I am not a baker. I am not a chef. I have anxiety attacks in the grocery store. I am very lucky to be blessed with a husband who is an amazing cook, and one who enjoys doing it. That being said, I WILL take on an occasional baking project when I’m feeling very brave, and when it came time for Lila’s first birthday party, I was ready for a challenge! Because it’s been her “theme” since day one, I just had to have some Bird Themed Cupcakes!
We were going with a bird theme for her party and I must have Googled and Pinterested 50,000 bird themed cupcakes and never really found anything that I loved. Then one night I had an epiphany. I remembered a hilarious story and realized that I already knew how to make something that I could fashion into a bird-themed cupcake!
Let me take you back a few years to when we first moved to Jacksonville. I think it was the second Christmas we lived here that I was invited to a gal’s “Sweet Swap”, where you make a triple batch of your favorite ‘signature’ dessert and bring that, along with empty Tupperware containers, and you all swap sweets. I really wanted to go, buuuuuut…. couple problems with this particular party for me. Number one, I did not have a ‘signature’ dessert. Number two, at that particular time in my life, I did not even have a triple batch of dollar bills to spare, much less a triple batch of an imaginary signature dessert to pass out to a party of one hundred.
But, I really wanted to meet some people and it looked like a fun party, so I Googled (Pinterest wasn’t even hot on the scene yet) a bunch of ideas for my ‘signature’ dessert. My criteria – by order of priority – was something cheap, something that I would not burn the house down making, and something yummy. I finally decided on “Haystacks”. I saved up my extra $1.00 for like six weeks and two days before the party I bought all of the ingredients, made a triple batch, and loaded them into the cutest serving travel tray thingy that I owned.
My next anxiety was what to wear to this party… You know those times when no matter what you put on, you feel fat and stupid and disgusting in it? This was me on that particular day. I finally made it out the door in whatever outfit I decided looked the least terrible. I was nervous, but I loaded up my sweets and my stupid outfit and headed out to the party.
When I arrived, I was shocked at the number of people and cars. Everyone that was arriving was dressed to the nines and were all walking in with other friends. I was there alone and was horrified to even get out of my car. I must have been PMSed or something, because I am usually not this timid. Anyway, I finally got out and began making the long trek down the driveway. I was carrying my cute little plastic serving platter by the handle, when all of the sudden, the bottom of the tray dropped right out. I stood frozen for a moment, and then looked down at the driveway to see my triple batch of haystacks scattered everywhere… and covered in a triple batch of pine straw. At that exact moment, two ladies in a Range Rover and wearing, I kid you not, literal fur coats were pulling into the driveway. My little batch of Haystacks that I’d spent my last dollars on was blocking their way. I mean SERIOUSLY?
I fought back tears as I piled them all back up into my serving tray and pretty much ran back to my car. I cried for a minute. Then I called Lane. He said, “Babe they’re just people. Pick out the pine straw and go have fun.” And so I did.
I carried my tray (by the bottom this time) back down the driveway and into the party and proudly placed it on the table amongst the double pecan fudge caramel mousse crème brulee ‘signature’ desserts on silver serving platters. And you know what? My little Haystacks were a hit. They were one of the first things to go when it came time to swap sweets. I only laughed a little when I saw all the pine straw pieces in the bottom of my tray when it was empty. At least they blended well with haystacks!
So back to my epiphany for Lila’s party… When I was searching for bird themed cupcake ideas, I thought, why not use my ‘signature’ dessert to make a little haystack bird’s nest that would be oh-so-precious on top of a cupcake?! They were also a hit at her birthday party and add a really yummy crunch to the cupcake. Plus, they fit the “cheap, safe, yummy” criteria list for my baking projects! So here is how you make these delicious bird themed cupcakes…
BIRD THEMED CUPCAKES INCREDIENT LIST
* You will need the items shown above, as well as vegetable oil, 3 eggs, and water for the cake mix.
* One drop of green and two drops of blue food coloring for the icing
* A sheet of wax or parchment paper for the “haystacks” to dry
* Two 12-count cupcake tins & 24 cupcake liners
* The normal spatula, mixer, measuring cup, and two pots to make a rigged double-boiler (if you are like me and do not own one)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, line the cupcake tins with liners, and mix the cake batter according to the directions.
While the cupcakes are baking, make your icing.
I used Vanilla with one drop of green food coloring and two drops of blue. Mix and set aside.
Next get your double boiler going. Use one larger pot and fill about half way up with water. Set a smaller pot inside of it, and dump the butterscotch in. Stir frequently while the butterscotch is melting and be careful not to let the water boil over. When the butterscotch is all nice and melty, dump in the rice noodles and mix it all together.
Next, use a tablespoon to spoon out the haystack mixture onto the wax paper. You may have to squish them down a bit to make them look more like bird’s nests and not just lumps. Then, place your jellybean “eggs” on each haystack. Leave them to harden, usually only takes about 15-20 minutes.
At this point you will remember that you were baking cupcakes and be relieved when you discover that they’re not burnt. Or is it burned? Either way, take them out of the oven. Dump the icing into a Ziplock back with the corner cut off (or if you’re fancy you can use one of those icing bags I guess) and ice the cupcakes when they’re cool.
Next, pop your bird’s nests off of the wax paper and place on top of each cupcake. Then stand back and admire the handiwork of your baking genius and your gorgeous cupcakes! And be glad there’s no pinestraw in them!
(p.s. Sweet Swap Ladies I couldn’t help but notice that I wasn’t invited to the party last year. I just wanted to say… I get it.)
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