I started taking ballet when I was 2 years old, and my mom started taking me to see The Nutcracker every year not too long after. I was even invited to try out for a small part in Ballet Arizona’s production one year, but I was too tall (if you can imagine that!).
This year, Toby and I had tickets to see The Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center, but we didn’t get to go (for various reasons). Still, I wanted to make some Nutcracker-themed cupcakes.
I realized a few months ago (while we were watching a different ballet) that the tutus — especially the undersides — looked like frosting on a cupcake. So I wanted to make an upside-down ballerina cupcake. And though there are numerous dancers in The Nutcracker that represent sweets, the Sugar Plum Fairy is the most fabulous. I figured she would be the perfect ballerina to cupcake-ize.
Even though “sugar plums” aren’t necessarily plums, I thought Sugar Plum Fairy cupcakes should have some plum in them. However, it turns out that finding plums — fresh or canned — is not very easy in December. So I went with plum preserves as a filling in a vanilla cupcake. The cupcake recipe I used was kinda wacky though, so I’m not going to subject you to it. You can just use whatever yellow or white cake recipe you want, or a cake mix.
For the frosting, I used a closed star tip and piped concentric circles, starting in the center. And while it looks totally fine if you don’t, I tried to make the frosting more ruffle-like by wiggling the pastry bag while I was piping. So we’ve got a tutu. But ballerinas need legs. Obviously.
I was going to get pretzel sticks and cover them with white chocolate myself, but I found these twists at Giant. I melted some white chocolate chips (disclaimer: it took me three tries to get it right — be careful) and tinted it with gel food coloring (liquid food coloring may make the chocolate seize) to make little ballet shoes.
Dipping the pretzels in the pink chocolate didn’t work very well, so I used a little paint brush to put it on the ends and then used a toothpick to do the criss-crosses. Then I used a little extra frosting to put the legs on the cupcakes, and wrapped the cupcake in a cupcake skirt (available at Michael’s, among other places) to finish the tutu effect! Cute, right?
Sugar Plum Fairy cupcakes
White or yellow cupcakes, tinted pink if desired (this recipe, minus the cream of coconut, or the cake from this post would work)
white-dipped pretzel twists
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
pink gel food coloring
1 jar plum preserves or jam
White frosting (recipe below)
Pink or white cupcake skirts (optional)
Bake the cupcakes.
While cupcakes are cooling, carefully melt the white chocolate chips according to package directions. Tint with pink gel food coloring.
Lay a piece of wax paper out on your work surface. Dip the ends of pretzel sticks into the pink chocolate (or use a small paintbrush to apply the pink all around one end of each stick). Lay the pretzel sticks on the wax paper to dry, and use a toothpick to make little criss-crosses with the pink chocolate just above the solid pink.
After cupcakes are baked and cooled, cut or scoop a small well in the center of each. Stir the plum preserves and spoon a bit into hole in the middle of the cupcakes (if the cake held together well when you cut it, you can keep the little tops and put them back on. But it’s not necessary).
Frost the cupcakes with white frosting, making sure some frosting is left over. Stick the white end of the pretzel sticks down into the cupcakes a little (so pink ends are sticking up) and pipe some leftover frosting around the cupcake end to keep them in place. Enjoy!
Basic buttercream frosting (Adapted slightly from Better Homes and Gardens cookbook – makes enough to frost about 12 cupcakes)
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature (use light-colored butter, if possible)
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar (measuring recommended)
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Additional milk, as needed
White food coloring (optional)
Beat butter until fluffy in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar and beat well. Slowly beat in the 1/4 cup milk and vanilla.
Slowly beat in the remaining powdered sugar until smooth. Add additional milk, if needed for consistency. Add some white food coloring if desired and beat until incorporated.