Tag Archives: cake

Cake Pops and More

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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.

Trifles

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Sometimes, you have some leftover cake; sometimes, the cake you cooked failed. But in either case, if you have some cake, and want to make a nice dessert, think about a trifle. And of course, you could always just cook a cake planning to make it into a trifle.

I was first introduced to trifles when we were making a birthday cake for Jeff. It was an angel food cake, and for some reason, it didn’t cook right and we had what I thought was a mess, and time to start over. But Marlys said NO. She proceeded to cut the cake up into pieces and make a trifle from cake, whipped cream, and strawberries.

More recently, I have been experimenting with making Ding Dongs. After cutting out the cake circles, there is a lot of cake left over. So I decided to make a trifle. It is chocolate cake, vanilla pudding, strawberries and whip cream.

Basic Trifle Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 pre-made cake
  • 2 packages of instant pudding (3.4 oz each)
  • 2 lbs fresh fruit or thawed frozen fruit
  • 3/4 cup whipped cream (see Creme Chantilly)
  • 1/3 cup liquid (sherry wine or fruit juice or water)

Directions

  1. Prepare the pudding according to its directions.
  2. Mix the drained, prepared fruit with the liquid. Save a few pieces as garnish
  3. Cut the cake into cubes about 1 inch on a side.
  4. Place half the cake in the bottom of the trifle bowl.
  5. Drain and layer half the fruit on top of the cake layer.
  6. Top with half of the pudding mixture.
  7. Repeat layering with the rest of the cake, fruit, and pudding
  8. Top with the whipped cream, and garnish with the saved fruit.
  9. Chill well before serving


There are lots of combinations of cake flavors, pudding flavors and fruit that go together well. I have already mentioned angel food cake and strawberries; in that case, Marlys used more whipped cream for the pudding layer. And this trifle is chocolate cake, vanilla pudding and strawberries. Other ideas:

  • Angel Food cake, mixed pineapple, mangoes, papaya, vanilla or lemon pudding and maybe shredded coconut as a garnish.
  • Spice cake, apple pie filling and custard.
  • white or chocolate cake, sliced bananas, vanilla or custard.

I am certain there are some cake and pudding flavors that would go well with blueberries; if you have a suggestion, please send a reply to this posting so others can see it.

Making a Pinata Cake

A few weeks ago, my niece Cindy sent me an email with an advertisement for a cake pan for making piñata cakes. I had never thought of making a pinata cake before, but decided that would be great for the cakes I was making for the twins’ fourth birthdays. However, I am more of an Alton Brown follower than one who would buy a special pan for a single use. I did buy the dome pan that was used in the cake decorating class to make the “Girl Cake” and hopefully I will find more uses for it. I had to figure out how to make the hollow center of the piñata cake using just what I have.

I decided that I could put a tin can in the center of a cake pan and that would create the cavity I needed for the piñata. Interesting enough, at this point I had to become an engineer and decide how much cake mix I needed for the layer of the cake with the hole in it. The tin can I had was 4 inches in diameter; I think that is known as a #2½. They are usually on the bottom shelf in the grocery store with tomatoes, and refried beans.

If you aren’t really interested in all this engineering and want to get directly to the making of the cake, skip down to that subtitle- MAKING THE CAKE.

I assumed that I would use the same rise in cake as I do for a normal layer. That meant I could compare the amount of batter I needed with the amount for a full 8 inch layer by comparing the area of the pans. The 8 inch layer pan would have an area of Pi R squared or 4 squared Pi or 16 pi. The area of the can would be 2 squared Pi or 4 Pi. That means the area I have to fill with batter is 16 – 4 Pi or 12 Pi. That is 3/4 of a single 8 inch layer.

Now normally I use 1½ boxes of cake mix to make 2- 8 inch layers; that means I use .75 of a box for a single layer or an area of 16 Pi. I should need ¾ of the .75 of a box- or 9/16 of a box. That is pretty close to the ½ box that I have left over from making the 2- 8 inch layers and so now I have a use for that leftover half box.

So, you need two slightly different recipes for the layers of the cake. I use the Duncan Hines cake mix and it says to use 3 eggs, 1 cup water and 1/3 cup vegetable oil for the box of cake mix. I first measure out the half box of cake mix by weight; 8.25 ounces. Now I increase the recipe to be 5 eggs, 1 ½ cups water and ½ cup vegetable oil. (one third cup is 2 sixths, and half of that would be one sixth for a total of 3 sixths which is ½.)

For the layer with the cavity, I use 2 eggs, ½ cup water and 2T + 2t vegetable oil. (1/4 cup is 4T and is also 3/12 cup; divide by 3 and 1/12 cup is 1 1/3 Tablespoons; 1/3 cup is 4/12 cup, and half that would be 2/12 cup of 2 2/3 Tablespoons; a Tablespoon is 3 teaspoons so we have 2T+2t of vegetable oil). I am certain that most people will let me do the math and just go with what I say. I hope that is most of the information you need.

I bake my cakes at 325 degrees F. This is slower than suggested on the cake mix package. I also have Magi-Cake strips that I put around the cake pans to slow the cooking of the outside edge of the layer even more, giving me fairly flat layers right out of the oven. The reason for mentioning this is that I test the doneness of the cake using a bamboo skewer and not the clock. I know that my normal time for an 8 inch layer is close to 45 minutes.

MAKING THE CAKE

So, now the making of the cake. I started by making the standard 2- 8 inch layers; then after washing everything from making the two standard layers, I used the remaining ½ box of cake mix and made the layer with the cavity. After the batter was in the pan around the tin can in the center, I poured cold water into the can to a level just higher than the 2 inch edge of the cake pan; this would cause the center to cook slower and keep the cavity layer more level.

pinata 001

Once the skewer showed the cavity layer was completely cooked, I racked it for the 15 minutes the mix directions suggest. During this first cooling time, I took the can out of the cake so that the center could cool better.

pinata 002

While I tort only the top and bottom layer of the cake with glaze, I didn’t want to slice the cavity layer for fear it would break. I also wanted to have a sealing, non-sticky bottom to the cavity, so I used my crusting butter cream frosting between the top of the bottom layer and the cavity layer.

pinata 005

I took a break at that point to hopefully let the butter cream frosting in the bottom of the cavity to crust.
I filled the cavity with 7 ounces of Jelly Belly and M&M candies. This size cavity could probably hold 10 to 12 ounces of small candies without a problem.

pinata 007

Once the cavity was filled, I spread butter cream frosting on the top of the cavity layer and from there, the rest is like making any cake. There is one exception to being like any cake. Remember that this cake has an extra layer, making it tall; when I first got it together, it reminded me of the chocolate cakes you see at many cafes. And that means that it will require more frosting to cover.

pinata 008

I think you could easily make what would be a 2 layer pinata cake by doing the following. You could use only a single box of cake mix and follow the directions for adding the eggs, water and oil. When you are preparing your 8 inch cake pans, put the tin can that creates the cavity in one of the pans. Now, when you cook the batter, you will have one pan that is normal and one pan that has the cavity. Go ahead and cool the cake as normal.

Now comes the tricky part! Slice the normal layer in half, and you have a half layer for the bottom of the cake, and a half layer for the top of the cake. Frost the top of the bottom half layer and set the cavity layer on it. I think now you can finish your 2 layer pinata cake by filling the cavity and then frosting the top of the cavity layer and placing the top half layer in place.

My math says that the ideal size for the amount of batter would be 1.25 boxes; that would correspond to using 1.5 boxes for 2 normal 8 inch layers. But since the cake box people think one box is right for 2- 8 inch layers, then I would think you would get good rise with a single box of cake mix since you are not filling all of the 8 inch cake pans; you have the cavity-making can in one of the pans.

Next time I make a pinata cake, I will try using a single box of cake mix and let you know how it goes. Or if you should try it before I get there, send me a comment and let me know how it went.