Monday, March 21, 2016

Pop Goes the Cake Pop

Happy Spring, everyone! There's no better way to ring in the spring season than with a couple inches of snow, right? Oh wait, a better way is with some lovely Spring cake pops!

As background, I have an adorable Christmas cake pop cookbook and my friend and I were toying with incorporating cake pops into our Christmas baking tradition. But since Christmas is so high-stakes, it was critical to do a test run (and just a good excuse for baking in general). We had a few options of springtime cake pops (courtesy of bakerella) to consider but we opted for the easiest one after my cake pop decorating fail a couple years ago. Our goal: Spring Chicken Cake Pops. Based on the picture on the website, they looked so freakin cute! Obviously that will mean that it is an unattainable standard but who cares? Onward!

Step one is obviously to bake the cake. Since the goal was to flex our cake pop decorating muscles, we opted for the easy way out and just made boxed cake. Basically nothing notable there. Once the cakes were ready and cooled and we were caffeinated with Starbucks, we split the cake in half so we each got the relaxing opportunity to crumble the cake into pieces. It's honestly so soothing! I'm not even sure why! We mixed in some chocolate icing with the chocolate cake (mmmmm...chocolate...) and we took some extra care to make the balls very smooth and perfect since our goal was decorating them nicely. After we rolled them up, we stuck them in the freezer to solidify a bit. Sorry, this part isn't that interesting. Let's fast forward to we've already melted some chocolate and stuck the sticks into the balls and re-frozen them.

On to decorating!

The obvious first step was to dip the balls in melted bright yellow chocolate. Let the mindless tedium begin! There's a bit of technique to it though. Basically, it's a dip, a roll, and a tap. Or many taps. As in you keep tapping the lollipop stick against the side of the chocolate bowl until all of the excess chocolate drips off. But don't tap too hard! Otherwise, your cake ball will dramatically fall off of the stick and into your chocolate. Or if you don't rotate as you tap, you end up with thicker parts of chocolate and streaks on one side of your cake pop. It's a very scientific process. About one third of our way through our pop dipping, we both simultaneously had our cake balls fall off the sticks. We determined that this was because they were getting too warm so we threw them back in the freezer. Meanwhile, I fished my fallen soldier out of the chocolate and realized that I needed more chocolate anyway so I melted more in the same bowl. After it melted, I realized, "Hmm, now there are chunks of chocolate cake in my smooth, yellow chocolate. Perhaps that is not ideal if the goal is to get a nice smooth coating of yellow chocolate." So I threw out that batch of chocolate. Womp womp.

Now, dedicated readers will recall that last time I did this, I had issues with the thickness of the chocolate. This time I didn't. I don't know why because it's not like I did anything differently. Somehow, the chocolate just worked this time. Maybe the temperature in my kitchen was different? Oh well. In any case, after about an hour, we managed to dip all of the chocolate balls. Success! There was one harrowing moment where it seemed like the balls were sweating moisture from being too cold when they were dipped in warm chocolate but there were only a few isolated cases and the issue didn't persist.

So those were the easy parts. Now for the actual "making them adorable" part. By now, my mom had arrived and joined in the decorating. To make spring chicken cake pops, one uses different shaped sprinkles (we found a great mixture of sprinkles at Michael's) to glue on (with chocolate) a beak, wings, and feet. Then you use an edible ink pen to add eyes. Aaaaaaaand that's it. Simple, right? Actually, yes. It is simple. Don't get me wrong, it's tedious and slow-moving and annoying trying to pick up the correct color and shape sprinkles but on the whole, it's not too hard. But you know what else it is? Boring. As cute as these are, they are not worth the effort in the least. That said, it was satisfying knowing that we could accomplish near-perfect spring chicken cake pop decorating:

And then we got bored. We made about...6 chickens as we had been directed to and then we wandered off into our own land of crazy. At this point, I literally raided my kitchen for any candies or random things that could be used to decorate cake pops. It was a good way to get rid of Easter candy from last year! (Don't judge.) Now for some insight into our crazy minds, I present for your judgement our collection of insane cake pops!

This was honestly so boring to us that we didn't even decorate all of them. And I'm not terribly creative so while some of those are mine, the vast majority of my cake pops followed the directions and I just kept making chickens. But hey, some of them had BLUE eyes instead of BLACK eyes! That's creativity right there! Or not.

So the grand conclusion is that there will not be Christmas cake pops next year because as cute as they are, they were just too boring and time-consuming to make. On the bright side, these were ready just in time to share with people for pi day!

A Disney Moment: Tangled

Ah, I love that we're watching good movies now. Now, I'll tell you the rating up front (it's a 2/5) because it's a somewhat controversial opinion to rank Princess and the Frog above Tangled. I will say though, they were very very close. Tangled is really funny. But it doesn't have the same emotional hits as Princess and the Frog. Tangled also has the previously discussed "too many sidekicks issue" and errs on the side of slapstick.

All that said, here's what I do like about it: the music (especially since the songs now seem to be crossing back into the intelligent lyric realm), the fun of it, the ending loophole (I love a good loophole that gets the protagonists out of certain death), and the Mother character. She's a great one. And I really do love the somewhat dark undertones of the movie. I remember the first time I saw it and walking out of the theater saying, "Did I really just see a Disney comedy about Stockholm's syndrome?" And the demise of Mother is pretty fantastic. I also liked the somewhat unconventional left turn of the ending not ending in a wedding. Because that's a very Disney thing to do but this movie nicely gives all the power to the women in the movie. Which is a whole other topic that I won't get into. But overall, the movie is really fun and I like it a lot but it gets just barely beaten by Princess and the Frog who wins for its grace, beauty, and complexity.