My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.


The Viking Hordes 1

Posted on November 21, 2010 by crankycheryl

I’m hiding from my children as I write this.  I find that the procrastination that’s let me put off writing this post for a week has been run flat over by my need to avoid any more yelling and conflict today.  It’s half an hour past bedtime, and I have no idea what they’re doing up there.  But for right now it’s quiet, and that’s good enough for me.

So let me tell you about E.’s birthday.

Maybe it has something to do with an obsession with the exploits of Asterix, and maybe it’s just some good clean love of marauding.  Whatever the reason, this year it was a Viking party for E.’s 8th birthday.

“Mommy,”  he said, “I want a Viking ship cake.  And can you please do a good job with it?”

This was a clear reference to last year’s gorilla-face cake incident.  Oh dear.  I told him I would try.

So I went researching Viking ideas, and found that there aren’t a ton of them out there.  Pirates and racecars galore, but Vikings seem off the radar.  I found directions for duct tape helmets (and learned that horns weren’t actually that common).

Greg took pity on me and made them.  Aren’t they awesome?!

And then I was talking to another mom at school, who gave me the idea for a catapult.  “Catapults?  Vikings didn’t have catapults!” Greg exasperatedly told me.  “Not enough wood!”  In spite of this, his awesome friend Loren delivered one to us the day before the party.

They were a huge hit.

And while everyone else was doing this excellent stuff, I found this idea for the cake. I hit up my usual source for fondant, made two loaves of chocolate pound cake (by the way – kids don’t like pound cake), cut them into a boat shape by cutting one end into a wedge by making two even diagonal cuts, then slice off the top towards the other end.  Then did the same to the second loaf so that they were the same height in the middle.

I used fondant dyed brown with icky food coloring gel.  (More on fondant later.)  This part I don’t have pictures of as I was up to my elbows in the goo, but I made the cake by:

  • Rolling out a big hunk of dyed fondant to about 1/4″ thick between two sheets of parchment.
  • Draping the thin layer of fondant over the two cut loaves, placed with flat sides together.
  • Tucking the fondant around, then using a sharp knife to cut to fit.
  • Rolling pieces of fondant into thin long ropes for the rail of the boat.
  • Coloring some small bits red, yellow and black and rolling them into discs and other shapes for the shields on the side of the boat.
  • Painted a square piece of paper with red stripes, cutting two small holes in it and poking a green chopstick through it for the sail and mast.
  • Treating a couple of hunks of brown fondant like play-do and shaping a dragon’s head, spines, and tail.
  • Putting two candy-coated sunflower seeds on the dragon’s head for eyes, and a snipped triangle of dried mango for the fire it was breathing.
  • (The green sparkles obviously didn’t adhere well and could have been skipped.)
  • Dyeing some more fondant blue, rolling and stretching it into a flat long rope, and then pinching it into waves.

Fondant just doesn’t taste that good.  Next time, I’d use good homemade frosting, and only use fondant for the details (in this case, the dragon and shields).

But it sure looked good, and got this overtired mom some extremely gratifying admiration … at least until they tasted it.

Penguin Cupcakes & Math Cupcakes: A First Adventure with Fondant 6

Posted on February 05, 2010 by crankycheryl

Inspired by this year’s Penguin Plunge and by this,  I’ve been back at that drawing board working on making some rockin’ penguin cupcakes.  I tried one batch, but wasn’t wowed by my results.  I revisited my original inspiration, and decided to try my hand with fondant-as-playdough for two reasons:

  • It can be sculpted into nearly any shape as easily as any clay
  • Not allergenic like marzipan (a.k.a. “the other edible clay”).

So I called up Mirabelle’s, and they kindly agreed to sell me a three cups of fondant.  It’s available at evil chain stores, but I assumed it would be better from Burlington’s pre-eminent patisserie.  Along with the fondant, I gathered:

  • Icing gel (it’s thick and doesn’t change the texture of the icing/fondant too much) in black plus primary colors.
  • White edible sprinkles (snow for the penguins to lounge and frolic on).
  • Double batch of cupcakes so I could make the penguins, and also a dozen for Math Night at school (there’s a link to a great Abby Dodge recipe below).
  • One half-batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
  • Cupcake liners in primary colors.
  • Didn’t have but should have: thin exam-type gloves to use while dealing with the food color.

After dividing the fondant into several parts, I got out the gel icing coloring and started kneading in the color.  Don’t do this without gloves.

The black was very strange, as the red-purple part of the pigment seemed to head right into my skin, leaving the fondant itself distinctly green.  So, with CrankyGreg’s advice, I kneaded in more red, and some blue, and it finally turned a nice bright black.  It also made it goopier and harder to work with, but kneading in a little bit of confectioner’s sugar mostly took care of that.

For penguin purposes, I wanted black, red, yellow and blue, and left quite a bit white.  Then amidst several rounds of muttering and scrubbing,  the colored fondant went in the refrigerator so it could chill down (separated, so the colors wouldn’t bleed together) while I made a batch of Abby Dodge’s Emergency Blender Cupcakes.

Then it was time to take out the black and white sections and start making penguin parts.

Eyes.  These are much smaller than they look in the picture.

Heads and bodies.

And then put the parts together to make the penguins into themselves:

  • A black ball (head) onto a white oval (body), and then rolling and smushing black dough into a sort of winged cape.
  • Tiny white balls with tinier black balls for the eyes.  These were the hardest part, though would have been easier if I had had the sense to keep returning the dough to the refrigerator.  The black pupils were made by rolling an extremely thin sausage and then slicing off the smallest bit with a sharp paring knife.  Much grumbling took place.
  • Orange triangle for beak.
  • A nice fat orange “v” for feet.
  • Various shapes for penguin accessories, which I did as I went along.  Towels, fish, swimsuits, beach balls, maybe a soda with a straw, whatever you like.
  • They can be posed on their stomachs, backs, sitting, standing, doing the backstroke, diving.  Penguins deserve to have fun and variety too.

Then I frosted the cupcakes, dusted them with the edible glitter, and put a little pal on top.

The flock has been delivered to Special Olympics for their event on Saturday.  I don’t know how they’re going to use them, but I hope they find their way into some happy bellies.

And then it was a separate batch for Math Night at E.’s school by rolling out colored and black fondant into thin sausages and shaping it into numbers and mathematical symbols.

And now it’s on to planning some kooky something for the co-occurring Valentine’s Day & Chinese New Year to celebrate Year of the Tiger.  Something with hearts, maybe stripes that’s fun for the kids, plus something traditional, Chinese and delicious for the grown-ups.  Stay tuned.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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