Monday, November 11, 2013

Star Wars Mos Eisley Cantina (Medium)

We decided to recreate Chalmun's Cantina.  This project was fairly easy in terms of the skill required, but challenging due to the scale.  We wanted the Cantina to be appropriately sized for Hasbro figures.  So it's big!

I started by rounding up all of the Hasbro characters that I could find - the boys had some, I found some on eBay, and borrowed the rest. Some of the Hallmark Christmas ornaments also work - I have the Celebration set with Obi-Wan, Ponda Baba, and Baba's severed arm... (how perfect is that!)

I found good floor plan diagrams of the cantina online, and removed most of the interior walls.  I did have "niches" for the band, and (of course) Han and Greedo.  Keeping the curved wall with the dome was also important.  I planned where I would put the figures I had, based on the scene from the movie.

I laid out the floor plan 2 days before the party.   I started with a 33"x33" cake board.  We covered it with a piece of tan plastic tablecloth, then created a foundation for the walls using a 2" strip of stryofoam covered with tan masking tape.   (This added height and also provided a place for skewers to stabilize the walls.) 

I knew I needed approx. 7" for the band, so I scaled the rest from there.  The entire structure is approx. 32"x32", with the bar set 11" in from each side.  (the center of the bar is in the middle of the back part of the structure.  The bar is approx 14" long.  The bar top is 2" deep, with 2" between the bar top and the center island.  The island is also 2" in deep.  This scale worked well with the figures. 

The day before the party, I made rice crispy treats for the walls.  At some point I lost count, but I think I made 9 pans (9x13) - yes 9 - of rice crispy treats.  One batch made the dome.  (Molded that in half of the ever-so-useful Wilton sports ball pan!)  The rest were simply cut into 2" strips and piled on the foundation.  My target wall height was 6", with the dome on top.  The rice crispy strips curved very easily to make the rounded wall.  Be sure to spray the pans liberally with non-stick spray!  For planning, I started around 3 pm and finished around 7:30 or so.

Notice the "gap" in the wall - that's where a snickerdoodle wall gets inserted.

When I was done with the rice crispy treats, I made the dough for the snickerdoodles.  I made a double-batch of dough (see recipes side link) - this was more than I needed, but I wanted to freeze some dough for Christmas baking next month.  I "rolled" the dough into square-shaped logs that we 2" thick, so that I could slice-and-bake the bar structure the next morning.

The morning of the party, I got up early and baked cookies.  I sliced cookies to stack as the bar and for the final bit of wall (the wall behind the bar).  Before I baked the cookies, I used a Wilton large round tip (#12) to cut a hole in the center of each cookie.  This enabled me to stack them on bamboo skewers which I stuck in the foam.  It turned out that I didn't need skewers for bar itself, as it was only 3 cookies tall, but I did use skewers for the exterior wall.  Bake some cookies without holes for the top.  I rolled some additional dough out for the walls, table tops and bar tops.

Once it was all together, I added the Hasbro figures.  I finished up by using some fondant to make the vessels on the bar island and the cups for the figures.  (For the cups, just shape a small tube, then use a skewer to make the hole.) 

Before we served this, we dropped a little MP3 player and tiny speaker in the area under the dome, playing the Cantina band music clip!  I also added a tiny cup with a bit of dry ice and hot water behind the bar to give a smoky effect.  Very fun! 

Here are some shots of the interior:

To serve, just cut apart the walls!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sharknado Cookie Cake - Medium

We thoroughly enjoyed SyFy's Sharknado, so I made this cookie cake for my son's birthday.  It wasn't too hard, BUT the tornado is cotton candy, so you cannot make this on a rainy day!  This is a low-humity dessert!

Stuff to acquire before you start:
- 1 or 2 tubes of plastic sharks (the shark head on the cake was the top of one of my tubes)  This gives the dessert it's "movie-quality" appeal!  (The tackier the sharks, the better!) 

- 10 or so plastic floral skewers.  You need 3 of these to help secure the nado, plus one for each shark.  Break them off at an appropriate height, then hot glue a shark to each skewer.  (See picture.) 

- Several bags/tubs of cotton candy - I tried several brands.  The brand from Party City was the worst, the candy had a bad texture and didn't pull apart.  The "Hello Kitty" brand from Toys R Us worked well.  The tub from Publix was also good.  Note that  all the packs had both pink and blue candy, you'll have to separate the blue.  You don't need the pink.

- Florist wire or similar wire - lightweight, but strong enough to hold the candy.

- A toy helicopter.  This was actually the hardest thing to find!  There are RC copters, but they are expensive.  This was a Disney toy from Toys R Us, in the $6 range, but the only non-RC helicopter I found.  If you have time, order a cheap toy helicopter online. 

When you're ready to bake:

1.  Start by making a large cookie cake.   Err on the side of overbaking a bit - you want the cake to be very firm.

Spray round cookie pan with non-stick spray.  (I use a round 9x13 Wilton cookie pan.)  Prepare batch of chocolate chip cookie dough or use 2 tubes of refrigerated dough.  Bake in 350o F oven for approximately 22 minutes or until cookie is set.  Ovens vary widely, so check cookie at 18 minutes and every couple minutes thereafter.  Let cool, then unmold onto tray or serving platter.

2. Once the cake is fully cooled, make a 1/2 batch of buttercream icing (see recipe on the sidebar).  Tint blue or grey. 

3. Make a tornado shape out of the wire.  (It can be pretty loose.  You are going to wrap cotton candy around the wires.)   

4.  Place three skewers into the cake, to hold the wire.  (Position with the tornado, but then remove it.)  Use liberal buttercream to secure the skewers into the cookie. 

5.  Holding the tornado in your hands, and begin to cover the wire with blue cotton candy.  To do this, wrap strips of candy around the wire and squeeze to seal.  (It takes a bit of practice.)  When the tornado is mostly covered, slide it onto the skewers, so the skewers are inside, providing support.  Cover any remaining wire with cotton candy.

6.  Gently insert the shark skewers into the tornado, going between the wires to make the sharks "emerge" from the tornado.   If the tornado is a bit tipsy, these skewers can be strategically placed to provide additional support.   If a skewer is too visible, cover with a bit of leftover cotton candy.

7.  Pipe buttercream message on the cookie - I used a No. 4 Wilton tip.  The Sharknado tag line is "enough said" so that's a good phrase to incorporate.   Position helicopter as desired, along with any remaining sharks.

8.  Pipe buttercream stars or shells around the border to finish.