Disney Trip Planning: 180 Days Out (Well, more like 177)

Howdy friends and neighbours!  It’s been a long time – I keep meaning to come back and get into the blog habit again, but things keep getting in the way. 😛 So here I go to try again!

That's the spirit, Ralph!

That’s the spirit, Ralph!

I figure maybe I can make weekly updates on my planning for my family’s upcoming Disney World trip.  This is our first trip as a full family since 2011; my daughter was just about to turn 5, and now she’s 9. (If you’ve followed at home long enough you know that my daughter and I took a trip together in 2013, which was awesome! but now it’s time for my son and husband to get to come too ^_^)

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Adventures In Baking: Squirt Happy Turtlecakes

When my son was little, he used to call cake “Happy Cake” (probably because of “Happy Birthday” accompanying the cake). So when I came across a recipe for “Squirt Happy Turtlecakes” on Spoonful.com, the name alone was a big draw for me. 🙂  I decided to make them for my birthday, which is tomorrow.  I did let the kids help. 😉 And my daughter even suggested an improvement, which was to dye the frosting blue!

 

So if you’re coasting through this blog post without clicking the link – which is totally fine – I’ll just sum up with an explanation of what it is. The recipe isn’t so much for the cupcakes as it is for the decorations, which use candy to make cute little representations of Squirt, the baby sea turtle (offspring of Crush) in “Finding Nemo”.  The blue frosting takes the idea one step further, suggesting (along with the cupcake liners we picked out) the Big Blue and the EAC.  I won’t reprint the recipe here but do go to the Spoonful.com link above if you want to try these cupcakes, which are fun and easy!

 

Meanwhile here are the visual proofs of my labour!

Yaaay cupcakes! There IS a difference between muffins and cupcakes without frosting, though I'll admit sometimes it's a scant difference.

Yaaay cupcakes! There IS a difference between muffins and cupcakes without frosting, though I’ll admit sometimes it’s a scant difference.

Our "turtle shells" are gummi peach rings and gumdrops

Our “turtle shells” are gummi peach rings and gumdrops

An assembled turtle shell

An assembled turtle shell

Spearmint leaf candies are sliced up for front and back fins

Spearmint leaf candies are sliced up for front and back fins

Oh no! WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO HIS HEAD?! (Obviously it's buried in the cupcake somehow)

Oh no! WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO HIS HEAD?! (Obviously it’s buried in the cupcake somehow)

A close-up; the recipe includes mini chocolate chips for eyes but I thought that was overkill. I admit that he looks a little incomplete, though.

A close-up; the recipe includes mini chocolate chips for eyes but I thought that was overkill. I admit that he looks a little incomplete, though.

My daughter insisted on her hand appearing in the photo to show off the completed Squirt.

My daughter insisted on her hand appearing in the photo to show off the completed Squirt.

We ran out of green gumdrops (seriously, it was like 4 to a bag!! We had TWO BAGS and only got 8 heads!) so the last few got different-coloured heads. They still love and accept each other!

We ran out of green gumdrops (seriously, it was like 4 to a bag!! We had TWO BAGS and only got 8 heads!) so the last few got different-coloured heads. They still love and accept each other!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in (Evil) Baking – Pt II

Check out part I to see everything up to this point.  Or just jump straight into the exciting part! (The what?) When we left off, I had a plate full of frozen cake balls… or did I? Well, on their way to freezing anyway. 😉  Shortly before they were ready to come out of the freezer, we were instructed to melt the red candy wafers.  This is accomplished just via microwave – stick them in, stir every 30 seconds, until they’re smooth.  My daughter got to handle that part, and we enjoyed watching the get progressively softer and sweatier (haha) until they weren’t just mushy, they were absolutely liquid.

I have to admit, that has an appeal.

I have to admit, that has an appeal.

By the way, that bowl is a lot smaller than it looks… just saying. 🙂 SO we took the cake balls out of the freezer, and I carefully stuck the first one onto the first stick and dunked it into the red topping… and it promptly fell apart.  Even though I had expected something like this, it still resulted in a bit of a panic from all involved and I ended up kind of squeezing it together, remolding, smoothing the topping over it, etc and I ended with something that was really chunky and awful looking. YAY! XD

This was also how I discovered that the candy topping hardens when it cools, and it will do that quickly on your fingers.  So you get these amazing waxy red fingers. It’s actually AWESOME, I’m not joking. I wish I could have taken a picture of this but I’m hoping you understand why I couldn’t. 🙂

Anyway, we proceeded delicately – putting the sticks in only lightly, being careful with the topping, etc. By doing this we got a few that looked about how they were supposed to, and another few that were kind of in between, and one or two that just plain split into two pieces and, tragically, had to be eaten. SO SAD.  I decided we would pop the second half of the balls back into the freezer and be ready to remelt the topping if needed; meanwhile, we would make the green glaze.

But before that, a quick look at the apples of our labours! Guess which is the first one?

But before that, a quick look at the apples of our labours! Guess which is the first one?

I also really hope you like our soups. ^_~  Anyway, the glaze was fun to make, although it was another full cup of confectioner’s sugar that was largely wasted.  The resulting glaze  was, in my and my husband’s shared opinion, too sweet to consume – even the smell is just like inhaling pure sugar. But it looks awesome.

The green mix is underneath the mountain of confectioner's sugar here.

The green mix is underneath the mountain of confectioner’s sugar here.

Then we add a few tsps. of water, and stir... and watch what happens!

Then we add a few tsps. of water, and stir… and watch what happens!

A cauldron full of slime!  Even over 30 I am still amused by things that change colour in water. :D

A cauldron full of slime! Even over 30 I am still amused by things that change colour in water. 😀

So we went back to drizzle this over the cake pops we’d already done… only to find out that the glaze is not thick enough to settle on top of the pops, and the topping on the pops had hardened so that it was slightly waterproof, so the glaze pretty much ran straight down it and onto the pop-holder base. D’oh!  Well, in any case, we were ready to try again with the second half of the pops.

This time went slightly better, though definitely not perfect.  The cakes really weren’t any more solid than they had been before, just a little bit cooler.  We did OK when I put the ball gently onto the stick, but my son, with a 4-year-old’s lack of strength awareness, would just push the whole thing right into the topping and they’d usually break apart again, at least a little.  So there was still a lot of gently pushing back together, and we went through a lot of the topping that way. It turned out the glaze wasn’t much easier to get properly onto the pops even when they were still wet; that topping just shuns liquid, and the glaze was simply not that thick.  So we just kept spooning, and it kept running onto the counter, but as I’ve said, the glaze is so sweet as to be inedible. So you really don’t want that much on there anyway.

So, the results! The quality is all over the place, ranging from “decently passable” to “WHAT IS THAT THING?!” 🙂

The one with the "bite" out of it broke - it's not really a bite. But I like how it looks, lol!

The one with the “bite” out of it broke – it’s not really a bite. But I like how it looks, lol!

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Oh, and we nearly forgot the last of the frosting, didn’t we? Well, that was intended for the “stems”.  But the frosting was now basically liquid as well, maybe slightly thicker than the glaze.  So it was not about to “stack” the way the stems look in the pictures on the front.  Instead we got a nice little round drop on the top of each and that was it.  Which is also fine, because you may recall, it tasted like popcorn butter. 😛

So, each of the kids got to enjoy one of the pops, in addition to all the licking of fingers and munching on broken ones that had gone on… there were tummy aches and hyperactivity aplenty in the Kelly house last night, my friends! But here we are enjoying our treats:

D had already eaten enough of hers by the time I took this that it had fallen off the stick.

D had already eaten enough of hers by the time I took this that it had fallen off the stick.

I had to tell him "hold it up and smile!" because he was very solemnly staring at the camera with the pop waist-level. I swear he really did like it.

I had to tell him “hold it up and smile!” because he was very solemnly staring at the camera with the pop waist-level. I swear he really did like it.

This was my first one. (It's not really as big as it looks, this is a perspective selfie shot.) I was told it looks like raw hamburger, or a bleeding heart on a stick. Yay!

This was my first one. (It’s not really as big as it looks, this is a perspective selfie shot.) I was told it looks like raw hamburger, or a bleeding heart on a stick. Yay!

Here is the inside, because you know you want to know.

Here is the inside, because you know you want to know.

So, in spite of my semi-sarcastic (or sometimes completely sarcastic) remarks, what is my final verdict on this?  A LOT of fun, would do again! I would use real butter instead of margarine, and use only half of the recipe’s confectioner’s sugar quantities, especially on the glaze.  I would do the glaze just because it’s so fun to turn it into slime (yes, I am still 6), but it needs to be WAY less sweet.

I would use the glaze again, just because it is part of the desk and does actually look pretty cool, but MAN the sugar rush. Ugh. This is not a snack you can eat in one day unless you have 15-20 people at the ready to eat them. If you’re a family of four, you really can’t stomach 5 pops per person in 12 hours.  (Well, we can’t, and we don’t exactly restrict sugar.)  I can do without the tiny little tips of the “stems” from the frosting though. That’s really not necessary.

The one thing I DON’T mind is the mess, because it’s just too fun. If you go into it knowing you’re going to have a mess, then it’s really not a big deal. 🙂   It wasn’t all that hard to clean up even though it got everywhere, including the floor. And that candy does involve some scraping once it’s hardened. Be prepared for this stuff and consider putting down papers.

The fact that this is a kit is a big help because you have everything you need, in terms of supplies, readily available. I would not have gone out and bought lollipop sticks, and I would NEVER have thought to have a holed surface to let the dipped pops dry on.  This kit was super convenient and the best possible way to make our first set of cake pops. 🙂

And, in spite of how I presented it, they were not all disasters. Some of them actually came out looking close to how I assume they should look! Which, for a first try with two junior chefs, is not bad at all!

I'd eat it.

I’d eat it.

All in all, a B+ on this kit! You might be able to find it on eBay; I did find it on Amazon.com for $24.  I would not spend that much on it, if I were you.  If you’re an experienced cake popper I bet you could adapt this design for yourself for cheaper! 🙂 Otherwise, check toy stores around Halloween time and maybe something will “cake pop” up. Ahahahaha. Ohhhh, I regret writing that…

Adventures in (Evil) Baking – Pt I

This weekend, the kids and I were out on an extended shopping trip, and on our way home we passed a toy store that was going out of business and the signs were advertising “Entire Store 80% Off!”  Well, you know what that means: NOTHING is left. LOL. But I had to check it out anyway, because that’s a pretty sweet deal. The kids each found a couple of trinkets that rang in at under $1.50 with the final price cut; and I wandered around to see what they had and came across a “baking kit” section.

I had no idea that they sold baking craft kits at toy stores. Aside from the part where I was vaguely uncertain about the quality of the food involved, I was intrigued to find that all of the kits were Halloween-themed (but not too old – all were “best by” 2015 dates), and then to realize that more than half of what was left was from a Disney Villain brand!  Realizing that each kit would be under $4 each, I HAD to grab what I could.  We ended up with a Cruella DeVil mini cupcake kit, 2 Villains Cupcake kits, and an Evil Queen Cake Pop kit. (Oh and a Crayola “Candy Corn” cookie kit, but that’s not Disney, thus we will not be blogging on it.)  I put two aside to use as giveaway prizes if they worked out well – ie, if they were edible and worked the way the directions said – and then we got started on the cake pops first.

Aaaand because I knew this would be fascinating to people other than just me, I documented the ENTIRE event so that I could blog about it with you! 😀

Let's get this party starteeeed!

Let’s get this party starteeeed!

This is the back of the box.

This is the back of the box.

I opened up the box and went through the contents this morning just to make sure everything was there. (ALWAYS make sure everything is there.)  Anyway it was all present and accounted for, so I did the logical thing and took more photos to prove it.

The contents of the box - Thomas the Tank Engine cup and messy dining room table are not included

The contents of the box – Thomas the Tank Engine cup and messy dining room table are not included

These are the packets of powdered frosting. MMM, sounds yummy!

These are the packets of powdered frosting. MMM, sounds yummy!

Cake mix (contains wheat, if you missed that) and the red candy wafers that are used for the coating.

Cake mix (contains wheat, if you missed that) and the red candy wafers that are used for the coating.

And this baby is actually the spot where you stand your cake pops after they're done.

Note: finished product will taste nothing like apples.

After lunch, we got started on the cake portion of the recipe.  With an almost-8-year-old and a 4 1/2 year old, dividing up the duties gets tricky. So it becomes a sort of dance of alternating steps.  My daughter got to zap the margerine in the microwave to melt it, while my son got to dump the cake mix into the bowl. Then daughter breaks the egg into it, son does the water, and I pour in the melted margarine (side note: recipe called for butter; this may be part of why the cake was so breaky in the end? Oooops, spoilers!).  Then everyone takes turns mixing and it goes into the pan, and into the oven.

The mix has little dried chunks of apple in it. So those lumps are apple, not just lumps, which I found out after I tried to beat them into submission.

The mix has little dried chunks of apple in it. So those lumps are apple, not just lumps, which I found out after I tried to beat them into submission.

Here is the finished cake! As you can see there's not THAT much of it but that is fine since it won't look like this for long.

Here is the finished cake! As you can see there’s not THAT much of it but that is fine since it won’t look like this for long.

After the cake is done it cools. They suggest putting it into the refrigerator, and hey, I’m all for shortcuts so into the fridge it went. 🙂  At this point the kids had gone out sledding, so once they got back, we moved on to step 2, making the frosting.  This is another part where the recipe called for butter and I used margerine, and this time, I’m SURE that counted against me.  Also the amount of frosting made in this recipe was ridiculous compared to the amount needed.  Also it did not taste like caramel. It had a smell kind of like popcorn butter. But I guess when your frosting comes out of a tiny packet, it’s not going to be perfect.

My daughter and I whipped up the margarine, and then my son got to put the frosting powder into the bowl.

This boy had just gone sledding and been smacked with some mighty fine snowballs, apparently.  He is also dubious of the powdered frosting.

This boy had just gone sledding and been smacked with some mighty fine snowballs, apparently. He is also dubious of the powdered frosting.

And THIS is appetizing, yes?  Then we add powdered sugar, and...

And THIS is appetizing, yes? Then we add powdered sugar, and…

Voila! Actually, when completely mixed, it looks kind of good. I thought it tasted funny  but the kids were fine with it. (Really? They liked something that was 85% powdered sugar? How ODD!)  Later though, it separated and got very runny.

Voila! Actually, when completely mixed, it looks kind of good. I thought it tasted funny but the kids were fine with it. (Really? They liked something that was 85% powdered sugar? How ODD!) Later though, it separated and got very runny.

There is a full cup of confectioner’s sugar in that there frosting, folks. And it still tastes like popcorn butter. I’ll pass, thanks.

So next!  After this the kids got to crumble up the cake. This was a definite favourite part. They each took 1/4 of it at a time and just squished it with their well-washed hands, into tiny crummy pieces!

Because who doesn't like destroying cake? Deny it and I will call you a liar. :)

Because who doesn’t like destroying cake? Deny it and I will call you a liar. 🙂

 

Next, we put half of the frosting into this bowl and mixed until it all clumped together!  If you’re one of the people who hates the word “moist”, you’re not going to like what I say here. 🙂 “Half” of the frosting is really a random amount. I have no idea how much frosting we had.  So I just put in enough to make the cake crumbs moist enough to stick together in a ball.  In retrospect I think perhaps I should have used more, but oh well.

The kit comes with a piping bag so that you can use the rest of the frosting later. The kids enjoyed spooning the frosting into the bag, but all in all, I don’t think the final frosting touch is needed; my advice would be to discard whatever you don’t need in the cake mixing part.

Well, at this point we were finally ready to shape the cake into balls.  There were supposed to be 20, so I separated and separated again and then pulled off chunks and let the kids roll them up.  Then we put them all onto a plate lined with plastic wrap, and I stuck them into the freezer.

Lookin' like meatballs. But they're not!

Lookin’ like meatballs. But they’re not!

 

In the interest of not having a post that goes on and on forever, I’m going to cut this off here and finish the rest up this afternoon or tonight! 🙂  See you then!