Saturday 7 September 2013

Back to School Cupcakes ~ PhD Life!

Happy Back to School week everybody!  If you or your little ones went back this week I hope everything went smoothly and everyone is having fun!  I started back at piano teaching this week, and starting next week it's all back to the usual super craziness that September brings!

This semester is super exciting in our house because my husband gets to teach his first class this year!! He's a psychology grad student halfway through his PhD program and has done a couple of guest lectures in the past but this semester he got the job!  His own class teaching intro psych :-D  SO PROUD!

I wont gush too much, because well, he'll be the one proof reading this post, and mainly it's about the cupcakes... I thought I'd just set the scene, and explain why there is less pencils and apples and more brains and textbooks!  It's a PhD life back to school rather than kids elementary!  Hope you still like them :)

I made a batch of 12 vanilla cupcakes (see the recipe below) before getting to work on the fondant cupcake toppers.  

A textbook for PSY102 - his course!

I first rolled out some brown fondant and made some small rectangles.  About an inch tall.  These would be the pages inside the red fondant cover.  This red fondant was slightly different to the white and coloured one and didn't hold together as well after rolling out and wrapping around the brown pages.  After trying to fix it a couple of times, I left it and looked and was actually more happy with it in the end!  I liked the slightly cracked spine-of-text-book feel to it!

The stamped 'J' was made from a few snips of a paper clip to get the correct size and then pressing into the corner of the text book... just to give it some personalisation!

The PSY102 text was done using an edible black marker pen that I use only occasionally, but for this - was perfect!

BRAINS!  Being a psychological science student a lot of Jonathan's work is based around the brain!  Cognitive neurosciencey kind of stuff.  For me, this means a fun thing to create out of fondant!

I started with a blob of fondant (I think mine were slightly orange, just what I wouldn't be seen!).  I then rolled out some thin sausages of white fondant and starting in the middle at one end started weaving side to side until I got to the other end.  I then did one side, and then the other side of the brain until squiggles were everywhere.  Anatomically incorrect yes, but I think the effect was there :-)

And the final cake topper in the set was to represent Ryerson University with it's colours and logo.

Squares of blue and yellow fondant, with letters created of white fondant tubes - slightly thicker sausages than for the brain.  I glued the letters down with royal icing and left the squares separate so they could be stood next to each other, rather than in a straight line.

So cupcakes were cooled down, and fondant cupcake toppers were prepped.  Time to assemble!

For the buttercream I used something new and exciting that I picked up in good old Sainsbury's when I was back in England in August.  I love going to the baking aisles when I'm home and seeing all the different things they have!  This time I picked up COLA FLAVOURING!  This was an obvious choice seeing as my husband is a HUGE Diet Coke fan!  (Did you see the birthday cake I made him?!).  And this was my first opportunity to use it!

As I hadn't used it before, and there were no real recipes for using it (only so many for coca-cola cake using the actual drink) I didn't want to risk the taste of the cake.  Instead I chose to add it to the buttercream, substituting the vanilla essence or lemon extract I often use.

I was really pleased with how it turned out and the cola flavouring really came through.  I love that it was a classic cola taste - kind of like cola bottles or cola cubes instead of just the drink!

Buttercream piped, photos of the toppers done and it was time to assemble!  

Lots of photos coming up!  I was really happy with these toppers so I went a little snap happy :-)  Keep scrolling through, the recipe is at the end :-P

Ingredients(Makes 12 cupcakes baked in Wilton pan)
4oz self raising flour
4oz granulated sugar
4oz unsalted butter
2 large eggs


1.  Pre-heat oven to 375°F/ 190°C and line a 12 cup baking tin with cupcake liners.
2.  Cream together sugar and butter in a mixer.
3.  Beat in eggs gradually.
4.  Sift in flour and mix together.
5.  Divide batter equally between cupcake cases.


For the buttercream, which piped all 12 with just a little leftover! ... 


9oz icing sugar (powdered)
6oz unsalted butter
1.5 tsp cola extract
1 tbsp 1% milk


1.  Beat butter until soft.
2.  Gradually add icing sugar.  I usually put a teatowel around my mixer when I do this to stop the sugar going EVERYWHERE!
3.  Add milk.  Keep beating until light and fluffy.  The more you beat it the more buttercream it seems to make!!
4.  Add cola extract.  Check the taste as you go!

Fill your piping bag and pipe away!  I used the swirl tip #1M :-)

Super happy with these cupcakes, and even more excited and proud of my husband and his first lecturing post during his PhD ♥  Hope your back to school week has been a lot of fun, enjoy this weekend off!


  1. These cupcakes are so cute! I love the tiny fondant Psychology books. The brain fondants can also be used for Halloween cupcakes.

    1. Thank you so much!! Yes for sure! I made brain cupcakes last year when he finished his Masters, using buttercream, but I think these little fondant decorations are my favourite :) Happy you like them too!!! Thanks for reading!

  2. Those are so cute. Love the little books and brains. Lol. I haven't heard of cola extract before, but it sure would be fun to try making cola flavored candy.

    1. Ooh yes, that sounds like a great idea. Might have to give that a try :) Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  3. Ridiculous! I. love. these. And I love baking with a unique theme. So awesome. I am not a decorator (I can barely frost a cupcake) so color me impressed!

    1. Why thank you SO much!! So pleased you like them so much, and that you're here having a look :) I ove baking and decorating so was pretty pleased he got the job so I could celebrate by baking hehe!!

  4. These are so cute! Congratulations to you and your husband. Pinning!

    1. Wow thanks Mary Beth!!! Great to have it pinned and for you to be here :) Thanks for reading!

  5. These cupcakes are so adorable! Thanks so much for sharing them at the party this week.

    1. You're so welcome, I was pleased to be able to link up and join your great party :) Thanks for coming to look!

  6. Super cute Cupcakes! I adore them, very creative.
    Thanks for sharing on Tutorial Thrusdays Linky Party. Your link will be featured tomorrow :)
    Marigolds' Loft

    1. WOW thank you so much Natalie! Super happy to be featured on your fantastic blog :) Thanks for coming to check these out!

  7. These are so ridiculously cute! I absolutely love them :) You did a great job darlin! You are being featured @ Great Idea Thursday's :) Krista @ A Handful of Everything

    1. Yey thank you so much Krista! SO happy to be featured on your blog, so glad you liked them so much :)

  8. Thank you :) Any excuse to make and decorate cupcakes, but these ones I was particularly happy with!! Thanks for reading!


Thanks for reading!! Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you :-)