Monday, June 29, 2015


The last time I had a party for my birthday was when I turned 25. I figured it's pretty much all down hill from there, especially since no one has found the Fountain of Youth or created that awesome anit-aging potion from Death Becomes Her. So I have been beaten into a quiet submission whereby I hope, like with most problems, that if I ignore my birthday hard enough it will simply go away.  My husband is the exact opposite of me. He still loves to throw a good shindig (and caution to the wind) to see if he can still party like he did when he was 22. Recovery time not withstanding, he really knows how to have a birthday...take for instance the early party we had for him last year before he deployed complete with Cookie Monster cake and slip and slide. This year we decided to throw a backyard fire pit party with a ton of appetizers and beer...and the cake, you ask? Well, my husband simply said to me, "This year I want a red velvet zombie cake," and I took it from there. Derek gets what Derek wants! I was also thrilled with the idea of making a cake that was supposed to have flaws and look icky. It was a glorious cake decorator's rebellion. I was so happy to make it, it almost made me forget I'll be turning 29 in six months. The power of cake, y'all.
In a surprising twist, I will be the one eating your brains, sir.
I know, isn't it spectacularly gross and awful in all the right ways? The most time consuming aspect of making this cake was making the Jello eyeballs...but this resulted in me being able to eat a very large bowl of very blue Jello for dinner one night without any sort of hospitalization required. Aspire to be me, people. If you want to make creepy eyeballs, definitely do this a day ahead of time, as it does take awhile to set. Since I have a ton of my usual crappy photo montages to show you, let's get down to business. If anyone wants these to end, it will require you purchasing me a better camera.
You will need a box of whatever color Jello you want to use for the irises, a box of vanilla instant pudding, Gelatine, and writer icing in black for the pupils and red if you want a bloodshot look. I used this cake pop tray for assembly. No word on whether or not it actually works for cake pops...yet.
Prepare the Jello for your irises as directed on the box, adding in a tablespoon of the Gelatine for better firmness. In what is an essential step, pour it into something with a spout. You're still gonna make a huge mess, but this is why people have dogs, yes?
Slightly to the left of my feet in this picture is said doggy cleaning device. During the pouring process, I accidentally got some Jello on Freyja's head. She was sticky for a day or so, but big brother Hank really enjoyed cleaning her up. Don't pour a ton of Jello into the mold, just about 1/3 of the way full. You can always use a paper towel to soak up any excess. Now place into the fridge to set for 2-3 hours.
Once the iris is set, come back in and place a dot of black into the center for the pupil. Use a toothpick if needed to dab it down or reshape. If you want a creepy, cloudy, dead-eye look, drop a large glob of red writer icing on top of the black, and use a toothpick to draw lines of red out from the pupil. Set back into the fridge for 2-3 hours.
Now, mix the pudding in with 1 1/2 tablespoons of Gelatine, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1 cup of hot but not boiling water (steaming hot, if you will). Blend this together very well, and then add in 1/2 cup of cold water, 1/2 cup of cold milk, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Let this cool down to room temperature, and then pour into something with a spout. Very gently, pour on top of your pupils and irises. Gently is a must, or you run the risk of moving the pupils.

Fill them all the way to the top this time. Overflow is ok. Place the top on your cake pop mold and leave in the fridge for 2-3 hours or until set- I left them alone overnight to set to be safe.
I then took a small angled spatula and loosened the eyes up from the sides and bottom of the pop mold. Slow and steady wins the race here for sure. I sped through a couple and was left with eyes sans irises, so they looked like tiny little implants for a small woodland fairy or something instead.
I love the dead-eyed look from the eyeballs I put red icing into, but I did love the normal eyes as well. Creepy either way, and you very well could add booze into either recipe and make these even cooler, because that's what booze does to things (in moderation, anyway...don't eat so many boozy eyeballs you end up dancing like Elaine Benes).
I usually cop out and make red velvet cakes from the box, but my mom has a recipe that is simply to die for...and since I had that giant bowl of leftover blue Jello for dinner, I was riding a pretty large high and decided to go for it and make my cake from scratch--was definitely not disappointed with the results. I share this recipe with you, my dear devoted readers, because my mother is an excellent baker, and this cake will make your life infinitely better.
I mean, I already had everything I needed on hand, it was kismet.
Preheat your oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 pan (or two 8-inch rounds depending on your cake design preferences). Then gather:
  •  1/2 cup of butter at room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 full bottle of red food coloring (1 oz)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (I know this sounds scary, but just go with me here)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda (yeah, baking powder is pictured, but thankfully I reread my recipe card after the Jello jitters started to calm down)
Cream together the butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes. While this is going on, mix together the food coloring and cocoa powder to make a paste. Once the butter and sugar is nice and fluffy, add in each egg, mixing well after each addition. Then add in the cocoa paste mixture. Add in a third of the buttermilk, mix, a third of the flour, mix, and continue until it is all nicely mixed in. Add your vanilla. In a small dish or measuring cup, mix together the vinegar and baking soda to relive your sixth grade science fair when you made that exploding volcano. Once well mixed, add in to your cake batter and blend. 
Pour into the pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
So red. So pretty. So delicious.
Now, as I will always tell you, let the cake rest on a cooling rack in the pan for 10 minutes, then place a towel on top of the cooling rack and empty out the pan. Let cake rest in the freezer for an hour or two so shaping the zombie's head is easier.
To shape the head, I rounded the top of the cake and cut in diagonally on the bottom to make a chin. Place back into the freezer while you make the icing so the crumbage isn't too insane.
At this point, I should just invest in powdered sugar.
I used brown and green dye mixed together to create some ghoulish skin. I used mostly green with four or five drops of brown added in.
I made my almond buttercream frosting to so grossly adorn the zombie's face. I used:
  • 1 cup of Crisco
  • 1/2 a stick of butter
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon of almond extract
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk 
  • Optional: gel icing dye
Blend together Crisco and butter for a few minutes. Add in the extracts and one cup of sugar. Mix well and scrape the bowl. Add in one tablespoon of milk or heavy cream. Repeat the sugar/cream process until you've used all 4 cups and tablespoons. Add in dye if using.

Now crumb coat that man eater! I love how sickly the color turned out. I was okay with a cheesy zombie...if I had make a Walking Dead-esque zombie, I would've been too afraid to eat it. Truth. Set in the freezer for 30 minutes after coating.
Bring out and add the final coat of frosting. Stick back into the freezer for 30 minutes, and then take out and use the paper towel trick to smooth things out. Since it is an ugly zombie cake, I didn't expend too much effort into the smoothing. The rougher the better. Precisely why making zombie cakes are fun. I wonder if there's a niche market for this...
I swear to God the Belvedere isn't for drinking...
While the decorating is easy, you will want a few odds and ends for your zombie:
  • Red and black decorator icing
  • Black and brown gel icing dye mixed with a small splash of vodka to thin it out without making it watery. Shots optional? I was about to hit the Jello withdrawal wall, and the vodka would've been useful, but I soldiered on anyway. I save myself for pinot grigio, what can I say.
  • The leftover frosting fitted into a piping bag with a large round tip
  • Paint brushes of varying sizes
  • Thinly sliced almonds
  • Pull and peel Twizzlers
Start by piping out a mouth shape for the...mouth. At this point my cake looks more like the toad from Flushed Away:
Image result for flushed away the toad
Which gave me a great idea for my next birthday cake.
Then add the almond slices in to get teeth. Still looking toadish to me, so let's add some gore.
Toad...I think you may be ill... I took the red writer icing and drizzled blood throughout the mouth.
Then I took my smallest paintbrush and outlined the teeth with the black, brown, and vodka dye mix. I also came in and drew lines on the mouth to make it look rougher and cracked.
Then I took a larger brush and filled in the rest of the mouth. It's either the start of a zombie, or Toad really does need to seek veterinary help ASAP.

I used a toothpick to draw in the outline of the zombie's nostrils.
I filled this in with the black writer icing.
I did the same thing for the eye sockets, but I only used the writer icing to outline the socket and painted in the rest with dye mix.
Funny thing about jiggles (and will leave you with massive hunger anger when it wears off). My eyeball wanted to slide around quite a bit, so I frosted a small barrier of writer icing around it to keep it put. I only wanted one eyeball falling out of this zombie's head. Even I have standards, as crappy as they may be.
When I finished outlining and painting in the other eye socket, I took a small section of Twizzler and pulled it apart to look like the muscle holding the eye in place was falling out. I apologize if I haven't used the correct terminology for what holds our eyes in our heads. I get woozy when I stub a toe, so clearly I do not delve into human anatomy for fear of puking. I shoved, seriously, not gentle at all, the Twizzler into the middle of the socket. I flattened it out so the eye would have a place to rest, and I painted in any area that was disturbed by the Twizzler.

I added in extra "blood" with the red writer icing. I also piped on eyebrows with my piping bag and decorated sparse eyebrow hairs on with my dye and small paintbrush. I also came back in and added bags under the eyes with this as well.
But my zombie still wasn't looking rough enough, so I decided to carve his face up a bit. It was a little nauseating but ultimately freeing to carve into a cake before even serving it. I used a small sharp knife and created various cuts in the cake. I pulled the knife out to bring chunks of cake to the surface--thank you, red velvet, for making this possible.

I finished off the cuts by adding more blood coming out them. And there you have it: one zombie with a striking resemblance to a CGI toad. I doubt toads taste this good though.
I am proud to say the cake was an absolute hit, and I even had blog fans in the house (literally) that had anticipated what kind of cake Derek would be having. This, of course, made it very difficult for my swollen head to fit through doors for the rest of the night, but worth it. Always nice to know my self-deprecating witticism and semi-talented cake decorating skills don't fall on deaf ears...or blind eyes in this case I suppose. Derek's party was a success. People feasted and drank like kings. Or like adults in our late twenties absolutely dreading the severity of our hangovers the next day. Nothing like a little cautious alcoholism, I suppose. I believe my only regret (I remembered to take Advil before bed, thankyouverymuch), is that I never named the zombie. But the second you name something, you know I'm not allowing anyone to eat it. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
"Here's looking at you, kid. With my one good eye. You lookin' might tasty today."
-Unnamed and now beheaded zombie cake

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