Archive for October, 2011

How to Make Cake Pops

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

<– Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


Halloween Cake Pops

As soon as I saw this Cake Pops recipe I wanted to make cake pops and Halloween seemed like the perfect occasion. As it turns out cake pops are very time consuming and a lot harder to make than I thought they would be. You can read all about my first failed attempts in my previous post “How NOT to Make Cake Pops”. I’m happy to say that I finally figured out the trick to cake pop success and I will share my tips with you below.

To see how I prepared the cake balls themselves, pop over to “Halloween Cake Pops Part 1″ which has baking photos and tips.

Decorating Cake Pops Step 1: Melt the Chocolate

To melt the chocolate I put white and dark melting chocolate in Pyrex containers and set them in an inch of water in an electric frying pan set to just below simmer. If the chocolate is too hot it will start to harden and take on a fudgey texture. It’s important not to drip any water in the chocolate as it will ruin it’s ability to melt nicely. I have different spoons for each chocolate pot so that I can occasionally stir or aid in the dipping:

Cake Pops Set-Up for Melted Chocolate

Decorating Cake Pops Step 2: Secure the Sticks

Before you start dipping your cake balls in the melted chocolate there are two essential steps (in order to avoid cake pop flops). I’m very grateful to a friend of mine for letting me in on this little secret as it made all the difference in the success of my cake pops:

First, place your chilled cake balls in the freezer for approximately 20 minutes, just enough so that they will hold their shape when you insert the lollipop sticks.

Second, dip the end of the lollipop stick in melted chocolate and immediately insert it into a cake ball. It helps if the chocolate forms a ring around the lollipop stick at the base of the cake pop. This will help secure the stick in the cake pop so that the cake ball won’t fall off when you dip it in the chocolate.

Once you have inserted all of the lollipop sticks using this method then pop them all back in the freezer to really secure those sticks and make sure the cake isn’t going to crumble or fall off when you go to dip it:

Secure the sticks in the cake pops with melting chocolate and set in freezer

Decorating Cake Pops Step 3: Drip Before you Dip

Dip the cake pop into the melted chocolate so that it is fully covered, then pull it out and let the excess chocolate drip back into the melting pot. You can even gently tap the lollipop stick on the side of the pot. This will ensure that the weight of the sprinkles won’t cause your chocolate to drip down the stick taking the sprinkles with it!

Drip the excess chocolate off of the cake pops before adding sprinkles

Decorating Cake Pops Step 4: Add Sprinkles

Add the sprinkles before your chocolate hardens either by sprinkling them over the cake pop or by rolling the cake pop in a bowl of sprinkles:

Roll the Cake Pop in Sprinkles

Decorating Cake Pops Step 5: Stick and Set

To let the cake pops set stick them in a block of styrofoam (or I’ve also seen them stuck into an upside down egg carton) and pop them in the freezer so the chocolate will really harden and set in place. If your party is a few days away you can leave them in the freezer but I don’t recommend leaving them longer than that as the cold air will dry out the chocolate and it could even give it a white tint. But a few minutes to a few days is no problem:

Put the Cake Pops on a styrofoam block and harden in freezer

I’m so excited for my guests to see and sample my Halloween Cake Pops this weekend. That is if my husband and I don’t eat them all first!

Cake Pops with Black and Orange Sprinkles and Reeces Pieces

<– Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

How NOT to Make Cake Pops!

Monday, October 24th, 2011

<– Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 –>

Okay, so in my last post on Halloween Cake Pops I was so excited at how my cake pops were turning out. I proudly displayed all the wonderful photos of preparing the cake and icing and mixing it to form the cake balls (see Part 1 Halloween Cake Pops here). I couldn’t wait to keep working on them but little did I know what was in store for me.

In the cake pop tutorial I used each cake pop looks perfect and so easy to make:

Vashti Online Digital Magazine - Recipe for Cake Pops - link

I love this recipe. (click the picture above to see the full article)

So how could I go wrong, right? Well, as it turned out, there are plenty of ways to go wrong when making cake pops and I am here to help you avoid the mistakes I made in my cake pop baking adventure.

Cake Pop Mistake #1: Drip Stick Disaster

If you don’t carefully drip off the chocolate before you roll the cake ball in sprinkles, the whole mess will start dripping down the lolipop stick. Ack!

Cake Pop Dribble Mistake

Cake Pop Mistake #2: Cake Sticks to Fork Mess-Up

If you have ever made chocolates you may have used this trick of letting the chocolate drip through a fork. I thought I was a genius for coming up with this nifty way to avoid the dripping disaster (see cake pop mistake #1 above). My plan was to let all the excess chocolate drip off, then I would transfer the cake ball to a bowl of sprinkles, and then insert the lollipop stick.

Unfortunately, cake is sticky and soft and it likes to attach itself to the fork and so in trying to detach the cake ball some of the cake would stay on the fork and cause a big mess. Ack!

Cake Pop Drip Mistake

Cake Pop Mistake #3: Fat Sticks Cause Cake Ball Explosions

I found out the hard way that letting some chocolate harden on the end of the lollipop sticks is not a good way to make cake pops. Apparently you are supposed to dip a stick in the melted chocolate and immediately put it into the centre of a cake pop so that the chocolate will harden and help keep the cake pop together. Who knew that letting the chocolate harden on the sticks would make them fat and cause the cake pops to slowly explode from the added volume. And here I was trying to be efficient:

Cake Pop Fat Sticks - hardened chocolate coating Mistake

Exhibit A: Cake Pop Flop

This is what happened to one of my cake pops. The hardened chocolate on the lollipop stick created a massive hole in my cake pop and as it was setting the whole cake pop dropped down the stick onto my styrofoam base. Ack!

Cake Pop Flop

Exhibit B: Cake Pop Explosion

This cake pop didn’t even make it to the styrofoam base. When I inserted the lollipop stick it exploded and even though I tried to repair it with extra melted chocolate and attempted to cover my tracks with extra sprinkles, it looks like my cake pop’s guts are spilling out. Appropriate for Halloween I suppose, but not exactly the party favour I was going for. Ack!

Cake Pop Bust

Cake Pop Mistake #4: Clumpy Chocolate Mass

In my extra cleverness I added orange food colouring to melted white chocolate to match my Halloween theme. It took quite a lot of food colouring to get the colour I wanted. Big mistake! If you’ve ever made chocolates before you might know that you’re not supposed to add water to melted chocolate… well apparently mass amounts of food colouring will have the same effect: the chocolate will harden, clump, and take on the texture of old crumbly fudge.

Absolutely no amount of heating, stirring or added butter will make this chocolate dip-able. Ack!

Cake Pop Icing Food Colour Disaster, chocolate is hardened into a fudge like consistency rather than melted for dipping

Give up?

Cake Pop Alternative #1: Almond Bark with Sprinkles

If you decide to give up your cake pops, a fun way to use up the melted chocolate is to pour it over some toasted almonds to make almond bark. Add extra flare by using up some of your unused cake pop sprinkles:

Make almond bark instead of cake pops

Cake Pop Alternative #2: Dipped Confections

An easy way to get over your cake pop failure is to make these yummy treats which look great and are sure to please your party guests without any flops, explosions or clumps. I stuck toothpicks in pieces of Australian Gold Ginger and dried papaya. I dipped the candied ginger in the left over dark chocolate, and I dipped the papaya in the melted white chocolate. I left some of the papaya showing as it is orange and very Halloween-y. I also used up some of the sprinkles to entice visually and it also gives a yummy crunch to the candy treats. Yum!

Alternative to Cake Pops, Dip confections in chocolate coating and add sprinkles

Success!

However pleased I was with myself over these cake pop alternatives, I was still determined to make yummy and cute cake pops. Come back tomorrow to see how I conquered these obstacles, learned from my mistakes and made my cake pop adventure a success!

<– Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 –>

Halloween Cake Pops Part 1

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 –>

A few weeks ago I saw an article in Vashti Magazine about how to make Cake Pops and I immediately felt the urge to make them myself. They look so YUM! and they are sure to be a party pleaser on Halloween.

First thing’s first, I went grocery shopping to pick out a cake mix and some melting chocolate. I couldn’t believe that Save On Foods didn’t have any orange or black sprinkles. Shocking!

Ingredients in the grocery cart for making Cake Pops

I used a Swiss Chocolate cake mix:

Baking the cake for Cake Pops

The cake pop recipe I’m using says to mix the cake in a food processor but since I don’t have one I simply tore it into pieces and crumbled it between my fingers:

Crumble the Cake once cooled, for making Cake Pops

The next step is to mix the icing into the cake mix. However, one of my twitter friends the Klumsy Artist, told me to watch out because cake pops made with store bought icing are almost too sweet to eat.

To cut the sweetness of the Betty Crocker prepared icing I mixed it 2 to 1 with margarine, added a teaspoon of vanilla, and a couple tablespoons of milk.

(To be honest, I actually mixed it closer to 1 to 1 and the icing started to taste too much like margarine so I added 1/2 cup of icing sugar to make it taste like icing again.)

The result was a nice butter-cream texture and flavour, much lighter than the packaged icing. Look at the difference in colour between my modified icing in the bowl and the store brand in the jar:

Cutting the sweetness from the prepared icing for the Cake Pops

I then mixed a cup of my light creamy icing into the cake crumbs:

Mix the icing into the Cake for the Cake Pops filling

Using my hands I patted the mixture into a ball of cake fondant which has the consistency of very soft and fluffy cookie dough. You can still break it apart like cake, but you can form it like dough. It’s in-between:

Use your Hands to Mix the Cake and Icing into a fondant

I wanted to make sure my cake pops are all the same size so my husband had the idea of using a levelled off ice-cream scoop to measure out the filling. What a great idea! He modestly gave credit to the fact that he used to work at Tim Hortons. Genius I say.

Use an ice cream scoop leveled off to creat uniform portions of cake pop filling

These scoops would make gigantic cake pops so I took a knife and cut each one in half:

Cut the ice cream scoops of cake fondant in half to form even balls

I counted up the scoops and realized I was only going to get 30 cake pops out of all this work. This recipe should make 40-50 so I promptly re-cut each ice-cream scoop of cake-pop-mixture into thirds rather than halves. This worked out to 44 cake pops instead of 30, woo hoo!

Here is the difference in size. See the half scoop sized ball on the left and the 1/3 sized ball on the right. Not a big loss in size for a big gain in quantity:

1/2 a scoop vs 1/3 scoop forming even Cake Pop balls

I was having a lot of fun and could have kept going but by this point the cake balls were getting soft and squishy and also a bit oily. Time to put them in the fridge for the night to let them set:

Place the cake fondant balls in the fridge overnight for the Cake Pops

Oh boy, now it’s time to do the dishes:

Time to do the Dishes after making Cake Pops

Join me tomorrow when I finish creating my Halloween Cake Pops. :)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 –>

Snowy Watercolour Winter Stream in 10 Steps

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Watercolour Winter Stream Step 6

Last weekend I painted this Winter Stream watercolour painting. Here are the steps I took to create it…

1. Underpainting

First I wet the entire paper and did a wet-in-wet wash (the brush is full of wet paint which flows into the wet surface of the pre-wetted paper) using cobalt blue, raw sienna and permanent rose.

I was careful not to cover the entire surface of the paper with colour so that the wash would incorporate some white sweeps (simply the wet paper). I was also careful not to use too many brush strokes which would have blended the colours together not only dulling them but creating a flat wash. I wanted the paper to sing with light and colour.

2. Misty Background Trees

Next I waited for the paper to completely dry and then I painted in a soft layer of misty tree shapes in the background on the right, seemingly the ones which are going to be behind the stream as it curves off to the left of the viewer. What I’m actually painting isn’t the trees themselves, I’m painting what will become the shadowed snow on the tree branches, so I’m careful to paint softly and leave some light areas.

In the spot where the sun is going to be catching the branches I use raw sienna rather than the cobalt blue / permanent rose mixture and I leave some white areas. Notice how I didn’t paint the trees right to the bottom branches; I used rounded shapes to give the impression that the trees are sitting behind snowbanks.

Watercolour Winter Stream Step 1

3. Add Contrast

To add drama I now begin to paint the darker shades on the trees using loose flowing brush strokes with purposeful yet random ‘holes’ to represent the snow on the trees.

I have prepped several colours and I alternate which puddles I dip into as I paint so that the trees will have some life to them and not be one flat shape. Some of the colours I have prepared are cobalt blue, permanent rose, dioxazine purple, hunter’s green and indigo. The colours sit next to each other on my palette and they tend to run into each other too so it creates some nice shades and nuances.

Another artist asked me how I paint such exact shapes. Actually I am not painting each individual shape. I am using a photograph for reference but in the process of trying to capture the essence of the snow on the trees I am also moving my brush in a rather helter skelter way so that my painting will still look like a painting.

4. Paint Around Important Mid-Ground Shapes

I’ve decided that I’d like to paint a tall leafless tree on the right side of the painting for balance. I want it to look like it has snow on it so it’s important that I establish the shapes before I paint in the dark shadows on the background trees.

Since this scene is backlit I paint in the snow which will go on my new tree using combinations of cobalt blue and permanent rose. When it’s dry I add the branches under the snow and I continue painting the dark sweeps onto the background trees, careful to paint around the branches on my mid-ground tree.

Watercolour Winter Stream Step 2

5. Tackle the Water

The water is a lot easier than it looks but it may take a bit of practice. I very lightly drew in my stream with pencil so that I would have an idea of where the water was to go. I don’t always draw first but with this process I am going to need to be quick so there will be no time to hesitate part way through.

Once I start painting the water I must stay within the area of my stream. I did not wet the paper first. I used a lot of paint and made sure that it stayed nice and wet as I worked from the top of the stream to the bottom. Since the stream is broken up by a bar of snow I treated the top and bottom as two different sections. I didn’t want the top part to dry while I was working on the bottom part or vice versa.

In order for the reflections to work out I needed the paint to still be wet. So as soon as the top shape was completely filled in I immediately dripped in some verticle swipes of very dark indigo. Then I mixed some white acrylic paint with a tiny bit of water and dropped in a few delicate vertical stripes. Perhaps the most important part of this is that once I laid in these colours I did not touch it any further. I let the paint do it’s thing.

The bottom section of the stream I painted a little differently than the top, only because it was bigger and I was afraid it might dry before I could get to the vertical stripes which create the illusion of reflections. Switching from one colour to the next I filled the stream shape with overlapping vertical stripes which were wet enough to blend seamlessly together yet not too wet that they lose the vertical feeling.

I worked quickly and then again while the stream was still quite damp I brushed in some vertical stripes of watered down acrylic paint. Not too watered down mind you because then it would have backwashed into the paint and caused some blossoms.

To remind the paint that I wanted it to stay in this vertical pattern I tilted my paper up so that the paint would run vertically and not pool sideways.

Finally I added some deep indigo just under each snowbank while the paint was still slightly damp. This let it bleed just a bit and it visually lifts the snow off the water just a teeny bit.

Watercolour Winter Stream Step 3

6. Complete the Water Illusion by Creating a Surface

The water now has beautiful reflections but this will sometimes unwittingly draw the viewer’s eye right off the bottom of the page. Where does the water stop?

Let’s create the illusion of the stream’s surface which will immediately give the water incredible depth and at the same time keep the viewer’s eye well within your painting.

For this step to work your water has to be dry or very near dry. Using a slightly damp or nearly dry clean brush, ‘draw’ a few horizontal lines across the surface of your water. Gently dab the line with a paper towel if it didn’t lift on it’s own. By lift I mean that the pigment lifted off the paper leaving a pale white line.

Be careful not to over-do this step. It is so much fun and so effective that you might get carried away and if you have too many lines it can be distracting and actually take away from the overall illusion. Just a few will do.

7. Liven up the Darks

Once I finished the darks on the trees I realised that they were quite overwhelming and a bit dead, void of light. To liven them up I dropped some Holbein Grey Blue into the bits which were still damp. Holbein Grey Blue is a chalky blue opaque watercolour so it can stand up against the rich darks. This was not a planned step in my painting but I love what it did for it.

8. Add Form to the Snow

In the above picture the water is believable but the snow appears to be flat as if covering a concrete surface. In nature snow is undulating and poofy; it has form. The magic happens when you add shadows to the snow. Using a lost and found line paint the top surface of a snow pile and then with clean water bleed out the top edge so that the shadow has gradation. A shadowed edge along the side of the stream virtually lifts the snow above the water and creates snow banks.

Watercolour Winter Stream Step 4

9. Calm the Distractions

A successful painting will have an area of focus and draw your eye around the painting. You can sometimes pick out problem areas or distractions by squinting at your painting.

Squint at the above picture and what sticks out to you the most? For me it is the bright snow on the branches of the trees on the left. This creates two problems: one, those trees should actually be in shadow, they are too bright which betrays the direction of light, and two, they are distracting the viewer’s attention away from the main focus which is the light shining down on the stream.

Using a soft wash of cobalt blue and permanent rose I can gently eliminate this distraction and direct the eye to the area of most light (which in hindsight I wish I had put more to the right and not so close to the centre of the painting, but that’s another topic).

Watercolour Winter Stream Step 5

10. Be Brave Enough to “Wreck it”

When this painting was at the above stage I was unsure if I should call it done. I really felt like it would be fun to add some lightly falling snow, but at the same time I was afraid to ‘wreck it’. When you’ve come this far it is a little scary to start dripping paint over your painting.

Luckily for me I was taking a watercolour workshop and I asked my classmates if I should add snow or not. The response was 50-50, half said snow, half said no. So to break the tie I deferred to the expert, our workshop instructor Alex Fong. His response delighted me. He said “Of course! Everything needs a little snow. Just Go For It!” I’m sure glad I did since the snow really lightened up the dark areas without distracting from the focus and gave life and movement to the painting.

If you feel that your painting needs a little extra something, have fun and just go for it! When you are brave enough to “wreck it” you can sometimes luck out and get beautiful results.

Watercolour Winter Stream Step 6

I had a lot of fun painting this winter water scene. I hope you enjoyed seeing the steps I took to create it. Please reply below if you have any comments or questions. Thank you!

2nd Annual Gingerbread House Event

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

2nd Annual Gingerbread House Event Poster

Once again I am in charge of media relations for The Gingerbread House Event and I just sent out our first official professional press release to nearly 30 media outlets in Kelowna. Just in case I missed any or if you don’t catch this information on one of those mediums, here is all the info and how you can find out more about this marvellous event. (PS I must confess that I didn’t write this myself, my wonderful husband did the wonderful write-up :)

2nd Annual
Gingerbread House Event
Bringing Gingerbread to Life
In Support of the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs

PRESS RELEASE

Kelowna is Bringing Gingerbread to Life in Support of the
Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs

Kelowna, BC – The 2nd Annual Gingerbread House Event would like to invite the public to a family fun day at the Parkinson Recreation Centre on November 27th, 2011. The event is in support of the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs Cool Moves Program. The Cool Moves program promotes healthy eating and physical activity for kids. As a result of participating in games and activities of this program, participants will also gain cooperation and team building skills as well as confidence and feelings of belonging.

Gingerbread House Event logo

The core goals of the event are:

  • Create a family friendly event and atmosphere that promotes fun
  • Provide funds and food to the community through the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Ensure that anyone can participate regardless of their financial situation

The Event has three categories to provide different challenges for different people: Open, Packaged Kit and Chef Category. The Open Category allows entrants to build their house at home and bring it to the event. The Packaged Kit is where each entrant receives and builds a packaged gingerbread house kit right at the event. It’s an excellent option for the family to come for a fun event during the day.

Family Packaged Kit Category

Family Packaged Kit Category Photo by Ivy Mills

The Chef category allows cooks and chefs to enter their creation in a bragging rights competition.

Chef Category Delta Grand 2010 Entry

Chef Category Photo by Ivy Mills

Registration in the Gingerbread House Event is available now at www.gingerbreadevent.com. Registration is $20, $25, or $30 depending on category and age. Rules and registration forms are available at our website.

Dozens of entries and hundreds of public viewers are expected at the event. The Gingerbread House Event awards over $1000 in cash and prizes. A public choice award will be presented this year to the most popular entry as chosen by the viewers.

Want to see the houses without building your own gingerbread house? No problem, the gingerbread houses are available for public viewing from 3-6pm. Viewing is $2/adult, $1/child or free with a non-perishable food donation to the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs Christmas Hampers.

Gingerbread House Event handbill Come enjoy this Family Event Nov 27, 2011 at Parkinson Rec Centre

Note to potential sponsors: There are still sponsorship opportunities available. You can get involved by: Becoming a Major Sponsor ($350+), sponsoring a Packaged Kit for those unable to afford the entry fee ($25), renting an 8’ table to display or sell your products/services ($50), or donate items for the raffle.

About The Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs: The Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs is a leading provider of programs to children and youth that support the healthy physical, educational and social development for over 6,000 young people and families each year throughout the Okanagan valley. Each centre creates a safe, supportive environment where children and youth experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships and develop confidence and skills for life. Our programs focus on an individual’s strengths and capabilities, and all programs embrace the principles of equality and inclusion. They help young people grow healthy, happy and safely from birth to adulthood, and are a resource and support for parents throughout their family’s involvement with us.

About the Red Hot Chili Paddlers Dragon Boat Team: The Red Hot Chili Paddlers are a co-ed recreational dragon boat team with the Kelowna Dragon Boat Club. The team is comprised of fun loving, active, outgoing paddlers from their 20′s to their 60′s from many walks of life who share one goal: To Have Fun! In 2010 the Red Hot Chili Paddlers undertook the planning and production of the 1st annual Gingerbread House Event with a vision of creating a premier event, a Kelowna family tradition, and an annual fundraiser to support the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs, and the local community.

Red Hot Chili Paddlers Dragon Boat Team

Presented by the Red Hot Chili Paddlers Dragon Boat Team
www.gingerbreadevent.com

Clinton Dixson, Chairman 250.575.3906

Link to press release on PRLOG:
http://www.prlog.org/11691789

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gingerbreadEvent
Twitter: @gingerKelowna