When planning the holiday party for The Society of Typographic Arts, I overzealously blurted out “TYPOGRAPHY CUPCAKES!” when asked if there was anything I could contribute. I was sure as heck that someone out there in this design world had embarked on such a project before, so it would be just a matter of googling to find that certain someone and their accompanying tutorial.
Boy, did I overestimate the design world’s appetite for edible type.
I did happen to pull up a lot of rounded-edged comic-sans-looking baking decorations, and that was definitely not the route I wanted to pursue. After several weeks of frantic searching, my friend Tamara Grusin of Peepwire sent me this link to the blog of the talented Crystal Ross of Gateaux Rose. As you can see, she’d made some tasteful and tasty cupcakes with elegant typography decorations. I told her about my conundrum, and she responded with helpful hints about making the letters. It wasn’t easy, but they turned out great–and were a HUGE HIT at the holiday party!
So in case you wanted to give this a go, I’ve included step-by-step instructions. Wow your design and type nerd friends at your next festive gathering! ( Just expect to stay up all night making them!)
Making the letters
- First, I gathered the necessary recipes. For the Royal Icing, I went with an Alton Brown recipe. For the cupcakes and buttercream frosting, I went with–who else?–Martha Stewart!
- Then I headed over to Michael’s craft store for the supplies. I picked up a Cupcake Decorating Kit, which came with 5 different tips and some plastic pastry bags. I also grabbed some mini cupcake tins (I decided to keep them finger-food sized for the purpose of a party), some mini cupcake cups, and gel food coloring pots.
- For the royal icing and buttercream frosting, I added the very slightest amount of food coloring. Technicolor frosting is unappetizing to me… might as well get a sheet cake from the local grocery chain. Not very chic.
- Make the royal icing the night before the cupcakes. The recipe calls for egg whites, vanilla, more powdered sugar than is probably fit for human consumption, and food coloring. Adding the powdered sugar slowly to the egg whites, you’ll come up with a consistency that is fit for piping.
- I printed the alphabet on card stock–with some glyphs thrown in for fun–then taped down parchment on top of it. I found that using a decorative, bold font works best–in this case, Council by Emigre.
- With a very careful hand, I traced each letter with the the smallest pastry tip in the set. This is key for the most control.
First, trace the outside edges.
Let the letters dry overnight. In a pinch, you could let them dry in the oven for about 20 minutes set to low.
Making the cupcakes and the buttercream frosting
The cupcakes and the frosting recipes are pretty straightforward: in lieu of sifting the dry ingredients, I used a fine wire strainer and shook the ingredients together.
Again, with the frosting, just the lightest touch of food coloring.
I broke my hand mixer while making the batter!
With the next largest pastry tip in the set, lightly frost each cake, making a circle and and finishing with a light push on the tip. (This part was really fun!)
Last two photographs shot by Lucy Hewett.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and if you give it a shot, send me pictures of your results!