Car Cake Failure

I hesitate to write this post. I’ve written about the things I’ve messed up but I think this one takes the cake (no pun intended). I was asked to make a cake in the shape of a car. Again, this was a last second cake so I had no time to try and do a practice run. I really wished I had a practice run.

I spent a day or two looking at pictures and trying to find blue prints for the car that they wanted. Specifically, a BMW X3. It didn’t seem too hard to do,  but… I’ve never carved a 3D cake before. I did that tooth cake some time back but that really isn’t the same thing. I was prepared for my kitchen to be a disaster with the carving. I know my kitchen is big, but I feel like the counter space isn’t placed out correctly. Having a kitchen island would be great.

carfailpic1Anyway, enough with my complaining. I’m going to bite the bullet and just write this post out. Below is what I baked. I used a metal flower nail in the middle of the pan to generate heat so the outside wouldn’t burn before the middle was cooked. I figured three would be a good side for an SUV. Looking back on it I should have made it safe with 4.

carfailpic2I used a new recipe. A vanilla pound cake. I was worried the usual vanilla cake that I used would be too soft and wouldn’t carve. Everything I saw online said to line up the picture with the cake and just carve it.

carfailpic3I had issues with it sagging on the sides too. Now the picture below is with the cakes frozen so you don’t see any sagging on the sides, but the cakes did seem much firmer and easier to work with. The picture on the bottom is after my carving attempt. I don’t think I had enough of blueprints to really work it out well. The back was too flat but I felt the top had the correct height and slope. My cutting was sloppy, but at this moment I thought I really had something good going on (though looking at it here I should have used more of the 3rd cake for the roof).

carfailpic4The next step was to crumb coat it. I was moving fast since I wanted the cake still frozen when I did this. I didn’t move fast enough because some parts started to fall off. I should have put it back in freezer for a half hour after I “carved” it.

carfailpic5So I filled in the holes and finished covering it. I then left it out to settle. I thought it looked decent here, maybe a little too boxy but I figured the details would fix that issue.

carfailpic6So here is a picture of what I thought would be my pride and joy… “The Mat.” I’ve heard many things about this apparent “miracle” mat. It was a birthday present. I watched the video on how to “season” the mat. I had some serious issues with using the mat with pockets forming on the fondant and it was hard to roll out. I couldn’t worry too much about it since I had to get moving on covering the car. I must have rerolled out he fondant a dozen times to try and get it to cover the car correctly.

carfailpic7You can see in the bottom picture that I finally covered the car. I definitely rolled out the fondant too thick and put too thick of a coat of buttercream on the car. It almost completely removed the slope on the car. I didn’t have time to redo the entire car since the cake was due in a few hours. I picked up some silver mist spray from Michaels. The didn’t have the silver in the Wilton spray so I picked up the pearl color, and then the silver in the Duff brand. You can see the color difference between the two. On the left is the pearl, and the right the Duff silver. I went with the pearl color. You can see it completed with the spray on the bottom (with the too thick fondant).

carfailpic8After the cake was covered I took out more pictures of the car and pulled up a chair. It was time to add all the details. I was hoping with the details it would make the shape look like a car. I wanted to remove the wheels and cover them completely in fondant. The videos I was watching showed that you push the cookie cutter into the cake and pull out the shape. Yeah, that didn’t happen. So I was going to have to make due. In the future I think you should cut out the wheels first. It just popped into my head, but I should have used a spoon to scoop it out.

carfailpic9Believe it or not, I spent a few hours putting all the details below on the cake. I broke out the pasta machine to make the small and window outlines. I tried to follow the lines of the car exactly. I used edible marker to color in the BMW sign and the license plate.

carfailpic10Now here is where I made a big mistake. I went to bed after I finished the few details on the car. When I woke up, I got the lights ready to push into the car. I got them at a party city (I had to call over a dozen places online to find someone that had it). They are small LED lights that lasts about 8 hours. I pushed them right into the cake… but the fondant had already dried so it immediately caused cracks. I thought about not using them but then they cracks would look insane. I just kept with the lights.

carfailpic12Here is a picture of the car with the lights off and on (obviously). From far away it doesn’t look too terrible.

carfailpic11Now here is the bad part. I dropped off the cake after keeping the air conditioning blowing on it all the way there. When I dropped it off I told them to keep it cool and be careful with it. Clearly something happened to it. It just looks flat! I know the cake I made was on the flatter side, but it was no where near this bad. I honesty have no idea what happened here.

carfailpic13Overall, I was severely disappointed with this cake. I hated making it, I hated it when I was finished and I was embarrassed to give it away. I was going to have a backup cake but it took way too long to do.  Oh well. Here is my car cake fail. My shameful, shameful cake.

Wilton Course 3, Lesson 3: Complete!

Another day, another lesson! For lesson 3 there really wasn’t much to go over. Below was my work station for the day again. I know I’ve said it before… but seriously. No buttercream and royal icing to cart with me? Amazing! Below is all I need to bring.

course3lesson3pic1I didn’t take too many pictures for this class because my phone was next to dying. We started with finishing up the carnations that we started in the first class. The base that we made needed to be completely dry in order to stack the next layers of the carnation. Basically, the book tells you to cut out 5 or 6 circles and fluff them up with the veining tool and stack them on the carnation base that you started. Now I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was using fondant and not gum paste so it wasn’t drying as fast as I wanted it to. It still worked (and dried a few days later), but it didn’t get as fluffy as I wanted it to get. I also used 9 additional petals to get the final result below. It clearly looks like a carnation and is very simple to make. The only thing the book didn’t say is to wait a minute or so between attaching each layer. If you fluffy and shape the circle and then let it dry a bit, the next layer won’t flatten it out (as you can see on the bottom of mine). But overall, I don’t think it matters how many layers you have, it still looks like a carnation.

course3lesson3pic2The next two flowers we made were the daisy and the mum. Both used the same cutter. The daisy was two simple shapes and then taking a little bit of yellow 50/50 covered in sprinkles smashed into the middle. The mum was just 6 layers of the same thing (two sizes) covering the mum base that we made in week one. You can see them both below in the flower forming cups. I think the mum could use a few more layers spaced out better.

My big issue with the two flowers was the cutter. No matter how hard I pushed on the cutter there were still thing scrapes between each petal. I tried to cut them out but it still looked sloppy. I would have to find a better way to cut it out correctly or just be patient to cut away all the excess.

course3lesson3pic3The last thing we did was make a layered ruffle and a ruffled swirl using the “straight scallop cutter” that came with the Ultimate kit.

The long ruffle is used to cover cakes with a long layered look. The swirled one is supposed to be pretty on top of a cupcake or something. I think it just looks awkward. But, the ruffle was easy enough which is good to know for the future. I may try and cover a cake layer with it.

course3lesson3pic4So that finishes the third lesson in course 3. This lesson went by fast. I finished a bit early too. Mostly because once the instructor starts reading out loud from the book, I just read ahead and do it. I figure I rather screw it up and then ask why so I know for the future. Mostly because (as I’ve said before), I won’t be using what I make in class on anything. The dirt in the room alone is insane.

For the next and final class we have to bring flowers already made with us and a cake design. This is something you have to do at the end of each course. If you look back on my lesson 4 of each of the previous classes I, (1) shared with my friend for one, and (2) didn’t bother to bring a cake with me. The women in this class seem to take it a bit more seriously than the previous one. Plus, it is easier to just make the gum paste flowers and bring them in. It’s not like its royal icing that could melt and needs a more delicate handle or it will crack.

One thing I have to keep in mind is where I’m going to take the Course 4 classes. The place I’m at now doesn’t offer it. In fact, no store in my county offers it. Wonderful, right? I really wanted to make sure I could keep up this blog until I finished Course 4. I tend to half ass things and never finish them. I’ve been told most of my life that I was good at something and then I would eventually walk away from it. I’m half good at a bunch of things. I really want this to work. Maybe I’m being crazy. But anyway, I have to find Course 4 somewhere!

Wilton Course 3, Lesson 2: Complete!

A couple of days before the second lesson I had to make the 18 loops for the bow we were going to make in class. I also wanted to remake the carnation base that I didn’t like in the first lesson.

In the picture below, you can see how gross the 50/50 was. Fondant, gum paste, 50/50 picks up every particle of dirt that floats by. This ball in the picture went to and from the Michaels store so I expected it to get a bit snarly, but this happens all the time. Aside from getting a air proof room that is vacuum sealed, I have no idea how to keep dust out of this. Especially when its white. Dark colors can hide the bits of dust that float around, but not white. Look how obvious the bad things are in there!

course3lesson2pic1But anyway, I made everything I needed before class. Again, I really like how I’m able to spread out more. I think it has to do with how the tables are set up.

course3lesson2pic2From this angle you can see how the tables are set up and the size of the room. It is made for small groups of people. In my opinion, it should always be no more than 7 (8 maximum) in each class. It makes it easier for the instructor to go to each person. This also helps if someone is late. They can at least catch up faster.

course3lesson2pic3Moving on, I’ll start with the big bow that we had to make the 18 loops for. Since Wilton did the overhaul of their lessons they changed how they did this big bow. Now, after doing this bow it seems clear to me that they really rushed this new program. What they tell you to do is to take a big ball of gum paste and stick all the dried loops into it. Really? Just stick them in? Well that doesn’t work. Well, it does, kinda. You stick the loops in (I eventually had to add edible glue to make them stay), but then the other loops start to move out as you move the gum paste ball around. I made the 18 the said but you can clearly see the large ball of gum paste in the middle. It just looks sloppy. Maybe if I added 10 more loops it would distract it, or if it was in color? I don’t know, but this is a bad way of teaching this. The “old” way was to make two circles. You would place the circle on the bottom, then the loops all around the edge. Then take the next circle, put it on top, and add more loops. I’m sure you would see the edges of the circles, but at least not this huge ball of gum paste. I hate to be a Negative Nancy, but I can’t help but think this is their way of making you go through gum paste faster so you have to buy more. This was just horrible looking. I threw it out.

course3lesson2pic6The first flower we worked on was the calla lily. To be honest, I wasn’t very interested in making this flower but it’s so easy, and it looks so awesome when it’s done. I like the idea of putting sprinkles on the center to help it stand out. I would definitely make more of these. To make them, all you need is a heart shaped cookie cutter and a cone shape. Wrap the heart around it, and then fluff up the edges. Very simple, and very cute! As I write this I’m considering making step-by-step photos of the gum paste flowers. It would be easier to do a tutorial of these than with buttercream or royal icing. I think everyone should know how simple it is to make these!

course3lesson2pic4The next and last flower that we made was the rose. We had to use the rose base that we made in the first lesson (tear drop shape). One of the things that bothered me was they had to make the base in white, not referencing that it would show in the center of the rose. So as you can see below, my white center is showing. I would suggest you make sure they match, or you make the base very small where it is completely covered by the petals. It pretty much looks like a rose, but only because of the color. I think adding the calyx to the bottom helped.

course3lesson2pic5So that was it for the second lesson! I took a picture of my two completed flowers and the new carnation base I made before class (much more fluffy).

course3lesson2pic7 One of the things I mentioned previously was how we never went over cake designing. We don’t do it in this class either. Well, the instructor does talk about the pictures in the books which technically you should be able to do after finishing the class, but that’s about it. Again, so far I like this class much better than the previous Wilton ones!

Wilton Course 3, Lesson 1: Complete!

So I finally started Wilton Course 3: Gum Paste and Fondant. I took course 1 and 2 at one location. I’ve complained enough about how long it took between courses (sometimes even between classes) and the location wasn’t offering any more classes. So luckily, the Michaels location closer to my house was starting up Course 3. The room lay out was much better. Since I took this class by myself I had much more room since the spot open to me was, well, open. So here we go!

class3lesson1pic1One of the first things we discussed is the difference between fondant, gum paste, and 50/50. Fondant is best for covering cakes and simple decorations for cakes. 50/50 is exactly what it says – 50% fondant and 50% gum paste. It tastes like fondant but is pliable like gum paste. Gum paste alone is great for flowers (dries quickly and can be spread paper thin). So to begin, we made 50/50 and had to cut them into strips. Apparently Wilton did an overhual of the courses during the weeks I was at the other location. Course 3 now wants you to cut out the ribbons using a ruler instead of their strip roller. I already had this since it was in the Ultimate Kit that I bought at the beginning. I didn’t feel like setting it up (and I wanted to follow along with everyone else), so I used the ruler. It is a pain to use a ruler to cut all the lines. As you can see below, I didn’t really care how things turned out. I didn’t make the lines exactly the right length and some of the widths were off. But as usual, I care more about what I get out of the class to use at home than what we do inside the class.

class3lesson1pic3So we had to make 18 loops. I only made what you can see below and the rest we were supposed to bring for the next class. The strips were just folded with some gum glue to make a loop.

class3lesson1pic2Next thing we did was made these simple bows with tails that you can see below. My 50/50 dried out a bit so it wasn’t very pliable so I couldn’t form nice loops in the bow (as you can see below, it was flat looking). If done correctly, I think this is a great way to make fast and easy bows. Though I think you should scrunch the ribbon a bit, and make sure to angle the tails to look like an actual bow. I saw that someone in the class overlapped the loops to force a “fluffy” appearance. That may be something I’ll try in the future.

class3lesson1pic4The next thing we did (with more of the loops we made) was work on quilling. Quilling is a thing I’ve seen that is pretty popular with paper. You can make very pretty and intricate designs with it. On my Pinterest binges I’ve noticed people starting to do it on cakes. Since it is very pretty, I was mildly excited that we would be going on the technique in class. Below, is my sloppy attempt. After looking closely at the pictures in the book the reason why mine looks so bad is because the layers shouldn’t be meeting all together at the end. Each layer should end further down and then be pinched closed. I also thing since I didn’t pay attention to which strips I was grabbing (and didn’t make sure they were the same size), they were very off. But you get the idea behind it.  One very important thing for this technique is to make sure all the strips are even. If you don’t, each layer will be bumpy and it just doesn’t look right.

class3lesson1pic5Next, we worked on leaves. A leaf cutter came in the kit, but it doesn’t make an impression of the leaf. You use the veining tool to make an indent down the middle and then the veins on the leaves. Maybe because I used white fondant I wasn’t happy with how it looked. I’ll try again using green, but I think I would like to get a leaf impression mat for them. We shall see.

class3lesson1pic6The picture below (that looks like a white nipple), is actually a carnation base. We’re suppose to save this so it completely dries for lesson 3. Basically, you take a ball of fondant, roll out the nipple part and then push out the circle. You cut it with a circle cutter then fluff it out. I didn’t like how this one came out (it tore), so I threw it out after class and planned on making a new one before we needed it.

class3lesson1pic7Below is everything we had to make for the first lesson. Those two yellow sticks? Yeah, those are pieces of spaghetti to hold the mum base (just a small ball) and the rose base (tear drop shape, but make sure its at a point, not a rounded cone like I have). If you are taking this course, please use a toothpick. The spaghetti breaks with any pressure. I know that Wilton wants to make sure everything is edible, but this is crazy.

class3lesson1pic8So that covers the first lesson in course 3! I like this course better so far than the other two because there is so much less mess. With the buttercream in course 1, and the royal icing in course 2, it was just a mess. I hated coloring everything and bringing it in containers. So much easier with the fondant and gum paste to just throw it in a bag and be on my way.

The only negative I would say is that the instructor mostly reads directly from the book. I feel like I’m complaining too much though. The previous instructor at the other location didn’t explain things all the way, which makes me wish I had this instructor for the first two courses. But then again, I do get a bit bored just reading step by step. Oh well!

Graduation Cookies

I wasn’t sure if I should call this post “Graduation Cookies,” or “Sugar Cookies I’m finally happy with.” My nieces preschool graduation was coming about and I made cookies for my sister and one of the other moms. I ordered Wilton Graduation themed cookie cutters and figured I would make simple diplomas and graduation hats. I tried to find something more “interesting,” but was really falling flat. Figured I would go with the simple design.

One of the things I was proud of (at least at first) was that I followed my schedule. The first day I made and refrigerated the dough, second day I cut and baked, 3rd the first coat, 4th finished the decorating, and 5th bagged to go. This was also the first time in a while that I didn’t have to cut or edit any of the cookies as I was cutting them. It took about 2 hours to cut and bake 65 cookies. I loved having the cookie cutters available. Made things much easier. I also put the tray of cut cookies in the freezer for a few minutes before I put them in the oven to help the cookies keep their shape. The only issue I found with that, is they should bake for another minute since the tray gets so cold. My cookies were all just cooked, I would like them a bit more in the future. ImageI thought the diploma and hats may be a bit boring so I wanted to try something fun. When I was searching I found this website (http://tinyurl.com/k6pz4ub). It had a cute tutorial for making children faces holding a diploma. I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. Following the instructions I used the shooting star cookie cutter that came in the graduation cutter set to cut into the diploma cookie, and attach both cookies together. I squished them together when they were still dough. Luckily, the cooked into each other.                                    ImageLots of cookies made. I never really notice how many I make until they are all lined up. It filled my cookie bin up! I made some shooting star cookies just to mess around with since I had so much extra dough. Each batch of dough makes 15-22 cookies depending on size. I try to overshoot just to make sure I have more than enough. Plus, I can give away any extra.

ImageI have a problem where I need to constantly look at the picture to remember what colors I was aiming for and what order I want to go in. So this time I traced the cookies cutters in my book and wrote out what I wanted on each. This may seem like a silly step, but it actually really helped me.

ImageI started with yellow icing. I wanted to get the tassels on the hat set before I outlined the hats and color in the shooting stars. Once the stars were filled in I practiced writing “2014” onto them. I thought the wet/wet technique would look better. Below, is my first time actually using a rubber band to close my icing bag. All I can say is, holy bananas! Why am I so difficult? This really makes things much easier. The royal icing doesn’t dry out, I don’t have to worry about it leaking out, and it was much easier to save for the next day in the same bag.

ImageI practiced writing on 2014 multiple ways, but the wet/wet technique just didn’t look right. I decided I would save the black for the next day and write the numbers and sprinkle them in black icing. I hoped it would solve the problems. Practice is key with the writing. The more I wrote out the numbers, the happier I was with them.

My nieces graduation outfit is a shiny, navy blue. I used Wilton royal blue gel color. It came out a very brilliant blue, but not navy. I thought if I added a dash of black it would bring it up to a navy color. Well, my bottle of black is running low so I had to shake it out. Too much black came out and the color ended up a bluish grey. So then I added more blue. Way too much coloring in the small amount of icing I made. It ended up being this cornflowery blueish color. I wasn’t going to make any more icing so I just went with it.

ImageI outline and filled the graduation hats. I really wasn’t happy with how the icing looked on the hats. I had way too much dye in there. The icing didn’t dry flat either. In the future I need to add an extra day to make the royal icing. I think most of the problems I have with it is because I don’t let it sit. Even sitting for a few hours I can see the air bubbles rising out of the icing. If I make and color the icing the day before it should solve most of my air bubble problems. Right? Guess we will see next time!

ImageThis next picture is a little bit out of order (as you can see the hats aren’t filled in), but I wanted to keep my train of thoughts together. I had filled in the diplomas with white royal icing, and then I filled in the three “test” cookies in white as well.

ImageWith everyone set up with the first coat on the cookies I cleaned up and let everything dry 24 hours for the next and final coat.

ImageI started with finishing the shooting stars. Since I was making one tray of graduation cookies I figured I should have one or two of the stars in there with the year on it would be necessary for the graduation theme. Below, you can see my attempts at writing out “2014” on all the cookies. On the ones I liked, I added the black sprinkles. I did try adding some more yellow designs, like dots, or swirls to add to the shooting star thing, but it just didn’t work. They looked better leaving them plain.

ImageI spent a decent amount of time working on the ribbon on the diplomas. At first I did a simple string like design, and then I practiced making the ribbon shape until it looked right on the diploma (yay for making extra!). I ended up with this as the final design. I made the ribbon yellow since the tassel on the cap is also yellow. My own negative for the diplomas was not adding and extra layer of “swirl” to make the paper looked more rolled. I think next time using a #1 tip instead of a #2 would make this easier. I also didn’t go back and add an outline to the bow. It just wasn’t necessary.

ImageWith the diplomas done I moved along to the hats. I ran out of the same blue color that I used to fill in the hats, so I recreated it as best as I could and outlined the hats. The more I outlined the hats, the better they got. Again, practice is the key. After the outline dried slightly, I added the details to the tassel and connected the tassel to the top of the hat (#2 tip). Side note: I realized that when I type this out it seems like this would take so much less time than it does. Oh well!

ImageHere is a closeup of the shooting star with the numbers with sugar. They aren’t perfect, but they get the job done.

ImageNow for the final show! The big finale! The link I put at the start of this article had these cookies below. They step by step pictures really seemed like something I could follow. With how unsteady my hand is and how horrible my artistic talent (see: none). But here are my cookies! With each detail I added to the cookies the happier I was getting. I mean seriously, look how cute! I wish I made more! I only made three because I thought they would be throw away cookies! These are my favorite ones to date! Yay cookies! To make “boy” cookies, I would had added eyebrows instead of eyelashes, but I really wanted to make long hair and eyelashes.

ImageBelow is the tray ordered by one of the moms at my nieces school. I think the girl with the curly hair (made after the daughter of the woman who ordered) and the two 2014’s just added to the tray. I found the container at Christmas Tree Shoppe for $1.99. I love how this tray came out! I mean seriously. Am I ever this happy when I make something?

ImageThe rest I put in individual bags with a note attached. My niece is going to give these out at her graduation ceremony.

ImageSo cookies done! I think I would like to make all of the faces for another graduation gift. I also need to work on the placement. It’s supposed to look like they are holding the diploma up over their mounts (which is why they don’t have them), but if they are too low it may look weird they don’t have mouths. For now, I won’t nip pick because I liked these too much. But just one more picture of the cute cookies before I go!

Image

Wilton Course 2: Complete!

Today was my final lesson in Wilton’s Course 2: Flowers and Cake Design. Now I’ll say this… There is no way in hell this course teaches you anything about cake design. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t say that. Maybe it’s different depending on who teaches it or something. But really, we just made some flowers each week. I usually was able to leave after the first hour. I could have stayed the second hour to practice flowers more, but as you’ve seen from pictures and from my complaining, there isn’t much space. Since we don’t have a sink really available it’s a pain to keep switching bags and filling things up. I’m constantly cleaning when I’m home. I also don’t care if I make a huge mess either in my house since I don’t have to pack things up and take them home.

The day after my final class I had to have 24 cupcakes made with ballet shoe fondant toppers. I figured since I had to have a cake ready for class, I might as well get the cupcakes baked and iced before I left that way all I had to do when I got home was make the fondant toppers.

I made the cupcakes, and then made a large batch of buttercream. I added a dash of coco powder to give a light chocolatey flavor, then tried to dye it pink. This left me with the color you’ll see below in the pictures. Almost like a mauve color (after about 12 hours, that nice colored turned brown, so don’t try to replicate it at home with coco powder kids!). The bad thing is after I iced all the cupcakes I didn’t have enough to fill and ice a cake. I had a cake in the freezer ready to go. So I said screw it. I knew the cake I was going to mess around with in class was going to go straight into the garbage so I didn’t even bring one. I had no time to make more frosting so I gave up. Oh well!

For class, we spent some time working on a reverse shell boarder and the basket weave. I think the reverse shell is actually easier than the shell boarder itself.

course2class4pic1For the reverse shell you need to alternate your direction for every shell. You build up with buttercream, then make a half heart drawing for the rest of the shell, then do the opposite for the next, and then keep going. I hope with more practice I can get the hand motions down quickly.

In the picture below if you look at the top and right side of the worksheet, you can see that I was practicing a regular shell boarder. The peaks are a bit high, but I need to practice more. In a pinch, these would be usable I think. Now I had a hard time when we worked with a shell boarders in the first Wilton course. For this class, it clicked in my head because the instructor showed how to do it quickly, and did an entire row. My friend that I take the course with just looked at me, and it clicked for her too. I wish each flower/design was demonstrated this way. But that’s beside the point.

course2class4pic2The other thing that we worked on was the basketweave technique. Below, isn’t perfect. I would have to measure it would better to make sure it was a tight weave. I’m torn about what I think about the weave. On one hand, it’s a clean look for the side of a cake and making a cake look like a basket of flowers is something very pretty to bring somewhere. On the other hand, is it outdated?

course2class4pic3This only took about 30 minutes of the class. The rest was supposed to be decorating the cakes that you brought in. Here is where I think the class should be a bit different. You’re supposed to bring in an iced cake, and a bunch of flowers. So you’ll spend over an hour putting more icing on, and placing your flowers. I guess this would make sense if you were using dummy cakes, and learning how to arrange flowers for the best kind of placement.

Since I didn’t bring a cake with me, I sat around talking about other cakes and such. I’m glad I didn’t bring one since I usually just mess around with it and throw it out. I have to look into when Course 3 is going to happen, which is fondant and gum paste. I was going to try and switch to a different location for it, but the next course for it isn’t until the fall. I have to hope the instructor does another class. Guess I’ll have to wait and see! Until then, I really should practice my flowers. Get them down pat.

Construction Cake Pops vs. Brain Cells

A friend of mine referred me to her boss for a 5th birthday party. I was surprised that I got an e-mail to follow! I was told that the party was at Home Depot and she was looking for cake pops. Ah, cake pops. I’ve never made them before. They seem pretty simple, but since I never made them before there is always that tiny bit (or a big bit) of apprehension. A cake, cupcakes, or even cookies was something I already began looking up, so cake pops threw me for a loop. I was originally asked for the cake pops to be shaped into something associated with the construction theme, like tools. I didn’t think this would be possible.  I saw one of two options: (1) make a regular cake pop and attach mini fondant tool shapes to the top of each one, or (2) make the cake pops into shapes I might actually be able to do. We went with option 2, with the goal of making 10 construction cone cake pops and 10 hard hat cake pops.

So with panic about, I went at it. Cake pops ahoy! I should mention, the cake pops in the little cake pop machines aren’t what people are usually looking for. They want the moist ones. I lucked out that they wanted vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream, and chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream. I offered many options, including red velvet and peanut butter and jam (seriously?). I never made those combinations before. It reminded me I need to test out more cakes in my spare time. At some point someone is going to want something other than vanilla and chocolate! I found this recipe that sounded pretty good. I’m not sure why I didn’t go with my normal chocolate cake recipe, but anyway: http://tinyurl.com/pc6ttrz.

ImageThis cake was a pain in my neck to make. I followed the instructions which included having a dry mixture set up, a boiling water and coco powder one, and a milk and vanilla bowl… I can things everywhere. Running around the kitchen like and insane person. But as you can see below the cakes came out nice and level so I was happy with that.

ImageI knew I wouldn’t need this much cake so I decided to freeze 1/2 of the cakes. So 1 chocolate cake and 1 vanilla cake. I’ve recently learned that some people think freezing cakes is a bad idea, that it isn’t fair to the people you serve it to. I’m a bit confused by this. The freeze is a good friend of mine. I always buy in bulk and freeze almost everything (well, within reason). The cake tastes exactly the same and its easier to level when frozen. But, to each their own.

ImageI know you can shred the cake by hand but I threw mine in my KitchenAid and let that do the job for me. I waited until it was broken down into fine crumbs then slowly added in the chocolate buttercream. I started with two tablespoons and let it mix again. It wasn’t at a play-doh like consistency yet so I added a little bit more. The picture on the lower right shows some of the mixture sticking to the sides of the bowl. I thought this would be an issue, but it wasn’t. So if this happens to you, just ignore it.

ImageThe picture below shows more of the consistency I was looking for. I kept the cake covered while I rolled out the balls. I didn’t want it to dry out.

ImageJust one 8 inch cake makes a ton of cake pops. I used a small scooper but I still didn’t get them all the same size. I guess it really doesn’t matter once th3ey are all bagged and decorated. But looking at this picture you can see how different in size they all were. It is very easy to roll them into a ball. Possibly years of rolling meatballs has helped here.

ImageI used a frozen vanilla cake that I had. Below, you can see how I broke up and mixed the cake. In the bottom right picture you can see that I formed the vanilla ones into little cone shapes. They are easy to form into the shape you need, but If I was going to try something more detailed or with a pointed edge, I think I would need more buttercream. I would have to try that sometime in the future.

ImageWhen I was looking up some guides to making cake pops one of the articles I read suggested that you keep a cup of extra crumbs set aside in case you add too much buttercream to the mixture , you’ll be able to toughen it back up. Because I didn’t need to do this, I add extra cup of vanilla cake and chocolate cake. I figured I wouldn’t let it go to waste and combined them both to make extra cake balls to store. The medium color was the combination cake balls. I had a lot of extra cake pops to freeze. This ended up being great because I needed extra. Sometimes the candy melts wouldn’t dry right, or a pop would get ruined, and then for some I had to re-do because I just didn’t like the way it looked. Bottom line? Making extra is good!

ImageThe hard hats were much easier to make than the traffic cones. For the hats, I first carved a little crescent moon shape out of the yellow candy melts (I used Wilton), and “glued” it to the cake pop with melted candy melts. This took a little bit to get right. They were sticking out a bit on the sides, but eventually I realized when the pop was dipped it would fill in the sides. You need to make sure the piece you cut out is large enough. With a few layers of melts it will look like a little bump on the hat. (Side note: Pretty sure if I added eyes, I could have made this a duck… Moving on.) After the hat dried (and it dried quickly), I put some extra melts into a piping bag and cut the tip off. I piped three lines like a hard hat has on the top. I tried to add some more detail on the sides at first, but it just didn’t look right. I think these turned out pretty good. I should also note, that when making the candy melts I put them in the microwave at 50% power at 30 second intervals. Once it was almost completely melted, I added in a teaspoon of Crisco to make sure it was thin enough. I read some complaints about Wilton being too clumpy on cake pops but if you add Crisco or Paramount Crystals it solves this problem. I couldn’t get the Paramount Crystals in time, but Crisco did the trick.

ImageNow for the pain. I figured these would be easier to make than the hard hats. I was very wrong about that. So I molded the cake into a little cone. I put some candy melt onto the stick before I put it into the cake pop. I didn’t want for it to dry. This worked out pretty well, but if the cake pops warmed up too much, they would get stuck in the candy melts. I had them in the freezer for a few hours, then moved them into the fridge as I set up until they weren’t solid anymore. They sat on the counter as I melted the candy melts. I’m hoping I can remember this process next time. I’ve read about the pop being too cold can lead to cracking as the melts dry.

Anyway, I tend to ramble! You can see in the bottom picture the squares on the counter. I ordered a plastic mold for chocolates for squares. I put them in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes until they hardened. I then took a knife and spun a hole into the bottom of the square until I reached the other side. Once I did I was able to spin the candy stick into the square. I then used some melts to attach the two pieces together.

ImageOkay. So below you can see the squares attached to the cones. I probably should have left them as is, but I thought it looked too disjointed. The picture on the bottom was my first shot at making the cones. I added more orange so they would look like one piece. I seriously struggled with adding the white lines. If I left it thick enough to stay in place when I put it on the pop, it would look so sloppy since it would dry so fast (like it does below). If i thinned it so it would be easy to manipulate, it would take too long to dry. I would have to put it on in sections and it still wouldn’t look right. After showing some people the picture, they all were in agreement that they didn’t look good and I should try again. Thank goodness for all those extra cake pops in my freezer!

ImageTime to try again! I figured maybe if I had the squares on the stick first, then added the cone, it would look better. Seamless even? Below is a better picture of putting the holes in the squares. I set them up on the sticks and then prepared the cone pops again.

ImageSince I had to go back to the store and buy more candy melts, I found these Wilton candy decorating tips. I figured maybe I could use those to pipe the white lines easier without getting clogged. When I used the metal piping tips it dried closed almost instantly. Below, you can see the result of adding the still wet cone directly to the square. It does look a bit better, but I still wasn’t a fan.

ImageI wasn’t successful in getting the white lines the way I wanted them, but I ran out of time. I had to deliver the cake pops to the office of the woman who ordered them. It was an hour drive away and I wanted to try and make it there before heavy traffic started. She only wanted them individually bagged, so I put them in the box below laid out. I picked out the best cones and just went with it.

ImageSo here is where I had a breakdown: I already struggled with the cake pops, and had to run to the store first thing in the morning to rush making new ones. So I get in the car, and drive an hour to the location. The parking lot was a zoo. I had to keep driving around just to find a spot. When I finally did, the spot was so small I struggled getting the box out of the car… and BAM! Somehow… I broke two of them. Smashed flat. I just started at them in shock for a long period of time, completely devastated. I contacted my friend who worked with the customer and told her what happened. I gave her the two broken cake pops, and told the client that I would have to drop off the cake pops on the day of the party. If it was actually the day of the party, I would have had someone bring me the spares at home and meet me half way… I would have been an hour late, but I would have gotten them there. But that’s beside the point. So I had to drive all the way back home (in angry tears). I picked up new supplies and remade the ones that broke.

I was so upset that I such an error happened that I didn’t want to give someone the cake pops laying in a box like I was going to do. I went and picked up some Styrofoam and caution tape. I needed to make a display for the cake pops for presentation, and to possibly hide any of the sloppy errors on the pops themselves.

First I tried hot gluing the caution tape all over the Styrofoam, but the glue began to melt the tape. Instead, I attached two cake boards to the Styrofoam and only the caution tape around the outside with some light tape and cooled glue to hold it together. The glue also melts the Styrofoam so the cake boards came in handy. I printed out some construction signs and added them to the front of the display.

ImageThe end result looked good, but damn. It was a rough few days. I really began to question if it was worth all the time and effort.