Tag Archives: ohio

God Bless America and Give Me Some Cake

1 Jul

I’m alive! I’m alive! It’s a miracle! Err, okay, not a miracle. A miracle would be if something missed me by an eighth of an inch and I lived to tell about it. Or if people saw vining stuff growing up a telephone pole and didn’t think it was a sign from God. Anyhoo, nothing miraculous around here other than my bills are paid. Why I haven’t blogged in awhile is too boring a tale to tell and all that matters is that I’m here now, right?

Aww, don’t be mean. I mean well, I promise. I have good intentions. Almost always.

I have no segue so I’ll just start.

The good ol’ US of A is about to celebrate its independence from some nearsighted king the other way across the pond. I know this because I grocery shopped with the entire population of us’ns today. When do y’all go to work?

If you recall, a few years back, we did this crazy thing called Farmer’s Market. It was a lot of work and we lost a lot of money. During our insane period, I made two cakes that fit the bill for the 4th: a star cake and a flag cake. They’re fairly simple to do and they both could easily be translated into all buttercream if you like. I think someone needs to blog about buttercream cakes. Don’t you? I know I want to advance my skills and would love ideas that don’t involve fountains, stairs, or a star tip. I am going off topic, of course, but still….

Ok, the star cake. Step one: bake a star shaped cake. Wilton has a pan for this. I think. I’ve got one. I don’t know if they still sell it or not. If they don’t, bake a square cake and cut triangles out of it to make it star shaped.

Torte and fill the cake.

Ice the cake.

Smooth the icing and cover it in blue fondant.

Roll a rope of red fondant and place it around the bottom edge of the cake for a border.

Cut out a bunch of white fondant stars using a cookie, fondant, or electronic cutter.

Place stars randomly on cake.

Roll out two strips of white and one strip of red fondant. Roll this out on the thin side. Now place the red strip in between the white strips and roll over them to stick them to each other.

Alternatively, roll out one wide rectangle of white and one strip of red that is 1/3rd the width of the white. Very lightly moisten the back of the red strip and place it on the middle of the white strip. Look for moisture seeping out and dab it away as necessary. Roll over the whole shebang to adhere it.

The alternate way is easier, I suspect. I don’t know for sure because I did it the first way and it was not easy to get those strips to stay together. I think they were only children and therefore did not have experience being herded as a group.

Lay the strip decoratively across the cake and pinch it together in the two or three places you think would look best. Pinch the ends of the strip, too. Yes, that’s an awful description. I don’t know how to describe it any better than that. I do, however, have a final picture of it so you can see what I mean. A picture is worth a thousand words and all that.

Ta da! If I were to do this cake again, I would definitely roll the strips thinner and I would make the pinched parts look better. At the time, it was the best I could do. Now that I know better, I do better- thanks to Maya Angelou.

Oh, that other cake? Eh, next year. Maybe. Right now, I gotta go try to blow off my foot with a sparkler.

Happy Independence/Three Day Weekend America!

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Sawing Logs

21 Apr

Oh, Wilton Bear Pan, how many ways to use you! There’s bears, lions, and uh…and uh…I know there’s a ton more. Beaver! That’s it! Beaver.

Ever notice how there’s not much beaver stuff around? Ever see a stuffed beaver in the toy aisle? A beaver chocolate mold? A beaver anything? The naughty girl industry has taken over the beaver and I say we take it back! Back, I tell you! No more shall we ashamed of the word in public! No more shall we hide our liking for such an industrious beast! Chant with me: Beaver! Beaver! BEAVER!

 Uh hum. Pardon me. Must have missed a dose of meds somewhere. Today’s post is about a furry mammal that builds dams, is the original “Baby Got Back” in the tail department, and has teeth the Osmonds envy. The Castor Canadensis also happens to be the mascot of a certain fraternity (you know who you are, I need not name names).

This beaver starts with the aforementioned Wilton Bear pan. I do not promise to show you miracles for arms, as I still do not possess such enlightening. However, I can show you some stellar tail.

The pan comes with instructions. Follow them. Mostly. Lose your instructions? Here ya go:

http://www.wilton.com/downloads/paninstructions/2105-603Stand-UpCuddlyBear.pdf

While we’re clicking away, here’s a link that shows you some of the many uses for the bear that never poops in the woods:

http://www.wilton.com/shapedpan/Stand-Up-Cuddly-Bear-Pan

 Lose your clips? Wilton occasionally sells replacement here:

http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=3E3107DF-475A-BAC0-517051D099ACA8A8&killnav=1

I read on the internet, back when it was the Internet, that you can use binder clips, too. Cause you know everything on the www is the gospel truth. The hubster and I conversed about such an option. After he informed me that there may be leftover oil on them from production and considering the possibilities of heating paint in the same small enclosed space as food, I decided against such folly.  So buy them when you see them.

Back to cake. The instructions will confuse, befuddle, and thrill you. Tis true, you bake him on his head. 

Tis also true you best set him on an old cookie sheet lest you like cleaning your oven.

Look, Ma! Beaver poop!

Ooooh, I don’t think he feels so good. Must have been on his head too long.

All better now? No kissing boo boos until you cool off!

Okay, enough goofiness. Someone remind me to take those meds tomorrow, k?

Take out the core, but don’t clean it just yet.

(I’ve never had one, but this is how I picture the aftermath of a colonoscopy.)

Here is the portion of the evening where I veer from the Wilton pros. I put the core back in and leave it there while it cools. Your choice, your comfort level. Other than that, follow the cooling instructions. First one side…

…then the other.

 

Now, let’s decorate! You will need brown/chocolate buttercream and some yellow and white (a small amounts). If you’re going to decorate the board, you’ll also need green. For the fondant, I used tiny amounts of black and white.

Crumbcoat your beast.

Doesn’t help with the defecation image, huh?

Using the grass tip (#233, found here: http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=402-233), convince the chicklet to pipe the bear. After all, you’ve got a tail to form. Remind her that his tummy and inner ears shall be yellow, or white, before you rush out of throwing range.

While she’s planning her reveng, get out the following schtuff:

Chocolate for melting

Wilton garland marker (http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=3E30D6CC-475A-BAC0-58FEDC73887B09DD&killnav=1)

Tape

Wide straws

Wax paper

Table knife

Sharp knife

Ruler

This is the part where we really improvise. Put a piece of wax paper on your work surface. Assemble your garland marker to a size called, “looks right.” (Poinky part facing up) Put one straw on each end of the bendy part of the garland marker. Move the other end of the straws until they are touching or almost touching and tape them to the wax paper so they don’t move. Take another straw (or trim one of the other ones before taping. That’s what my cheap tail did.) and clip off a piece to the length of “that’ll work.” Place the short straw in between the other two. Confused yet? No worries, I took a picture. It should look like this:

Look like tail you’d chase yet?

Before you melt the chocolate, read how to make the tail so you can move as quickly as you need to before the chocolate sets up. Even though my sentence will say, “Melt the chocolate,” don’t do it yet; don’t believe me, I lie.

Melt the chocolate. Pour the chocolate into the mold to a depth you are comfortable with. Too thin and it may break. Too thick and you’ll be on a sugar high until your trainer uses lunges to cleanse it out of you.

Let the chocolate cool a bit, but NOT completely. Once it  firms up a bit (but not completely hard), use the ruler and the table knife to score it into a diamond/criss cross pattern. Do NOT cut all the way through or you’ll have to start over. I am not responsible for do-overs. Now, let the chocolate harden completely and remove the mold from around the tail. Use a sharp knife to carefully remove stray bits of chocolate.

Thank the chicklet for her services, promise her you’ll pay for her carpal tunnel surgery later in life, and carefully place the beaver on the board. Use a round tip and pipe the eyes. Using the black fondant, cut small circles and place them in the appropriate pupil place, AKA “about there.” Cut a small triangle and place it in the proboscis area. Cut two small rectangles of white fondant and put them in the chopper area.

Realize that you have 5 minutes before the beaver leaves to build a dam, smear green buttercream on the board and pipe extraordinarily long grass. Consider it the beaver stocking up on vegetation for the winter. Place tail on the board in the buttage area, wave bye-bye to it, and wish it luck on its two hour car trip. Don’t tell it a horde of college kids who are always hungry and love free food almost more than checks from parents await it, should it survive the trip under the watchful eye of Mattimeo, the chinchilla.

 

Good thing I didn’t name him.

Buh Bye, Beaver Boy!

Ship Shape

2 Mar

It’s been coming up lately: How do I ship cookies? While I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, I have done this and according to my amigos, they are arriving mostly intact.

Supplies Needed:

Money- this is not cheap. At least to me, it’s not. Maybe you have more moolah. It’s not as much as a Benz, but it’s more than mailing that long overdue thank you note to Uncle Willie. It will cost you more to prepare them for shipping and to ship them than it will to buy the stuff the make the cookies.

Bubble wrap- Hobby Lobby sells it. They also often have nifty 40% off coupons. The cost of the bubble wrap will break your nasty habit of popping bubbles and save it for shipping instead.

NEW cardboard box- Yes, new. No one wants to get cookies in an old beer box. Well, most people, anyway. Let’s not examine our friends too closely, hmmm? Walmart sells them in the office supply or craft aisle, depending on the location. You want one bigger than your cake box. I mention this because when I’m in Walmart my mind tends to stop working properly and I come out $200 poorer and haven’t purchased everything I need and a lot of stuff I don’t or the place is packed and I grab “whatever” to get out of there before I see one of those “People of Walmart.” Head down, straight to the box, and out, k?

Cake box- the usual, nothing fancy.

Cake board- to give strength to the cake box.

Newspaper- a lil something extra for the recipient if you include the Sunday funnies.

Packing tape

Cellophane tape- I almost said Scotch tape, but that’s a brand.

Black marker or shipping labels

Cookies- don’t try to ship anything delicate for your first foray. You don’t have to stick with plain rounds but anything delicate or with thin pieces will likely arrive broken. Free calories!

Cookie bags and ties or a nifty sealing machine (I got mine at a thrift store. You can’t buy it new anymore but it still works and didn’t cost so much that my electric bill was late.)

First up: package your cookies in the cookie bags and seal/tie the bags. I recommend sealing over tying to keep out as much air as possible. Air=stale.

Box assembly: make your husband do it. I don’t like taping boxes ‘cause I suck at it. The tape doesn’t stick, the box won’t hold still, the tape wrinkles, the box collapses, etc…. Generally, the box wins.

Tape the bottom opening shut with the packing tape and do it again on either side of the opening. Now tape across the other direction so that it crosses the other pieces at a roughly 90 degree angle, if that makes sense. Hold up a sec- we’re not done with the bottom yet. Tape the two sides, too- where the flaps are. You want to keep out air and critters. No hitchhikers on this trip.

Bottom of box with flaps shut (the colored part represents where the flaps meet):

Yeah, it’s a lot of tape and boxes are wiggly. Good luck with that. Try not to tape yourself to the table or something equally embarrassing.

Flip it right side up, grab some newspaper, scrunch up the newspaper, and layer the bottom of the box with said newspaper. Toss in a business card or a piece of paper with an address on it, in case something happens to the outside of the box.

Put this box somewhere away from the kiddos before the lil pirates commandeer it for a boat and then assemble the cake box. Put this aside, too, as these have been known to attract teenagers in search of crap keepers. Actually, just hide everything and put a comment on here telling where you put it so you can find it again.

Clear off the dining room table. I’ll wait; I understand this may take some time. We don’t use our tables much for family eating anymore, do we? Oh well, better to have a use as a dumping ground than no use at all, I guess.

Ready?

Okey dokey. Get the bubble wrap, scissors, cookies, and cellophane tape. If you’re lucky, your cookies are all the same size. Unroll the bubble wrap the length of the table, making sure to put something behind it to keep it from rolling off the table. God only knows what’s on the floor, right? Set a cookie on the loose end, measure the bubble wrap, and cut off a piece (of bubble wrap, not cookie).

If your cookies are all the same size, you can use this first piece as a template. HOWEVER, test if for size first. I refuse to admit that I have ever forgotten this step and ended up with a bunch of pieces that were either too small or way too big.

Wrap the bubble wrap around the cookie and tape it where the ends meet. If you’re really nice, you’ll turn the end of the tape under first so it’s easier to remove. Continue this way until they’re all wrapped in their bubble blankies.

Retrieve the cake box. Not my fault if you can’t find it, I told you to post on here where you put it. Go get another one and back up a few steps. You’ll just have to catch up with the rest of the class on your own time.

Toss a biz card in the box in case the cake box gets separated from the other box. Cut a piece of bubble wrap and put it in the bottom of the box. You did put a cake board in there first, right? *Sigh* Geez, I ASSUMED you knew that. Let’s not fight, k? We’ve got to get these shipped ASAP.

Place the bubble wrapped cookies in the box, preferably standing up, if possible. I have no solid proof, but I’ve read they’re sturdier this way. However, the ones I shipped laying flat arrived okay, too, so it’s your choice, your risk. Pack them in snugly but not so tight you’re jamming them in there breaking cookies.

 

Cut another piece of bubble wrap, place it on top of the cookies, shut the box, and tape the box shut.

Optional step:

If you have any concerns about moisture or the newspaper ink dirtying the box, wrap the cake box in bubble wrap and have a tape orgy with it.

Whew! Still with me? Nope! We’re not done yet. Retrieve the other box and place the cake box in the center of it.

Firmly, but gently, pack scrunched up newspaper around the cake box. Test it for wiggle- you don’t want these moving at all while in transit. Once you’re fairly confident, run out of newspaper, run out of time, or just plain ol’ give up, place a final layer of scrunched up newspaper on top of the cake box.

Shut the flaps and tape it closed the same way you did the bottom of the box. HOWEVER, leave room for the shipping and return address somewhere. After the addresses are in place, I use the packing tape one last time and put it over the addresses so it doesn’t get smeared if water or something drips on it. Give the box a final shake; flip it upside down, too. Does it sound good? Good meaning: silent. Nothing rattling around? Cool. Get thee to the Post Office. They should ask, but if they don’t, tell them three things:

It’s perishable

It’s cookies

There are no liquids in the box

I thought I took a picture of the boxes ready for shipping but I dunno where they are now. Camera gnomes at work, I suppose. Before you ask:  No, shipping cakes or cupcakes is not the same. I haven’t tried to ship those, but I have read it’s extremely tricky/difficult without using a door-to-door service and I surely do not have the spare cash for that and neither do any of my friends; or if they do, they’re not telling me. J

Cookies I have shipped:

(Practicing cornelli. As I suspected, I don’t have the thought patterns to do this naturally.)

(On this one, I learned you need thicker icing than outline consistency to make hearts that keep their shape.)

(I got the inspiration for these from pood on here: http://cakecentral.com/gallery/1917990 . I created mine a little differently and have a few uplifting tips I’ll share later.)

I did ship a small music note, too; but I don’t have a picture of it. I included it as a test of shipping something small and something with a fragile piece (the neck of the note). It did not arrive intact.

One last tip about timing: I bake cookies and freeze them until I’m ready to decorate if I’m not doing it that day so they stay as fresh as possible. I decorate them all in one day, give them a full day to dry, and ship the third day. The way my post mistress ships them takes 2-3 business days. I have shipped them on a Thursday and they have arrived two states away the following Tuesday still okay to eat, according to the recipients. You really have to plan the timing carefully as unlike local deliveries, you have to account for 2-3 days shipping time. Unlike the cookies you purchase at the grocery store, there are no preservatives in these cookies and this must be taken into account. After all, this face is counting on you:

Photo courtesy of Peanut Butter Monster in the greater Philly area:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150105571126543&set=a.86028146542.80434.516821542#!/pages/Peanut-Butta-Monster/124311800939154

 

When Gnomes War

16 Feb

Have you ever woken up, stumbled out of bed, looked outside, and wondered what on earth happened?

It seems my husband was a bit tardy in bringing the yard gnomes in for the winter, and gnomes being gnomes, they became angry about being left to wither in frozen tundra.  Unable to vent their anger upon the large, big booted human, they turned on each other. This, then, is what I saw that frosty morning:

Tiny weapons were strewn everywhere; left behind in their speedy retreat when the big booted human appeared to retrieve the morning paper.

The slow to fly south, quick to fly north birds tweeted for shelter, but none was to be found.

Even the grass cowered in fear.

The wildlife attempted to build a fort, but all was in vain.

The battle was fierce; many gnomes would leave never to return.

Eventually, the wildlife beat a hasty retreat…

… but not before one last, terrible encounter.

Quickly, lest they be caught, the remaining gnomes dragged their wounded to the wilderness in search of their mushroom houses where they would fortify themselves with tales of their heroism during that long, brutal winter when their owners forsook them.

Good grief! Is it spring yet?

 

Eat Your Heart Out

16 Jan

Whew! Everyone make it into 2011 okay? We didn’t leave anyone behind, did we? Woo-eee, what a ride! Have you been wondering where I am, if I’m okay, if I gave it all up to become Diddy’s personal assistant? Naw. I’ve been around. I’ve been hanging. With my peeps. Little peeps, big peeps, annoying peeps, and Little Bo Peeps. Or doing endless college assignments, picking up after those-who-are-old-enough-to-clean-up-after-themselves-dangit! and baking, baking, baking! Whatev.

I feel like I should have written posts for a year before publishing the first one. The thing is, you get them hot off the presses and right outta my kitchen. That makes it kinda tough to make a post about a holiday cake when the holiday has just passed. After all, I make my stuff as close to the day as possible. Which means, by the time the kiddos head back to the Ivy League, the holiday is but a distant memory except for the mess they left behind. Luckily for me, I have an ace up my sleeve. Okay, a heart, but still- I’m ready ahead of time for the next holiday.

This time, let’s do something for the less experienced among us. That right, rank amateurs, step on up! If your idea of making a birthday cake involves sticking candles in a cake covered with canned frosting and still in the pan you baked it in, holla! This one’s for you!

Swanky Heart Cake

I actually wrote this a few years back for a friend. I was just beginning my cake journey. Everybody say, “Awww!”

Okay, let’s get to it.

 Bake one 8 inch round cake AND one 8 inch square cake. Let cool for a bit and then remove from pans.

(Chocolate or Cherry Chip would go well.)

Make 2 batches buttercream pure white icing. Set aside approximately 1 ½ c. and tint it pink. The pink should be the consistency for piping. (This assumes your recipe takes 1 lb. of powdered sugar.)

Leave the remaining buttercream white at a consistency for frosting the cake with the exception of approximately 1 ½ c. for piping (make the 1 ½ c. the consistency for piping).

 Place the square cake on cake board, making sure one corner of the cake points to the bottom middle of the cake board and attaching with a dab of icing underneath to keep it in place.

Cut  the round cake exactly in half. 

Frost the cut edges of the round cake and 2 adjoining sides of the square cake. Place one cut side of round cake to one frosted edge of the square cake. Press together until it holds. Repeat with other half of round cake and other side of square cake.

So I’m not that great at fussing with shapes using a computer. *shrug* Close enough.

Using a heart shaped cardboard template covered in plastic wrap, place it in the center of the cake, making sure the point of the template matches the point of the heart cake. Go ahead and mark this space by white creating shells around it or just leave it in place to remind you not to frost there.

Crumb coat the rest of the cake white, let the icing crust and then smooth with your preferred method. If the round and square cake do not match exactly in size, fill it out with extra frosting to make it even and look almost seamless. The finish coat will finish the job of hiding the seams.

Finishing icing the cake with white, let crust, and smooth with your preferred method. You can use an icing comb on the sides of the cake at this time if you like. However, remember you must have a thick coat of icing to use the comb.

Thin a little of the pink frosting to spreading consistency and spread it in the middle-following the heart template. Smooth the pink as best you can. You do the pink last because it’s a little tough to cover pink with white, but not white with pink. Keep checking that it is lining up with the point and curves of the top edge of the cake- you don’t want an off-center heart in the middle.

Using a star tip (a bigger one works fine for the borders but use a little smaller one for the heart center) and white frosting, pipe shells to outline the top of the cake and the middle heart shape.

Again using a star tip, pipe the bottom border with shells and pink frosting.

Cut one Hershey bar into smallish chunks and place around bottom border and on top of center heart shape.

Fill in between the top white shell border and the inner shells outlining the center heart with cherry pie filling. Use a large eating spoon (AKA soup spoon) and be gentle so you don’t glop it where you don’t want it.

Melt another Hershey bar and put it in a squeeze bottle or disposable piping bag. Drizzle melted chocolate on the board in whatever way you like. Alternatively, you can do this with a spoon but your drizzles won’t be as small or as exact as you would like.

Finis! Cut, Enjoy, and Give away the leftovers!

Close but no Cigar

17 Nov

Consistency, consistency, consistency. Whether it’s buttercream, fondant, or the finished product, caking is all about consistency. Which I don’t have. And I’m pretty sure I may never have- but that could be the scale talking. Ask fellow cakers how they got so good and how they learned to turn out a consistent product and every one, and I mean every single one, will tell you, “Practice, practice, practice.” Ahhh, but my scale says I’ve practiced far too much. My doc will tell you the same, but his scale needs fixed ‘cause there’s no way I’m that much. No… flippin’… way.

So you tell these lovely cakers that you can’t hack more cake sitting around and they tell you, “Use dummies. Decorate on the side of a box or pan.” Okay, the dummy thing. I’m a dummy with dummies.

 (See this post: https://2chickscakesandcatering.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/fake-it-%e2%80%98til-you-make-it/)

 Aside from that, dummies don’t work for everything unless you want to spend a lot of money and be personally responsible for killing off the wildlife in a 1000 ft. radius of your nearest landfill because once you shape Styrofoam, there’s no putting it back to the original and you will never need that exact shape again.

 Then they tell you to give away your practice cakes. The problem with this is:

1. I don’t know that many people and even they’re sick of cake.

2. It is highly unlikely in this current society of weirdos and freaks that I’m going to walk into a nursing home, fire department, school, whatever, and give away cake. This little town thinks I am odd enough as it is; I don’t need a total shunning happening. “Here comes the crazy lady with more cake. Don’t make eye contact. Just walk away, quickly.”

3. It does not make sense to me to continually give free cake to the people who are your target market. Why would they buy when they can just wait and get free cake the next time I practice? I see lots of “I’ll buy the ingredients and you can get the practice” conversations in my future with this route.

4. It’s obvious I have no solid solution so let’s move on, shall weeee????

I tend to run across cake pans at thrift stores. Of course, I have to buy them. One of my finds is this pan:

http://www.cakesnkitchens.com/servlet/the-725/wilton-holiday-candlelit-3d/Detail

If you don’t have it already, you’ll have to get it used somewhere ‘cause this is older than my kids and my kids aren’t kids anymore, if ya know what I mean. I got this home and thought, “I bet this would make a good body” and felt another practice cake comin’ on. I was able to wait a few weeks, but sure enough, another cake was acomin’. Unfortunately, the execution was a tad problematic. I should have stopped after trying to get the black fondant to work for 2 hours. Yeah. Two hours. On the other hand, my bat wings are looking better.

At first, it was going to be a Bobcat mascot; but I’d already made a Rufus cake this Fall. I’ll show you that one another time. Never heard of him? Here ya go: http://www.ohioalumni.org/bobcats-mascots Instead, I had what I thought was wonderful idea, and it would have been, had I been able to get along with fondant that day.

The directions for this cake don’t say to fill the core tube thingy, but I did anyway. I dunno if Wilton learned later how handy a core of cake is and then the changed the instructions for the newer pans or what, but I filled mine. I used a cream cheese pound cake recipe so it would be sturdy, but having that core still seemed a wee bit necessary to me. Enough explanations, let’s get caking!

Using a paring knife, I trimmed off some of the bumps so it would be easier to frost smooth. I also whacked off the top so it would (hopefully) look like shoulders.

After that, I set it aside and started working on the head and limbs. I made a ball from crispy treats mixed with a little modeling chocolate (optional, but it worked really well to hold everything together tightly). I stuck a skewer in the head so I could install it and checked it for fit/size.

The arms/hands and the feet/legs were shaped from trial and error and previous experience with cakes. They looked rather penile but I kept on trucking and turned the radio on to get my mind out of the gutter.

 When the crispy treats were cool and solidified, I used a small grater to smooth the surfaces a bit more. I got that little tip from cakecentral and it worked fabulously! I’d give you the link but the site is still having issues so I seriously doubt I can find the thread again.

I stuck skewers in the arms before they were too solid to poke. I tried them on the cake for size. It turns out I am occasionally good size guesser, as these were perfect.

Yeah, I know. Penises on a stick. Think I could sell these at the fair? Hey, a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do, right? Uh hem. I better turn that radio up louder, huh?

Here they are, awaiting further construction:

I crumbcoated everything- no easy feat with the undersides of everything- let it crust, and then the final coat and smoothing.

It’s time to drag out the fondant. As the above picture shows, I started with the head and that’s when it all started to go to heck in a fondant bucket. As you can see, I had a few problems covering the head smoothly. I used a new fondant recipe and it really really really didn’t work out. I’d tell you the recipe, or link to it, but I think it was possibly user error or a combination of user error and recipe poster error. Either way, the stuff would not stretch for God or country or nothin’. It would stretch a little if I heated it, but never ever ever did it stretch enough to make is usable for anything other than flat cut outs.  

I set aside the head thinking I would get back to it in a bit to fix it because maybe the fondant was tired and needed to rest a bit. One two hour black fondant kneading session later, and it was too stiff to fix it. I told myself to stop worrying about it right now and move on. THIS is where I go wrong with cakes; why I lack consistency in my work. I should have kept at that head until it was fixed. I didn’t want to get so frustrated that the rest of the cake would go to crap, too; so I took a deep breath, turned up the radio a little more, and moved on to the torso.

The black fondant is why we had leftovers for dinner that night. After two hours of kneading and tweaking the fondant, I gave up using it by itself. I added more water, more glycerin, more corn syrup, and more powdered sugar.  I melted marshmallows and added it in, I added marshmallow fluff, I tried corn starch and heating it up in the microwave.  I even walked away and let it rest for about 15 minutes, but no go. This stuff would shred when I tried to roll it out, no matter what I did to it. I finally sucked it up and mixed my remaining Fondarific in with it. So sad. No more Fondarific. 😦 That finally got it workable enough to use so I covered the torso and appendages with it and walked away for the evening, still hoping the cake fairies would arrive in the dark of night and fix the head. Failing that, surely the wrinkles would be hidden when the head was installed on the torso. Or the collar of the uniform would cover it, but something surely would save that head. Right?

 

Wrong. Very wrong. This far into it, the next morning I pushed on, telling myself it was a learning experience at this point and I didn’t ever have to show it to anyone if it sucked when I was finished. So, of course, I blog about it.

I used fondant from a previous batch made with a different recipe and extruded the hair, made the facial features, the uniform, and the cutest lil spats I ever did see.

The close up shows the ongoing problem with the fondant. As it dried it started cracking. One of the arms eventually split and fell off. I suppose the crispy treats sucked the moisture out of it. Or the fondant just hates me. Whatever.

 I didn’t have the heart to finish the shoulder nests.

He developed an acne scar looking divot on his face. I have no idea why. Maybe prom was the next day or something.

In the end, Jack (for that was his name) never made a public appearance. There was no way that I could find to fix his flaws, which were numerous, glaring, and ugly. I tried sealing him a box, hoping the fondant would soften without air. After that, I put him the fridge for a few hours hoping that when I took him out, he would start to condense and that would soften the fondant. I guess that only happens when you don’t want it to, ‘cause it sure didn’t work for poor Jack. I gave up and didn’t even try to add more crispy treats to make his legs look more natural or add the white fondant for gloves on his hands. He looked so cute from far away, sitting there on the counter- like a real doll so both creepy and cute. However, up close, he looked like the cake failure he was.

Three days later, I ripped him apart, removed all the fondant, re-iced the torso, and sliced him up for the family’s snacking needs.

R.I.P., Jack.

Hand Me Downs or I must have been Adopted or Banana Pudding

8 Sep

I used to think there was only one way to make banana pudding:

Line bowl with vanilla wafer cookies

Make instant vanilla pudding

Slice bananas

Layer pudding, bananas, and cookies in the bowl

Top with Cool Whip.

Shocking, isn’t it? It’s not that my mom can’t bake. She just doesn’t. At least, not without a box. In her defense, she did have 4 children. Who has the strength to do anything, much less bake from scratch, when you have 4 hellions underfoot? Therefore, my knowledge of banana pudding did not extend beyond boxes.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a box. I’ve been known to use them myself a time or two or three. Spend a buck on a box, stir in a couple of pantry staples, toss it into the oven, and call it dessert for tonight. When PMS cravings hit, there’s no time to waste so I fully give you permission to hit the box. My point is not that anyone should feel guilty about boxes. Sure, it would be nice if you recycle the box, but who am I to nag? This blog is (mostly) about food, so I’m happy to leave the save the earth stuff to someone else.

My point is that we should not forget there is another way. I’d say my great-grandmother never used a box, but I’d be lying like that ex-high school boyfriend of mine, yours, and everyone’s. A few years ago, my mother gingerly handed me a box containing my great-grandmother’s recipe book. With awe and appreciation, I opened the book, expecting to find a treasure trove of scratch recipes that could be handed down generation after generation. Instead, I burst forth with laughter when I saw this:

I guess my mother learned at the knee of her grandmother, after all.

My love of cooking and baking could not have possibly come from these people. Opening that book reminded me of the years I thought/hoped I was adopted. I had nothing in common with the people who called themselves my family. They’re mean, ugly, and stupid. Okay, I was like 13 when I thought that and I had the lack of a birth certificate to “prove” it. When I opened that book, it reminded me yet again how different I am from my family. A family reunion would not be complete with a bucket of the Colonel’s best and Waldorf salad. That’s the extent of their cooking. Mix and toss or drive through. To my great disappointment (at that time), my mother did eventually get a copy of my birth certificate, thus crushing my Lil Orphan Annie dreams forever. Therefore, I must conclude (after taking a good look at family pictures through the years) that my love of the kitchen arts must stem from the entire family’s love of eating. In particular, we’re rather fond of sugar. Thinking further, I started baking from scratch as a newlywed because I was bored. No license, no driver, no tv. Practically the only thing I had was a cookbook I stole from my mother.

So, I dabbled here, dabbled there, popped out a few kids, and kept on cookin’ every time I was bored. Which, again looking at pictures, was a lot. This boredom led to my discovery that not all banana pudding is from a box. I felt quite ashamed about it, actually. Did others know about this? Were they laughing behind my back? Was I only the one who made it with boxes? Oh, Alice Walker, you’ve got some things to account for! I cannot remember which book it’s in, but there’s a chapter where she wrote about her (now) ex-husband and something something something white people can’t make banana pudding something something something. Whaaattt? I’m white, I make banana pudding. Oh, Alice! How could you feel that way?

I read on and discovered that indeed, my “family recipe” for banana pudding is quite different. The chapter included her recipe so I decided to throw off my shame and learn to make it “the right way.” Or I decided to give it a shot to see if it could possibly be better than my recipe. Whichever. It was good. Pretty dang good. A bit soupy, but good. The soupy part could have been me, though. After all, I’m just hillbilly white chick with time on my hands.  🙂

In the years since that discovery, I have tried many banana pudding recipes and tweaked them until I came up with my own. At least, the latest version of my own. I’m always messing with recipes. I still occasionally make the ol’ family recipe, too. My kids like both versions, so I assume the sugar addiction continues for the next generation. Don’t blame me. It’s your great-great grandmother’s fault.

Scratch Banana Pudding Pie

Crust

½ c. coconut

½ c. flour

¼ c. butter, softened

¼ c. (scant) sugar

Mix with hands until crumbly and press into pie tin or 8 X 8 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes. Cool. Do NOT turn off oven.

 

Pudding

4 bananas

1 c. sugar

¼ c. flour

2 c. milk

3 egg yolks (reserve whites)

2 t. butter

2 t. vanilla

While crust is baking, combine 1 c. sugar with flour in a medium saucepan. Mix well, and then stir in half the milk. Beat egg yolks and whisk into sugar mixture. Add remaining milk and butter.

Place mixture over medium low heat and cook until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.

While that’s cooking, slice the bananas and place a layer on the crust.

You want the pudding mixture to sheet off the back of the spoon when it’s cooked.

When it looks like that, it’s time to add the vanilla.

Stir that in and pour a layer of the pudding over the layer of bananas.

Add another layer of bananas and then another layer of pudding.

I know, it’s a lot of work so far. We’re nearing the end, I promise.

Meringue

3 egg whites (reserved from yolks)

¼ c. sugar

Chill mixing bowl and beater or whisk by placing in freezer. Glass or metal is preferred to prevent any grease residue from previous use preventing the egg whites from stiffening.

Using the chilled mixing bowl and beater or whisk, beat egg whites until foamy.

A bowl of ice water may be placed under the mixing bowl to speed whipping, if desired. Do not fill bowl too full with ice water or it will be difficult to beat the meringue.

Once the whites are foamy, gradually add ¼ c. sugar and continue to beat until stiff. Using the beater or a spoon, insert into meringue and lift straight up. If the meringue forms a peak and the tip of the peak does not bend/flop over, it’s at stiff peak.

Spread meringue over filling making sure meringue is all the way to the edges to prevent weeping.

Bake in 350 degree oven until meringue is lightly browned, approximately 15 minutes.

Clang the dinner bell, dessert is ready!

ETA: I’ve always had trouble with weeping and meringue. I made this again tonight but tried something a little different. Instead of mounding the meringue in the center and spreading it to the edges, try plopping meringue around the edges first and then fill in the center. Meringue is kinda tricky to smoosh around. As I’m moving it, I’m pulling on the pudding underneath and getting my spatula messy with the meringue/pudding combo. By covering the edges first, I don’t pick up the pudding and it’s easier to get that seal around the edge. Try it and let me know if it works for you, too. Mmm, Pie!

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