A Shower of Rattles, Wands and ChocolateI don't know why I love to do it but I love to shoot myself in the foot when it comes to special baking projects. I'm not talking your basic trifle for the office or a batch of cookies for the yard lady. I'm talking "I'll bring a cake for the occasion". And then I lose it and come up with some fantastic idea that doesn't sound that complicated until I get into it.
Point of fact: The office is having a baby shower for a co-worker tomorrow. She happens to be a very sweet person and one of my favorites to bake for from time to time. They are having a pot-luck and offered the option to "bring something". Sadly I'm working from home tomorrow and can't attend the shower but offered a treat. My offer was accepted and I decided to make one of Jaime's favorites - cupcake pops.
Not a complicated treat, but a little time consuming. You bake a cake, grind it to crumbs, make a frosting, mix the two, form shapes and chill to firm, coat in chocolate.
If I could only have left it at that. Make them, decorate them a little, take them for the shower. (BTW, this is an excellent chocolate cake recipe for your recipe box)
No...I had to come up with "something special". I worked on it in my head and finally came up with a "great idea" - shaped like little balls...why not add a stick, tie on a ribbon, decorate them with some color and you have baby rattle pops. Would that I had kept it that simple.
No...I had to take it up a notch. I decided the stick wouldn't make it as obvious as something with a loop on the end like a rattle. What would have that shape. Swizzle sticks? Then it hit me, bubble wands (another guy at work hit on it too when I mentioned my search). So, I go out looking for bubble wands. Sounds simple, it's summer, kids are blowing bubbles all over, but they all come with a bottle of bubble solution--not in a 12-pack of wands. I went to the cake decorator store and came up with the perfect thing. A set of bubble wands for a wedding. Right size, loop on the end. Perfect. If I could have only left it at that.
No...I had to raise the bar. I decided that they needed more definition with color or sprinkles or even better little sugar beads that would look right. Bought the beads and some spray color. Back on track.
No...even cuter if I bought some ribbon and tied that around the wand to pretty it up and define it more as a play-pretty. Enough right?
No...maybe something cute tied to the bow. You get the picture.
I finally settled on my purchases and headed home, ready to do the job the next day. I was up at 4 AM baking the cake to give it plenty of time to cool before grinding it in the food processor. I had to get a haircut so I knew my schedule would be tight. I got the cake ground, made the frosting (no cream cheese but I had mascarpone and used that), added it to the cake and started shaping the balls. I wanted them as round as possible--roughly 11/2 in. in diameter. I went looking for the wands and the trouble started. No wands. I looked all over the house and in the car. I finally found the receipt and realized the clerk didn't charge me for them or put them in the bag. Back to lollipop sticks.
Wait...there's a Michael's on the way home from the haircut. I get their email for weekly specials and checked and found a 40% off coupon for one regular priced item. I went to Michael's, found the same set at $1 less in cost--and I got 40% off that so things were looking up again. I came home, dumped all the bubble solution and stuck the wands into the firmed up rattle balls--we were in business again.
I got the white candy melts melted. They are a little better for this kind of work than real white chocolate because they aren't so chocolate as they are vanilla flavored candy. I started dipping. Wait--how was I going to keep the balls round if I put them on a sheet and they got flat bottoms?
I came up with an ingenious candy pop drying rack.
Take something high enough to get them up off the surface and twist them in the grid to hold them firm--except the ends were too small and would fall through the grid holes. I needed a way to keep them up. I took wooden skewers and used them to hold the wand ends to the grid. Amazing ingenuity considering it is 8 PM and I'm starting to fade. Next dilemma: Not enough room for them all to hang far enough apart not to hit each other and once it gets too crowded, you can't add without hitting one of the ones currently drying.
Dawned on me they were drying fast enough to take them off after a few minutes and let them dry the remainder of the time on waxed paper. Problem solved. Next, they dried too fast to add the sugar pearls so I dropped that idea and went with the spray color. Since Jaime and her husband do not want to know the sex, I had to go neutral with green or yellow or go with both blue and pink--I went with both blue and pink. Next problem: spray color doesn't stick to chocolate well. Back to hanging them up to dry again and the whole crazy skewer, rack, bumping game.
I go to finish dipping the remainder of the pops only to discover they had warmed up too much and were falling off the wands when I tried to dip them. Back into the freezer.
Finally got them all colored and dried and started to put them in small plastic sacks and tying them with the alternate ribbon and attaching the little dangles. The dangles were found at a party store. Tiny little pink and blue baby pacifier favors for baby showers. Perfect.
Time: 10:30 PM. I'm exhausted and only have 22 out of 36 done. I should have been in bed 1 hour ago. I decided to get the now firmed ones, dip them and hang them to dry and get them spray painted and go to bed. They could dry the rest of the way overnight and I could package them at 4 AM before I had to get ready for work. I think I fell asleep in 5 minutes.
Up at 4 AM. Finished the packaging and put them in a box with bubble-wrap to keep them from banging around on the bus-ride into the city. I handed them off to the hostess to keep them safe until the shower. I showed a couple to my friend, Suzette, after telling her the whole story of me shooting myself in the foot with another decorating project. She proclaimed them a success even though my perfectionist nature sees the flaws and the mistakes made in processing and preparing them.
What did I learn? We know I never learn NOT to come up with these projects and will do it again--knowing it is against my decorating nature and I will exhaust myself and feel I didn't do it exactly as I wanted but will learn. And I did learn. I still have some of the cake glop to make a few cake balls and some leftover white melt. I am going to try some other methods (not tonight) to see if I can find what works better. Might not accomplish anything and just find more ways to shoot myself but I always learn and learning is never a bad thing--even though I'm still tired from less sleep and stressing myself about the project.
Not the best picture but I was too tired to get picky about the photography. Here's the finished product. It's a cute concept--just needs a little more work on the implementation. As to the experimental ones when I get to them--I'm sure I can find a few eaters to eat the experiments when I'm done.