Sweet Celebrations: Katherine’s Safari Birthday

Our friends at HarperOne have just released Sweet Celebrations: Our Favorite Cupcake Recipes, Memories, and Decorating Secrets That Add Sparkle to Any Occasion by Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne, the sisters of Georgetown Cupcake and the hit TV show DC Cupcakes. You might be a fan of the show, a fan of their cupcakes, or perhaps you own and bake from their first book, The Cupcake Diaries: Recipes and Memories from the Sisters of Georgetown CupcakeIf so, then this excerpt and recipe from Sweet Celebrations will make your day. If not, then I can’t imagine how this delicious recipe, with step-by-step photographs and a heartfelt back story, could fail to charm you. But don’t wait for me to convince you, here’s a story and a recipe, in Katherine’s own words.

When we were little girls, there were few things more exciting than planning our birthday parties. The preparations started a month or so in advance: Mommy would ask us for our ideas—what was the theme we were thinking of, and who would we invite? There were always tons of people on the guest list, from our cousins—Mary, Elizabeth, and Annie—and neighbors to all the girls in our Sir Isaac Brock Elementary School class. Our parties were always “Girls Only” because Mommy never let us invite boys. She was very old-fashioned that way! The only boy who ever came to our parties was our cousin Stephen, and he always felt a little out of place, surrounded by all these girls. But just because our birthdays were “Girls Only,” that didn’t mean they were girly-girly.

In fact, for my eighth birthday, I wanted to do something wild . . . literally. The summer before, Sophie and I brought home a board game called Fireball Island. It had a tiki idol and a three-dimensional volcano, and sometimes fireball marbles would rain down as you made your way around the board. I became obsessed with this game. This year, there would be no Barbie or My Little Pony–themed bash. I wanted a one-of-a-kind tropical adventure birthday party. I wanted to turn our basement into a jungle!

I told everyone my idea. They looked at me like I was nuts: “Really? Nothing pink and pretty?” It was so not me! But I didn’t care. I wanted jungle vines, ferocious animals, and a “lagoon” filled with murky water. I literally wanted to transform our basement into a full-on jungle habitat.

So Mommy took a kiddie pool and tinted the water with brown and black paint so it looked swamplike. We put up fake palm trees and tons of dark green streamers. As everyone made their way down the stairs, they were greeted by animal sounds: lions roaring, birds chirping, elephants trumpeting (we put a rain forest soundtrack on repeat on my boom box). All of us wore these cool safari party hats. We put colored plastic over the light fixtures so the lighting was very dim and had a purplish night-glow to it. It felt like we were on an expedition in the wild.

All my guests were kind of spooked at first, but then they realized how cool it was. We sat in a circle on the floor around a fake fire made of sticks and colored red, orange, and yellow tissue paper, snacking on skewered hot dogs, green veggies, and slices of tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, and papaya. For dessert, Babee, Mommy, and Sophie baked me a cake and decorated it with green buttercream grass, a blue buttercream river, Oreo soil, and a graham cracker crumb beach. They even stacked cupcakes in the center to create a “volcano” dripping with red buttercream lava. Instead of traditional birthday candles, they used long skinny candles that looked like torches.

When it was all over, no one wanted the party to end—especially me! I immediately began dreaming up what I might do the next year for my ninth birthday. I couldn’t wait to think of something even wilder!


Banana Chocolate Chip Monkey Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes

  • 1¼ cups sifted all-purpose
  • flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup mashed bananas

For the chocolate ganache frosting

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

For the decoration

  • ¼ pound fondant in each of your favorite colors (for this recipe, we use yellow, white, black, red, and brown)
  • piping gel

To make the cupcakes:

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two cupcake pans with twelve paper baking cups each.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl, and set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a bowl with a handheld electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, approximately 4 to 6 minutes.

4. Add each egg slowly, one at a time, mixing after each addition.

5. Add the honey and mix slowly until just combined.

6. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, followed by one third of the water. Mix slowly. Then add another third of the flour mixture, followed by another third of the water. Mix slowly again. Finally, add the last third of the flour mixture and the last third of the water. Mix until all the ingredients are incorporated.

7. Scrape down the bowl, and add the chocolate chips and mashed bananas. Mix slowly until well incorporated.

8. Using a standard-size ice cream scoop, fill each baking cup so that it is two-thirds full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

9. Let cool and set aside for frosting and decorating.

To make the frosting:

1. Combine the heavy cream and chocolate chips in a medium heatproof bowl. Fill a medium saucepan with an inch or two of water and place over medium-low heat. Place the bowl over the saucepan and let the mixture melt, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring until it is shiny and smooth.

2. Remove the bowl of Chocolate Ganache from the saucepan; let it cool slightly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Working with one cupcake at a time, carefully dip each cupcake top in the warm ganache, twisting your wrist as needed to make sure the cupcake top gets completely coated.

To make the fondant monkey faces (step-by-step photos below):

1. Roll out a piece of brown fondant, and using cookie cutters, cut out three circles: one with a diameter of approximately 3 inches and two with diameters of approximately 1½ inches.

2. Roll out a piece of yellow fondant, and using cookie cutters, cut out three circles: one with a diameter of approximately 1½ inches and two with diameters of approximately ¾ inches.

3. Roll out a piece of red fondant, and using a cookie cutter, cut out one circle with a diameter of approximately ¾ inches.

4. Roll out two small round balls of white fondant, about the size of a pea.

5. Roll out two very small round balls of black fondant, about the size of half a pea.

6. To assemble the monkey face on each cupcake: Place the 3-inch circle on the surface of the ganache-covered cupcake. Next, using piping gel (or water), place the three yellow circles on the monkey face so that the larger circle is at the bottom of the cupcake and the two smaller yellow circles are equally spaced above the large yellow circle. Also using piping gel to attach, place the white fondant balls on top of each of the smaller yellow circles to form the monkey’s eyes. Then, attach the monkey’s black pupils to the white balls by using piping gel. Attach the red circle to the large yellow circle at the bottom of the monkey’s face to form the mouth. Finally, if celebrating a birthday, place a birthday candle in the red circle so the monkey has a birthday candle in its mouth!


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2 Responses to “Sweet Celebrations: Katherine’s Safari Birthday”
  1. These are adorable! Thanks for sharing!

  2. ayoungfoodie says:

    These look so yummy. Thanks for sharing! I’ve got another to do now on my list. A thumbs up from a fellow foodie! ~ ayoungfoodie.wordpress.com

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