Monday, September 29, 2008

Blue's Clues a Big Hit

Of course, every year I have to run through weeks of "What do you want for your birthday?" with the kids. But I'm not asking about what present they want. I'm asking what CAKE they want.

This year, my daughter, soon to be 5 years old started out with Jack Skellington. Then it changed to Batman (with a boomerang). Then it changed to Hello Kitty. Then Happy Feet (I was actually looking forward to making penguin cupcakes) and then, finally, she settled on Blue's Clues.

The problem with making cartoon characters for the kids is that I HAVE to get them to look just like the character. Not that the kids care. I think as long as it's close...or even has the same coloring and is made with tons of sugar, they are happy. But me, I have to make the character look so close to the real thing, the cake should be licensed. Otherwise I, it could be better. Why do I have to make it so hard...

If you've read many of these posts, you know I like working with Candy Melts. I use them in all colors and for all things. Well, for this year's Blue's Clues birthday party, I lucked out. Nick, Jr had a recipe for Blue's Clues Cupcakes that were just my speed. Plain cupcakes with their edges rolled in sprinkles and topped with "Blue" made from melted light blue (and dark blue) Candy Melts. They couldn't have been cuter! You can find the instructions and a template on Nick,Jr.

I couldn't stop there, though. I switched up the colors and made Magenta out of pink and purple Candy Melts. Then I made a template on wax paper for the Thinking Chair - which surprisingly, turned out to be a very popular cupcake. I used red and dark blue for those.

We also found some paw print chocolate lollipop molds at the craft store and made some to go in the party favor boxes. Those were really a hit!

Once we learned Blue's Birthday Candle Dance and had paw print stickers eveywhere (she stuck them EVERYWHERE), we were ready for a party!

TIP #1: These are very time consuming so you may want to spread it out over a 3 or 4 days/afternoons/evenings. The cupcakes are a snap to put together so save the baking and icing for last. When making the Candy Melt Blue and Magenta, start with the spots and the head. Then do the eyes, nose and mouth. This gives everything plenty of time to harden.

TIP #2: I made Blue by first making her dark blue spots then filling in the template with the light blue. This way, once the chocolate candy dried, I could peel it off the wax paper and flip it over revealing a smooth face with spots. The reverse side was so lumpy, it looked awful.

TIP #3: Be VERY careful when removing the hardened chocolate from the waxed paper. The spot where Blue's ears meet her head are very thin and break VERY easily. I had to doctor quite a few ears before I placed them on the cupcakes.

TIP #4: To get the sprinkles only on the edges of the cupcake, pour some sprinkles into a generous pile on a plate. Take a FRESHLY iced cupcake and roll the edge through the sprinkles. Fresh icing is still "sticky" allowing sprinkles to stick to it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Conan's Atlantean Sword"

When I asked my husband what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he said a sheet cake. I just shot him a look. Then he said "Plankton". That's his favorite Spongebob character (with Mr. Krabs following in a close 2nd). We watch a bunch of Spongebob around here. I agreed to Plankton. Then out of the blue he thought of the Atlantean Sword. He said if we ever had 3 grand to blow he'd get one. Well, he got one but not quite the kind he was hoping for. He was pleased with it, though.

This was made by cutting apart and piecing together a 13x9 cake. The finished cake is 20" long - half the length of the actual Atlantean sword.

All you need to make this cake is 1 box of cake mix - baked in a 13x9 pan and cooled and 2 cans of ready made white icing, and black, brown and yellow food coloring gels. You also need a surface large enough for a 20" cake. You can make it longer if you want - there is enough cake to do it, but I did not have the surface area to transport it on.

I colored some white icing with a dab of black gel to get the blade color. Then added more black and some brown gel for the bottom. The handle of the actual Atlantean sword is wrapped in some twine/leather looking stuff (my husband isn't here right now to elaborate on the exactmaterial) so I added some yellow and white to my leftover dark brassy icing and piped on the handle.

The coloring was not very appetizing but it certainly made it look more real. My husband was afraid it would turn out looking too "cartoony" so he was very happy to see this!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sombrero Cake for your Fiesta!

Once again, my best friend wanted a cake for her birthday party. This time it wasn't going to be just my family having her over for dinner, though. It was my family and about 20 other guests having her over for a Mexican Fiesta party. What a great idea that was!

Around here, it's hard to find someone who DOESN'T like Mexican food. We went to the international grocery store to do our shopping. We bought jalapenos by the dozen, many pounds of queso, about 180 corn tortillas...we even got several of the Jarritos brand soda made in Mexico. Those turned out to be adored by the kids!

I kept thinking about the cake. A chili pepper cake? Maracas? A margarita cake? I settled on the sombrero cake. I'll get to the other ones some other time. The deciding factor was finding one of my really big aluminum serving trays that was perfect for the sombrero's brim...

The middle of the cake was made using a Betty Crocker Bake-n-Fill dome pan. This is one time I used Duncan Hines cake mix - remember, I "always" use Pillsbury. Duncan Hines was on sale for $1 a box so I thought I'd go ahead and use it. Never have I had so much trouble with a cake mix before! It was dry and crumbly. It didn't want to release from the pan. It didn't have any spring to it. But, I managed to "glue" the cake together with some icing and complete the job.

I placed the cake in the middle of the large aluminum serving tray and coated the whole thing, including the tray, in yellow icing. I tinted the icing with yellow and brown food coloring gel to get more of a straw color rather than a bright neon yellow. It still looks bright in the photo.

I did the writing big and loopy around the edge of the brim to make it more like the fancy sombreros you see in the Mexican restaurants. Then I just made the trim around the middle of the sombrero very bright and colorful.

The colorful "pom-pom balls" around the edge of the cake are supposed to resemble the fabric pom-pom trim from decades ago. I think Cheech and Chong had some in their car in their movie Up In Smoke.

We got crazy spiral candles for the top of the cake. The cake got rave reviews, but I think the best thing was the Fiesta theme itself. I would love to have another one of these! The food was great, everyone had a good time, the decorations were loud and fun (we even played themed music). We had people here ages 3 to 60+. The only thing missing was a pinata but I couldn't bear the thought of a bunch of kids swinging sticks in my house. We'll save that for warmer weather when they can do it outside.

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