Monday, January 23, 2012

Zebra Cake and Brownie Lollipops.

Listen, I'm going to fill you in on a little secret right now.  I gave up on being the mom who throws the best, most elaborate, themed-down-to-the-toilet tissue Birthday Parties for my children long before I even had children.   I do, however, love trying new things and enjoy having a but of fun when it comes to baking goodies for their big day.

I have to get a little creative when it comes to making something special for Jack's birthday.  I discovered a while back that food coloring makes Jack VERY hyper, and often very emotional.  So it's tricky to come up with a cool looking cake that doesn't depend on bright colored frosting.

Jack is really into the show "Wild Kratts", and loves animals in general.  I was thinking that if I could come up with a way to swirl chocolate into an animal pattern, we could do something cool looking and that tasted awesome.

My first stop was the baking section of a local hobby store.  I saw two things that looked cool to try: zebra cake, and brownie lollipops.

We'll start with the brownie lollipops.  First: the steps to making a normal pan of brownies.

Mix batter.
Pour into greased pan.
Cook 28 minutes.

Total time: 37 minutes.

Now, here's how you make brownie lollipops.

Read brownie lollipop pan directions.  Ask three different people in the store if they understand the directions.  Get three different opinions.  Purchase the pan anyway .

Also buy two boxes of brownie mix, sucker sticks, cooking spray, white chocolate and dark chocolate for decorating.

Mix batter.

Spray each individual vessel in the pan pan.

Figure out how to get gooey brownie mix into miniature holes in the brownie lollipop pan without getting mix all over the pan or over the 2/3 mark.

Attempt to move flexible brownie lollipop pan into oven without spilling the brownie mix.

Burn your hand while trying to figure out how to balance curved, flexible pan on wire oven racks.

Set timer for 25 minutes.

When timer goes off, set again for another 3 minutes.

After they look fully cooked, remove flexible pan from wire racks by using three different size and shape pot holders.  Burn other hand.

Set pan on counter to cool.

Curse yourself for overfilling the little holes, because you now have several weird shaped brownies that in no way shape or form resemble the brownies on the box.

Start to wonder how you are going to hide the fact that every brownie is lop-sided, over-baked, and indented on the bottom where you had to forcefully shove it out of the pan.


Re-fill pan.  Hey - you've only made 8 brownies so far (well, only 5 made it out of the pan in one piece!) and you need AT LEAST 24 for your child's class tomorrow.

Check the time. Realize it's taken 49 minutes to get 5 brownie lollipops cooked, cooled, and popped out of the pan.  Calculate that you'll be making brownie lollipops until 3 AM.

Repeat steps above, trying various alterations to ensure the brownies will pop out of the pan in one piece.  

Cook one pan an extra 7 minutes.

Place one pan in the freezer for 10 minutes after removing from oven.

Spray pan twice.  

When you finally have the minimal number of brownie pops required to ensure you can give one to every child and to the principal, who, as it turns out, knows your child by First, Middle, AND Last Name, it's time to decorate the lollipops.

Here's where I could have saved myself a LITTLE bit of time and just did it myself. But no.  I wanted Jack to be a part of the - let's call it - "fun".  And of course, if Jack gets to play with chocolate, then his sister should, too!

How to decorate your brownie lollipops:

Melt white chocolate in small bowl.

Place small bowl in between a 7 year old and a four year old.  Ask them to take turns dipping brownies into the bowl.

45 seconds later, realize you are a moron and microwave another bowl of white chocolate.

Pull three brownie lollipops that are stuck on the bottom of the bowls out of the bowls and curse the fact that you now only have 21 brownie lollipops and you need to make more.

Wash white chocolate off of hands, faces, tables, chairs, and the dog.

Against your better judgement, melt the brown chocolate for the stripes and fool yourself into thinking that you can show the 7 and 4 year old how to drip chocolate onto the white zebras.

Melt a second bowl of brown chocolate because - DUH! - were you not here for the white chocolate fiasco?!

When the final brownie is covered in chocolate remind them through your clenched jaw that it is 3 am - way past their bedtime - and they need to get in bed.

Look upon the little collection of lopsided, drippy, zebra inspired brownie lollipops and realize - you know, they are ugly, and they took forever, but they sure look yummy!  And the kids had fun.

Put the top of the cake holder over the brownie lollipops to transfer them to school.

Realize that the lollipop sticks you have used are 1/2" too long to fit under cake dome.


Swear again.  Explain situation to husband.  Not because you need his help - you need his empathy!  Hold yourself back when he states from his spot on the sofa "just cut the sticks"

(insert round of applause for husband who states the only obvious solution that I NEVER would have thought of)

Head out to garage and search for wire cutters.

Come back into house and take a small amount of gratification in snapping an inch off of each sucker stick.  Try to not pretend you are cutting something else.

Finally put dome on cake plate and go to bed.

Total time: 4 hours, 26 minutes.

Now, Zebra cake.

While I was looking around the baking section, I did notice a $9 box of Zebra cake mix. This must be one friggin' amazing box of cake right?!? $9? and it makes ONE 9" round layer? I'd be a FOOL not to buy it!

Call me a fool...but here's what I did.  Bought two boxes of cake mix at the grocery store: one white and one dark chocolate, then followed the directions on the zebra cake mix (shhhhhh!!! I read the box for free!!)

You start with about half a cup of white batter right in the middle of the round cake pan. Then, aiming right for the middle of that circle, you add about 1/3 a cup of dark chocolate batter.  Keep alternating white and chocolate, always aiming for the center of the circle. As it spreads, it forms lines!

I guessed I should fill the pans just about half way, although I think I went a little layers ended up really lopsided!  But, I did get two layers and over a dozen cupcakes (which I also made half and half) for the party.

I took this picture on an angle so you really couldn't tell how crooked it is...

and here's what the stripes looked like!

It was super yummy and very unique looking.  Jack really enjoyed his zebra themed birthday treats. 

Brownie lollipops will have to wait for another special occasion.  Like when he graduates.  From law school.


SuZeFashion said...

Wow! Not sure what to say except that you put a lot of love into your son's birthday celebration! I'm sure your children will never forget the fun they had. I love your sense of humor in the retelling. The cake looks amazing. Thanks for sharing!

Regina said...

I am really having a great chuckle with your hilarious telling of what must have been a very long night.
Oh, those special treats sound so fun to make. Run! It's a trap.
I do think the treats look yummy and the way the zebra cake turned out is extra cool. I hope to remember that during my semi-annual baking.
I think it's cool you let the kids participate. You get a halo for that.

Lisa Graham said...

Jack looks happy...nice work mom! Pretty desserts!