaf teas). I personally shop at Prestogeorge’s in Pittsburgh. They have an online list and they ship, and have dried lavender and a million types of tea.

**You can find pearl powders in the cake decorating aisles of craft stores. They’re not expensive, but they’re also not super cheap, and they last forever.

***I use a normal paintbrush that has never been used for anything other than food.

This recipe makes 1.5 dozen cupcakes, with just enough frosting for all. I doubled it, since my blender was unhappy with 3 teaspoons of tea, but fine with 6, and so I’m giving the rest to overworked college kids. Yay for sharing!

Last one!

It felt left out, I had to add it.

Yes, the cupcakes were staged on a book. Twilight likes books, right?

And seriously. Half full. Trying to peel these off the pan is a pain, and you do not want to do it.

So, after making Pinkie Pie yesterday, I wrote down the plans for the six other cupcakes I’ll be making and set about decided who was next. In the end, my mother had to run some crazy errands and was kind enough to add an extra stop to get cupcake supplies, so she decided.

Fluttershy!

She picked Fluttershy.

Sadly, she based her choice on recipe, not pony. She only knows the ponies in passing.

This is, I think, my favorite as far as fit. Here’s the description for you:

Lemon chiffon cake with pink cherry meringue frosting piped in layers with a butterfly

These cupcakes are as light and airy as the clouds the pegasi recline on, but with a hidden flavor as quietly bold as the pony that inspired them. Butterflies land on pastel pink and yellow cupcakes, and each bite reveals a blend of lemon with a hint of cherry that melts away in your mouth.

Fun fact: Despite a desire to, I had never made, or even really tried, chiffon cake before this. Turns out it’s pretty much a cake made of meringue. That I planned to cover in meringue. I only discovered this today when I opened the recipe book to start. I had already planned on meringue frosting. I’m actually sort of obsessed with meringue.

This was fate.

This recipe was much easier than Pinkie Pie. The chiffon recipe is from an old cookbook my mom has had forever (they still print it, it’s by Better Homes and Gardens and huge and delicious). I used an orange chiffon cake recipe, and the only change I made was lemon for orange (and a bit more lemon zest and juice to really make it pop). Also, finding a proper cook time was difficult. The meringue recipe is cause I make meringue too much, and it was one I remembered and altered for this purpose.

If you make this, you have two choices. One: make a few cupcakes. The recipe below will make between 14 and 16 cupcakes (hard to say exactly, I used mini cupcakes when my main pan filled up). If you want more, you can double it, but then you’ll have a ton of cupcakes. Your choice.

Recipe time!

Cupcake:

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon zested lemon peel

1/3 cup lemon juice (fresh if possible)

½ cup flour

4 egg whites

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Dash of salt

1/3 cup sugar

Beat yolks. Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar and beat till thick. Mix lemon zest and juice and add to yolk mixture in installments, alternating with flour.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar and salt until soft peaks form. Very gradually add 1/3 cup sugar. Seriously gradually, this should take at least 1.5 or 2 minutes. Beat till stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the yolk mixture until fully integrated. Spoon into paper-lined cupcake pan, heaping the middle. Bake mini cupcakes for 12-15 minutes, large cupcakes for 22-25 minutes, until browned around edges and toasty colored on tops.

Cupcakes!

See the brown side? That's what I get for not rotating my pan. And also overcooking.

Yellow food color can be added, but the cakes become a pastel yellow on their own.

Done!

This is what it should look like if you don't use dye and bake it correctly. White is for comparison.

Frosting:

4 egg whites

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

½ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon cherry flavor

Liquid red food dye (gel may work, but it will be more difficult to integrate)

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar. It should take 2-4 minutes. Add flavor and 2 or 3 drops of red food dye. Scrape down sides and resume beating until stiff peaks form and the whites appear to be glossy.

Delicious!

A perfect Fluttershy yellow on the inside, no dye needed.

Assembly:

When the cakes are completely cooled, use a medium to large round pipette tip to pipe pink cherry meringue on in a very smooth coat, spiraling from inside to edges. If the centers have sunk, make sure to level it out with meringue before continuing (I pipe a large chunk and then spiral from there when it’s at the height I want). Don’t be stingy! The recipe makes more than enough meringue for all the cupcakes. When all cupcakes have a smooth layer, broil on High just until the meringue begins to brown and remove immediately. Use a small round tip to pipe a butterfly of meringue on each cupcake. Broil once more, but several inches down from broiler. Remove as soon as the butterflies begin to brown.

Butterfly

Broiling it in two steps makes it stand out more.

The biggest problem is that the browner and toastier the meringue is, the better it tastes. However, the browner and toastier it is, the less Fluttershy-pink it is.

Enjoy pony two, and I hope you’re in the mood for more cupcakes.

Lots more cupcakes.

Right after I’d decided to start exercising again.

I’d be sad if they weren’t so tasty.

So, a few days ago I made cupcakes. A friend made fun of me because they were only chocolate with cream cheese filling, not pony themed.

CUPCAKE!

If Pinkie were a baked good...

Now they’re pony themed. To start 7 days of cupcake experimentation, I picked Best Pony Pinkie Pie. They didn’t turn out as pink as I wanted, turns out even red raspberries are really really purple, but they taste amazing and next time I make them, they’ll be perfect. I’d make more tomorrow, but the recipe I (strongly) altered for these made 1.5 dozen normal sized cupcakes. I got a dozen normal, and nearly two dozen minis. Someone’s math was wrong.

Here’s my lovely, flowery description, since I’m sure you’re curious as to why there is green (it was colorful and fun, like Pinkie), and what they taste like:

Raspberry cupcake with Almond whipped cream frosting and lime syrup filling with inverted sprinkles

These cupcakes are too dark to really look like Pinkie’s colors, but the spirit of this pony runs wild in the unique and unexpected blend of flavors and colors. Curled loops of frosting mimic the party-pony’s hair, and a bite into the cupcake reveals a rainbow of hidden sprinkles, sure to bring forth a smile or laugh from even the most staid of hearts.

Wait, there are no sprinkles in the picture!

Sprinkles?

There they are!

Look closely, see those slivers of color beneath the frosting? Yeah, those are sprinkles BENEATH the frosting. Totally a Pinkie move. (Also, I know it doesn’t look purple, but it really is!)

Now for the recipe. I based this on a basic cupcake recipe and made a lot of alterations. The following is my finalized recipe. Follow it, and you should end up with cupcakes that are less purple and more pink. My problem is that I used a million and ten real raspberries, and even the reds, as it seems, bake purple. I’ve replaced a lot of the berries with extract in the following recipe, and that will cut down on color without losing flavor.

Recipe:

Cupcakes

½ cup sugar

6 tablespoons butter

1 ¼ cups flour

½ tablespoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg

¾ cup milk

1-2 tablespoons of mashed raspberries

¼ teaspoon raspberry flavor or extract

Pink or red food coloring, gel or liquid

Round or colorful sprinkles; do not use colored sugar sprinkles

Cream together butter and sugar. Mix dry and wet teams in separate bowls. When butter and sugar are creamed (3-5 minutes, should be fluffy and homogenous), add dry and wet teams in three or four additions, starting with the wet. Make sure that the butter/sugar mixture fully absorbs the milk before adding the first installment of dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add food coloring to the desired shade (remember, it will get darker after it’s baked). Fill cupcake papers or greased cupcake pan 2/3 to ¾ full and bake for 10 minutes at 325°F. Remove and sprinkle with sprinkles. Bake for another 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool.

Frosting

1 cup heavy whipping cream

5 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon almond extract

Red food coloring

Mix all ingredients except for dye on high until fluffy and airy. Add 4 drops liquid food color for light pink (change amount depending on type of dye used and shade desired). Scoop into icing bag with a medium round piping tip.

Syrup

½ cup water

1 cup sugar

Green food dye (unless another color is desired)

2 tablespoons lime juice (more or less to taste)

Boil water. Add sugar and boil down until thick and syrupy (about 5 minutes, but this varies). Remove from heat and add lime juice and color.

When cupcakes are completely cooled, inject lime syrup into the center of each. This is sort of by ear, just add syrup until it begins to feel a bit heavy. You can add more or less or omit entirely if you want, but ideally it should just add a cool bite of lime to the middle of the cupcake. After this, pipe the whipped cream on in easy loops to resemble Pinkie’s hair (regardless of the fact that the frosting is probably a lighter pink than the cupcake… shhh!). When you’ve piped the frosting on, use a honey drizzler (other tools, even a spoon, will work, but this is what the honey drizzler is designed for) and drizzle the syrup on the frosting in zigzags or big loops.

Store in a cool area (whipped cream topping, after all).

Yum!

The fruits of your labor!

Enjoy! Adaptations for the rest of the mane six plus Spike have already been planned.

Cosplay-related posts will return next week, after the cupcake binge.

So, while my plan was to use this as a commission page until I get my actual commission site up, I’ve decided to start in on the blagging thing now. Mostly because I can’t do pictures in my dA journal, and the plan was always to eventually convert this to cosplay and sewing/crafting related blogs.

This first blog has to do with a subject on which I am no expert, but one that is important to many cosplayers.

Photo lighting.

Unless you happen to be a professional or semi-pro photographer on the side, I bet you’ve tried to take some quick pictures of yourself or friends and had no option but to use natural or available lighting. This is fine, except for the hard and uneven shadows it can cause, which may lessen an otherwise awesome picture. I have a problem where I like to take pictures of myself using the timed interval setting on my camera. I rarely have a photographer friend around, and this helps me figure out better posing and what parts of my costume may not be working. It’s always so disappointing when I love a shot, but for the horrid shadows and yellow cast caused by the overhead light. Photoshop can only go so far to fix these, and many a good picture has been lost to the delete button.

Cut to New Year’s Eve. I was high on an unexpected daily deviation and had the house to myself (which is never a good thing on its own). I had been wanting to take some pictures of Hawkeye for a while, but I couldn’t go outside because it was raining all day, and when I would try to get pictures inside… just no. Struck with sudden inspiration, I built my own studio lighting set-up in my living room, intending to even everything out and counter-act the gross yellowy bulb light from the over head.

What do you know, it worked.

Not pretty, but functional

I had comparison shots that showed the before and after with the lighting, but I accidentally deleted the before. Trust me, there was a huge change. Not as good as you’d get in a studio, of course, but still there, and it was enough for my modest needs.

Not to go about building your own. You’ll need two boxes or pieces of cardboard, two bright desk-lamps (and maybe an extension cord, desk-lamps aren’t made for distance), a all tripod or other stand for your lighting (I used a telescope tripod), and a tripod or stable surface for your camera, and two little clamps (those HUGE paper binder clips probably work, but I had access to clamps), two scraps of white-white fabric, and pins. Note: my camera was too short, which made my chubby round face look chubbier. Be aware of the angle you want and where you place your camera.

It's hard to see

It’s hard to see, but look at the corner of the box. The fabric is pinned down. I used one straight pin into the box in each corner, pulling the fabric as tight as I could. The fabric is doubled over because it was long enough, and because more white=more reflective. Do this to both boxes. Now attach one light to your stand (I had a clamp-base light, so I just clamped it on, you’ll have to figure out your own method based on your light and your stand), and then put one on the floor a few feet over, and face both away from the target area. you’ll want your reflected light to come from top and bottom and both sides to cancel out as many shadows as possible.

Turn off all your lights, and then turn on one of your lamps. Use a box and try to reflect the light from the lamp to your target area. Test until the area seems to be well flooded with light, and mentally note that area. Repeat with your other lamp. When you’re done, turn off your lamps and turn on your big lights, and it’s time to get clamping.

Get the clamps!

This part will involve some trial and error based on your stand and your box/cardboard. I used a pizza box, but that couldn’t clamp on by itself. I had to cut a flap off the corner and stick it out straight, using a folded piece of cardboard to keep the box from falling forward on the crease. Two clamps kept it steady. Practice and adjust till your box is secure and both box and light are positioned properly. The second box on the floor should only need some propping. My couch served this purpose.

Now get turn on all lights and get your camera snapping! Like I said, I have no comparison pictures, but the overhead lights in this room always give really harsh top-to-bottom shadows, and it’s very yellow. The picture below is taken with this reflector set up, and there is absolutely no photoshop (if there was, I’d have removed or lessened the reflection of my reflectors in the window ^_^;; )

Hope this helps!

The reflection is proof!

Hello, Internet!

So, I’m hoping to start up some commissions. I’ve got a non-blog website made by an awesome friend, but the server is currently not accepting new sign-ups, so that will have to wait a bit. Until then, I’ll be operating out of this blog. Post-site, this will be a page for updates about projects.

That said, I’m opening commissions! If you’d like one, e-mail me at kirkiicreations at gmail.com and we’ll get talking. I’ve got a long history with sewing, but only recently did I start cosplaying (though I’d made some cosplays before I knew about the hobby). Given this history, I’ll accept original design and character commissions as well as cosplay commissions. Have a jacket you want, or a skirt you love, but don’t have the time, equipment or  know-how to make it? Let me do the legwork. I’ve got a serger for most seams, but I know how to do several seam finishes that hide all raw edges, for that extra special garment. I also draft my own patterns when I can’t find ones I like.

Projects that I’ve made since entering college (I’ve got a goldfish memory and most of my high/middle school projects were for others or have since fallen apart after years of wear, and I’m several years out of college) include: Several renfest dresses for myself, renfest dresses for friends (all of the anachronistic wench variety), Miss Persephone (Firefly reference), River (First dress from Serenity, still needs a low-water immersion dye), Katara, Sokka, Toph, Zuko (Season 3 Fire Nation robes) and Cabbage Merchant (all from Avatar: the Last Airbender), Lovely Black Dress (World of Warcraft), Riza Hawkeye, Roy Mustang, Olivier Armstrong, Scar and Edward Elric (including automail) (all from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood), and my most recent project, Dread Pirate Roberts (Princess Bride). Also cloaks. I love cloaks, and so do a lot of my friends.

Not only do I sew, I’ve developed a love for crazy resin casting. Check out my photobucket (the link should be somewhere on my profile, I’m still learning/updating this site) for water and lightning bending that I cast. I can also make fire effects, FMA military collar pins or plushie eyes, and I’m open to experimenting with even more shapes. I’m more than willing to explain the process or to do a commission piece for you.

E-mail me with any questions or possible commissions, and check out my photobucket (harmonyisarine) or dA account (harmoniccosplay) for pictures of some of my more recent work.

Heather