Let's start at the beginning . . . . .
My dad was turning 70 in June and we were planning a big surprise party for him. Of course I had to make an awesome cake! And I had the perfect idea. This is our pool table:
Our present for my dad was to get the pool table re-felted. (Is that a word?) Anyways, I thought it would be really cool to make a pool table cake. And a pool table is just a rectangle right? So how hard could it be?
Day One: Friday, June 8:
Since the party was a surprise, we figured I shouldn't make the cake at my house. My dad might wonder why it was so ginormous. So I lugged all of my cake stuff (which is a lot of stuff!) over to my sister's house.
The first order of business was to bake the cakes. I had to make two 11x13 chocolate cakes and I only had one pan.
While the cakes were baking, I started on the modeling chocolate. This would later be rolled out and cut into pieces to make the brown outer sides of the pool table. I was most nervous about this because I have had mixed results when working with modeling chocolate and I didn't really have a back up plan.
Modeling chocolate is a a very simple recipe. You just melt some chocolate (or in this case, Wilton candy melts) and then you add corn syrup. But too often mine has resulted in a large oozing pile of crumbly chocolate and oiliness.
But this time, I learned the secret from the Sugar Sweet Cakes and Treats Blog. (Go here for the tutorial). The secret is that you only stir the mixture about 6 times. Over-stirring makes it too oily. Basically you are just folding over the chocolate a few times. Then you spread it out on the wax paper and let it sit.
You pour the batter in and in about two minutes they are done! One batch makes at least 70 cake pops. My nephew Peter always asks me if he can help me make my cakes. And finally he was able to!
|Peter and the cake pops.|
|Cooked cake pops.|
What I discovered is that once you dip the lollipop sticks into the melted candy and then into the cake pop, you have to freeze them. The candy doesn't harden quickly enough for you to dip the whole thing immediately into the candy.
Finally I had finished all the cake pops. I also made some without the lollipop sticks to put on the actual cake.
Next I turned back to the cake itself. I put the two sheet cakes next to each other and began working on the brownies. The plan was to use brownies as the raised edge of the table. They would then be covered in frosting and modeling chocolate (hopefully!) and wouldn't be seen. Great idea.
But not so easy to implement. My first batch of brownies was way way way too thin. It simply would not have worked for what I wanted them to do. It was getting very late and I was frustrated. My niece and nephew were in bed and my sister was lying on her bed, very sick.
My sister got out several boxes of brownie mix, encouraging me to just make another batch, this time using two mixes. So I did.
Then I started a batch of frosting. I had brought enough ingredients to make 3 batches, figuring that would be all I needed. I had already dumped my box of 1lb powdered sugar into the mixer when I realized I had put in 7 tablespoons of milk in instead of 7 teaspoons. For those of you who don't realize what a colossal mistake that was - I would have had to triple the recipe. It would have killed the mixer. I burst into tears.
So basically my sister and I were both crying, sitting on her bed watching The Office until my brother-in-law got home from work. He tried to cheer us up, but let me tell you, this was a tough job. I don't remember everything that happened, but I was on the floor crying because the stupid cake just wasn't working.
At this point, this is the amount of cake and brownie mixes I have used:
|Tower of Grief|
(Turns out I wasn't the only one. My mom and sister later told me that when they saw the cake at this point, they thought it was not very good. But that's only because they didn't know what my vision was. And they thought the finished product was awesome.)
|The sad looking cake. :(|
A new day and a fresh start! I got to my sister's house early and got to work. My nephew was thrilled that the cake wasn't done because he got to help some more.
It was time for the big test - was the modeling chocolate going to work? If not, I was up the creek. While I was working on building up the cake with brownies, Peter started kneading the chocolate to make it soft enough to roll out.
|Peter hard at work.|
|Squeezing with all his might.|
I finished the chocolate siding and then I used a round cutter to cut the holes for the pockets. This was harder than it looked because some of the brownies did not want to be cut.
|Modeling chocolate added,|
|Making a mess cutting out the pockets.|
Meanwhile, it's getting later and later and I haven't finished the cake pops yet. I had done all the solid colors, but I needed the stripes done. So Aaron bravely helped me by dipping the cake pops in white chocolate to make the effect of striped balls. THANKS AARON!!!!
Day 3: Sunday, June 10.
(Not sure exactly what point this happened . . .)
I was busy cutting out black fondant to make the pockets, and then adding them to the cake.
Next I piped the gold onto the corners of the "pool table." I piped a black edge around the top and added gold dots.
|Finished cake pops!|
|Pool Table Cake|
|Little chalk sitting on the edge of the table|
I have a small car and there are no flat surfaces anywhere. So I piled up some books on the back seat in an attempt to make it level and my sister stuffed some sleeping bags in to keep it from falling off the seat. Those were the longest ten minutes of my life. But we made it to the church in one piece.
Later I found out my dad almost went into the room where the cake was hiding. Close call! My nephew had said something to my dad about what Aunt Joy was making, but caught himself and said, but I can't tell you even if you want to know! So Dad knew I was making a cake, but he didn't know about the surprise party. Phew!
I was completely exhausted, but when I set up the cake with the cake pops behind it, it looked awesome!
|The boys are ready to eat some cake!|
|You can't tell I stayed up all night, right?|
|Dad ready to cut the cake.|
(Notice all the cake pops have disappeared at this point.)
Adding the candles.
|Blowing out the candles|
So Dad was completely surprised and the cake tasted great. Time for me to go home and take a nap.
|The final presentation|
Whew - this post was almost as exhausting to write as it was to make the cake!
Just a few shoutouts - thanks Amy for encouraging me even when you were feeling horrible. Thanks Peter for being a cheerful helper who thought the cake looked awesome at every stage. And thanks Aaron for getting me off the floor and ready to try again, for staying up all night with me and for helping me with the cake pops.
I couldn't have done it without you guys.
Happy 70th Birthday Dad!!!