Cupcakes make great Mother's Day gifts, homemade or storebought, as do cookbooks. Here's an interview with Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes and author of the brand new The Confetti Cakes Cookbook along with the recipe for her crystal cupcakes, from the book
Name: Elisa Strauss
Location: New York, NY
Occupation: Founder and Head Cake Designer at Confetti Cakes
Where did the inspiration for Confetti Cakes come from?
My love of making people happy, especially with food.
What makes your bakery unique?
We create everything from scratch and we make one of a kind, custom designed, edible cake sculptures.
Do customers usually have an idea of what they want when they come in, or do they look to you for suggestions?
It depends, each client is different. Sometimes they come with just a theme, or a palette of colors. Others know exactly what they would like, i.e. their husband’s favorite food or car.
What's your favorite baking project you've been commissioned to make?
We made an enormous display of sushi for the famed sushi chef, Nobu.
You write in the book that cupcakes are often the "most coveted of desserts at parties, showers and weddings." How popular are cupcakes vs. the other kinds of baked goods you sell? Have you noticed any trends among your cupcake customers?
I think cupcakes are special because each person is receiving a special dessert…all to their own. We actually do not sell cupcakes anymore. It was too labor intensive to stop working on our sculpted cakes to fill a cupcake order or we would spend so much time on each cupcake that we couldn’t charge enough to make it worth our costs.
From seashells to flip flops, you seem to be offering the suggestion that almost anything can be made in edible form to go on a cupcake! Where do you get most of your ideas for cupcakes like these?
These were created with the thinking of party themes! In the book we have suggestions for baby showers, kids’ birthdays, wedding and anniversary showers or parties, or just for fun.
The idea was for people to make them at home for events they typically celebrate.
Some of your creations, while gorgeous, look very elaborate to make. Are the cupcakes in the book easier on the whole than some of the other offerings, or does it just take practice with all of them?
Each chapter in the book goes from easiest to most difficult so we suggest you start with the first recipe and method and progress, but everyone is starting at a different level. We also give lots of suggestions to modify your time, so hopefully people will know we are doing this professionally and we don’t expect everything to come out perfectly the first time. Like anything else in life…practice, practice, practice.
You suggest the swiss-meringue buttercream, calling it "the world's greatest and most versatile buttercream." What makes it so wonderful?
I think the creamy texture, the slight sweeness, it also can be turned into almost any flavor in the world by adding melted chocolates, fruit purees and other flavorings. It also has a great consistency for spreading, piping and swirls.
You also offer crystal cupcakes, made by dyeing rock candy into pretty colors, based on the popularity of Swarovski crystals. What's the biggest challenge with this type of cupcake? What's your secret for getting the rock candy to stay on?
The hardest part of this recipe is dying the candy, so if you don’t want to you can buy it already dyed or just use beautiful white rock candy for an impressive, elegant look. The buttercream holds most of the crystals on, or you can attach a few extras with water.
Which of the cupcake recipes in the book is your personal favorite?
Too hard to choose…they are all like my children! But I think the flip flops are especially cute!
Which of these cupcakes would you suggest being served to Mom on Mother's Day?
The hydrangea cupcakes.
And now for some personal questions…
How often do you eat cupcakes?
1-2 a month.
What's the best thing about eating cupcakes?
The ratio of frosting to cake.
What's your favorite type of cupcake?
How do cupcakes compare/contrast to other baked goods for you?
The perfect portion, you don’t have to worry about cutting!
Is there any innovation you'd like to see made to the cupcake that would improve it for you?
More interesting cupcake wrappers.
Do you bake your own cupcakes? Or (even better) have someone who bakes them for you?
I bake them in the bakery for special events.
What's your first cupcake-related memory?
My mom used to bring home Entenmann’s cupcakes for special holidays. They were always decorated in a special theme.