Monthly Archives: September 2015

Cake Pops and More

practice 006

The title of this article is the same as a class I took at the Decorette Shop. Then, a couple days later, I decided to try my hand at home to help reinforce what I learned at the class. In this article, I will try to explain what I learned to do, and not to do. In addition, I have decided to put a lot of photos into this article; there are photos of other students work, photos of my work in the class, and finally photos of the work I have done after class to reinforce the ideas of the class. This first photo- my army of minions- is from the latter group; other photos in that group will show you the army coming together.

To start, I have to say that the class did impart a lot of information, but like all classes, it was hard to really practice; it just takes too much material and equipment to let everyone have their own space. The class started with each of us receiving a quarter of a layer of cake, and needing to convert it into crumbs in bowls that we brought using forks that we had also brought to class. Once we had the cake into crumbs, Linette (the instructor) poured some white ganache into our bowls and we stirred and cut the ganache in so that all the crumb would stick together. Once we reached that stage, we started taking some of the crumb and rolling it into balls.

The ganache is a very stiff version; it has a ratio of 1 to 4 – one part hot heavy cream to 4 parts chocolate. It needs to solidify in a short time to hold the cake shapes together. I also believe there should be a couple notes about the cake crumb, and the balls. First, the crumb must be uniform; I think a lot of the failures we saw at the class, and some I found repeating at home were because there were lumps in the crumb balls. And the balls themselves need to be tightly packed. They need to hold together through all the operations of inserting the stick, and dipping them.

At this point, we started sharing the pots of melted candy melts. The sticks need to be glued into the cake crumb – or other objects that are being dipped. So the end of the stick is dipped and then inserted into the cake crumb object. (we also had marshmallows, Rice Crispy treats, and Double Stuffed Oreos to dip and decorate). It was suggested to put the object on the stick into the styrofoam block we were using to hold the dipped objects. For the most part, I think this was a mistake; we were waiting for the glue on the stick to solidify and we still were trying to let the ganache solidify. So some student’s objects started falling down the stick, or falling apart. I laid my objects down to let the “glues” dry.

practice 001 In this photo, you can see the “glue” that was wiped off the stick when I inserted it into the sausage shape cake crumb objects I used for reinforcement practice.

While it might seem appropriate to put the cake crumb and stick into the refrigerator to cool and lock both the ganache and “glue” tighter, we were warned that this is a no-no. Cooling shrinks the ganache and crumb slightly, and then after it has been dipped and is at room temperature again, it expands, and will crack the candy melt coating.

Now we started the dipping process. I have never liked dipping chocolate centers, and I felt the same way about dipping the cake crumb shapes. Mostly things worked out fairly well. I had a failure with the Rice Crispy treat that I think I can understand now. The candy melt needs to not be too hot. My experience with chocolate said that I had the smoothest results with the temperature in the 90 degree area. When it gets over that into 100 degrees, I had problem. In the case of the class, the white melt did not have a temperature control. I think it got too hot, and then melted the marshmallow that was holding the Rice Crispy treat together. I noticed that a lot of the classes Rice Crispy treats were also failing; one that didn’t fail did not use the white melt.

Pops 003This is a photo from class; the red apple has been painted with disco powder after the red candy melt dried. Below, you can see a better picture of the orange pumpkin. The green marshmallow with black hair shows the artistic capability of the student- all their own idea. And finally in the back corner there is the start of a ghost that melted the glue and slid down the stick- probably as I said, the white candy melt was getting too hot.

Pops 003a

The candy melt is really a chocolate based product, and so it has to be treated like chocolate; not too hot and never get water in it. However, the best way to keep an even temperature is to use a water bath, so there is a real conflict. I used water in an electric fry pan as my constant temperature. The other thing is that the candy melt needs to be fairly deep so that it can cover the dipped object. For that reason, the shape of the container is important. Linette suggested using mugs, and as the picture below shows, I used a rather tall mug for my yellow candy melt in my practice session.

practice 002

Of course, the dipped object can not be laid down until the candy melt has dried and hardened. The easiest method of holding the sticks upright is to use styrofoam to hold the pops.

Pops 005This is another students work.

I tried using a couple drying racks to make a grid to hold the sticks upright, but the spacing was too loose. However, I did take a couple pictures that way, which are shown here.

PicMonkey CollageThings to notice- the pumpkin stem, the round green of the oreo, and the rib bones on the marshmallow skeleton.

Once the candy melt is dry, there are many ways to decorate it. Some of the pops show redipping in a second color. The pumpkin show using a piece of broken pretzel as a stem, and using the food marking pens to draw the face- also the face on my marshmallow skeleton. The oreo has a couple eyes glued on; there are many small pre-made items that one can buy for decorating such as the eyes. The ribs of the skeleton are pretzels that were dipped first, and after they dried they were “glued” to the stick.

practice 005For my minions, I glued an eye on each one, then used Royal Icing colored black to go around the eye and around the head to may the minion’s glass.

I think from my practice reinforcement session, I learned that you do not want to be making all sorts of pops in one session. You only want to have a few things active at a time. Of course, in a class where they are trying to give us ideas and all, there is a wild bunch of things going on at the same time.

I am also going to still look for some better way to hold the sticks upright. I keep finding small pieces of styrofoam that were broken off the block and of course, it does not like to be swept up and dumped in the trash- it holds on for dear life.

November 2016: I had occasion to make some cake pops this month, and found myself changing a few of the things I say in this article. I had one layer of a white cake in the freezer that I used. After breaking it into crumb (I used the food processor to get an even crumb), I added a 4 to 1 part white chocolate ganache. It was not strong enough to hold the crumb together when the globes of dough were dipped into the candy melts. I ended up adding more melted white chocolate so that the balls were very firm and tight. This worked very well. I’m sorry I don’t have measurements for how much total ganache I used or for what the final ration of white chocolate to cream was. Just be certain that the balls you make are very tight and tough.

The second thing I found was that the thickness of the melted candy into which the balls are dipped works best if it is very thin. I used the paramount crystals (2 Tbs) to help thin the melt to make dipping better. There are many ways to thin the melts to make them easier to use, but Paramount Crystals seem to be the best way; they add fat into the pot. Others have used shortening, and cocoa butter, and even paraffin wax to thin the melts, although most have side effects that are absent with the paramount crystals.

I find with both my molded chocolates and cake pops that the melt seems to thicken with time as I work, and I add some crystals every once in a while to keep the melt flowing nicely.

Seattle and the Wind Storm

A few months ago, the people of Seattle were getting concerned about the “Really Big One”, an earthquake that would wipe out everything west of Interstate 5. It had been an article in the New Yorker magazine. I tried to focus my daughter’s attention on the fact that most of the problem, if you survived the quake and tsunami, would be the loss of power and roadways; it would take days to restore each of those.

I made a quick trip to Seattle to help daughter Mindy celebrate her birthday. And while I was there- on her birthday no less, the wind blew and took the power out. It went out at about noon on Saturday and didn’t come back on until about 10 PM. After a couple hours in the dark, we went out driving and checked out the terrific wind damage. In one case, we were driving and actually saw a tree come down just a few hundred yards away. Of course, the traffic lights were all out, and many lanes of traffic were blocked by fallen trees, so driving wasn’t a lot of fun either. Going into Seattle later that afternoon, there had been a tree fallen onto the freeway and what was 4 lanes of traffic was reduced to a single lane while they cleaned up that tree.

Last Saturday was a small introduction to how the problems of a quick hitting natural disaster would play out. Once you lose power, you not only are in the dark, but you lose the traffic semiphores, street lamps, and gas pumps. And as a result traffic backs up at major intersections for miles.

I guess we were lucky that the power came on Saturday night; at the train station Monday morning I was hearing people say that their power hadn’t come on until that morning, like 2 AM Monday. Of course, the Comcast cable had also gone out and it hadn’t come back on when I left. (I left early Monday because Mindy had been summoned for Jury duty and had to report at 8 AM Monday).

Even though our weekend will be memorable for the power outage, we were still able to do our foodie thing and visit both some old favorites as well as some new places. Old favorites include Fat Hen for breakfast, and Molly Moon for the ice cream sundaes.

The new places we tried included Bluebird ice cream, where I would say you should try the snickerdoodle ice cream. This little parlor is listed among the 15 best ice cream places in the Seattle area. Actually there are a couple Bluebird parlors in the list, just as there are multiple Molly Moon parlors in the list. We visited the Bluebird that is on Greenwood at 74th.

Mindy likes to explore the various offerings of some chefs such as Tom Douglas and Ethan Stowell. So we visited Cantina Lena and Seatown in the Tom Douglas group, and Goldfinch Tavern in Ethan Stowell’s group. I think I said it more than once that with good restaurants, it is not the food directly that is good, but it is the way the food is seasoned that makes it so good. In all three of these restaurants, that was certainly the case. These restaurants probably are all considered downtown in location. Cantina Lena is on 5th Avenue under the monorail. Seatown is just off Pike and the Pike Market place, and Goldfinch Tavern is in the 4 Seasons hotel.

Finally, we had breakfast one morning at the Bakery Nouveau up on Capitol Hill. They advertise French café fare on the park. There is a second site over is West Seattle. All I can say is that you never knew so many ways to create a quiche or a croissant. I had a Spinach and Feta croissant, and then a Smoked Salmon croissant. I just looked at their web site to see if I could also name what Mindy had, but I didn’t find the names of her croissants. One was with scrambled eggs and bacon. I am certain that we will be returning for additional samplings of their fare.

Even though I made it a short trip so as to interfere neither with Mindy’s work or her call for Jury duty, we still had a good time doing our foodie bit. I also took her a dozen of her favorite Morning Buns, and tastes of several other cake products on which I had been experimenting and perfecting (see Ding Dongs, Black and White Irish Cream cupcakes, and Guinness Gingerbread cupcakes). And I also took her a birthday cake- the Italian Cream Cake– which she says is her favorite.

I’m sorry that I didn’t take photos at the new group of restaurants; I know Mindy did, and I think she places them on Instagram, but being a few generations older, I have no idea how one accesses them. In fact, this dinosaur doesn’t even have a “smart phone” yet so I can only give you Mindy’s link on Instagram.
“https://instagram.com/mindycrary/”

Itialian Cream Cake

coconut cake 004

This cake went all the way from my home in Beaverton, Oregon, to daughter Mindy’s place in north Seattle, Washington, in my luggage and on the train!! And the only damage was that it slid one inch on the 10 inch cardboard cake circle on which I had built it! Of course, I did take some extra care in packing it to go. As I was assembling the cake, I used some Royal Icing to cement the first layer to the cardboard. Then, after frosting it, I cut 5 bamboo skewers to 5 inches and stuck them through the cake to make certain that the individual layers didn’t move relative to each other. And finally, I put the cake in a 10 x 10 x 5 cake box for transporting; the cake box I placed in my duffle bag and hand carried the duffle keeping it flat. I forgot once, placed the duffle on top of my rolling suitcase and tilted the suitcase to roll; that is probably when the cake slid to the edge of the cake circle.

There is more to this story. I hadn’t planned on making and taking a cake with me. But I talk to Mindy every weekend, and the weekend before I was to go, she mentioned that she had almost bought a KitchenAid mixer so she could make the Coconut Cake- another name for the Italian Cream Cake. So I knew I had to make it for her. After all, I make everybody who asks locally a cake, so I needed to make her favorite cake for her birthday.

This is a darn good tasty cake. I think I have only made two cakes recently that I give those qualifications; the other is the Guinness Gingerbread cake, which I did as cupcakes. Both of these cakes are moist and can easily lead to a-second-piece syndrome. I took the photo in a hurry, and my colors were not quite right so the frosting appears more brown than in real life- it really is white with pieces of nut showing through. Here is the recipe.

Italian Cream Cake

(Coconut Cake — Margaret McBryde 1976)

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 egg – separated
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 1/2 oz. coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cake Directions

  1. Cream together until light and fluffy the butter, shortening and sugar.
  2. Add and mix well the egg yolks.
  3. Into a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add dry ingredients alternating with buttermilk. Mix all ingredients very well.
  5. Then add coconut flakes and walnuts.
  6. Beat the egg whites stiffly with the vanilla, then gently fold them in.
  7. Grease and flour 3 8-inch cake layer pans. Divide batter evenly between pans.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
  9. Cool pans on rack before removing the cake layers and icing the cake.

Icing

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 16 oz. (2 packages) cream cheese
  • 2 lbs. (2 boxes) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Mix butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla thoroughly.
  2. Add the chopped walnuts.

September 12, 2015, NOTE: When I first made this cake last month, I was confused about what size cake pans to use. Then I looked at Marlys’s old cake pans and discovered that the only set of 3 pans she had were the 8 inch pans with the old fashion piece that swivels around the middle of the bottom to loosen the cake bottom from the pan. They worked well, and all I had to do after swiveling that bottom piece around 360 degrees was use a knife around the vertical edges.
Since then, I talked to my friends at the Decorette Shop about using their Real Ease product to grease the pans. They said that because of its composition, it is not necessary to flour the pans after applying it. That will save a mess of bouncing flour all over the sink, so I will be trying it without flour this week.