Saturday, September 20, 2008

Edible Art

Just what is edible art? Well, the possibilities are as limitless as your imagination. It can be as simple as a necklace made with florist wire and marshmallows. (Or pipe cleaners for the little ones. It can be a beach scene on a cupcake using blue frosting for the ocean, smashed graham crackers for the sand, a piece of fruit strip gum for the beach chair and a cocktail umbrella to put it all together. My personal journey into this creative space came on my daughter Emma’s second birthday. Part birthday cake and part activity I set a group of two and three year olds over a plastic covered picnic table in my back yard with cup cakes and frosting and sprinkles! Some diligently labored over their masterpieces, while others ate a bit, sprinkled a bit and then raced back into the comfort of our sand box! I have since done many edible art birthday parties. I have even done some workshops. Many times I have found that some adults love to find their inner child by creating something colorful and tasteful. We graduated this year to a cake sculpture that was more amazing than anything I could have come up with. I even got a bit of ten year old attitude while trying to explain the proper way to hold a pastry bag! After all they have been doing variations for 8 years! Here are a few tips to making a successful edible art party. For the small children, one cupcake each and individual bowls of frosting and sprinkles for each child. The plastic plates that have sections are perfect. As they get older you can start experimenting with sculptures. I get about 20 bowls and fill them with candy. Shapes, colors and variety are most important. (The 99-cent store is great for this.)
Then I pre- fill pastry bags with chocolate icing and at least 4 different colors. I bake a half sheet cake as the base and then many different cakes, mini cakes and cupcakes. I have formatted the recipes below into a cake and cupcakes, but you can use whatever pan shape you like. Or double the recipes if you are making many cakes. You can always use a box mix. I have given some amazing frosting recipes, but a simple way to go is 1-cup vegetable shortening to 2 cups confectioners’ sugar adding milk to get the consistency. It is very sweet and the kids are happy with this. And you can add food coloring in small batches to have lots of color. To hold the sculpture in place you can use colorful toothpicks, lollypops, cocktail umbrellas or mini pinwheels. I have found that no matter what I plan or how I try to direct the kids if I just step back and let them do it they come up with something so much better than I could have even dreamed of. This makes my job so easy!

Golden Layer Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4-teaspoon salt
1-teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2-teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks butter
1-cup sugar
8 large egg yolks lightly beaten
1/2-cup milk
1-teaspoon vanilla

Spray 2 8- inch cake pans with bakers joy. Pre-heat oven to 350. Whisk together flour, salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda. Cream butter and sugar until well blended. Add beaten egg yolks slowly beating constantly as they are added. Alternately add the flour mixture and milk beating after each addition, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the vanilla. The batter will be thick. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth out the tops. Bake until the tops are golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean about 25 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

Chocolate Cupcakes
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-cup hot brewed coffee
1/2-cup sour cream
1/2-cup canola oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 16 muffin cups with liners.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over boiling water. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the hot coffee, sour cream, and canola oil. Gradually whisk in the eggs, and then stir in the chocolate. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all the ingredients are smoothly blended.

Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Frosting
12 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4-teaspoon kosher salt

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over boiling water. Place the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add the chocolate in a slow stream and mix until thoroughly blended.

Butter Cream
2 sticks butter, softened
4 large egg yolks
1/4-teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Cream the butter until smooth then add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the salt and vanilla and a little of the sugar and beat until smooth. Gradually beat in additional sugar until butter cream is a desired consistency. Add milk to thin and chill to thicken.

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