Friday, March 25, 2011

Yes I was uninspired, but.... not despair, my creativity was not totally dead turtle pizza (inside joke).

We were recently invited to a "re-birthday party" for a friend's bird. Chi-Chi's story is a great one, and if you're interested in the story, click here. Basically, Chi Chi was sick and about to be put down, but at the last minute his various caretakers decided to take him home and make him comfortable until he died....except he didn't, thanks to an intensive feeding regimen, lots of love, and physical therapy. Every year on the day he was supposed to be put down, his caretakers host a party, where he perches on people's shoulders and quite obviously is very proud of himself.

I wanted to make a special dessert. Since I had already brought parrot cupcakes to another party, I wanted something new and exciting. I have long admired Bakerella's cake pops, but admit that they seemed waaay above my level of baking skill. I couldn't wrap my mind around them exactly, couldn't see how they would work....BUT...they were just the right kind of impressive for this party, especially if I could fashion pops that looked like the birthday boy himself, so I decided to go to the library and check out Bakerella's cake pop book. Of course, it had been checked out. Boo! With only a few days to go before the party, I decided to scour her website for tips and tricks. I went to Michael's and dove right in, buying melts, an edible food pen, lollipop sticks, fondant, and foam blocks....I guessed I was doing the cake pop thing.

Turns out, cake pops aren't necessarily hard. They definitely require meticulousness and patience, something I often lack, but I was committed to making these pops awesome. I followed Bakerella's directions fairly well. I made a red velvet cake 2 days before the party. I baked it at night and let it cool all night and all day the next day (day before the party). The night before the party, it was time to work. I started by breaking up the red velvet cake. I started doing this in the pan I had cooked it in. Stupid. This made things difficult, everything was sliding everywhere, including bits of red cake which ended up all over the table and on the kitchen floor. Next time, I will scoop the cake into a bowl before crumbling!

Much easier to mix in a bowl!

Since I had that run-in with the cake, I decided to scoop the frosting I was using out of the cannister into a separate bowl so I could soften in a bit by stirring. This was smart! It made mixing the frosting into the cake much easier.

 Making the actual cake balls was very messy work! I wanted ovoid shaped balls instead of round, since I thought the oval shape would look more parrot-like. I found the more you rolled the cake ball in your hand, the better the frosting and cake crumbs came together. I did have to wash my hands after every 4 or 5 cake balls. I wonder if those plastic bag-type food handling gloves would help or hinder? I was also paranoid that the more I handled the cake, the weirder it would taste (would it taste like I had been touching it? Gross, but you know what I mean!) I shouldn't have worried, they tasted great in the end. Once the cake balls were done, I followed the instructions for the lolli sticks, dipping them in candy melts, then sticking them in the cake balls. That works and is, in my opinion, one of the most important steps. In future, I would not skimp on the candy melt coating on the sticks as I did this time.

While the cake pops were firming up in the freezer, I decided to work with the fondant I had bought. I had never in my life used fondant and was skeptical. I had to google to figure out how to work with it, as I had this solid rectangles I had bought from Michael's (which was great because they were already colored, so no mixing of colors needed!). While I had looked for candy that could serve as Chi Chi's wings I also decided to fashion a wing-shaped cookie cutter. I didn't have anything small enough, but I had some copper sheets left over from the wedding (I embossed tags for mason jar lanterns....yeah, I'll put that on the wedding blog some day!) I cut two 1/2'' wide strips from the sheets (which around 4x4'') and bent them to look how I wanted - kind of like this: D - and then taped them into place. Totally unprofessional way to handle making your own cookie cutter, but I figure for single use, this solution was a decent one!

my homemade fondant cutter

Working with fondant turned out to be gloriously easy, just roll it out and cut your shapes. Yay! In no time I had 35 pairs of wings. I decided using the red and blue fondant stacked together would not only be colorful, but the most accurate representation of Chi Chi's side and wing feathers.  I took a small paint brush and dabbed water on the blue bits to "paste" them to the red. This worked very very well, though in the future, I might try working with a q-tip or smaller paint brush, as I did have an excess of water on a few of the wings. No real harm done though.

Now it was time to dip! I melted some green wilton candy melts and found that the green wasn't vibrant enough. I put a good bit of kelly green food coloring in the melted candy, and that helped. I could've put in a lot more, but remember that thing I mentioned, that whole lack of patience thing? Yeah, it was rearing its head right about now! Point is, I got the melts to a satisfying green color and was ready to dip.

Dipping was tricky - it's tempting to spin the pops to get the excess candy melt off. I had to learn not to spin too hard or your cake ball will spin right off the stick. I found cradling the ball in a spoon and spinning worked nicely. Tapped of excess - again, not too hard, I totally lost one or two cake balls this way. Once dipped, I stuck an orange tic tac in the middle for a beak - yeah, it took forever to come up with the beak solution even though it should've been the easiest part - then stuck the cake pop in a foam block to dry.


Once dry, I stuck the wings on with candy melt "glue." I dipped a toothpick in the green melt, painted some on a wing, and stuck it to the side of the cake pop. This worked ridiculously well despite my skepticism!

The day of the party, I drew on eyes. I actually hated to food pen I used, it just never seemed to work right, so if I make these again, I'm upgrading the food pen!

Lastly, I arranged the pops nicely in styrofoam, made a sign so people would know the cake pops were supposed to be Chi Chi, wiped a few oil drips from the pop bases (more on this later) and packed everything to go.

They were a SUCCESS! Someone at the party said it was the "best dessert" they had ever tasted. I imagine this is a slight exaggeration, but I will say that they were a hit at the party and everyone wanted to try one. I was nervous about eating one because I'm my own worst critic - would the fondant be sticky? the dessert too sweet? The cake mix called for a lot of oil, and on a few cake pops, I didn't completely coat the base with candy melt and a few drops of oil squeezed out - would the whole pop taste oily and gross?

I'm happy to say, that they were delicious! While I might avoid oily cake mixes in the future (if possible) the red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and candy melt combo was delicious. Even the fondant and orange tic tac added a little flavor!

Outcome: Success
Changes in the future: Definitely. New pen, less oily cake, streamlined production process
Overall: A+


Elizabeth said...

Oh. My. God. Who are you?!! How are you like the coolest like ever?! These cake pops look a-ma-zing. I can't believe you made them so beautiful AND they taste good! Whhaaaa?!!! You win.

Mad love,

Al said...

hhaa 2xE, you are so generous with your praise :D I will make you some cake pops. Some gay cake pops. Just wait *cackles*