As I sit here begrudgingly watching the Sharks and Penguins play rather than my beloved Blackhawks, I can take solace in the fact that hey, the Cubs are currently 39-15! That’s pretty good, right?!
Making cake pops is easy. Seriously. Especially this kind where the pop is on the bottom of the stick. Here is a very easy recipe for success:
STEP 1: Mix together some old cake scraps (or a fresh cake, whatever!) with some store-bought frosting. Mix until it holds together. (One box of cake will need approximately a half to two thirds a can of frosting, I think. You don’t want to add too much because then it’s just goopy.)
STEP 2: Form balls and place in freezer for a few minutes to firm up.
STEP 3: Melt some candy melts, dip a stick in the candy melts, and insert into the cake pop. Place back into the fridge to keep firm.
STEP 4: Decorate! For the baseballs, I dipped the cake pops in white candy melts and let them harden. (It only takes a few minutes in the fridge.) Then, using a sharp metal tool, I literally drew on the baseball stitching lines. The only annoying thing is keeping the candy melts warm- I took repeated trips to the microwave.
For the Cubs logo, I used a little blue fondant to make the circle, and I drew on the red with the candy melts.
“Baseball is the only major team sport in America with no game clock.”
And therein lies the problem.
I’m not trying to say one sport is better and more exciting than the other, but I would like to point out that when friends and I went out so we could watch both the Cubs and the Blackhawks play at the same time, the first pitch was a full 45 minutes before puck drop. And when the hockey game ended, I glanced at the baseball TV and THEY WERE STILL IN THE 8TH INNING.
However, hundreds of thousands of rabidly loyal Chicago fans cannot all be wrong, can they? There MUST be something as interesting and exciting in this game as there is in other sports. So with a completely open mind*, I sat myself down to figure out what I was missing.
(* When I say “completely open mind,” I mean it. The first thing I learned was that baseball players have to both throw/catch AND hit. Don’t ask me why they don’t specialize the way that every other sport does- I don’t make the rules. If I made the rules, there would be a play clock, and every inning resulting in a lead would be celebrated with a round of hugs and then a musical dance number.)
So after watching with nary a scrap of prior knowledge in my brain, I feel comfortable explaining the game to any other newbies out there. May I present to you:
Baseball for Dummies, written by an Actual Dummy
In baseball, there are two opposing teams who have lots and lots of players. They only let a few of them play each night though. The backups are allowed to practice during the game in what they call a “bullpen.” (It hasn’t got anything to do with bulls.)
Play begins when one team spreads out across the field and the opposing team takes turns trying to hit the ball. The batters have to always go in the same line order. The last person in line, which in my elementary school is called the “caboose,” is called the “cleanup” person. I don’t exactly know what they clean, but as a teacher and a former Girl Scout, I’m sure I approve of it.
Once the batter has stepped up to the plate and has assumed his “bend your knees and stick your backside out” position, the pitcher is now in control. He stands on his spot (“mound”) for anywhere between 10 seconds to approximately 24 minutes. During this contemplative time, he fondles the ball over and over, visually inspects it, and will draw in the dirt with his shoe. He may repeatedly tug on his uniform or tap his glove to his chest in an interesting display of superstitious obsessive compulsion. Much of his time is spent cradling the ball to his chest while he gazes longingly in the general direction of home plate.
At some indeterminate point in time, his still body suddenly flings itself into motion, sending the ball hurdling and his muscles contorting in an inhuman manner. The goal is to throw the ball so that it lands inside the small box on the television screen. (There are discrepancies as to the accuracy of this box, especially according to angry fans on Twitter.)
Meanwhile, the catcher squats behind the batter and appears to scratch himself repeatedly. Further inspection indicates that the catcher is performing a form of sign language. This is most likely directed towards the pitcher, perhaps something like, “Make sure you throw it inside the little box on the TV this time, moron!”
Should the batter accidentally hit the ball off to the side-ish, there is no need to retrieve it. The official has a literally endless supply of baseballs stuffed somewhere inside his outfit. After every wayward hit, he hands a new ball to the catcher, who does a short inspection and then throws it to the pitcher. According to my calculations, this means the official has approximately 93,000 baseballs stashed in his pants.
The pitcher can throw the ball a variety of ways, most commonly a “fastball” or a “breaking ball.” These throws all look identical to the average human eye. Sometimes they throw it on purpose to the side in order to “intentionally walk” the batter. (Don’t ask me why, my interest in this only goes so far.) You can tell they’re throwing it to the side on purpose because the catcher hops like a froggy several feet to his right, and the ball is not even CLOSE to landing inside the TV box.
Should a batter hit the ball far enough and not have it caught out of mid-air, he is now eligible to participate in an interesting phenomenon called “stealing.” This sounds bad but it is actually legal. Basically, as soon as the pitcher turns his attention back towards home plate, sometimes the guy on first base decides to make a run for second. This is dangerous because if the pitcher turns around and sees you stealing, he can throw it to his friend on the base and then you are out. The result is that while the pitcher is engaging in his extensive pre-pitch regimen, every so often his head whips around and he glares at the other guy, his eyes threatening, “Don’t even THINK about it, mister!” I always picture a mother and child making dinner:
Mother, chopping veggies: “No, you may NOT have a cookie, it’s almost dinner.”
Child, whining: “But I’m HUUUUNgry!”
Mother furiously chopping: “I said NO cookies!”
Child, suddenly silent, creeps towards pantry.
Mother whips around angrily as child hastily retreats back to counter. She gives him the evil eye.
Mother turns back to the veggies.
Mother suddenly whips around again, “I KNOW you’re thinking about it. Don’t even.”
Now each time a player hits the ball, the announcers talk a great deal about something called “RBIs.” They literally talk about this at least once every three minutes. With this frequency, I imagine this stat to be of great importance. As I watched, I devised all sorts of possible meanings for the acronym, which I won’t list here, except for the most likely one: Really Big Innings (that’s the one I mostly think it is).
Announcer 1: “Well, Jimbo, that’s ninety seven RBIs for Petey already, and we’re only in the second inning.
Announcer 2: “Boy oh boy, is Petey good or what! He’s on pace to have a league-high fifty-seven thousand RBIs. Pretty good for a rookie, wouldn’t you say?”
During the 7th inning, they let someone come to the microphone to sing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” This person is generally a famous Chicagoan and is specifically chosen for his or her lack of musical ability. Anyone capable of staying in one key and maintaining the tempo set by the organist is immediately disqualified from participating. The organist automatically gets an additional $20,000 every time he accompanies someone during this song because that is how difficult, and ultimately, demeaning, it is to play with these well-meaning but unqualified dolts.
The game is usually over in 9 innings. Actually, if you’re lucky, they only have to play 8.5 innings. (It’s got a little something to do with home/away team scores and a lotta something to do with math of some kind.) However if you’re very, very unlucky, there will be a tie after 9 innings and in that case, the game could potentially go on for days. (A quick internet search just informed me that the record is 25 innings between the White Sox and the Brewers, which I can only imagine took at least a week to complete.)
Cubs fever hit the Chicago social media scene hard this fall, and in an effort to do my part, I decided to make a cake (naturally). I am not a baseball fan (is it obvious?), but I am a fan of a happy Chicago, and this team seemed to bring people together, so I devised a gravity-defying design. There is a metal pole which screws into the base. A styrofoam rectangle, then a flat piece of cardboard, then some crumpled scratch paper, then a half-circle of styrofoam on top:The metal pole had a small plate that screwed on at the top. So the actual weight of the cake was resting on this metal plate, which is how it held up really sturdily.
I then placed a cardboard cake circle on top of that metal plate and layered my cakes atop it. I shaved them so they were rounded. Then cover the whole thing in frosting, including the styrofoam bottom half of the circle, and do the same with fondant, and viola! You have a ball shape that people cannot believe is cake!
Once it’s covered in white fondant, take small strips of red fondant and lay them on like the stitch pattern. If you poke a little hole at both ends of the red strip, it looks more realistic, though of course this serves no real purpose cake-wise, as the red strips are attached with a bit of water.
The baseball hat is made entirely of modeling chocolate (just the “C” logo is fondant). I used a napkin to texturize the chocolate so it looked more like fabric.
Once the cake was finished, I very carefully put it in my car to take to work. Here is the snapchat evidence:
For a more beautiful photo, I carried the cake onto a local baseball diamond. I can only imagine what passersby were saying as I traipsed across the field at a rate of .05 mph, carrying the incredibly top-heavy cake across the uneven grass.
Do you have a different idea for a sports-themed cake? I have never done a football or basketball cake before because I haven’t thought of a creative idea! Please help! 🙂
Let me begin with my deepest apologies to all you fine readers who privately roll your eyes whenever you see yet another Blackhawks post. You can rejoice and be glad, for this is the last hockey-related post for many months!*
*Last ANTICIPATED post… mwah ha ha!!
For those of you like me, though- let us revel together and enjoy this Cup-filled summer, waiting in anticipation for the preseason in September.
So, let me present to you my final Blackhawks cake, “The Road to the Cup.” Brought to WGN TV on June 15, 2015. How did it end up on TV? I sent an email asking if I could. They said yes. That is all.
STEP 1: Devise Theme (1 week before)
I used a drawing app on my ipad to sketch out a rough theme. Four mini-scenes, each one representing a stop on the Blackhawks’ “Road” to reaching the final trophy. The first stop was the Nashville series, and had Seabrook scoring the triple-overtime goal at 1:16am. The next scene was Patrick Kane during his “goal celebration” pose, since that’s the series he started to come alive! The third scene was Duncan Keith, or, as he was renamed, DunConn (for the Conn Smythe Award, the playoff MVP). The final scene was Captain Toews as he skated towards the Cup. STEP 2: Create the Gum Paste/ Modeling Chocolate Characters (1 week before)
For an in-depth explanation of how to create these players, click here.STEP 3: Make the Cake (The structure pictured below: 2 days before. The actual cake under that: 1 day before.)
Surely there’s a better way… but I don’t know about it. So I used a bunch of pieces of styrofoam, glued them onto the base, and then pushed rice krispie treats in between the spaces to make a smooth surface. I covered the whole thing with modeling chocolate, leaving four empty places where I would place the mini rinks later. (Again, for a detailed explanation on how I created those poured sugar rinks, click here, same link as above.) Why so much styrofoam? Three reasons: it was lighter, it was faster, and I knew that part wouldn’t be eaten anyways so what did it matter?
Finally, the day arrived: Monday, June 15. Not only the day of the TV segments, but also the day of Game Six- what *could be* the Stanley Cup Clincher!!!
STEP 4: Take the Cake to Stop #1- The Blackhawks Rally at the Palace Grill on Madison (46 miles away, left at 5:30am and arrived at 7:34am. Rush hour, how I loathe thee… Oh, who am I kidding, I slept in the car, ha! My poor mom or sister drove- I don’t even know which one!)
That reminds me. My family is amazing. They do all this work and then I’m the one that gets to be on TV. These two drove me around all day while I slept in the car. I even fell asleep on a couch in the store as they looked at new couches for my parents’ family room. Trust me, there is a post coming in the near future that will provide photographic evidence of the awesomeness of my family. Until that point, please enjoy this, their television debut: After arriving at the Palace Grill, a very kind producer helped us set up the cake right there in the restaurant. WGN news had two reporters on location, and there was tons going on! A face painter, a bouncy house, Blackhawks giveaways, signed memorabilia to purchase, a live band, and more!
I was also able to meet some local legends! Steve Konroyd (former Blackhawk player and current TV co-host of game intermissions and post-game shows), Pat Tomasulo and Ana Belaval (WGN morning news team), Troy Murray (another former Blackhawk player and current color analyst for the broadcasts on WGN radio), and of course, Tommy Hawk, the team mascot! Tommy Hawk seemed to enjoy the cake too! STEP 5: Get Interviewed on Live Television! (8:50am)
Though short and sweet, I got to say a few words about my cake on the morning news! And my website scrolled across the screen, so… yay!
STEP 6: Eat Breakfast (9:00am)
As Pippin would say, it was “Second Breakfast,” right, guys? After the funtivities were closing up around 9:30, guess who came in?! Many of the players’ dads!
STEP 5: Take Cake to WGN TV Studio (10:30am)
We then drove to the TV studio where a very kind stagehand took the cake inside and promised to put a sign on it so none of the news reporters would eat it. And then it was time for a little relaxing!
STEP 6: Eat Lunch and Go Shopping! (11:00am)
STEP 7: Come Back to TV Studio (3:15pm)
This was my second favorite thing that happened that day (other than, you know, what happened at 10:15pm-ish!!!!). The producer had warned us to put a sign on the cake labeling it, because apparently the staff would eat it otherwise. So we kindly asked the stagehand to put a sign by the cake. With a completely straight face, he said he would take care of it.
We then walked into the studio, he turned the fancy lights on, and OH MY GOODNESS HOW BIG IS THAT SIGN! Keep in mind, that cake is three feet long!
STEP 8: Get the Cake Prepped for Evening News (3:15pm)
It was a pretty easy set-up, but man, am I jealous of all their lights! It was so easy to photograph the cake! Anyone want to set me up with a camera studio at home? Anyone?? While I readied the cake, my mom and sister took photos and the stagehands exchanged the background art for some awesome Hawks stuff.
Mom even managed to take a pic of my Kane and Toews figures, with their respective posters in the background! She’s so artsy! 🙂
STEP 9: Wait for Interview (3:45pm- 6:10pm)
I was told that my segment would be on at 5:15pm. We waited patiently (Elizabeth organized the Green Room– you’re welcome, WGN–) and then, just at 5:00pm, they announced there was a tornado warning! A tornado was right above Cook County! And so began the weather coverage. Obviously, I knew the segment wouldn’t be on at 5:15, right as the warning expired, but I had hopes that there might be time for it at some point before six o’clock. Unfortunately, though the tornado dissipated, there was still quite a storm over the city, in particular right over all the people waiting outside the United Center to watch the Blackhawks game- and so the station had to keep going with weather coverage. Of course I understand, but it was an unfortunate amount of time and money spent to not get that evening news segment!
STEP 10: Try to Watch Blackhawks Game! (the rest of the night!)
Of course, I did all this since I’m a Hawks fan. So when the 4-6pm news ended, I wasn’t so much sad about the canceled segment, as I was antsy to get out of there so we could find a place to watch the game. So we get in the car, and I’m thinking, hey, we’re traveling out of the city- going the opposite way of everyone else presumably- so we should probably get to, like, Schaumburg, before puck drop at 7:15.
According to the GPS, we made it 0.6 mile in ONE HOUR! Let me repeat- just over a half mile in an HOUR! (If you want a good laugh, I just googled it- Schaumburg is 30 miles from the studio.) So, cake packed in the trunk and all but forgotten, I start having a spaz attack. It’s now 7ish, and we were still in the car. How could I NOT watch potentially the last game of the year?! We looked around the gridlocked traffic, and what did we spot, but an… Olive Garden.
Perhaps not the normal place to head to watch a Stanley Cup Final Cup-clinching game. But there was no option. After I called from the car to ensure they actually had a bar, we dodged the raindrops and flew inside, backsides in the seats just in the nick of time. The kind management team allowed us to turn the TV sound on. (Whew.)
STEP 10: Move to an Actual Bar Since Olive Garden Closed
As the second period drew to a close, we readied ourselves, paid the tab, and opened the umbrellas. As soon as the horn sounded, we bounded out to the car and moved along to the next bar. We parked, ran inside, and secured a spot juuuuust as the third period started.
Are there other hockey treats I haven’t made yet? Please let me know in the comments! I have a long summer to prepare for the next season. 🙂 Oh, and I learned an interesting tidbit today: Next year will be their 88th season. I think that’s a good omen, don’t you?
Well, let’s face it. The name is just too perfect. “Stanley Cup-Cakes?” The dessert practically makes itself. I tried to resist, but it is impossible for me to ignore a good pun! So, reveling in the Blackhawks’ recent victory, I set to work to create a treat worthy of Lord Stanley.
You’ll only need a few supplies: brownies and frosting, some circular cutters, fondant, a rolling pin, black gel coloring and silver luster dust.
This is literally it. Punch out a few circles, stack them together, frost, cover with fondant, and paint with silver dust. Viola! Look at the difference between the painted and non-painted cups!
For what follows, I ask in advance for your forgiveness. Some of the plays-on-words are simply indefensible. If, however, you like baking, hockey, and a healthy sample of eye-roll-inducing puns, this is the place for you.
ASSISTS: Though the baker alone normally gets accolades for her work, many times, the work cannot be completed without assistance from a teammate. In this case, the teammate is said to give an assist to the baker.
CHECKING: Checking is a defensive technique bakers employ to ensure their work is of a high quality. (Some bakers who work offensively plunge ahead in their work without considering the “what-ifs.”) The following situations represent a few examples during which one would see checking amongst bakers: Is the oven off? Are the eggs still fresh? Is the oven really off? Wait, how many cookies did the lady want again? Wait, she’s picking them up at 3, right? Am I SURE she said she wanted yellow with brown trim, because that sounds awful but I have to make what she asked for? Am I DEFINITELY SURE the oven is off?
(Side note: I am a world-class checker. If they gave a Conn Smythe for checking alone, I would win it every year. I check to make sure I’ve checked everything there is to check.)
CLUTCH: Every baking team needs a person they can count on when the clock winds down and the project isn’t yet complete. This person, who always manages to “find a way,” is called clutch.
DEKE: Originating from the word “decoy,” a baker performs a deke when she uses amazing savvy and skill to fake out a customer with a deceptive, but delicious, product. A cupcake filled with an unexpected raspberry creme, or a chocolate chip cookie that actually has an Oreo inside, are examples of dekes.
EXTRA ATTACKER: On very rare occasions, an additional helper will unexpectedly pop into your kitchen. These helpers are called extra attackers. They should be useful in helping your team accomplish the goal, although it must be noted that not every team successfully utilizes extra attackers, no matter how much talent the team seems to possess up front.
DELAY OF GAME: When a member of the team intentionally causes a stoppage in decorating, this is a delay of game penalty. Examples of infractions include: buying and delivering the baker a tasty lunch, texting the baker a question which requires a response, or distracting the baker with funny Internet videos.
GOAL: During the decorating process, a baker will have several goals. “What’s my goal? To be the best Johnny on the team.” Wait… that’s something else… Anyways. A baker’s goals might include, but are not limited to, the following: Be prepared with the supplies. Don’t screw up. Don’t drop anything. Don’t mess up the date/time/name/colors/anything else for the pickup. Make your lines neat as a pin and your floods smooth as silk. And lastly: Never give an inferior product to a customer. So, in short: “What’s my goal? To give all customers superior products.” I really feel like I could be in a commercial or something…
HAT TRICK: When the baker completes three separate orders all on the same day, she is said to have completed a hat trick. When all three orders are picked up within twenty minutes of each other, this is a natural hat trick.
HEALTHY SCRATCH: A full roster of cookies always includes a few extras, in order to allow for any breakages that occur along the way. Cookies that have been fully decorated but end up not being used are referred to as healthy scratches. They are functional, but represent the bottom tier of your decorating ability, and should only be used in case of an emergency.
ICING THE PUCK: When icing a puck, it is recommended to outline and flood the cookie, and then draw on criss-crossing marks once the icing is hardened. To properly ice the puck, flood the top part of it with a slightly lighter black, and a super dark black on the bottom, in order for it to look more 3D.
INTERFERENCE: When a person deliberately prevents the baker from working, interference is called.
INTERMISSION: While decorating, a baker is allowed to pause and take care of unrelated business. These pauses are referred to as intermissions. It is advised that one should not take more than twenty minutes for an intermission, because it is all but guaranteed that the baker will lose her focus and drive after that point.
LINE CHANGES: It is naturally easiest to decorate cookies closest to you on the tray. Once that line of cookies has been decorated, they shall be moved to the back of the tray, and the un-iced cookies shall take their place. When lines of cookies are exchanged, the cookies are said to make a line change.LOCKER ROOM: No matter how hard you prepare and train, cookies break. You must not blame yourself or your teammates. A good baker has extra cookies waiting in the wings for their moment to shine (see: healthy scratches). A damaged cookie is sent to the locker room to be checked and possibly await reparative surgery. A cookie beyond repair may simply be thrown away or eaten.
NHL: The National Hobby-Baker’s League, or NHL, is a group comprised of hobbyists who have other careers but choose to decorate cakes and cookies for fun. NHL members simply create for family and friends, and enjoy trying out new techniques. This is in contrast to the NFL, or National For-Profit-Baker’s League- a much more popular and profitable league than the NHL.
OFFSIDES: If a baker doesn’t pipe a border around the edge of her cookie, the icing will flow offsides. Always use a tip #3 or 4 to avoid offsides icing.
OVERTIME: Overtime occurs when the given time-limit has passed and the baker is now working under extremely stressful conditions. Sudden death overtime occurs when the customer is actually at the baker’s doorstep and the project is then “suddenly” complete, or, as complete as time and conditions will allow.
PENALTY: A penalty occurs when a teammate violates the rules. Different levels of penalties occur, depending on the severity of the violation. A two-minute minor penalty is assessed when, for example, a teammate nonchalantly eats a cookie the baker had been planning on giving to a paying customer. A game misconduct penalty is much more severe and results in ejection from the kitchen. One theoretical example might be, say, when the baker has just finished an Easter egg cake that took hours and hours to complete, and briefly set it on the floor to get something, and the dog, who normally abhors people food, chose that moment to have a taste. And, enjoying his taste, perhaps the dog then licked the entire front of the cake, making it inedible for the baker’s family’s celebration. In this case, the dog would receive a game misconduct penalty and would be permanently thrown from the celebration, while the baker would probably become so angry that she couldn’t even be subdued by her own grandmother. (But again, this is all theoretical.)
PENALTY BOX: Sometimes, no matter how much love and encouragement you give to a cookie, it ends up misbehaving. Its flooded center may be riddled with bubbles, or the icing my flow offsides (see: offsides). A misbehaving cookie shall be set aside in the penalty box until it can be dealt with at a later time.
PENALTY KILL: A baker goes on a penalty kill when a situation arises that puts the baker in a lurch. At this point, the baker cannot let up pressure and must push on, despite the difficult circumstances.
PLAYOFF BEARD: A playoff beard is a superstitious practice where the grower does not shave his beard until the goal is achieved. For obvious reasons, this practice is more common among male bakers.
POWER PLAY: At times, a baker may receive an unexpected advantage: a family member dropping in and offering help, or calling from the store and offering to pick up supplies, or a customer calling to say they will be late picking something up. These unexpected advantages, called power plays, are not common and must be treasured.
RESURFACING THE ICE: Once a cookie is flooded with icing and has fully hardened, a baker may coat the surface with a mixture of alcohol and shimmery dust. This technique makes the surface shiny and is called resurfacing the ice(ing), or, in colloquial terms, using the Zamboni. (see photo of Resurfacing the Ice(ing) below)REVIEW OF PLAY: If a customer picks up a cookie to carefully inspect it, this is called a review of play. These are stressful because while a baker’s product might look perfect from afar, there may be inconsistencies up close. For this reason it is always advised to leave one’s very best products on the top layer when giving the box of cookies to the customer. In this way you will assure yourself that any reviews of play are guaranteed goals. (See goal.)
TIMEOUTS: After flooding cookies with icing, it is necessary to take a timeout. Timeouts last a minimum of 24 hours, since the icing needs that much time to dry completely. Bakers are allowed to use the timeouts as they wish, including making line changes or resurfacing the ice(ing).
I realized recently that I’ve never written a cookie post! Which is odd because for every cake I make, I probably make two batches of cookies. Hmm. So why haven’t I written about cookies? Oh, yeah: because decorated cut-out cookies are a plot designed to suck away every moment of your life, coat your entire body in powdered sugar, give you tendinitis, and clutter your kitchen almost beyond repair.
But, they are SO DARNED CUTE that I just can’t help but make them! The problem is that by the time I finish, I can’t stand to look at them anymore, much less write about them- all I see are the wasted hours of my life, hours that could have been better spent, say, watching Netflix, or something equally important. (Eh, who am I kidding– I totally watch Netflix while decorating cookies.)
In any case: the time has come for me to write a post about cookies. And since I am now on winter break and have some free time, it is the perfect chance! My inspiration for this project came this past October, when I entered a Blackhawks Halloween contest after having spent hours and hours carving 25 pumpkins (that’s unfortunately not an exaggeration), only to find that the contest was closed at the time of my submission. (Helpful hint to the fine BH organization: Next time, can we please have a closing date, or at least can you remove the functional submission link? Thanks. From, Kathryn-Covered-To-Her-Nostrils-In-Pumpkin-Goop.)
After having missed that contest, I devised a Christmas plan, in case they announced another one. And this time, I would be ready, darn it!
So here I am, the day before Christmas, twiddling my thumbs. No contest. … So, does anyone want some cookies??? 🙂 Or a homemade tree on which to display cookies? Might I suggest using this as a display of Christmas cookies that each have a relative’s name on it? Wouldn’t that be a nice treat for your holiday dinner! You can use the method outlined below and place each name on a Christmas cookie. It would be so lovely!
MAKING THE TREE
The first step in this project was to build the tree. I looked at every craft store possible for a pre-made tree that was to my liking, but I couldn’t find anything. Luckily, my dad is pretty handy with a drill, so we were able to put something together with dowel rods. Drill the holes in the large center pole, stick in the dowel rods (which had already been measured and cut to create the typical “tree” shape), paint the whole thing, and cover with Christmas greenery. Ta-da!
DECORATE THE COOKIES
The way you do this part of course depends on whatever you’re decorating. In my case, I wanted a red outline for much of this jersey, but not the bottom, since the actual ones are white on the bottom. Had I outlined the entire cookie simply in red, you would be able to see the red outline around the white and it would look silly. You’ll need a hard consistency royal icing (I use Wilton’s recipe) to pipe the outlines. As you can see below, I piped the outlines and then added the stripes and collar.
I used an awl to poke a hole through the top of each cookie so that I could put them on the tree later. I then outlined that hole using the thick consistency red royal icing. Once that was done, I flooded the cookie with thin consistency royal icing. Once it’s dry 24 hours later (see, I told you these are a pain), you can decorate the top of the cookie. WRITING THE PLAYERS’ NUMBERS
Perhaps there is a better way of doing this part, but I do not know what it is. I wanted the numbers to have the font they really do on the jerseys, rather than just be done in my handwriting. But to accomplish this, I needed a “double row” of thick royal icing. And when I piped a double row, it looked completely ridiculous. (See first picture below.) So I wet a paintbrush and sort of coaxed the two parts to come together and form one cohesive line. It worked somewhat, though the edges are still not perfectly straight.
MAKE THE COOKIES SPARKLE!
The top cookie on this “One Goal” hockey tree is the Stanley Cup. I don’t own a cutter for this so I tried to eyeball it. I covered the cookie in gray royal icing, but what a huge difference a little luster dust makes! They make metallic dusts in a variety of colors. And a little goes a long way! Simply mix with a splash of lemon extract and paint it right on.
Upon first glance, my dad huffed at the tree and said, “Well I don’t like it because Corey’s on the bottom.” (Had he been given the opportunity, he says, he would have played goalie, too.) I explained to my father that in my tree, the goalies are on the bottom center, like a strong foundation, surrounded by the defensive players. The forwards are on the top half, and furthermore, the centers are in the center, the right wings on the right, and the left wingers on the left.
What ideas do you have for recycling this tree? Right now I’m leaning towards using this same cookie cutter to create an array of “ugly sweaters,” each one labeled with a guests’ name. Maybe it could be cute for favors for a Christmastime bridal shower or baby shower? What do you think?
I’ve been trying to decide why I love hockey, and I think it’s because my mother is a nurse. I spent many of my elementary years attempting to fake sick so that I could stay home and watch “Little House on the Prairie,” but alas! To have a mother as a nurse is to never, ever, ever miss a day of school. Her insistence that we muscle through any dribbly noses or rumbly stomachs has created within me an immune system so strong that in 8 years of teaching, I have only succumbed to illness once. (Which reminds me: always get that flu shot. Trust me.) Her no-nonsense attitude has completely rubbed off on me and I’m both ashamed and proud to say that, should someone complain that they have a cold, I might outwardly exhibit signs of compassion, but you can be sure that on the inside, I’m thinking, “Take some Dimetapp and move on with your life already- geez!”
It is commonly known that hockey players are the absolute best when it comes to muscling through pain. And I think my mother would approve. I’ll never forget the sight of Andrew Shaw, a gaping gash across his face, hoisting that cup last year! Now there’s a trooper! Or Keith taking a puck to the mouth, losing teeth, and then finishing the game? I can’t even come up with a sport where they’d do anything like that.
Strangely enough, I have baseball to thank for this hockey cake I made. How richly ironic is that? Baseball: the sport where time stands still and the biggest threat to players are grass stains. Any readers who are baseball fans, please enlighten me as to how I can better enjoy the game. Until then, consider this an open invitation to the high-speed world of hockey, where the players move fast, hard, and even win once in a while.
Several weeks ago, The Cake Boss brought a cake in to Wrigley Field to celebrate their 100th Anniversary. The cake was left out all day for the enjoyment of the fans at the ballpark, and by the end, was deemed not safe to eat (or something like that). It found its way into a dumpster, where someone took a photo, which went viral, naturally. The Cubs just can’t catch a break. Many of my friends sent me the photo, and I jokingly commented to them that I wanted to build a hockey cake, instead! Later that evening, I heard a discussion on WGN radio where the hosts were going on and on about the cake, and about how Wrigley should have eaten it, and aren’t there any bakers in Chicago, anyways? I fired off an email to the station offering to bring in a Blackhawks cake, and- wonder of wonders!- the producer was in touch with me within minutes. And then, a deep gulp: what had I gotten myself into?!
With a ten-day deadline, a regular job to do, and absolutely no knowledge of large cake construction, the project seemed doomed for failure. Luckily, my family is awesome and, as usual, served as my minions. There is absolutely no way I could have done this without them.
STEP 1: CREATE THE RINK
Supplies: foam board, rotary cutter, and fondant
1. Cut out foam board to a “rink” shape.
2. Lay fondant on the board and smooth it out (it was easier to roll it directly on the board than to try and transfer it after rolling).
3. Using a very thinly-rolled fondant, cut out various rink decorations.
4. Create center logo. Keep all these pieces like a puzzle, rather than layers. Make it as flat as possible.
5. Use a black food-safe marker to create highlights on the face and feathers.
STEP 2: CREATE THE “ICE”(Disclaimer: There may be, and likely is, an easier way to do this. I have no idea what it is though and would welcome suggestions because this was hard. 🙂 )
Mission: Create a clear piece of “ice” that was in the shape of a rink that can lay atop the fondant rink pictured above. I was dead-set on creating this and required it as the “wow” factor. Difficulty level: Almost off the charts Success rate: 8 experiments later, we came somewhat close. Result still slightly yellow-ish and bumpy, but seriously, eight tries! Enough already!
1. Bottom surface: Granite (don’t have granite, like I don’t? Buy some garden thingies from Menards!)
2. Lay foil across stone tiles
3. Lay nonstick mat atop foil (that’s me, always food-safe!)
4. Create a barrier that will hold in the boiling sugar and allow it to harden into the shape of the hockey rink (For my barrier, we improvised and took a trip to Menards. We found black metal pieces with a gentle curve (somewhere in the fencing department) and then had a gentleman cut a piece of wooden molding down to the required size (2 feet). We wrapped the wood pieces in foil, coated the foil in crisco (so that the hardened sugar wouldn’t stick to it), and laid them carefully on the mat.)
Method: Cook sugar according to recipe (I used this one). Make sure you have a good candy thermometer- the temperatures listed on the device are extremely important and even a few degrees’ difference is enough to throw off the entire batch (I repeat: we did this EIGHT times). Here are three of the failed attempts. The first we cooked to the marking for “Hard Crack” (310°F). It was clear as we poured it but it turned brown about halfway through- apparently it continued cooking even when off the flame. Attempt 2 we cooked to “Hard Ball” (250°F). As you can see, it was too droopy. Attempt 3: cooked without corn syrup in an attempt to get rid of yellow tinge. Didn’t work- the corn syrup is important in getting rid of all the granules of sugar. This photo shows how cloudy it was, even after half an hour of cooking!
The final result that we used was “Hard Ball” (285°F). We poured it out and then let it sit for an entire day. Then we gently removed the side pieces, and luckily, it stayed in place! This one was the winner! Here’s a photo of the sugar right after it was poured:
STEP 3: CREATE PLAYERS
I created body pieces out of red gum paste, and allowed them to harden for several days. Then, using red modeling chocolate, I added another layer to create the uniform. Once the pieces were mostly covered in modeling chocolate, I stuck a little bit of white gum paste in between to hold the leg (or arm) to the torso. Then, I covered the entire joint area with modeling chocolate and allowed it to harden for several days. (My lineup of players lived in this pan while drying. I checked on them frequently to make sure they were behaving and not falling over.)
Each player had an individual stance and therefore, his own personality. The Toews figure turned out to be the most reliable one, which amused me greatly. (It’s the little things in life.) Every time I had to pick up one of the others, I looked over at #19 and thought, “Well isn’t that just like him. Always the responsible one, getting it done.”
I was so utterly lost for time that I even packed up a little kit to work on while attending my dad’s spring band concert! My last guy came to the concert as a lump of modeling chocolate, and left a player. Not easy to do by the flickering candlelight, but the deadline loomed and I was motivated by the thought of them showing an incomplete cake.
STEP 4: CREATE NETS
Using a heavy gauge floral wire, I sculpted two hockey nets. They were then covered in white fondant. My mom, a whiz with fabrics, created the net with a bit of string. Then she covered the remaining portion of the nets with red modeling chocolate.
STEP 5: PUT THE RINK TOGETHER
Once the white fondant was dry, and the sugar-ice was hardened, it was time to lay it on top and see if it worked! This picture pretty clearly shows the yellow cast of the ice.
Once the ice was down, it was time to create the walls of the rink. These were foam board covered in fondant and stuck into the rink using toothpicks. Unfortunately there are no photos of this part! WE’RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!!!
STEP 6: MAKE THE CAKE
Here’s the most awful part about cake decorating: there are certain things that you have to do last minute. Like putting the cake together. Sure, I can make the parts in advance, but one doesn’t quite know how it will work until the actual cake is there! Luckily, my mother is an absolute angel and she baked twelve cakes while I was at work. Twelve!
Once the cakes were carved and frosted, it was time to cover with fondant. I decided to cover the top with one piece, and the sides with separate pieces. If I had the luxury of hiring someone, this would be their #1 job because I am absolutely awful.
Don’t forget to put supports in the cake so the rink doesn’t come crashing through! 🙂
STEP 7: PUT IT ALL TOGETHER!
Here’s a handy dandy photo that shows the many layers of the cake:
STEP 8: TRANSPORT DOWNTOWN
STEP 9: SET UP CAKE IN WGN SHOWCASE STUDIO
Check back for my next post that will describe my experiences at WGN! I was able to bring the cake into the studio, talk on the air with Garry Meier and Tom Skilling, and leave the cake in the Showcase Studio window for passersby to see! I am so grateful to WGN for this awesome opportunity- it was a lot of fun and something that I’ll never forget! In the meantime, tune in to the podcast, available here: http://wgnradio.com/2014/05/07/garry-meier-full-05062014/ (beginning around the 3rd minute).
I was sooo out of time with this cake that I didn’t even take one photo. Ridiculous! Unfortunately, you’ll have to rely on my verbal description. 😦
1. Cover cake with white fondant.
2. Roll out a piece of black fondant. Carve the outline of the Blackhawk head.
3. Roll out a piece of skin-tone fondant. Gently lay the black cutout on top of that, and lightly trace the outline.
4. Remove the black piece and place on the cake. Then, using your lightly-traced outline as a guide, go in about a quarter inch and cut out the face. 5. Cut out the indentations marking the nose, mouth, cheek, chin, and forehead. Lay on the black piece.
6. Cut an eye and eyebrow and lay them on top.
7. Cut out the feathers and lay them on top.
8. Use buttercream and pipe the detail on both the feathers and the hair. And you’re done!