Quasi-Crafty: Strawberry Buttercream Jam Filled Cupcakes (Recipe + Tips)

I’m going to let you in on a little secret:  I am not a crafty bride.  I don’t have a stash of markers, hole punches, and tissue paper.  I definitely do not own a glue gun.  Yet, despite these limitations, occasionally I find myself wanting to recreate the gorgeous details of weddings that fill the blog world.  Enter the world of Quasi-Crafty projects.  Somewhat akin to a boxed cake-mix, these projects require little skill yet yield surprisingly close results to the real thing (and at lower cost!).   This series  will provide how-to’s to some of my own crafts & highlight those from other real weddings.  

Strawberry Buttercream Jam Filled Cupcakes

Considering baking cupcakes for some DIY-goodness at your next shower or wedding?  This weekend I co-hosted a bridal shower for one of my bridesmaids.  To celebrate with hungry guests we prepared a feast that included Strawberry Buttercream Jam Filled cupcakes.  Below you will find an incredibly easy yellow cupcake recipe, as well as 4 secrets to making your cupcakes look Pinterest-worthy.  

Strawberry Buttercream Jam Filled Cupcake

Strawberry Buttercream Jam Filled Cupcake

 

4 Secrets to Awe-Inspiring DIY Cupcakes:

1. Bake your Cupcakes.  For this project I recommend a classic yellow cupcake that’s dense enough to support a jam filling and a mound of frosting.  The recipe I posted below is a slightly modified version of one from a Fannie Farmer Baking cookbook.   It’s incredibly versatile, relies on just a few ingredients that most everyone has on hand.  Best of all, it’s written to only make 12 cupcakes – which is great when you (1) only have one cupcake pan, and (2) only need to feed 10-12 people.  

2. Fill them with Jam.  Seriously ignore everything that you see about “simple syrup” and “whipping egg whites until stiff peaks” and folding into ganache/mousse/etc.   Instead grab your favorite jar of jam (bonus points if it’s homemade or from a farmer’s market!)  Using either a paring knife or a cupcake corer (best registry gift ever!)  Everyone loves the surprise and no one realizes how insanely easy it is to scoop pre-made jam into a waiting cupcake.  

Strawberry Buttercream Cupcake with Jam Filling

Strawberry Buttercream Cupcake with Jam Filling

3. Tint your frosting.  You can naturally tint buttercream frosting by adding 2-4 tbsp of your favorite jam (the same jam you just used in the filling!)  Simply cream the butter, add the powdered sugar and then add the jam last.  Beautiful, natural, slightly flavored buttercream is incredibly impressive for very little effort.

4. Use Frosting Tips & Bags.  This part is key to presentation.  An inexpensive decorating set can make the difference between awe-inspiring results and those that elicit comments a la ” it’s the taste that counts!” I use these, but you can find them cheaper at Michael’s (make sure to print off and bring in the 40% coupon).  

Versatile Yellow Cupcake Recipe  

This cupcake will be dense and moist.  It’s great because it works every time, holds up well to fillings, and needs so little time and ingredients. 

  1. 1/2 Cup butter, room temp (read: leave it on the counter for 10 minutes)
  2. 2/3 C White Sugar
  3. 3 Large Eggs
  4. 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  5. 1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour + 1/4 teaspoon salt + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  6. 1/4 C Milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a regular muffin pan with liners.  

Strawberry Buttercream Cupcake with Sugar Pearls

Strawberry Buttercream Cupcake with Sugar Pearls

Place the butter and sugar into the mixing bowl and cream until a smooth, light-colored, fluffy consistency.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.  Add the vanilla extract. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture (the flour + salt + baking powder) until combined.  Alternate adding milk and flour, both starting and ending with flour.  (For me this took three rounds with the flour divided into thirds and the milk in half.) 

Spread evenly into muffin pans and bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 17-20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack (or just your counter) and frost when finished.  I like this buttercream icing recipe (just add the jam near the end).  Once cool core the cupcake, fill with jam and decorate using icing, sprinkles, and sugar pearls.


50 Wedding Dresses for less than $1000

This past week I discovered Snippet & Ink’s 40 dresses for less than $1000.  I loved the designs they picked out and immediately knew that I wanted to share them with you.  First, however, I found 10 more awesome wedding dresses for less than $1000 – four are under $300!   Once you’re done perusing these, be sure to check out Snippet & Ink’s post for a total of 50 dresses under $1000.

Ballgown Wedding Dresses Budget Friendly

Ball gown Wedding Dresses for less than $1000

  1. J.Crew Lace & Organza for $995
  2. Bloomingdale’s Theia Strapless Organza Ball gown, $1095* (use 10% off coupon when you subscribe to email to get below $1000)
  3. Macy’s Adrianna Papelle Ball gown, $270
  4. Bhldn Blushing Crinoline Sheath for $1000
Budget Friendly Modern Wedding Gowns

Modern Wedding Gowns

  1. WTOO Wedding Dress $898
  2. Neiman Marcus Badgley Mischka Gown $935
  3. Rue La La ABS Silk Strapless Bridal Gown $149
Budget Friendly Short Wedding Dresses

Short Wedding Dresses

  1. Bhldn Dainty Diversion Mini $280
  2. Bhldn Saturnalia Dress $220
  3. Etsy Audrey Hepburn Tea Length Dress $695
Have you found a budget friendly wedding dress?  Leave a note in the comment where you found it!

Don’t apologize for your Wedding

Over the course of my 16 month engagement, two of my bridesmaids and several close friends have become engaged (Yay weddings!).  One thing that I have found disheartening, however, is the frequency with which my friends apologize for their weddings.  My crafty, creative pulling-it-together-on-a-budget friends feel the need to apologize for their “simple, causal, thrown together affair.”   Similarly, my friends who are hiring a professional D.J. and wedding coordinator feel the need to apologize for spending the money and getting help.

Since when did we need to apologize for creating a wedding that fits our unique styles, abilities, and budgets?

1.  Please don’t apologize for a DIY wedding.    

When my friend Jenna gave me her wedding invitation, she did so with an impromptu apology: “Oh, we just did the simple/at home/printed them ourselves/pretty causal invite.  And, I hand tied a ribbon to each one.”

Excuse me?  Not only do her invites look incredibly sweet (linen paper and elegant script), but she hand-tied a ribbon. To each one.  I mean, I should apologize that I had to tape it on my refrigerator… 

DIY Wedding Invitations

DIY Wedding Invitations via WeddingBee

Let’s not be afraid to take on a wedding task.  I do think that wedding vendors are great for a lot of things.  But let’s not forget that just because the word ‘wedding’ has been added to the equation, it doesn’t mean that we’ve lost all the super-awesome talents we use everyday.  So all my graphic designing, Pinterest loving friends? Consider this your chance to rock out those DIY Wedding invites.  Or consider making your own cake or dessert table.  Or how about brewing your own beer?

Please don’t apologize because your wedding is a labor of love.  I promise that your guests will be happy to celebrate with you regardless of who made your invitations or if you have a couture wedding cake.  (And, if they aren’t, perhaps you should reconsider the wedding guest list…)

Now, that said,

2.  Please don’t apologize because you hired professionals for your wedding. 

Learning this was hard for me.  At first I didn’t want to tell my friends that I had hired a month-of-coordinator, or that I was (gasp!) having someone design our invitations.   As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not crafty.  I didn’t major in theater, I majored in political science & economics.  It’s easier for me to take on a part-time job at the library and pay for someone to design my invitations then it is for me to attempt to do the same.  

The Wedding Planner

Hiring help can be a good thing :).

So, all my biology-majoring, professionally busy friends?  Realize that doing everything yourself doesn’t make you a more authentic person, and it doesn’t give your wedding more meaning.   Your wedding has meaning because of the love between you and your partner and the shared joy of your community.  Everything else – the logistics, the aesthetics, the details – really are just that: details.  Regardless of how you choose to do them (or have someone else do them!) it will not change the meaning of your wedding. 

What do you think? Have you ever felt the need to apologize for your DIY-projects or choosing to hire professionals?

Why you should consider an Engagement Session before your Wedding

First, thank you for the wonderful discussion yesterday.  I loved hearing that our weddings should be “a fabulous party that reflects us and doesn’t stress us out financially.”  I will also admit that my perspective on styled photo shoots has broadened.  As Jaimie pointed out, styled inspiration shoots are a great way for wedding vendors to express themselves creatively while also researching new vendors for their brides.  (Jaimie is a wedding planner and designer in Atlanta.  If you missed the discussion from yesterday, please take a peek at the comments.)

Today, however, I want to share our engagement session.  I am a huge proponent of having an engagement session done.  I realize that not having a session can be an easy way to save money.  But if, like me,  you get nervous in front of cameras, it is a great way to warm-up to your photographer before your actual wedding day.  Also, I enjoy having great pictures of us – all of our before pictures were camera phone quality at best!

But here’s the real secret:  if your photographer does not already include an engagement session in their quoted service, then you should negotiate in one for free or little cost.   Many photographers will be happy to offer a free engagement session or work with you to lower the costs of one if you are willing to sign a contract that they can do both the engagement session and your wedding.   When you’re going over their proposal simply state “I love your work, and I would love to hire you today, but my budget needs to accommodate both the engagement session and the wedding.  It is possible that we could adjust the cost to ___?”  

Without further ado, here’s our engagement session by the awesome Krystal Kast Photography

Engagement Pictures Guitar Krystal Kast Photography

Did I mention my partner plays the guitar?

Engagement Pictures Guitar Krystal Kast Photography

As well as the piano 🙂

Engagement Pictures Guitar Krystal Kast Photography

It was hard for me to not laugh - cameras give me nervous-laughter!

Engagement Pictures Guitar Krystal Kast Photography

We are standing on train tracks near where we had our first date. This shot was the photographer's idea - and I love it!

Perfection is not a Wedding Style

Real Beauty Women

Happiness is not a size.

Last Friday I had my last wedding dress fitting.  Instead of the elation I wanted to feel, I immediately felt…disappointed.  A bit of a failure.  And entirely un-bridal.

You see, I bought the dress over a year ago, in a flurry of sample sale negotiation, and then quickly pushed the thought out of my head.  I was nervous about the dress, it’s slim-fitting lines, its total lack of ball gown to hide  my body.  I called my mom,  nervous, upset, and scared.  I was worried that even though I loved my new dress (it has lace. and sparkles. and an epic train.) that I would look “fat.”  As someone who straddles the size 10-12 barrier, I dread the thought of being fat,  and I vowed to lose weight before the “Big Day.”

Nevermind the fact that like most women in their twenties, I’m  busy.  The whole being a graduate-student-job-seeking-newly-engaged person?  It’s a busy life.  And I usually don’t feel fat.  Except when I look at her. Or her. Or all the other radiant, size 2 brides that populate the WIC and bridal blogs.  Somehow, the constant barrage of wedding media has convinced me that being uber-skinny is a prerequisite for being a successful bride.  And if I can’t mold my size 10 body into a size 2 bride, I will have failed.  And I hate to fail. 

But Friday, I crumbled.  I stared into the mirror, desperately hoping to feel like a radiant bride…and disappointed that I felt like myself.  Because in the face of the wedding dream, feeling like myself didn’t feel like enough. 

And yet, I write about weddings being authentic.  I tell my newly engaged friends that their wedding is “perfect” simply because it is their wedding.  I talk about not feeling jealous if you can’t have charivari chairs, and that sometimes the best weddings are small, at-home affairs instead of expensive, lavish events.   I tell my own body-conscious friends that they are beautiful and that they are loved.

So why is it so hard to tell myself the same thing? Why do I worry that everyone will think my arms are fat instead of hoping that they are moved by our ceremony? Why do I dread the eventual wedding photo album, instead of realizing that everyone will look at my laughing face and not at my “fat” arms?

Why do any of us torment ourselves with feelings of inadequacy, and convince ourselves that we have failed?

I mean, we all have something that bothers us, right? A little voice inside our head that says “you’re not really a bride, unless…”. If it weren’t for that little voice, wedding planning would be easy and there wouldn’t be an entire industry dedicated to telling us how to “get it right.”  I mean, really.  We are so scared of getting our weddings “wrong” that we let strangers tell us how to get them “right.”  I let people I have never met dictate the way I feel about my wedding dress.  This has to stop.

I’ll start.

I promise to wear my beautiful dress and to not analyze every bump & lump under it.

I promise to be present on my day and to smile as often as possible – not just when I see the camera.

I promise to fight really, really, really hard to enjoy my wedding photos.

And I promise to resist the urge to photoshop in skinny-bride arms.

Essentially, I promise to accept that my “imperfections” are not a failure, but instead what makes me unabashedly me.  Oh, and I promise to like me.

I promise to be authentic. 

Wedding is a Party not a Performance

A wedding is a Party not a Performance.

We need to bring authenticity back to our weddings.  We need to embrace our own meaning of love, of commitment, and way of celebrating with our friends.  We need to encourage each other to resist feeling like a failure if our arms aren’t skinny, if we’re not serving a five-course, French service dinner, if we’re having the dreaded dry wedding.  We need to know deep down that we have not failed if our weddings aren’t “perfect.”  

And we need to stop aiming for perfection.  The point of our engagements is not to turn our ugly-duckling-nemesis into a swan...it’s the time to bring two families together, to set the foundation for marriage, and to plan an authentic ceremony and celebration (even if it’s a celebration for two).

I am asking you to seek authenticity over perfection.  And to help someone else do the same.  To tell another bride that it’s okay if her wedding doesn’t look like a something out of a magazine.  To tell her to stop worrying about trying to be a swan.   To tell her she doesn’t have to resort to a feeding-tube diet to be radiant on her wedding day.  And to tell yourself that you will not judge your wedding because someone tells you that it’s not wedding-enough.  To trust yourself to get it right.

Because those magazine shoots that are perfectly styled? They. Are. Fake.