Saturday, July 4, 2015

Red, White, and Sparkly.

I trust everyone is having a fantastic Fourth of July. I love celebrating freedom, America, and my God-given right to shove whatever I want in my mouth today with reckless abandon because America's birthday is everyone's cheat day. Truth...just ask the KFC buckets in our trashcan. Am I full of regret? Yes. But does that regret taste like the extra crispy recipe? You better believe it. We're gearing up for a couple of BBQs later, so naturally I spent all day yesterday coming up with a dessert that just screams "'Merica!!!" without actually having to say a word. After last year's American flag cake, I realize I shot myself in the foot and nothing I ever bake for July 4th will be able to top that. So going in with low expectations (how American of me), I decided to make a flag out of cake pops instead. But since this is a day all about panache and flare, I realized that my cake pop flag needed to be as blindingly bright as the sparklers and Roman Candles I'll probably be burning myself and others with later. I apologize in advance to anyone who loses an eyebrow at my hands this evening...I'll bake you a free cake. So to help make my pops...pop...I decided to try out luster dust for the first time, and I was NOT disappointed (and not just due to the fact that you get to use vodka to mix it for painting and perhaps sipping. I'm sure my insides are quite sparkly now)...
"And I'm proud to be an American, where the flags are so tasty. And I won't forget the eggs that died, and gave that cake to me." ...yep, it's official, I'm going to hell for that.
Every once in a while, you just see something so American it brings a tear to your eye. This is one of those moments, people. I still hate making cake pops, but getting to coat them in a shiny layer of edible glitter was pretty damn awesome. Cake pops are time consuming, and as I mentioned earlier, I spent about 6 hours working on these yesterday from start to finish. Still not as time consuming as most cakes, and considering I owe my cake-baking freedom to some pretty baller forefathers, the work was most definitely worth it in order to show my patriotism in a less explodey, more nourishy kind of way. Lord only knows what weird British dessert I would have made if it weren't for old G.Wash and Tommy Jeffs. What? I can't be the only person who gave the Founding Fathers awesome nicknames.
Yeah, it was a box cake. I celebrate my right to be lazy and entitled, okay?
I'll give you a few pointers on cake pops that helped me streamline the process:
  • Make your cake a day ahead of time, crumble into a large bowl when cooled, and mix with 2/3 of a can of frosting. I wanted lots of color, so I went with funfetti cake with lemon frosting. 
  • I use a cookie scoop to scoop and form each pop. 
  • I also recommend freezing for a half hour and then rerolling your pops to get a great form. Something about rolling 40 cake pops, by the end of it, things are looking a little wonky thanks to your claw-like phalanges. So give them and the pops a rest before one final reroll, and you'll thank me later.
Now, on to some geometry.
I had 40 pops and a tray from Hobby Lobby to place them on. You need more red than any other color. I had 18 red pops, 13 white pops, and 9 blue pops. By the end of all the chocolate coating, I had red, white, and blue myself (long live Arrested Development).
I am really getting my money's worth out of those $4 paint brushes.
Once you've rolled everything nicely, gather up the rest of the ingredients. I used:
  • One bag of red, white, and blue candy melts
  • Paint brushes
  • Red, white, and blue luster dust
  • Cake pop stand and styrofoam block
  • Small jar of star sprinkles
  • Cake pop sticks (you need these to make painting and dipping easier, but they will be removed in the end)
  • Vodka. It is good for the soul AND the luster dusting process
No one bought me a new camera after my plea last week, so let's get ready for a crappy photo montage that only a Window's phone could bring you. I'll never understand how I can create a PowerPoint presentation on my phone, but taking a decent picture is next to impossible.
Start by melting your chocolate into a deep cup or Tupperware. Follow package instructions so you don't scorch the chocolate and render it useless. Take a pop stick, dip it into the chocolate, and stab into a cake pop. Repeat until you've done this for all 18 red pops. Place into the fridge for 10 minutes to harden.
I just had the strong, overwhelming urge to go to Target sweep over me. Nuke your chocolate on LOW power for 10 seconds. Take each pop individually and dip into your cup/bowl/whatever. Pull out of the chocolate slowly, and then hold the pop over your cup at a 45 degree angle. Tap your wrist holding the pop with your opposite hand over the cup while slowly spinning the pop in one direction. When you come full-circle, spin back around in the opposite direction all the while tapping your wrist. Tapping your wrist will smoothly rid excess chocolate and prevents the pop from shaking too hard and falling off the stick, so don't just hit the pop on the cup because that is what will happen. Trust me, I've failed for you here in the past. Place into the fridge for 20-30 minutes to dry.
Belvedere has saved me two weeks in a row now. Is there anything a potato can't do?

Take a large paintbrush full of luster dust and place into a tiny ramekin. Add a few drops of vodka or another clear liquor with high alcohol content to this and mix. The vodka helps you paint on the luster and will then evaporate as it dries, so your pop will take just fine and not at all like vodka (sadly).
I simply painted on the dust. I got through about 6 pops before creating another mix of vodka and luster.
You can really see the difference here...luster on the left, plain pop on the right.
Once you've painted all the red pops, place aside on the counter to finish drying--this process will take about an hour. So while those are drying, you can get started on the white pops! 
Here's a better look at how much luster dust I used. This amount covered all 13 white pops with none to spare.
And mixed with vodka! I know it's Russian, but I have to hand it to is a very versatile liquor. From assisting in improving baked goods to lowering your standards, it has an everyday use for sure.
Repeat the melting chocolate, stabbing pops, fridge for 10, dipping, and fridge for 30, luster dust process again for the 13 white pops. These white pops were actually quite pretty on their own, but as is the case in life, most things look better with a coat of paint on them.
I never want anyone to eat these. They are all that is right and beautiful in this world. You could tie ribbons on these and make them wedding cake pops quite easily. I die.
By the time you've luster dusted the white pops, you can remove the sticks from the red pops by gently wiggling the stick until they come loose. Since the pops, now cake balls, need to sit flat, take a small paring knife and trim away any uneven bottoms. I hate uneven bottoms on cakes, chairs, and people. And surprisingly enough, a little knife action can fix the problem for all three. Once you've...unstuck? the red pops, melt the blue chocolate and skewer the 9 remaining pops before chilling in the fridge. Come back and dip the last of the pops in the blue chocolate and let set for another half an hour in the fridge. This is where time adds up...with the waiting. Could you guess patience is not a virtue I possess? If you're more than 5 minutes late to something, I think less of you as a person. Not that it matters. I think less of me as a person after what I did to that bucket of KFC earlier.
I was reminded by these pops how much I hate the Dallas Cowboys.
Once the blue pops are dry, paint with the blue luster duster. While the dust is STILL WET, sprinkle with stars or little white sprinkles. Set aside to dry, but continue to look at these condescendingly out of the corner of your eye while muttering derogatory comments about Tony Romo.
You know exactly what I mean.
There is a sparkly light at the end of the tunnel.
Once done with the blue pops, remove the sticks from the white pops. Now you can begin to assemble the flag. The top three rows have 5 pops of alternating color while the bottom two rows have 8. And my Hobby Lobby tray has infinite rows of patriotism.
Once the blue pops are dry, add all nine in the remaining square.
I'm quite OCD (no, really?), so I shuffled things around and made sure no rough edges or unevenness were occurring with my flag. Then I took a step back on the feet that had lost feeling around hour four and admired how gorgeous this cake pop flag turned out to be. Was it hard? Did I end up having to run to Hobby Lobby during the middle of the process? Did I experience grotesque hunger anger when I plowed through snack time? Yes. But all things considered, it was totally worth it (much like the fried chicken). I will be happy to sink my teeth into one of these pops later...even if it does feel a little un-American to eat Old Glory. On a serious note, I of course am a very proud Texan and military wife. But I am an even prouder American. We have come a long way even just in recent weeks, but I hope our country continues to adapt and learn how to embrace our differences instead of fighting over them. Think of how far we have come since 1776, but we still have room for opportunity and growth. And that's part of what makes being an American so great; we all have different experiences to share and bring to the table in the feast that is life. So continue to take another helping of freedom and love and brotherhood (and cake pops) this Fourth. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters.
G.Wash would've loved these...wooden teeth and all.

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