3D Choco-Blood Filled Eyeball Cookies


cut open eyeball cookie with fake blood leaking out

Because your Halloween isn’t complete without this.

First I showed you how to use the Nordicware Cookie Cup pan* to make 3D Candy Filled Baseball Cap cookies. Then I showed you how to do the same thing but turn it into a Jack-O-Lantern instead.

But this isn’t one of those normal blogs for sane and sensible people. This is Eat The Evidence. This whole blog is about pushing the boundaries into the nerdy, the weird, and the downright freaky.

And thus I know you’ve all been waiting to find out how to make eyeball cookies that bleed chocolatey fake blood into your mouths when you bite them.

Am I right or am I right? Exactly.

To make these cookies, you’ll need a batch of your preferred rolled cookie dough (I recommend my Dark Chocolate Rolled Cookies), some of my fake blood recipe, and either the Nordicware Cookie Cup pan or something similar that makes half-sphere cookies.

Start by following the first part of the Base Cookie directions on the baseball cap post, except STOP before putting the candy in. Instead, continue as follows:

Melt some chocolate like you would to seal up the regular Base Cookie, but this time use it to coat the inside (concave) side of the cookie cup, plus the top of the round. The fake blood is very wet, will make the cookie soggy, and eventually leak out unless you create a chocolate pocket inside the cookie to contain the blood.

coating cookie in chocolate

It is vital that you cover the entire interior surface thoroughly.

Then let the chocolate harden fully, boosted in the fridge if necessary. The chocolate must be 100% hardened or it will combine with the blood and leak out.

Once it’s hardened, pour in some of the fake blood, but do not overfill.

blood in cookie

Better to have an air gap than a leaky, sticky mess.

Pipe a bit more melted chocolate around the cup edge and then put the round on it with the chocolate coating on the inside. This new melted chocolate will seal the round to the cup.

sealing the cookie

Give the round a bit of a twist against the cup to ensure it’s really secure, but try not to wiggle it more than necessary so the blood will stay down and let this new chocolate set up without mixing.

While this chocolate is still warm, carefully use a spatula or knife to smooth it around so you don’t end up with any lumps at the seam, and to help make sure the seal is complete. Be sure to leave the cookie upside down until this chocolate is set.

spreading chocolate around cookie

Push the chocolate inwards as you go to ensure there are no leaks.

Once you’ve got your cookies sealed up with blood inside, the rest is actually really easy, especially if you have a set of graduated circle cutters.

Roll out some white fondant. Brush some corn syrup thinned with some water over the cookie and then put the white fondant over, smoothing downward as you go. You can either pre-cut the fondant with a wide enough circle cutter, or else just do a blanket and trim it around the edges. A pizza wheel is the easiest way to trim around, but a knife will do. Trim inward, not downward, to tuck the white under and cover the cookie completely.

Use a red edible ink marker or a brush with a bit of red food gel to draw some squiggly blood vessels around the eye, as in the photo below.

covered cookie

The blood vessels help direct the eye (heh) away from any imperfect lumps.

Next, roll out some blue, brown, green, or whatever iris colour you like and cut out a circle. Affix it in place with a bit of water or some of your previous watered-down corn syrup. Then roll out some black, cut a smaller circle, and affix it in the same way on the blue. Make a tiny white ball, flatten it, and affix it in place. Voila! Eyeball cookie!

eyeball cookie

The white dot is technically optional but it really does improve the way the eye looks.

Then when you cut the cookie open or someone bites into it, there will be a variant of this reaction:

Note that the fake blood can stain, so make sure your recipients are least somewhat prepared for stuff to leak out. Also be prepared for pedants who’ll complain that it should leak white goo instead, and suggest to them that they go ahead and make a mint-cream filled variety if they like.

bleeding cookie

The blood is thick and continues to ooze out over time.

And just to prove that the cookie was edible and tasty, there’s this:

animated gif of Peo eating cookie

Peo loved it and declared it, “Gooey and chocolatey.” Then she worried about police getting confusing evidence if there was a murder in our house. Not that she was worried about the murder…just the confusing blood spatter. Priorities. We have ‘em.

Peo

Behold the face of evil.

Happy Halloween!

* Again note that I haven’t received any compensation or consideration for recommending that pan. I purchased it independently and just really like it. I provide the link to their store for information only. It is not an affiliate link. I bought mine at my local cake shop.

Posted in Cake Decorating, Cookies, Experimental Techniques, Sick and Twisted | Leave a comment

3D Candy Filled Jack-O-Lantern Cookies


Recently I showed you how to use the Nordicware Cookie Cup pan to make 3D Candy Filled Baseball Cap cookies. I bought this pan of my own accord and have received no compensation from Nordicware. If you don’t have one and don’t want to get one, you could do this technique with an oven-safe cakeball pan, sphere cake pans, or possibly even a muffin pan if you’re prepared to have the result be a different size or less spherical.

Halloween is in a couple of weeks, so here’s how to use the same technique to make easy Jack-O-Lantern versions instead. This would be a great activity for a group of kids, especially if you prepare the base cookies in advance and just let the kids wild with the fondant.

To make the base cookies, follow the directions starting at ** Base Cookie ** through to ** End Base Cookie ** on the baseball cap post.

Next, make four small ropes of orange fondant and adhere them across the cookie with some corn syrup thinned with a bit of water, coming together at the top and bottom as shown in the photo below:

orange ropes on cookie

These don’t have to be perfect; they are forming the textured base for the rippled pumpkin shape. Some of you are decent folk who will look at this pattern and see a sort of birdcage. Others are like me and see another version of a Facehugger cookie.

Roll out some orange fondant thinly (thin enough to not overload the cookie, but still thick enough to not show the dark cookie underneath) in a rough circle much wider than your cookie. Brush the cookie and ropes with corn syrup thinned with water, and lay the rolled out fondant over carefully. Use the sides of your pinky fingers to gently nudge the fondant between the ropes to create a pumpkin-like ripple and be sure that the covering is sticking to the cookie all over.

fondant covering

Tuck fondant down between the ropes to give an overall smooth finish.

Trim the excess away using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, working at an angle along the bottom edge inwards to tuck the fondant completely around the sides. You don’t want any cookie showing through.

Make a little green stub of a stem and adhere it to the top with some water. Roll out some thin, tapered ropes and twist them into curls to affix alongside the stem.

Then roll out some black fondant very thinly and cut out facial features as desired. Your Jack-O-Lantern can be silly, scary, or any style you like. Stick the black pieces on with a bit of water and voila!

finished Jack O Lantern cookie

If you’re making a lot of these, small triangle or other cutters can speed up the process.

I took this one to a bake sale for donation so I don’t have a photo of it being cut open, but it had the same M&Ms in it as the baseball cap cookies. For Halloween, though, you could put candy corn or any other treat in there.

What’s that you say? Candy is boring and you want something much, much gorier to come spilling out when the recipient takes a bite? Well then sign up for updates for this blog, because the next post will deliver just that. Muahahahahaha…

Posted in Cake Decorating, Cookies, Experimental Techniques, General Freakishness, Working With Kids | Leave a comment

Itty Bitty Teen Weeny Pumpkin Fairy For Halloweenie


Pumpkin pile and Halloween fairy in less than 4 inches

A lot of cute Halloween detail packed into a tiny space!

As previously mentioned, I’m in the UK for a year so I don’t have most of my cake decorating tools. In fact I typed this paragraph while attempting again to stack ganached cake layers for Peo’s birthday cake since the previous attempt fell over in the fridge because I don’t have any wooden stakes to hold tiers together and it turns out the fridge here has sloping shelves.

O.o

Anyway.

I brought only what I needed for a small entry in the Birmingham cake show in November. So when another cake show popped up on my radar for early October, I was glad I was too late to sign up to enter the contest. But then I noticed that Renshaw Baking had a Modelling Magic contest where folks could make a Halloween cake topper with 200g or less of their sugarpaste, send in a photo, and then possibly be invited to bring the piece in for judging. 200g is a very small amount and I had brought my new PME mini modelling tools with me, so I decided to give it a go.

I wasn’t sure by the contest description if interior supports were allowed or not, since it said it had to be 100% sugarpaste. I usually use a lot of foil and toothpicks in my figures, so I decided it’d be a fun self-challenge to make something with lots of small features that had no internal supports whatsoever. I made a little board out of scrap cardboard with foil over it as a base, but otherwise used no toothpicks or anything else other than fondant inside the piece.

I also knew I had to get the piece from Cambridge to London on a bus, then a train, and then the jostly London Underground through to the show. That meant the design needed to be bottom-heavy, well-supported, humidity-proof, and any thin bits would need to be supported by design.

My first idea was to have a cute little pale witch or goblin decorating a Jack-O-Lantern, but I quickly realized I’d have unsupported arms doing that. I pondered various options until I came up with the notion of many tiny Jack-O-Lanters in a pile, some lit and others dark, and have a wee little Halloween fairy lighting them, positioning her so that all of her limbs would be supported. I knew that would give me the opportunity to try to make tiny little delicate wings, something I hoped would impress the judges.

The finished topper; a little fairy lighting a stack of Jack-O-Lanterns.

back

From the back.

Well it must have worked, because I won first place during the Saturday contest and got a bag full of goodies!

certificate

First place, woot!

books, pens, fondant, marzipan, and cake decorating tools

What a great prize pack! Thanks so much, Renshaw!

I took photos as I worked – albeit a few hasty and thus blurry or poorly lit ones, sorry – to show you how I made the piece so you can go forth to make your own.

I started by making several small balls of black and yellow as the inner cores of the pumpkins, and I let those dry overnight. Well, they were dry enough in the morning, but I actually left them for a couple of days because I’m a busy homeschooling mom in a foreign country running around to see castles and museums and whatnot all the time, battling transportation woes and occasional sharknados.

So when I next had time, I took a bit of orange and made a partial pinch pot like so:

orange pinch pot beside black ball

Even with the dried inner cores, you have to be careful as you go because you really only get one shot at this on this tiny scale.

I very lightly dampened the inside of the pinch pot and rolled it around the inner core, moving the outside around as gently as possible to make it even and seam-free. This was my first time using Renshaw paste and I must say, it did a very nice job of self-seaming.

orange ball

You want enough orange to cover the core without being too thick, so pinch off any excess as you go. If you end up with a small seam as shown here, that’s fine because you can put that on the bottom.

Then I used one of the PME tools (I think each tool has a name but I’m too self-trained to know the proper names for all of these things, sorry) to make indentations as shown below. Of course then handling the tiny things often munged those indentations out and I’d have to redo them, but I found it helpful to at least start with them.

indentations on orange ball.

It pretty much looks like a teeny pumpkin at this point.

Next I carved eyes. The PME set has a little half-circle tool that was just right for cutting our round eyes, but for triangle ones I’d just use one of the sharper pick style tools to pick out a bit of the orange and then poke into three corners to form little triangles. There’s no set rule to this stage other than to remove a bit of material down to the inner colour and then try to make symmetrical eye-like shapes.

eyes

If you indent round eyes upwards in the inner corners, they look cute-sad.

Next I’d make the nose as per the triangle eyes method mentioned above. Then I’d do the mouth, which was tricky to do without munging the other features. I poked the smile corners where I wanted them to be, then lightly traced lines for the mouth I wanted, including any built-in teeth. Then I picked out orange from inside the lines carefully, gently removing or folding back any spurs that stuck out. This is one of those things that takes some practice and familiarity with the medium.

pumpkin face

After cutting out the mouth, make the tooth square by using a pick tool up into the corners, and then a flat-edged tool pushed gently up against the bottom and sides. Repeat as necessary until you’re happy with it.

If I’d had my mini circle cutters available, I’d have tapped one against the top to make a round indentation. But those are back in storage in Austin, so instead I grabbed the closest PME mini tool and hacked out a little circular shape on the top. Then I used one of the conical tools to make an indentation in the middle.

pumpkin lid and stem

You could skip this step, but it’s one of those details that sells them as Jack-O-Lanterns. I bet nobody noticed the little “lids” but if they hadn’t been there, the piece wouldn’t have seemed as detailed.

My first attempt at covering a black interior with orange went horribly wrong, so I’d mashed it together in a marbled ball. I then used bits of that marbled stuff to make tiny stems. I shaped a little stick, dampened the hole, and stuck it in.

mini Jack-O-Lantern

Completed little Jack-O-Lantern!

The procedure for a “lit” pumpkin is exactly the same as an “unlit” one, just using a yellow ball instead of a black one. You can vary faces as suits your whims.

three Jack-O-Lanterns

Slight differences in design add a lot of different character to each Jack-O-Lantern.

I let all of the pumpkins dry at least overnight (since it took me several late night post-baby-bedtime sessions to make them) so they were nice and firm. Somewhere along the line I also covered the mini board with a thin layer of green fondant and let it dry as well.

To stack them, I arranged them all in front of me and decided first which one was the weakest, because that could go in the middle. Yes, the mostly-hidden pumpkin in the middle was still one that took effort. Why? Because it let me hide the worst one, and because when competing you never know where a judge is going to peek. Your competition mindset should never include skipping details! Of course if you’re just doing this for someone who wouldn’t notice, go ahead and put a dried orange ball in the middle.

Anyway, I tried carefully stacking them in different ways, keeping the “lit” ones to one side since I knew I wanted it to look like the fairy was going through the pile and lighting them. By planning out the stack in advance, I knew what fit where and risked less damage in putting them together.

I moved them all back off (but in an order so I knew what would go back on where), then stuck the middle one in place with a tiny bit of wet fondant. I then did the bottom outer ring the same way.

To attach pumpkins to pumpkins, I first placed the upper one where I wanted it to sit on the lower ones and carefully made tiny marks against the upper one where all the touch-points were. Then I wet tiny bits of orange fondant, smoothed the edges of the bits onto the upper one on those marked points, and pinched it out to make a little soft fondant spike. Then I gently pushed the upper pumpkin into place and used a damp, small brush to smooth out the smushed adjoining bits of orange fondant. That way they were all firmly held in place but with a lot of open air in between. If you look closely at these photos you can see the joins:

stacked Jack-O-Lanterns

I put the sad one on the bottom because it’s holding up the weight of the others. Little details like that help tell a story.

stacked pumpkins

I took some decent photos at this point in case I didn’t get time to add the fairy. This would not have been as good an entry, but it at least could serve as a completed entry as is. Also, in this photo you can see one of the chunkier joins I didn’t smooth as well, at the top.

When it was time to add the fairy, I knew I needed her completely supported by the Jack-O-Lanters if I was going to do her with no internal supports. That meant putting her on the bottom but reaching up and over, so her arms could be on the pumpkins and not free-floating.

I drew a rough sketch to the correct size on a scrap grocery receipt:

sketch

As I mention in my Fondant Figure 101 tutorial and Dynamic Figures ebook, starting with a human figure really helps make sure you keep proportions correct. I held this up to the stacked pumpkins to make sure everything lined up where I wanted it to go, and then used it as a guide when making the body pieces.

To make the torso, I started with a bit of purple fondant in a teardrop shape:

purple teardrop

I sized this to my drawing and kept having to make it smaller. It’s really easy to accidentally go too big at this scale.

I then gently and slowly made a pinch-pot of the base of the teardrop, flaring out the edges to be a little dress.

dress

Working out the bottom edge. This is thin, but ultimately I went even thinner to give the dress some movement and the suggestion of a cloth edge.

Next I picked the side I wanted it to go on so that her arm would be able to reach up and be “lighting” the top lit pumpkin. I wet the front of the torso and gently, carefully pushed it into place, starting from slightly above and pushing down (including from inside the skirt) so that some of the purple fondant filled the face holes of the Jack-O-Lanterns, helping to anchor it in place.

torso mounted

The front of the dress is squished into the eye and nose of that Jack-O-Lantern, making it fit with a tight, strong bond. This was important because most of the fairy’s weight would rest on those points.

I pinched the top in at the sides and flattened the top to shape the upper dress. I used the side of a tool to make a little waist indentation around the middle. Then I used one of the PME tools to poke in little shoulder holes and came in from the bottom to poke leg holes underneath:

leg holes

It was hard to get a photo but you can sort of see the two little leg holes under there. Not that I generally recommend standing your piece on its side using your computer and a block of fondant to hold it in place, but it does also show how strong my structure was.

For both the arms and legs, I rolled a thin snake of white, then an even thinner snake of black, and wrapped the black around in bands like so:

making arm stripes

These didn’t come out perfectly even, but at this scale that’s nearly impossible to do because it all wants to stick to your fingers and melt.

Once the bands were on, I gave the whole thing another gentle roll to make it smooth. Then I cut it, decided which orientation looked best, wet the shoulder holes, rolled the arms to a point on one side and a flat end on the other, and poked the points into the shoulder holes. I also lightly wet the undersides to glue the arms to the pumpkins. Then I made super teeny tiny hands (see my 101 tutorial for hand making, and then see a licensed therapist for a huge quantity of relaxation medication before attempting these on this scale).

I had rolled a wand stick the night before, but it was so tiny (about the width of a Jimmy/sprinkle) that it kept breaking. So I took the longest portion that was left, put it ever so gently into the fist hand, made a tiny little flat star of yellow and stuck that to the pumpkin, then stuck the other end of the stick to the yellow star with a tiny yellow point to make it look like a 3D sparkle wand.

amrs on

The arms are fully supported. The wand looks unsupported and it is in the very middle thanks to the pre-dried stick, but it’s actually firmly anchored in the hand and in the sparkle bit. If we hadn’t been restricted to fondant only, I’d have painted a bit of disco dust onto the yellow part.

I made little shoes by making elongated black tear drops and folding the point back over as curly toes, mounted them on the base, and made little indentations at the ankle with one of the mini ball tools.

For the legs, I took my banded snake and bent it in half, anchored the bottoms in the shoes, then shoved the bent part up against those leg holes I’d made previously and used one of the tools to jam leg material up into the holes. That sounds so sweet and gentle because cake decorating is romantic and I write romance novels.

legs mounted

See, now it feels wrong to have taken this photo.

Also, as I blog this I realize I must’ve done the legs first since the arms aren’t on in that photo. Which goes to show just how tired I was while making this, and just how poor my memory is! It actually doesn’t matter which you do first because everything is resting on or hanging from that torso, so as long as the torso is on well, the rest is fine.

Anyway, next I made the head, which I’d usually mount with a toothpick but since the challenge here was to use no internal supports, I couldn’t do that. I made a ball, indented for the eyes, put in the smallest possible black balls (anything less got stuck in my fingerprints), pinched out a nose, and used that PME half-circle tool to indent a smile.

head

Sorry for the blurry photo but I was in a rush and this is really tiny, even for a macro lens.

I put some water on the neck of the torso and mounted the head. Then I went to bed, knowing that if I touched it again at that point, I’d wreck it.

The next day I marbled what remained of the black and white limbs into a marbled tiny pinch pot, hacked at the edge to make some hair locks, and gently put it into place with the tiniest amount of water. I didn’t fuss about the top because I knew there’d be a hat on there.

hair on

The trick with hair is to suggest locks, not to try to make individual hairs.

The hat was super simple: a teardrop pinched out at the bottom like the torso but going further and keeping it nice and round.

hat

Give the hat a bit of a bend and you’re good to go.

Somewhere along the line I also made tiny wings by lightly marbling some white with a bit of purple, then rolling it as thinly as possible and cutting out the shape I wanted. I picked little holes in a matching pattern on each with one of the sharper PME tools, and let them dry for a couple of days.

wings drying

If I’d been smart, I should have made extras as backups!

Once the hair was on, I mounted the wings with a bit of water on the back of the torso.

wings on

You can see in this closeup that one actually broke on the tip. I left it. Tampering would have made them fall off. Once they’d dried on they were reasonably strong, but before that this was the most tenuous part of the entire piece.

I put the hat on, weighed it one last time (I’d been weighing throughout to make sure I never even approached the 200g limit), and then set it aside to dry for the show.

weight

The air in between the Jack-O-Lanterns helps this piece come in well under the maximum weight. Not that they even weighed the pieces at the contest, but they might have!

So there you have it! Now go make something itty bitty and cute, then link your photos in the comments.

Posted in Cake Decorating, Figures, News, Praise from others, Prize Winners | Leave a comment

3D Candy Filled Baseball Cap Cookies


several mini burnt orange baseball hats

Delicious, adorable little baseball hats with a candy surprise inside. Your team/party/afternoon needs these!

backs of cookies

The hats from the back. Imagine this display coming out for your next sports-themed event!

Early in the summer I purchased the Nordic Ware Cookie Cups pan (note that this is different than their cake ball pans!) because I’ve been experimenting with 3D cookies and thought this pan might help.

It took a bit of getting used to – especially remembering to liberally spray oil on the plastic press part, including a fresh coat for every new pressing – but the pan works to make vaguely spherical cookies. I say “vaguely” because each half-sphere tends to have a bulge in one side and when two are put together, they’re a bit short to make a fully rounded sphere. I have made spherical cookies in the past using half-sphere pans with the cookie dough on the concave side (and only just noticed that I never finished the post about those, whoops, heh, sorry), but the dough there rises up in the middle so you don’t get a lot of interior room.

This Nordic Ware pan uses the convex side so your cookies have really nice hollow middles, but the tradeoff is the outer surface isn’t as smooth. Of course, if you’re going to cover the outside with some kind of icing anyway, it doesn’t matter if the cookie surface is a bit crackly. And if you stick to shapes that are okay to be slightly less than spherical, the pan works really well.

In linking above I see they are now showing a methodology where you put balls of dough and press down, but everything I made here used the methodology recommended on the label, which was to roll out a sheet of dough (I used my favourite dark chocolate rolled cookie dough), place a sheet over the pan, tuck the sheet down into the indentations between sphere bumps, press and cut with the plastic press, and then remove the excess. I brought the pan with me here to the UK for more playing around, so I’ll try the dough ball method soon.

When Capital Confectioners was having a summer-themed bake sale, I made these baseball hats in the team colours of the University of Texas in hopes of raising money for the club. You can make any team colours that suit your needs, and if you’re feeling very fancy you could even make or edible-image-print some team logos!

Here’s how they were made:

** Base Cookie **

First I baked a bunch of half-spheres with the Nordic Ware pan and let them cool fully. Then I baked a batch of simple round cookies, using a round cutter sized to the actual half-sphere bottom edges so it’d match as closely as possible. I have a set of Ateco round cutters so I have a lot of choice in size; if you don’t, pick the closest round cutter you have that is slightly larger. You can always trim if necessary, but if you go too small, your bases won’t fit your cups.

Once both the cups and rounds were baked and cooled, I melted a bit of semi-sweet chocolate and put it in a small piping bag (a Ziplock bag with one corner cut off will do just fine). I placed some M&Ms (these happen to be the dark chocolate kind but any small candy will do) in the cups and then piped some melted chocolate around the edge.

three stages of filling cookies

You can see that the cups do not all come out evenly round on the edges, so attaching can be difficult where edges are thinner. Always place the candy in first and then pipe the chocolate second, or else the candy will land on the chocolate as you put it in and then you totally have to eat any that stick and get in your way. I mean that’s probably a law or something. And if you do that too often you won’t have any left to fill your cookies. Yes.

I then put the round cookie bases on the candy-filled cups like a lid and balanced them so the chocolate would harden in this upside-down position. That helped prevent candy and chocolate from spilling everywhere because, as mentioned in the caption above, you’d have to eat it all to hide the evidence of your mess.

Once the pieces are firmly together, you can turn them back over. They should look like this:

chocolate cookies on a board

Shhh, they’re all choco-secrets!

** End Base Cookie **

The instructions above can be used for any kind of design, and in fact I’ve already made more for various holidays and other themes that I’ll post soon (Update: here are some made to look like Jack-O-Lanterns).

For the hats, make a brim by rolling out some white fondant (or your colour choice) fairly thin and cut an oval. Again, I have Ateco’s graduated oval cutters but if you don’t, you can use a circle cutter or do it by hand.

Cut the oval in half and gently pinch out the straight edge as shown below:

white fondant cut and pressed out

Flaring the edge will help you squish it onto the ball, making it stay on better. Plus it prevents the next layer from having a discernable lump from an edge underneath.

Arrange your cookie so the higher side (if there is one) is towards the back. Brush the cookie with a bit of corn syrup thinned with water (about a 50-50 ratio is fine). Using a cotton ball, wadded up foil, or some other support, bend the brim onto the cookie, pushing the pinched-out edge firmly against the cookie so it sticks while the front edge is supported, as shown in the photo below:

hat cookies with brims on

Since you’re cutting two brims at a time, brush two cookies and then apply the brims. There’s not much point in brushing the corn syrup on a bunch of cookies in advance, as it seeps in and/or evaporates after a few minutes. Note that the brims don’t have to be perfect or all match; many baseball hat wearers bend their brims to suit their own preferences.

Roll out some fondant very thinly in the colour needed for the main part of the hat. In this case, I made some burnt orange by adding a bit of Americolor Warm Brown gel to some Satin Ice orange fondant. Cut a circle using a cutter a little bit bigger than the one you used for the round cookie bases; remember that you’re working in three dimensions so you need more fondant to cover the cup cookie and the base all the way down to the bottom. Better to go a bit big and trim off than have to stretch it and risk tearing.

Use your circle cutter to cut out an indentation as shown below:

burnt orange fondant cut in a circle with an indentation cut out

The indentation will accommodate the brim.

Brush the cookie and the part of the brim attached to the cookie with your corn syrup mixture. Lay the fondant over the cookie so it is centered and the indentation is centered over the back edge of the brim. Put it on gently at first so you can adjust it as necessary, and then smooth it on with your hands from the center top down to the bottom edges. Because this is fabric, you don’t have to worry about it being perfectly smooth! You just want to make sure it’s firmly on the cookie with no air bubbles so it doesn’t crack later.

Trim any excess at the bottom with a sharp knife, cutting inwards against the base so it tucks the “fabric” underneath instead of leaving any exposed cookie showing.

Make seam lines with a stitch wheel (also known as a pounce wheel), or if you don’t have one, the end of a tooth pick dotted along. Make the first seam line going up from the center of the brim, over the top, and down to the back edge. Then make another one alongside it. Next, start at the center top and make a stitch lined down to the bottom edge at about a 60 degree angle (roughly a third of one side). Then start alongside that one at the bottom edge and go up in parallel over the center top and down a matching angle to the other side. Then make the second part to that first 60 degree angle line. Then make the next lines at 60 degrees from the other side of that center line. See the photo below for reference.

Use a small round tool (I used the tips of a plastic piping bottle, but a #3 or similar size regular piping tip would do, or a clean condiment squeeze bottle top) to make a little round indentation between each stitched angle as shown below.

Make a tiny dot of fondant and use a bit of water to affix it to the top cross point on the cap, as shown in the photo. This may match or be a different colour depending on your cap’s style. Do a Google Image Search for your team’s hats to check.

For these hats, I used a Wilton alphabet T cutter to make little Ts in thinly rolled white fondant and affixed them on the middle with a bit of water. You can put any design on that suits your needs.

finishing the fondant cap

If you don’t have a stitch wheel, I recommend getting one. Mine is metal from an art supply store, purchased decades ago. These days inexpensive plastic ones are readily available from any cake decorating supply shop. It’s a handy way to add a fabric look to stuffed animals, clothing, and more, and so much faster and easier than poking with a toothpick.

As a final touch, roll a thin snake of your main colour of fondant, flatten it slightly, and affix it to the back with a bit of water. Run the stitch wheel along it as shown in the photo below:

back of cookie with band

A little band adds that extra touch of realism. I guarantee you, nobody will notice that little pleat of excess fondant on the right side, because it just looks like fabric and also it’s a candy-filled 3D adorable hat cookie.

Then sit back and await the joy that comes from the recipient breaking or biting the cookie open to find a candy surprise inside!

cookie cut open

It’s a cookie. It’s a hat. It has M&Ms inside. It’s chocolate containing chocolate. It is made of happiness.

Watch out for more styles coming soon! Hint: Halloween is coming up and I know how to make things bleed chocolate. Muahahahaha. Sign up for automatic updates from this blog using the Subscribe function in the upper right of each page to make sure you don’t miss anything!

Posted in Cake Decorating, Cookies, Experimental Techniques, General Freakishness, Products | Leave a comment

Earl Grey Chocolate Torte Because England!


Sorry for the lack of posts lately but I have a good excuse: I’m in the UK for a year! We packed up our Austin house into storage – including most of my baking tools and supplies – and have rented a house in Cambridge. It’s a small mid-1800s row house with a wonky oven and a monkey toilet that has inspired a whole separate blog I’m about to start (which will not necessarily be family-friendly and is likely to contain copious quantities of swearing, so parents are advised to restrict their children’s access).

But since it’s kind of unfair to announce I have a monkey toilet and then tell the children they shouldn’t go look, here at least is the banner image I’m using for that other blog:

monkeyloo

It’s a toilet. The landlord put a monkey toilet seat on it. When you sit on it to go, you’re going into the cut-out portion of a monkey’s face, which Peo particularly enjoys. I expect Jane Goodall to come by to thrash us for this any day now. Oh, and it’s extra-disturbing if my husband leaves the seat up and I walk past the open door at night and see the framed face of a monkey peering at me out of the dark.  Which my husband says is a peek-a-loo.  Now I’m laughing and terrified at the same time, which only increases my need to go to the loo, but there’s a monkey in there…

As for the wonky oven, it has no handles (the landlord says the previous tenant broke the handle off), so you have to wedge your fingertips into the sides and pull it open. Oh and the handle is what holds the oven door glass in place, so that’s threatening to slip out when you open it. Oh, and the grill (broiler) doesn’t work. Oh, and it’s fan-forced/convection but remarkably uneven, which is disturbing given that one of the benefits of that is supposed to be more even cooking.

And because I didn’t realize it was fan-forced when I tried to whip up a fast batch of my favourite go-to potluck recipe – Brown Eyed Baker’s Snickerdoodle Blondies – the outside burned while the inside was still raw, so I threw it out and went up to bed for a good 2-hour-long cry. Because by that point, we’d been without internet for nearly two weeks (even on my phone), the power had gone out to half the house (including the monkey loo, where it still isn’t back on), and nothing was going right. The inability to bake what an easy, fast recipe was the final straw.

Luckily since then I’ve gotten a bit more used to how to use the fan-forced oven, though it is still unreliable and dangerous because of the lack of handle. I googled around for chocolate recipes one night and ended up finding this BBC recipe for a chocolate torte with Earl Grey tea in it. I don’t drink tea or coffee and had been sleeping poorly, so I was kind of hoping for a choco-caffeine boost. Corran and I agreed we didn’t want the ground almonds and upon further googling I found that gluten-free folks use a one-to-one substitution of ground almonds for flour, so I substituted it back since nobody in this house has a gluten issue. I also dropped the temperature way, way lower to compensate for the fan-forced oven (you’re supposed to drop by 20 degrees C but I’ve found with this oven it works better going 30 C lower).

It turned out quite nicely with a pleasant head-smell of the Earl Grey without actually tasting of the Earl Grey. There’s no bitter tea taste, and it’s a moist, chocolatey torte. If there’s a caffeine boost, however, we’re not noticing it, and neither did friends when I served this to them.

torte

A moist, chocolate cake with a light, pleasant Earl Grey aroma. Perfect for tea time with friends.

Another thing I quickly learned in the UK: butter comes in blocks, not sticks, so it’s weighed here. There are also different types of sugar and other ingredients. Any recipes I post from here will have as many conversions as I can reasonably list as I myself learn to work with a completely different system.

Earl Grey Chocolate Torte
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A moist, chocolate cake with a pleasant scent of Earl Grey tea.
Author:
Cuisine: dessert
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 2 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 100ml (just under half a cup) milk
  • 250g/8.8 oz dark chocolate (I used very nice 72% swiss bars from Tesco, if I was in the US I'd use 70% Ghiradelli bars)
  • 200g/14 tbsp/1 stick plus 2 tbsp butter, diced
  • pinch of salt
  • 140g/1 cup flour
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 200g/7 oz caster sugar (aka superfine sugar, which in the US is granulated sugar you put through a food processor, but you should be fine with regular US granulated unless the crystals are huge)
  • a few tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and powdered sugar/icing sugar to dust, optional
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/180C/160C fan/gas 4. Spray a 23 cm/9 inch springform pan with flour spray if you have it, and if you don't, coat with butter/oil and dust with flour. Set aside.
  2. Put the milk in a microwave-safe container and heat on high until it is steaming but not boiling.
  3. Cut open the Earl Grey tea bags and pour the leaves into the milk. Set aside.
  4. In a nonstick pot on low temperature, melt the butter. Mix in a pinch of salt.
  5. Chop/break up your chocolate into small pieces and add to the melted butter. Stir thoroughly with a silicone spatula until the chunks of chocolate are almost gone. Turn off the heat, then continue to stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
  6. Add flour to chocolate mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the egg yolks and tea-milk mixture, mix thoroughly again.
  7. In a grease-free bowl using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or electric whisk, beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Add the caster sugar and beat again until incorporated and the eggs are stiff once more.
  8. Fold the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to deflate the egg whites.
  9. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. It should still wobble slightly on the top when done; do not overbake! Allow to cool completely for at least a couple of hours in the pan.
  10. Remove the torte from the pan and place on a serving dish, then dust first with some cocoa powder and then with powdered sugar, if desired.

 

Posted in General Cooking Tips, General Freakishness, Links, My Recipes, Other People's Recipes | 1 Comment

Pancakes Made Portable


Several years ago I blogged about my Healthy Oat Pancakes, and those are still a staple breakfast for me.

But I’m about to be travelling abroad for an extended period of time (more about that in another post soon) where I will have a kitchen but not my kitchen with my tools. That matters for anyone used to cooking. Further, I’ll be taking my older daughter around to museums and other places – dragging the one year old around with us – so I’ll have to be up and ready to go many an early morning, all without a car for the most part. Since I’m certifiably allergic to mornings (that is totally a thing, I swear) and since I have a medication I have to take when I get up and then can’t eat for an hour, I’m going to want to grab breakfast while on the train.

Portable food tends to be very high carb, which is bad for me as a diabetic. Protein just doesn’t travel well. I need something that is filling, has minimal refined carbs, won’t spike my blood sugar, and is easy to eat on the go. Oh, and something I’m willing to eat, since I’m generally not keen on food in the morning at all and a fussy eater in general.

I thought, “If only I could take my favourite pancakes without that being gross or weird.” And then it occurred to me that pancakes and muffins are pretty much the same thing other than cooking method (or sometimes a slight adjustment in liquid amounts). So I just tried whipping up my pancakes as muffins, and it worked! Upcoming breakfast issue solved!

muffins

The sprinkled oats on top cancel out the chocolate chips inside. That’s just basic science. Yes.

The best part in terms of blogging is that – just like the original pancakes – you can easily tailor these to your preferences. Check out the chart on the original post for ways to change these to suit your needs.

Healthy Oat Muffins – Base Recipe

Dry Ingredients (can be mixed ahead of time and stored at room temperature)

2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup quick oats
1/4 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp Splenda for baking
(See Optional Mix-Ins below)

Wet Ingredients (add just before cooking)

2 tbsp melted butter
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Method

Preheat oven to 375F and prepare a standard muffin pan with baking flour spray or paper liners.

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl, including any of the Optional Mix-Ins.

In a separate bowl, microwave the butter just enough to melt it. Add the milk to the butter, then microwave again until the butter re-melts (do not overheat!). Add the eggs and beat the liquid mixture together.

Pour the liquid mixture into the dry and mix with a fork until blended, but do not overmix.

Distribute the batter equally amongst the 12 muffin cups. If desired, sprinkle extra oats on top.

Bake for 15-17 minutes or until you can see the edges turning brown in the cups. Cool for a minute or two in the pan, then remove and cool fully on a wire rack (if you can resist eating them all right away, that is).

Optional Mix-Ins (add to dry before adding liquid)

1 tbsp whey protein
1 tbsp ground flax
1/3-1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/3-2/3 chopped nuts/seeds of your choice
1/2 cup of blueberries or more
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice

I made mine tonight using a scant handful of mini chocolate chips, a bunch of mini frozen blueberries, and the last of a bag of chopped walnuts (otherwise I would have added more). I don’t even measure those items beyond the “yeah, that looks good” stage.

muffin cut

Moist and tasty without being overly sweet. Perfect for breakfast on the go.

These are super easy, very customizable to your needs, and will make my life a lot easier during our travels! I plan to make big batches ahead of time and store them in the freezer. Then I can just thaw them in the microwave and toss them in a tub in my bag or in the stroller (plus extra for the kiddos who will undoubtedly see me eating and want in on the deal) and eat breakfast on the train from Cambridge to London. Whoops, I just gave it all away, didn’t I? Heh…

Posted in Breakfast, Food Issues, My Recipes, Other Food | Leave a comment

Review of DecoGel With My Flexible, Edible Stained Glass Methodology


When Icing Images gave out small free samples of their new DecoGel product at the Frosting Creators of San Antonio’s Day of Sharing in May, I lost count of how many people came up to me to ask if I knew anything about it. That’s because I’m well known in cake decorating circles for having pioneered the use of gummy as a cake decorating medium, particularly using homemade gummy candy in basic translucent, opaque, or clear varieties.

I first put homemade gummy candy on a cake for the 2010 Austin cake show (the beads around the bottoms of the tiers of my First Place Showcake “Space by Spacewest” entry) and then stumped the judges at the 2011 Austin show when I used panels of it to create a water tank and coatings of it on fondant to simulate an explosion on my Wolverine Fangirl Ultra-Cake. I’ve since received the first ever Innovator’s award at the Austin cake show for my gummy techniques as well as a special Gelatin award at the most recent show (which I still haven’t blogged about yet, sorry…I blame everything on the fact that I have a baby!). Plus my Flexible, Edible Stained Glass ebook has been featured on CakeFu, mentioned in one of Mike McCarey’s Craftsy classes, and sold around the world.

In other words, for some time now when cake decorators want to know about gummy techniques, I’ve been the go-to person to ask. I’ve even been given the nickname “The Gummy Queen”. So it wasn’t surprising that a new gummy-like product would have people asking me if it works with my techniques.

I contacted Icing Images and they were kind enough to send me some larger samples to test with my stained glass methodology. I had to vary the technique a bit from the ebook because one of the main properties of DecoGel is that it doesn’t dry out, so you can’t make the leathery sheets that I typically recommend for the stained glass technique. But as mentioned in the ebook, you can make fused stained glass pieces with fresh gummy sheets if you’re careful and alter a few steps, so I pretended the DecoGel was fresh gummy for the purposes of testing.

The first thing I noticed about DecoGel before my free samples even arrived is that it is much more expensive than homemade gummy. An 8oz tub of DecoGel (about 1 cup or 236ml) costs $16.99 plus shipping from the US store. You can make about the same volume of homemade basic gummy for the cost of one box of gelatin dessert mix (ie Jell-O or store brand) and four envelopes of unflavoured gelatin, all for about $2 or less depending on brands or local grocery store prices. The other two recipes I provide are similarly inexpensive, using a can of sweetened condensed milk for the opaque recipe and some corn syrup for the clear recipe.

But where DecoGel beats homemade gummy is convenience and shelf stability. The samples I received have an expiry date of February 2016 – that’s almost two years away, even kept at room temperature – and it is expected to stay soft and usable for that entire time. Homemade gummy will get moldy after three or four days at room temperature unless it is dried, but then it is more leathery and over about six months will become brittle.

Homemade gummy needs to be mixed, cooked, and then warmed and cooled repeatedly to get all of the bubbles to rise to the surface. At that point you can either remove the foam or work around it. DecoGel takes care of all of that work for you; a busy decorator could have a stock of every colour, grab what they need quickly, and start working on their actual piece instead of spending time cooking the stuff to begin with.

Some DecoGel tubs have a bit of foam at the top but it dissipates when you heat it up.

Icing Images offered me two colours to test, so I requested the Green and Clear so I could make a floral stained glass piece, using the Green for leaves and the Clear to test as a base for mixing other colours. I whipped up a simple pattern that any reader is welcome to use as well:

floral stained glass pattern

Download this graphic and use your preferred graphics program to resize it to the diameter needed, then print and follow the directions in the Flexible, Edible Stained Glass ebook.

Normally you can microwave DecoGel in the containers it comes in, but my samples were marked as having been compromised in shipping (the tubs had cracks) so they weren’t for consumption or direct microwaving. So I pulled the DecoGel out of the container (it came out really easily) and microwaved it in a bowl for 20 seconds at a time on 60% power until it was mostly liquified. Then I gently mixed it until the remaining lumps melted.

The first thing I noticed was that it was very thin and runny compared to my basic homemade gummy. Then I noticed that it has a slightly unpleasant smell, which plain gelatin has as well. However, the gelatin smell in homemade gummy is completely overridden by the gelatin dessert flavour scent. My husband and I tried a bit of the edible DecoGel sample I got from the Day of Sharing, and agreed that the flavour was “meh”. Not horrible, but nothing we’d seek to eat. Homemade basic gummy is, by contrast, quite tasty.

Because I was unsure how the DecoGel would spread, I placed the pattern (which I resized to 6 inches) under a clear texture mat and simply poured it from the bowl wide enough to cover the parts of the pattern that required that colour, plus a bit extra. I generally recommend using a baster to apply homemade gummy to texture mats and molds because this allows you to get under any floating foam on top and suck up the ultra-clear stuff on the bottom of the pot. It turns out that using the baster also reduces bubbles forming on the texture mat, plus you can readily suck up any bubbles that do appear. So whether you’re using homemade stuff or DecoGel, I recommend using the baster method if you want to get bubble-free sheets.

poured DecoGel

Green DecoGel poured over a lined texture mat over the pattern. Note that the Green colour comes with sparkles in it.

Remember that any warm gelatin medium can be heated beyond what a plastic texture mat or chocolate mold can take. To avoid damage to your mats and molds, be sure to cool homemady gummy or DecoGel enough that it’s mildly warm to touch but not hot!

Next I warmed up the Clear DecoGel and put a portion in a separate bowl, and then added a single drop of Americolor Electric Yellow Gel.

gel colour added to DecoGel

Clear DecoGel is not perfectly colour-free for the same reason my Clear Gummy recipe isn’t: gelatin has a natural yellow tone that simply can’t be avoided once either product is more than a few milimeters thick. In this photo you can see the single drop of Americolour Gel I added to the Clear DecoGel, which has not yet been mixed in at all.

As I began to mix the colour, I was extremely impressed with how easily and quickly it blended into the DecoGel, much more easily and uniformly than with my homemade basic recipe, where gel colours sometimes break up into lots of little globs that need to be vigorously mixed to fully blend them in. Of course sometimes when I mix colour into my basic recipe, I’m deliberately trying to create marbled colours (such as the wood grain, water, and plant effects on my Lady of Shalott piece). So if your goal is to mix your own uniform colour, DecoGel makes this easy. If you want to marble with DecoGel, you’ll have to handle it very, very gently.

tinted DecoGel

The single drop of Americolor Gel blended fully into the DecoGel with hardly any mixing at all. This is particularly valuable for minimizing adding bubbles to the product.

The next stage in my typical Flexible, Edible Stained Glass technique usually involves cutting out the pattern pieces, placing them on the dried sheets of gummy, tracing around them with edible ink marker, and then cutting out the pieces with a sharp x-acto blade (see the ebook for details). I know from experience that edible ink bleeds into fresh gummy but does not do so on dried sheets, and I wasn’t sure if it’d bleed on DecoGel or not. I also wasn’t sure if the paper pieces would stick to the DecoGel and/or mar the surface, the way they probably would with fresh gummy. So instead I placed the pattern under a clear cutting board and cut the solidified DecoGel sheets I’d poured on the various texture mats right over the pattern.

yellow petals of DecoGel

Cutting petals from the yellow-tinted Clear DecoGel sheet. Note that the cuts are being made on a clear cutting board, NOT on a texture sheet! This piece was cast on a speckle texture sheet but then moved to this cutting board. Never cut on a texture sheet or you’ll ruin it.

Note that this methodology coupled with the floppier nature of either a fresh gummy sheet or DecoGel can make precice cuts more difficult than with dried sheets. On the flip side, it’s a lot easier on the wrist to let a sharp x-acto blade glide easily through fresh gummy or DecoGel compared to pulling it through a dried gummy sheet. So the net result is faster, easier pieces but with less precision. That’s no big deal for a simple pattern such as this one, but intricate geometric patterns may take an extra degree of caution.

Also note that if you’re cutting directly over the pattern, you still have to leave space for the “leading” portion of the stained glass, as covered in the ebook.

Once I had all the pieces cut, trimmed as necessary, and arranged on another fairly smooth work surface, I tinted some of the Green DecoGel black with some Americolor Super Black gel, and then followed the standard technique laid out in the Flexible, Edible Stained Glass ebook for applying the “lead” portion, including mounting a #4 tip to my baster (which is shown in step-by-step photos in the ebook). The DecoGel stays fluid longer than my homemade gummy, which made it trickier to control during this phase but also meant I didn’t have to keep the tipped baster in a glass of hot water because the DecoGel didn’t solidify and clog the tip at all through the entire assembly. That’s a great feature!

leading applied to DecoGel stained glass piece

The runnier DecoGel needs to be managed more by allowing spillover to flow out to the sides where it can be harmlessly trimmed away later. You must ensure the “glass” pieces are all completely flush with the work surface or the black will flow underneath.

It is then very easy to use an x-acto blade to trim the outer border and voila, a DecoGel version of Flexible, Edible Stained Glass!

Finished DecoGel stained glass piece.

Finished DecoGel stained glass piece.

Unfortunately, there is a significant downside to using DecoGel for this technique: unlike with my homemade version, the DecoGel does not fuse to itself. Simply moving this small piece carefully from the work surface to the white surface for photography produced a tear between sections:

tear in stained glass

In the previous photo I was able to arrange this tear so it was hidden, but every time I moved the piece the tear spread easily.

I poked gently at some other pieces and they started coming out easily as well.

more pieces out

These came out of the “leading” as easily as if it was a mold. Which might in and of itself lead to interesting possibilities, but wasn’t the desired result for this technique.

I set the piece aside for 48 hours and then tried again to see if maybe it just needed some time to fuse. After all, I know that if you accidentally drip some fresh homemade gummy on a dried sheet, the solution is to immediately pop the whole thing in the fridge until it sets up, then carefully remove the fresh bit from the dried bit. It will peel off, although it usually mars the surface a little bit. But if you leave that drip on the sheet overnight, it takes cutting to get it off.

However, even 48 hours later the DecoGel had not fused together and easily came apart. I was able to pop all of the “glass” pieces out of the “lead”, leaving a net behind:

empty net

This too could lead to interesting alternative techniques such as spider webs, but isn’t what I was hoping for here.

This doesn’t mean you can’t do the technique with DecoGel. You absolutely can. You simply need to keep this fragility in mind when planning your design. A design comprised of a few medium-sized pieces that is then placed carefully on the top of a cake should work fine. Mounting on the side of a cake may present more difficulties; I would recommend only applying it to firm fondant with a thorough coat of piping gel, ensuring that the stained glass is supported along the bottom so it doesn’t slide down and tear from its own weight.

But I would not recommend DecoGel for multi-layer stained glass pieces with joining parts such as my Elemental Gummy cake. That piece involved fusing multiple layers together and lifting them around the cake. A DecoGel version would have fallen apart. Large pieces without support may also tear themselves apart.

Another caveat: using dried sheets of homemade gummy prevents colour bleeding, as mentioned above. This allows for drawing with edible ink markers (as with the Lady of Shallot’s face), painting with gels (as with the motifs on the Lady’s blanket), or even airbrushing. Although I didn’t test edible ink markers specifically with DecoGel, I noticed that the black from the “leading” had started to bleed into the “glass” pieces after the 48 hour test:

black leakage

Black Americolor gel from the “leading” portion bled into the adjacent DecoGel within 48 hours.

This means that since DecoGel can’t be dried – which is good for some applications and general longevity of the product – it probably isn’t well suited for markers, painting, and airbrushing. I’ve seen some lovely work with DecoGel applied over Icing Images so I know it works well for that without bleeding, but I would not risk a stained glass piece where painting is required unless it’s going to be delivered and served in less than 24 hours.

Thus you can use DecoGel to make stained glass as long as you keep the above points in mind. Here’s a chart summarizing the various benefits compared to my three homemade gummy recipes:

  DecoGel Basic Gummy Opaque Gummy Clear Gummy
Molding x x x x
Texture Mats x x x x
Easily Re-Melts x x x x
Low Cost   x x x
Shelf Stable x      
Pleasant Scent   x x  
Pleasant Flavour   x x  
Fast Preparation x   x  
Microwaves Well x      
Can Be Dried for Stability/Fusing/Painting   x x x
Easy/Uniform Mixing of Added Colour x   x  
Easy Marbling of Added Colour   x x x
Fuses Well To Itself   x x x
Holds Heat/Stays Liquid Longer x      

Generally speaking, if you’re a busy professional decorator who sells a lot of cakes and you want a flexible medium on hand and ready to dispense in minutes, get yourself some DecoGel. If you’re a home baker who primarily makes cakes for your kids, bake sales, or other casual needs, stick with homemade gummy.

Posted in Gummy, My Recipes, Praise from others, Products | Leave a comment

Yogurt Taste Off


I was invited via Klout to participate in a Yoplait yogurt promotion, but it wasn’t entirely clear at the sign-up point what would be involved. A few weeks later they sent a cardboard box designed to do a blind taste test between their new Greek yogurt and a competitor. The package also included a $4 gift card toward the purchase of the two yogurts.

When it arrived I was swamped with previous commitments so it took me awhile to get to it. Further, my local grocery store didn’t carry the specified competing product (Chobani Greek bluebrry yogurt) except in gigantic multipacks that far exceeded the $4, and given our family’s recent conversion to Noosa yogurt, I was fairly certain if I bought the megapack of Chobani it wouldn’t get eaten.

So instead I opted to taste test the Yoplait Greek blueberry against Wallaby Greek blueberry yogurt since that was the closest style competitor my grocery store carried.

Today I set up the cardboard taste test box with the two samples inside, each taken out of their cups and presented in identical Bento cups. I then had my husband and eight year old daughter – both of whom really like blueberry yogurt – test each type.

The Wallaby Greek Blueberry Yogurt is on the left, the Yoplait Greek Blueberry Yogurt is on the right.

The Wallaby Greek Blueberry Yogurt is on the left, the Yoplait Greek Blueberry Yogurt is on the right.

My daughter decided both were good, but she preferred the Yoplait because it’s sweeter. My husband tasted the Yoplait first and made a face, then said, “That’s the Yoplait. It’s too sweet.” Then he tried the other one and said, “That’s the Wallaby. It tastes like Greek yogurt should taste.”

I then tried them both, but given the obvious difference in colouring and smell there was no way I could do the test blind. I tried the Yoplait first and found it painfully sweet with an unpleasant chalky after taste. Then I tried the Wallaby and found it much less sweet with a nice tartness but it also had an after taste I didn’t like. I’m not keen on blueberry yogurt anyway, and to be honest, I wouldn’t eat either of these.

So our family conclusion is my daughter likes both with a preference for Yoplait, my husband only likes the Wallaby, but both still prefer Noosa so we won’t be buying anything other than that anyway. And if I was going to eat yogurt it’d be Stonyfield strawberry because I only like strawberry and Noosa doesn’t have strawberry alone.

PS For the baby’s input on the entire thing, see this G+ post for what I’ve been doing with the outer cardboard packaging that the kit came in.

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Noosa Yoghurt Blogger Recipe Contest


Disclosure statement: this post and recipe were created in partnership with Noosa Yoghurt, for which I have received free samples of yogurt, a $50 Visa gift card to cover purchasing other recipe supplies, and they’ll be sending some kitchen tools for both me and for someone who votes for the recipe. The contest itself could yield further prizes. All of the content of this post is my honest opinion unfettered by these gifts.

For this contest, bloggers were challenged to create an original recipe using one or more flavours of Noosa Yoghurt. I actually developed two recipes, a Blueberry Cake with Lemon Frosting and some Hearty Gluten-Free Pumpkin Oat Yogurt Pancakes. Since the recipe contest only shows the cake and frosting, however, I’ll put off the pancakes for another post to come soon.

The voting for the contest is on Noosa’s Facebook page. I don’t use Facebook much myself so I’m probably at a significant disadvantage, but if you’re a Facebook user please vote here. If you enter your email address after you vote (Noosa is collecting the addresses, not Facebook), you could win a free month’s supply of Noosa Yoghurt! And as mentioned above, they said they’re sending a prize pack for me to send out to someone who votes, but I am still waiting for details on that and how to tell who voted.

cake and frosting

Blueberry Cake with Lemon Frosting

I wanted to make a blueberry cake that was moist, flavourful, light enough to not feel like a brick in the tummy, but dense enough to support the blueberries throughout as opposed to having them sink to the bottom. I decided to combine techniques form multiple cake styles to incorporate the dense, rich yogurt flavour but fluff it up by folding in beaten egg whites as opposed to mixing the eggs straight. Using cake flour instead of AP also lightens the overall result.

I also added extra blueberries beyond the yogurt. Ever since we finally got a Trader Joe’s here in Austin, my family has been enjoying their organic frozen wild blueberries. These tiny treasures are the best of the best when it comes to blueberries with nary a sour one in the bunch. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s store near you and/or fresh blueberries are in season, those will work as well, but try to get wild ones if you can because they’re smaller and therefore make for better flavour distribution through the cake.

cake without frosting

Blueberry Cake without frosting: very pretty and also very tasty!

Note that the frosting is optional. The cake itself is very nice, mildly sweet with a lot of blueberry flavour and the tanginess of the yogurt. The frosting adds a snappy lemon punch and more sweetness. I’m generally one to go for less frosting on a cake but I know those with a sweet tooth want more, so the recipe for the frosting makes lots but you don’t have to use it all. I used about half and my daughter loved it that way, but my husband and I would’ve been happy with a bit less. Go for what suits you and your audience best!

An important note regarding the Noosa Yoghurt – which my daughter has declared to be her new favourite, especially the Lemon – is that unlike most yogurts, it comes in an 8 oz container with a lid and a foil top instead of the standard 6 oz pottle with only a foil top. This makes it good for recipes because 8 oz is a full cup and many recipes call for a cup of yogurt. And for smaller amounts it’s neat and easy to put the lid back on and pop it in the fridge for someone to finish up as a snack later.

Blueberry Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A mildly sweet cake packed with blueberries. By separating the eggs and folding in the whites, the cake is lighter than most blueberry cakes but still dense enough to support the blueberries throughout.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 8oz tub of Noosa Blueberry Yoghurt
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • approximately 1 ½ tbsp lemon zest (from two large lemons)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp vegetable/canola oil
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1⅓ cup frozen organic wild blueberries, divided
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, yolks separated from whites
Method
  1. Bring all ingredients to room temperature. For perishable ingredients like the eggs, milk, and yogurt, be sure not to leave them out too long. For the frozen blueberries, put them out on paper towels to stay dry as they thaw.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9” springform pan (I like my glass-bottomed one with non-stick sides), or use a cooking spray containing flour.
  3. Wash lemons thoroughly before zesting to remove any wax, pesticides, or dirt. I recommend using a microplane grater for zesting to get the maximum amount in a very fine grain. Juice enough of the lemons to get ¼ cup of juice, reserving peels and remainders.
  4. Combine the milk and yogurt thoroughly in a large mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, oil, and egg yolks. Mix thoroughly.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1 cup of the blueberries and toss in the dry mixture to coat.
  6. Degrease your mixer's bowl and whisk attachment thoroughly. Use one of the reserved lemon peels to help this by wiping all surfaces with the inside of the peel, then wiping away any lemon residue with a clean paper towel.
  7. Set the egg whites to beat in the mixer at medium-high speed until soft peaks form.
  8. While the egg whites beat, combine the wet mixture and the dry mixture until even but do not overmix. The batter will be lumpy.
  9. When the egg whites have finished beating, turn the mixer down to low and gradually add the sugar in small amounts until combined.
  10. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the batter and pour it all into the springform pan. Sprinkle the remaining ⅓ cup of blueberries on the top.
  11. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove sides of the pan. If your pan base allows for direct serving as my glass-bottom one does, put it on another wider plate before frosting. If your pan base is non-stick or otherwise can be damaged by serving, carefully remove the cooled cake to another serving platter.
  12. Cool completely before frosting.

 

icing on a cake

Close up of the icing as it drips down the side of a freshly cut slice of cake.

 

Lemon Yogurt Frosting
 
Prep time
Total time
 
A rich and tangy soft frosting/glaze that goes well atop fruity cakes.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 1-2 cakes
Ingredients
  • 300 g/10.6 oz (about 3 cups) powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup (half stick) butter, softened
  • 4 oz Noosa Lemon Yoghurt (half tub)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • zest of one medium lemon
  • juice of one medium lemon
Method
  1. Put the butter in a mixer and beat until fluffy and no lumps remain.
  2. Add the powdered sugar gradually and mix until thoroughly combined with the butter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beater as needed.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar for an extra minute or two on medium speed to whip in some air and to ensure it's smooth without any unmixed lumps.
  4. Add yogurt, vanilla, zest, and lemon juice. Beat the entire mixture on medium speed for three minutes.
  5. Put a dollop of the frosting on the cake and spread out to the sides, but not down the sides. This icing will flow until it sets up. Once your cake is frosted, put it in the fridge. This frosting contains uncooked yogurt and should be considered a spoiling hazard if warm for more than four hours.

 

I hope you love the recipe as much as my family did, and please remember to vote for it!

Here’s the recipe card Noosa made for the contest, if you’d like a single graphic to print for both recipes together (click for a larger version):

recipe card

Click to embiggen. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.

Posted in Cake Decorating, Contests and Giveaways, My Recipes, Products | 4 Comments

Interview at Geek Native


I was recently interviewed about role playing games and baking at Geek Native. My answers feature tips and tricks for successful ventures in both fields. You can read it here: http://www.geeknative.com/44702/half-orc-barbarian-rages-mystery-cakes/ Please note that some of the discussions of RPGs include adult topics, so parents should preview before letting their kids click through.

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Posted in General Cooking Tips, Links, Praise from others | Leave a comment