Jan's Meatloaf Cupcakes with Sweet Potato Frosting / by Alex Boake

While I'm always brainstorming and coming up with recipes of my own, I'm also an avid follower of many different food blogs. They inspire me to try different things, to experiment with new ingredients, and they tantalize my eyes with delicious food photography. Not all of these blogs are created equal, I have to admit that I do have some particular favourites. One such favourite is Jan's Sushi Bar! Her food photography and plating is top-notch, and her consistent flow of new recipes are always mouthwatering and inspirational. Plus, she makes really cute headers for each month. Yup, I'm kind of a big fan. After my recent trade with The Domestic Man, I was on the hunt for a new swap, and luckily for me, Jan was game!

The only trouble was that Jan has way too many good recipes. It took some hard consideration, but I finally settled on her recipe for Meatloaf Cupcakes with Sweet Potato Frosting. The unique presentation of this dish made for a fantastically fun illustration. Plus, it was super fun and delicious! Last time I showed you my initial process from sketch to ink, check out the end of this post for some insider step-by-step shots of my colouring method!

Jan's Meatloaf Cupcakes with Sweet Potato Frosting Serves 6 to 8.


  • 2 pounds Ground Beef
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 1 medium Onion, diced
  • 1 small Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 2 teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Mrs. Dash Steak Seasoning
  • 1/2 cup homemade BBQ Sauce
  • 1 large Sweet Potato
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 1/4 cup Half and Half Cream
  • Salt and freshly-ground Pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350F. Melt Butter in a small pan over medium-low heat. Cook the diced Onion and Bell Pepper until they are both soft and the Onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the Ground beef, Eggs, the cooked Onion and Red Pepper, Salt, Black Pepper and Seasoning. Mix well with your hands. Divide the meat into 8 equal portions about the size of a baseball and then place each portion in the cup of a standard-size muffin tin.

Spread 1 tablespoon of the BBQ Sauce over the top of each Cupcake. Place the muffin tin on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet, and bake the Cupcakes for 35 to 45 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove the Cupcakes from the tin, and place on a paper-towel lined plate.

While the Cupcakes are baking, bring two quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Peel and cube the Sweet Potato and drop the cubes into the pan; reduce the heat slightly and continue to boil until the potato is tender. This should take about 10 to 12 minutes.

Drain the Sweet Potato and return it to the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, so that the excess moisture evaporates. Remove from heat and add the Butter and Half and Half Cream then, using an electric hand mixer, whip until fluffy, but still thick. Add more Cream if necessary, to get a nice Frosting consistency. Season to taste with Salt and Pepper. Keep warm until you remove the Cupcakes from the oven.

Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a large round or star tip, with the mashed sweet potatoes and pipe onto the tops of the Meatloaf Cupcakes. Serve immediately to your anxiously awaiting diners!

Super Special Colouring Insider Step-By-Step So, I on my last recipe I showed you my process from sketch to inks. My process for each illustration is the same; It's quite efficient and streamlined, at this point. It works! Once I get to that point, I scan all my inks into the computer, and drop out the blue sketch lines. Now, I know I said I work in Photoshop, but there is one step that I do in Illustrator. I use the Live Trace tool to take my lovely inked lines and turn them into sexy clean vectors like you see here!

This allows me to separate the lines, and each element. It allows me to easily make the white transparent, so I can lock the transparency on the black lines and give them lovely colours to match the colour inside.

Some pieces get pretty complicated, so every different ingredient has it's own folder, and sometimes sub-folders, depending on the complexity of the ingredient. Photoshop lets you have as many layers and folders as you want, so you might as well take advantage of it!

The great thing about working with food and real ingredients is that the fact that the foods are the colours that they are makes it interesting to try and be creative in making harmonious or intriguing colour schemes. Usually I do all the flat colours first so I can figure out if everything is working well together. Then I move on to the shading and highlights!

I knew that these Meaty Cupcakes were going to need an awesome texture injection, so I quickly created a new document and popped out some scattering brushes in different colours and textures. I also wanted to tie in the red from the Red Pepper, so I added some diced Pepper chunks into the image as well. Then this gets pasted into the flat area of the Cupcake that I already laid out.

I warped the texture to match the curve of each Cupcake, and then I added on extra highlights and shading to give each one the Three-Dimensional oomph it so rightfully deserved! I always play with the different layer styles like Multiply, Overlay and Soft Light until I get the look that I want. It's not an exact science, it's more like an art. ; )

For ingredients that are fairly spherical, I generally start with a circular gradient. That's a little basic to leave it just at that, so I inject a little more style by adding some extra highlights with a little more texture.


I love playing with ingredients that have a little transparency and flow to them. They really allow me to add some fun energy and depth to the piece. I'd done some poached eggs before, but I had a lot of fun with the transparent whites on the egg in this particular piece.

Colouring red things can be difficult. Remember that you don't want your Red Peppers to look pink! I try to keep my highlights in the yellow tones to avoid this problem. When doing more graphic shading like this, I use the Lasso Tool to select the areas, and then use my personally made gradient brushes to add in the shading and highlights. The final pops of shine are added with the Brush Tool!

See, that wasn't so hard, right? If anyone has any questions about my work, feel free to comment here! Now, don't forget to check out Jan's Sushi Bar, and her awesome recipes, like this Meatloaf Cupcake delight!