10/31/09

A Tale of Two Sillies

6:55 p.m. There was a chill in the country air, as a boy and his father eagerly walk out the back door of the old farmhouse, and into All Hallows’ Eve.

Playfully kicking little piles of crisp, fallen leaves, they make their way to a small tent they had set up in the woods just days before.

7:00 p.m. The boys reach their tent. A structure of cheap polyester was all that stood between them and the rapacious creatures that thrive when the sun goes down.

The autumn wind whistled through the tent, persuading them to gather kindling to build a fire, all the while anticipating a modest feast of s’mores and hot dogs stashed in their backpacks.

7:23 p.m. Pandemonium brakes out in the tent.

“A stuuunk! It’s a stunk!” the young boy screams.
("Stunk" being the boy's term for Skunk)

Without hesitation, the boys ripped through the flap of their tent, making a bee-line for home. And leaving a trail of marshmallows back to reality.

Perhaps I should mention (with devastating sarcasm) the tent stood only 23 feet from home.

What a pity. Of all the wild critters in the woods, the guys became unhinged by a certain Peppi Le Pew, hell-bent on crashing their garden party.

Based on a true story.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Well, would you look at the time! I can't end our visit without sharing what I made for the two brave male characters in the story.



Say hello to Steampunk Jack. Thanks to my daughter for the steampunk idea.
Jack was baked in two 6” in diameter half ball pans (You could use mixing bowls for this).
I have only two favorite chocolate cake recipes—this is one of them—appropriately named,

Ultimate Chocolate Cake.

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350°F.
Grease and line bottoms of two 9" cake pans with parchment paper (I used the ball pans mentioned earlier, with enough batter left over to fill a mini loaf pan).

Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler (or in a microwave on High, stirring every 10 to 15 seconds). Allow chocolate to cool.
Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in melted chocolate.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt, and add gradually to chocolate mixture, alternating with buttermilk. Stir in boiling water and vanilla. Pour batter into prepared cake pans.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for several minutes in the pans. Invert onto a wire rack to cool. Slightly adapted from a recipe by aunt Martha Stewart~


Steampunk Stylin' Jack

I sliced each half to create 4 layers. Then filled with chocolate ganache. Even though the cake was small I inserted couple of wooden skewers through its mangy little head and into the cake board for stability.

The cake was iced thinly, and allowed to set until no longer sticky to the touch. If you'd rather not wait, refrigerate the cake until buttercream is firm.

Tinted rolled fondant went on the cake next. Indentations on the pumpkin were made with a chopstick, but a skewer works too. Be sure to do this while the fondant is still soft. The white rolled fondant collar and bowtie were added last.


Jack's top hat was made of pastillage because this medium dries faster and harder than gum paste. But I also recommend it because it is made with ingredients already in your cupboard.

Pastillage

1 tablespoon gelatin
1/3 cup water
4 cups confectioner's sugar (lightly spooned into cup)
1/2 cup cornstarch (lightly spooned into cup)
1 pinch cream of tartar
food coloring (optional)

Sprinkle the gelatin over water in a small heatproof glass cup. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Set in a small pan of simmering water, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. (This can be done in a microwave on high power for a few seconds). Remove from heat.

Combine the sugar, cornstarch and cream or tartar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Stir in the gelatin mixture until blended. Mix with lightly greased hands and knead until sugar is incorporated.

Turn onto a smooth, lightly greased surface and knead until smooth. If pastillage seems dry, knead in a few drops of water. If too sticky, knead in more confectioner's sugar~

Allow pastillage to rest for at least 1 hour before using. To prevent it from drying out, keep it tightly wrapped in plastic, and place in an airtight container.
Store 1 month at room temperature, or freeze indefinitely.
Recipe: The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum.


Instructions for Top Hat

An empty tin can, covered in plastic wrap and well dusted with cornstarch, was used to shape the top hat.
Roll out your pastillage to about 1/8-inch thick. Using the tin as a guide, cut out the top of the hat. Next, measure the tin's circumference (adding ½-inch to the length), cut out the strip for what will be the side of the hat.

Wrap the pastillage strip around the tin. For a clean cut, overlap the ends, and cut through all layers with an X-acto knife. Lightly dampen the ends to secure. Set on a cornstarch dusted tray to dry, while you make the brim.

Follow the same steps for the brim that you used to make the top of the hat. But add an extra 2 to 2½ inches. AND, poke a hole in the center of the brim with a wooden skewer. Allow the top and brim to dry completely, before gluing together.

What to use for glue?

No, not royal icing. Instead, dissolve a small ball of pastillage by adding a few drops of water at a time, until it is the consistency of Elmer's glue. Attach by brushing this glue on all the edges. Set aside to dry.

Take a toothpick or wooden skewer (depending on the size of your cake), insert it halfway into the top of the cake, wherever you want to position the hat. Slide the skewer through the hole in the hat, to securely anchor the hat to Jack's head.

The word, Boo, was handpainted with paste food color thinned with vodka.



Well my friends, the bewitching hour is upon us...




The stunk and I wish you a Happy Halloween!

26 comments:

  1. I'm sure that amazing cake would be just the thing to calm the nerves of any spooked or stunked camper! It's fantastic, Sol! Of course, I'm making off with the cake recipe (I came as a ghost in case you didn't see me).

    Okay, is the hand real or your realistic food art?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Happy Halloween, dear!

    Funny story LOL! I love your spooky shot...

    A fabulous cake! I'd love to have a slice!

    Cheers,

    Rosa xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well Boo to you! It's about time you came out of the crypt.
    I made your Dirtbombs, posted them, and sent the bloggers over here to see you..
    Glad to see you haunting again!
    Have a HH! and dia de los muertos...ewwww...
    Your cake looks wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Was wondering when you'd come back to haunt us :) Definitely worth the wait, LOL!

    Looks fabulous! I'd have run from a Stunk, too!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Happy Halloween!!
    Love the story! My little camper can't take the coyote howls, though they never come close to our house because of the dog smells in our yard. I've got to come up with some ideas to make use of the pastillage for one of the many family birthdays in Dec. The cake, but especially the hat, are too cute!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Susan, where the heck are you? I can't see you.
    Btw, the hand is art, just not my art.


    Dear Rosa, I was going to save you a piece of cake, but figured it would make more sense to bake you a fresh one, on your visit to the US.


    Kathleen, it would take more than all the sugar in Dirt Bombs to drag my carcass out of the crypt.
    J and I spent Halloween cleaning out our flooded basement; we were SO tricked!

    Carol, I boo-ve you!


    Maggie, we hear coyotes howling almost every night out here, and Thumper doesn't like it either. It creeps me out a bit too, but I try to put on a brave facade.
    Has anyone looked up 'silver bullets' on Ebay?

    Hope you all had a Shuddery Halloween!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I don't know what steampunk is but as always, it looks great! I think the boys are smart. I would not stick around and play Halloween with Mr. Stunk.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a great story and that cake is wonderful!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Mari, nice to see you back blogging. What a great story and a fabulous looking cake! Well,my friend, this cake is a piece of art and something my large hands are not quite designed to do, so I commend you for your tremendous talent and this is not a compliment. I am saving your ultimate chocolate cake as we have a bunch of chocolate addicts in the family (i have recovered). Happy Halloween!!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Jessica, I think the guys learned their lesson. Unfortunately, I recently heard them talking about going ice fishing. And I've been a little tense ever since.

    Biz, thank you very kindly!


    Fari, a recovered chocoholic? Say it isn't so! It's no secret chocolate is my crack. So much so that if I were cut, I'd bleed chocolate. Is that too gruesome?

    Thank you all!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I loved that story so much. It reminded me of the time my two little ones wanted to camp in our back garden and I said yes, but do you realise that we'll have to lock the door at night? Yes, they answered. And do you realise that you will be on your own when the fox comes (we have got a regular, foxy visitor) and how about when the spiders get in (it was summer)? Next thing I know, they were back in the house, tent folded up in the lounge. The look on their faces said it all: 'You spoiled our fun, Papi!'

    Greetings from London.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Sol - I WUV your stunk story :)
    And the cake - but that goes without saying, its beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
  13. a lovely funny story and a lovely cake..exquisite! Loving ur blog..

    ReplyDelete
  14. My dear Cuban, you should have never used a "night alone" and "spiders" in the same sentence! :-D


    Thank you all for your kindness! Once again, you have made my day!

    ReplyDelete
  15. What kind thoughts :-D... I'd love to pay you a visit!

    I hope you'll like those cupcakes.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    ReplyDelete
  16. Marysol,

    What a great, I mean scary work... love it :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Marysol, thanks for visiting my blog. Wow, in the brief time I took to look around your blog I can tell I'm going to love it. Will come back later to feast my eyes some more!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hola Sol....I really didn't catch on at first that it was a cake in the photo...it looked so much like a craft construction. But edible...and chocolate at that... OMG you are such a master of your art! Just look the other way while I take a huge bite.

    Well at least Peppi Le Pew wasn't a bear, but just as scary I imagine. ¡Saludos!

    ReplyDelete
  19. what! The whole thing is a cake? I really thought it was a real pumpkin at first... I didn't realised it was a cake that comes complete with an edible hat ... kudos to u for pulling this off!

    happy belated halloween :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks Rosa! I have enough pumpkin here to feed (and elate) an entire neighborhood. So your recipe is going to make a lot of people happy—not just me.


    Margo! which was more traumatizing, the Halloween tale or Jack the pumpkin? ;-)


    Hi Vintage! A craft search led me to your wonderful blog, and I'm so glad to have found you!


    Sharon, tus palabras han sido siempre agradables y sinceramente te lo agradezco. Thank you dear friend!


    NC, except for the pastillage hat (which is an edible decoration, but too chalky and bland to be enjoyed) the cake is just that.
    But, I don't think I'll ever make another pumpkin
    -shaped cake again. I'm looking forward to trying something creepy next Halloween.

    Thank you all very kindly!

    ReplyDelete
  21. lol..great story...but the cake steals the show!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Great story! I love the cake too and especially interested in it since it has light brown sugar and buttermilk. I bet it was very tasty and rich. I will have to try it out some time. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Have a great week, dear!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    ReplyDelete
  24. I love the story and your work is fabulous. I gotta keep reading your other posts.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thank you all very kindly!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Stunk makes a lot more sense than skunk, if you think about it. Sadly the only thing creepy here was the guy across the hall (who, I suspect, has done in his wife... but that's a tale for another day).

    Love the pumpkin, Marisol :)

    ReplyDelete