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Monday, March 18, 2013

two wonderous lives and a cake to celebrate

It is hard to believe that year has gone by since our friends Mindy and Charissa went from a three to a five person family.

Would you look how tiny their twins were at birth?
Happy first birthday to Drew and Baxter!  What better way to celebrate this amazing, exhausting, roller coaster ride of a year than with a party?
And we all know every good party needs a good cake.   
Now, to be honest when I offered to make the cake, I was thinking of  a sweet little cake with maybe polka dots and soft colors.  Maybe something simple and easy.
But my friend Charissa has a designer's mind and she had ideas.  I love her for this, but it also had me sweating. She was working with a nature theme and sent me pictures of cute trees and owls.  She sent a lot of owls.  I got nervous and began to worry I was in over my head.  I can't draw an owl on paper (it would likely look like a horse which, frankly, looks the same as a dog and a chicken- I am a terrible artist.)
I sent Charissa a text message that said, "I think this may be beyond my skill level."
Enter in Ange who saved the day, as she often does, by remember there were owl cake pops in her new cake pop book. 
Cake on a stick?  What's not to love.
I highly recommend this book.  It has such cute and creative ideas which are *mostly* within the scope of the average baker.  There is a learning curve and I had a few hiccups but overall I was pleased with the end result.

Be forewarned: cake pops take a lot of time to make.  I don't recommend trying this on a Saturday with your kids are at home unless there is a marathon showing of "The Fresh Beat Band" on TV. 

This is how I broke it down to largely coincide with my kids' school schedule.

Day one: I baked a box cake and let it cool overnight.

Day two: I crumbled the cake, mixed it with the frosting, formed the mixture into balls and put them in the refrigerator.  The recipe called for 48 balls, but I ended up with 38.  Oh well.

Day three (could have been later in day two): Shaped the chilled balls into the triangles required to make owls.  Adhered chocolate chips as ears to each pop.  Allowed to dry.

Same day: dipped cake pop in melted candy melts.  Gave my kids a disc of unmelted candy melts and had them begging for more because they are, honestly, delicious.
Because of time I ended up doing the dipping at two different time.  Here was the issue I soon discovered in the general instructions about forming and dipping cake pops, it says to dip them when they are chilled.  Yet, in the owl instructions specifically, you attach the chocolate chips and allow them to dry in the styrofoam block.  It doesn't say anything about returning the pops to the fridge. Apparently I needed to.  The batch that was at room temperature came out with a dull finish and I lost a couple of pops in the candy melts (which for me was rather merciful since it was two less pops to manage).  I realized that I probably needed them to be chilled so I managed to get the second batch to fit in the fridge and then I dipped those after they chilled again.  These came out much prettier, shinier, were easier to dip, BUT at least half of them cracked. 

Sigh.  I ended up re dipping all of them so they would look uniform.  The book specifically suggests  avoiding this. Oh well.  It was fine except that it made extra work and it also rounded out the owl ears so they looked more like mouse ears.

Day four (or day three if you don't have kids): decorate.

To decorate the owls I went on a virtual treasure hunt for the various candies needed for each feature: candy necklaces, rainbow sprinkle chips, brown mini M&Ms (I couldn't find those so I used Raisinets) and flower sprinkles.  Maya demonstrated her stellar fine motor skills and helped me sort all the candy for only the colors we needed.  (There was a lot of candy I had to buy that we didn't end up using since we were looking for specific colors.)  I assembled half of them during school hours and the rest one afternoon which was a somewhat regrettable choice.  Maya really wanted to help.  This was kind of fun because it was like I was the surgeon and she was my scrub nurse.  I would say, "Nose" and hold my hand out and she would place a nose in my hand.  However, Ella kept using the table like a gymnastics bar and kept launching herself off of it. 

I worked hard to keep my cool. I think I halfway succeeded.

Including the adhering of the ears, each pop required NINE different small items to be attached to it.  Nine times 36 pops...You do the math. 

The way the cake pops were supposed to look:

The way mine looked:
All I can say is that I think I needed to make the triangles flatter and that she must have also had flatter candies in her candy necklace.  My owls were bug eyed and looked like they had some unresolved optical issues.  Plus the mouse ears.  Who wants a mouse cake pop?  Probably a kid, actually.
Then onto the cake. 

Honestly, prepping to decorate a cake takes almost as time as the decorating itself.  I made a huge batch of butter cream frosting, tinted it 5 different shades, added in the chocolate butter cream I had left over from filling the cakes and I was ready to go.
Except that I had a mini anxiety, self-doubt attack at this point. What had I gotten myself into?  Why did I think I could "draw" with frosting on a cake?  I had already frosted the base of the cake green and used a toothpick to make it look like grass and the butter cream was drying out and it came out kind of messy.  What if the whole thing was a bomb and I had to be bailed out by the Hannaford bakery?  This was our gift to the babies, the hard work was part of the love.  How could we go essentially empty handed with a store-bought cake?  Oh the pressure.  I pictured myself showing up at the party with my proverbial tail between my legs, ashamed of my over inflated sense of cake mastery and nursing a bruised ego.
I gave myself a pep talk to shut down the crazy talk and got to work.  I practiced making trees on a cutting board.  Sandi came home and told me it looked great. When I told her how nervous I was she reminded me that that has happened before every cake I've made.  I hate love it when she's right.
Maya was super supportive and kind to me.  She kept coming in the kitchen (which was daring since I had essentially told the kids to stay out) and saying, "WOW Momma! That looks A-MAZING!  I can't believe what a good job you're doing!  They are going to love it!!"  And then she would hug me and leave only to return like a boomerang to check my progress.
I was also really anxious about the lettering and spacing and used toothpicks to mark where I needed each letter. I also checked the spelling of "birthday" in my head 15 times because for some reason I was preoccupied with spelling it wrong and having my cake appear on "cake wrecks."

My favorite quote from the party was when Marianne said, "I wasn't sure if that grass was colored coconut, shredded paper or cut up Easter grass so I tried it to find out."  I could just imagine myself snipping up Easter grass and then placing this non-edible thing all around the base of a cake to make grass. That and the image of Marianne potentially eating shredded paper.  
The cake pops were a huge hit with the kiddos and there were at least 25 extra for people to take home.
But really it was these two I had hoped to impress!

How adorable are they?

I am so incredibly proud of this family.  What an honor to watch a family evolve, expand and find its new groove.  Hats off to you Merill-Maguires.    Thanks for letting us be a part of it.

1 comment:

Lesley said...



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