Cake Pops: An Experiment

Up until last week, I’d only ever had one cake pop. I can remember it well. It was bought into our office by a supplier, attractively wrapped in cellophane, a milk chocolate pop, and just asking to be eaten.

I sunk my teeth through the crisp chocolate only to be absolutely horrified. A cake I didn’t like! After the initial excitement of the crunchy chocolate layer, I was met with a dense, thick, almost marzipan-like centre. Most definitely no like-y. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against marzipan (Christmas cake just wouldn’t be right without it), but a normal day-to-day cake, or even cake pop, should be light, tasty and fresh.

Disappointed, I warned my colleagues off trying any of the other pops, telling them to stick to our abundance of Easter chocolate instead.

My comeuppance on cake pops came last week, when I was making Rob’s birthday cake. Trimming the cake to shape had left me with quite a lot of off-cuts, and not wanting them to go to waste, I tentatively decided to try my hand at making these little cakes on sticks – if they are so bang on trend that even topshop is selling them – how could I not?! Personally, I’ve always been fine with cupcakes the way they are… cake on the bottom, icing on the top. Simple but VERY effective!

The cake pop process is relatively simple – rub your cake into fine crumbs, and mix with buttercream:

Once mixed, refrigerate, roll into balls, cover in chocolate, and tada! The one upside is that they’re incredibly simple – no icing nozzles, delicately covering in fondant etc.

I kept the decoration simple on these – a quick dip in some simple sugar sprinkles. Don’t they look funny close up!

And that was that. Looks-wise, I was quite impressed with my first try at cake pops:

Taste-wise, they weren’t bad either. Still not a cupcake though. At this point, if I’m honest, I’d rather still have the cupcake, and a piece of chocolate on the side.

BUT… the real revelation came a couple of days after. I’d left the pops in the fridge so they didn’t melt, and happened upon them while look for something to make for dinner. A sneaky bite into a very well chilled cake pop… yum! Sweet, crunchy chocolate, and a cool, creamy centre, with a great taste of delicate cake, all mingled into one yummy mouthful. I was a convert!

And the ultimate test? (Rob doesn’t count, he eats anything!) Even Chilli the cat wanted a bite =)

Guitar Superstar! Rock Hero Birthday Cake

Last week was Rob’s birthday – of course there was no way it could go by without a cake!

The choice was easy – he’d even asked weeks before – probably his biggest hobby (golf being a close second), is the band he plays bass guitar in.

I’d had a good scout round online for guitar-shaped tins, Wilton make a great one, but the cheapest I could get it for in the UK was about £15-£20 including postage, and I couldn’t justify it to use for just one cake. Scouting around I found quite a few guides on how to make one using ordinary cake pans, and decided the way forward was a bar made in a loaf tin, with the main body of the guitar from a round.

As there was going to be so much decoration on top, I decided to just do one thick layer of cake (rather than two thin ones filled with buttercream), so it wouldn’t slide around all over the place.

Cakes baked, I put them onto my board and started to shape away with my knife. A lot of my guidance came from this great Betty Crocker page. There’s even a template you can print out to cut the cake to the right shape, but handily I’d managed to leave this on my desk at work! Nevertheless, I was pretty impressed with my freehand carving 🙂

So that the different icings didn’t get mixed together, I left the neck on the board, and took the body onto my cake turntable to cover in buttercream and fondant. I was umming and aahing for a quite a while over what colour the guitar would be, when suddenly my eyes fell on his favourite colour – a brilliant bright orange!

Because the curve of the body was quite gentle, it was no more difficult than a normal round to cover in the orange fondant, and I used a pair of scissors to cut a smaller, matching shape out of white – keeping it rolled quite thick made it much easier to handle while still keeping its shape.

The neck was covered in a dark grey buttercream; I added a bit of royal icing sugar in with the standard kind, to give it the extra glossy finish, and smoothed out as best I could!

The cakes pushed together easily where I’d shaped them before, and I painted a little more of the dark grey buttercream onto the body to finish off the neck.

Then it was onto the details – the strings were red liquorice laces, which I’d painted before hand with some black food colouring. Next time I’ll spend a little longer shopping and get some black ones, but they still looked pretty good for what I could get from my local supermarket!

With Betty Crocker’s page and Rob’s acoustic for reference (he was out at a gig with his electric), I started on the details: black writing for the frets; small circles of fondant for the tops and sides of the tuning pegs…

….more black writing icing painted into a rectangle for the pickup, marbled grey fondant for the bridge, and finally some more small round pieces of fondant to fix the strings onto the bridge:

And that was it – overall actually quite simple! It looked great, I was really happy with the result…

…and so was the birthday boy! I love how happy he looks 🙂

King of the Castle Chocolate Cake

Another week, another birthday. I don’t know what it is about July (9 months before April)… but babies and birthdays seem to be all over the place at the moment!

This one was for my lovely friend Matt, and to tie in with a joint party themed “When I grow up”. I had been racking my brains for a while when inspiration suddenly sprung up in the middle of the supermarket, and this wonderful silicon castle mould somehow fell into my shopping trolley 🙂

Baking the cake was more of a challenge – there was an awful lot of mould to fill with cake mix! A quick google on how best to use it bought me to this rather lovely blog, and some very hand tips on what kind of cake to use (muffin, good call!), greasing etc.

In the end I probably ended up using about 2 1/2 times a normal cake mix. It was very loosely based on this recipe, which I really have to advise should be taken with a pinch of salt. There is definitely not enough sugar in it, and too much bicarb / baking soda. I had to really call on my baking skills to get the lovely chocolate-y taste back from it being too acidic from these two!

Still, mix made, it went in the oven for the arduous task of cooking. I gave it about 40 minutes, then checked again every 10 minutes by inserting a skewer. Honestly I couldn’t say how long it ended up taking – definitely over an hour altogether.

Next step was a little tricky – getting it out the mould! I wish I had taken some of the advice I’d seen online and invested in some Wilton Cake Release. There was a lot of prodding with knives, shaking the mould, tugging, poking, easing… and finally it came out!

Overall pretty impressive – although sadly one of the back turrets stayed firmly in the mould. Not to be too disappointed though, this gave me a chance to taste the immense muffin mixture!

I was incredibly impressed with the detail that came out of the mould; having seen some other photos online I’d consider using it again and not covering the whole cake, just highlighting details with writing icing etc.

The more observant among you will notice these details don’t show up on the finished cake – it was a bit of a buttercream free-for-all!

The buttercream was a simple milk/icing sugar combination, with a splash of milk, good shake of cocoa powder, and some drops of black food colouring.
Covering the whole cake was no mean feat, so I started off on the principle of just getting everything covered, with detail and neatness to come later!

The missing turret I replaced with a big blob of fondant icing – I pressed it into the silicon mould to get the right shape, then “glued” it in place with plenty of buttercream, making a mental note to be a bit more delicate when decorating this side.

It took about an hour to buttercream the whole cake… and thankfully Rob was out, because the whole kitchen was a bit of a chocolate-y mess! I let it set for about an hour, before using a serrated-edge cake tool to mark lines around the cake to form bricks.

With the bricks done, there were just a few finishing touches to add: a castle door, made out of brown fondant, with lines for a wooden plank effect; a date stamp, for the year of Matt’s “construction” (!)…


…and finally – because it was really a big kids party – some lego characters battling it out for control of the castle.

The birthday boy was of course delighted – as was I when I finally got to taste a piece of chocolate-y castle 🙂 What do you think…?


All Aboard the Birthday Train!

Oh technology, you continue to amaze me!
This is my first blog direct from my iPhone; no more hours uploading and sifting through photos, trying to find time to sit at the computer, type and edit…

Last week was my dads birthday, and the obvious choice was a train cake. He’s loved trains for as long as I can remember, I went on many a train ride as a child, and my parents house is full of model trains!

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The cake itself was a simple loaf-tin sponge. Because there was to be so much decoration, I didn’t want to worry about the layers sliding everywhere. This came straight out of the oven, and was sliced 2/3 to 1/3, to make the engine and coal tender.

The engine cab was made out of a small 4 inch diameter sponge, cut in two and sandwiched together. I covered this separately with fondant to make the train itself super-simple, just one big square to ice, instead of lots of fiddly bits!

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Then came the decoration. Again this was an easy choice, another of my dads favourite things, liquorice.

I bought some liquorice catherine wheels, but they were far too big for the size of the cake! They were very easy to unravel, and I re-rolled them into smaller circles, secured with a bit of water (to make the ends stick together) and some black icing.

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The coal tender I had fun with! Firstly i painted a black square on the top, with some thick black icing (basically just food colouring + icing sugar, maybe a couple of drops of water). Then I picked out all the black tubes from my pack of liquorice allsorts, and placed them randomly, stacking them up on top of the tender, gluing in place with some more black icing. A sprinkle of black glitter and my “coals” were good to go!

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A couple of square liquorice allsorts, one wrapped in fondant, formed my funnel, and some spare catherine wheel strings went in between the 2 pieces of cake, to look like the coupling between the engine and tender.

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For some finishing touches, I took up my paint brush and some food colouring. This included the wheel details, cab windows, and main engine detail. Given that it was his birthday I wanted to make it personal – with “dad” on the side, and his date of birth (which you can just see) on the very front number plate.
He was really pleased with the cake – as was I!

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