Penelope Beveridge gives Pop Cake Hints on how to rescue a disaster
PictureBaking, Food Styling, and Photography by Penelope Beveridge
A valuable lesson for anyone who needs a little extra help in making Pop Cakes, you can learn from my mistakes. I decided to create a masterpiece Birthday Pop Cake Tower for my  lovely husband Sean but it all went pear shaped.  I had pre-visualized a tall tower of Pop Cakes, over 90 standing like a huge monolith.  The dream was a complete fail!

Something I have learned recently in the face of adversity just let that energy go and say "How Wonderful".   How Wonderful was repeated several times that day.  I thought nothing can go wrong, big mistake.  The previous day I focused on the preliminaries,  to bake all the Popcakes, let them cool down and have the next day dedicated to styling and decorating the cakes.  I decided on a red velvet pop cake mix plus used a Pop Cake Maker to quickly bake approximately 90 Popcakes.  So far all was going to schedule,  except for the Pop Cake Maker.

This was the first trial and error lesson.  When you are using a Pop Cake Maker or Baby Cake Maker, make sure the cake mixture is level to the surface of the Maker.  You only fill one half of the Maker and then close the lid.  Also wipe each holder with oil and use an oven mit to open and close, they get very hot.  

If you add too much the cake mixture it will ooze out and if do not have enough mixture the Pop Cake will not be round.  You will have one round side and the other will be flat.  I made both these mistakes.  I did use a tablespoon measure although you need to ensure you are accurate.

I tried to clear away all the evidence before Sean came home although his foodie nose knew instantly some baking had happened that day.  My surprise birthday cake was no longer top secret.  However, he still did not know that type of cake or how it would look, so that element would be the surprise.  I knew my husband would be expecting something special and stylish from me.   Yikes!

The next disaster was melting the white chocolate.  I do not often use white chocolate and decided against using the double boil technique for melting, apparently microwave is much faster.  Great, my microwave could not adjust the temperature settings,  within 2 minutes my white chocolate was sizzling and the texture was a thick lumpy mash.  That ended in the bin and lucky I had another packet.  Always check your temperature as white chocolate only needs to be heated to (43 degrees Celsius)  110 degrees F and chocolate is (49 degree Celsius )120 degrees F
.  The second attempt I used the double boil method for melting.  Which is boil a small amount of water in a pot and sit a large glass bowl on top, plus check the temperature.  Highly recommend all cooks to have a thermostat/thermometer available in the kitchen, it saves a lot of tears.  Getting the white chocolate to a runny consistency was a challenge.  Once you bring the water to the boil, check the temperature of the white chocolate and stir out the lumps.  Let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes and you can continue to stir the chocolate.   If the white chocolate is still not runny enough (needs to dip off the knife for best coverage of the Pop Cake)  add some vegetable oil into the chocolate.  Do not add olive oil, you must use vegetable oil.  I added approximately one tablespoon of vegetable oil.  It helped to thin down the white chocolate to become smoother and more manageable.  Best to use a knife not a wooden spoon.  Wooden spoons hold some moisture and you need to ensure all your bowls, spatulas are free of water as this will cause your chocolate to go lumpy and thick too.  Once you have coated your Pop Cakes you can place them either on baking paper on a tray or on a candy stick.  If you wish to keep a round smooth exterior with the chocolate icing you need to use the candy stick for drying and place upside down into an old egg carton or Styrofoam container.  You can buy containers especially for Pop Cakes like the one I have used (bottom photo).

Make sure you Pop Cakes are cooled before adding the chocolate icing, otherwise the icing will crack and fall off.  If you make your chocolate icing too runny it will run down the candy stick.  If you chocolate icing is running, just melt some more chocolate to thicken again.  When you push the candy stick into the Pop Cake, add some of the icing before inserting this helps prevent the cake sliding down the stick.   You can bake a whole cake in a tin, with break up the baked Cake and mix with chocolate ganache.  Ensure you balance the ganache and cake mixture as the Pop Cake will slide down the candy stick if it mostly ganache, especially in warm weather.
  With cake plus ganache you mould the round balls in your hands.  Do a test Pop Cake first to try the right consistency.

My Pop Cake Tower crashed as I am placing the last few cakes on top, yes "How Wonderful".   It was a warm day in Australia so icing tends to go very slippery in our heat.  While assembling I saw the cakes smash to the bench and the force of the crash caused some of the white chocolate icing to fall off.  The mistake I made with the tower, was not having a cardboard base to help hold the tower.  I forgot to buy the white cardboard and thought a shortcut with toothpicks and extra icing would be suffice.  This was a big mistake,  just did not work.  Before the crash, I tried placing a glass in the center and wrapped the Pop Cakes around the glass.  Then some icing mixture was made to help connect each Pop Cake.  The Pop Cake Tower may have worked if I have purchased and made a large upside down cardboard cone.  Definitely need to re-make, practice and  try again.   In the end, some pop cakes were salvaged.  Lucky they survived the crash.  The "survivors" were placed into the handmade pottery bowl to give a rustic kitchen look.  This is when fudging a disaster can add to the the look, simply by adding some style element like flowers, ribbons and pretty props can keep the "eye" happy.  Think of it as makeup for the cakes.   Above photo is the final result that was presented.  Individual Pop Cakes sprinkled with some blue candy glitter and tiny iced rosebuds then served with coffee.   Still tasted great.

As you can see in the photo the original tower idea did not happen so plan B came into action.  My motto is always have a back up plan in case all fails.

Recipe for the Red Velvet Cakes


INGREDIENTS

  • 180g softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups (315gm)s caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean 
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 21/2 cups (375gms) self-raising flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup (250ml) organic whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tablespoon red liquid food coloring
  • white chocolate (I used  1 pkt white chocolate candy melts)
  • Chocolate food coloring (I used green)
  • Small icing decorations (I used contrasting pinks and magenta)



  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

  2. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract together until pale and creamy. Add the eggs beating well then add the flour, cocoa powder and organic milk continue mixing until well combined.  Finally add the white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and food coloring.

  3.  Spoon mixture into the prepared Pop Cake baking trays or Pop Cake Maker about 1 tablespoon per Pop Cake.  If you are using a Pop Cake Maker in preheat the Maker and check the cooking time.  Best to do one as a test.  My Pop Cake Maker only took 6 minutes and I can do a batch of twelve (12).  Set the Pop Cakes aside on a wire rack.   Leave until complete cool then ice with Chocolate.  You can let your imagination go wild, there are many different designs and styles you can try. 
    Good Luck and Enjoy.  PS Hubby loved the Pop Cakes


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Cooling the Pop Cakes using candy sticks inserted into a pop cake holder.
 
 
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Food Photography by Penelope Beveridge
Baking soda and bicarbonate of soda are the same in Australia.  Baking powder is not the same as bicarbonate of soda although powders are leavening agents. When included in a cake mixes and batter then beaten, the leavening agent causes air bubbles  to expand when cooked will  ‘rise’. Bicarbonate of soda is a pure leavening agent that needs moisture  and an acidic ingredient for the chemical reaction to take place to make food rise.  Bicarbonate  is often used in recipes where there is already an acidic ingredient  such as lemon juice, chocolate, buttermilk or honey.

Baking powder  contains bicarbonate of soda  plus the acidic ingredient called cream of tartar.  It has a neutral taste compared to bicarbonate of soda which has a tangy taste.  Baking powder  is often used in recipes that have other neutral tasting ingredients, such as milk.

Bicarbonate of soda makes a very specific texture not achievable with baking powder. It is very important to sift bicarbonate of soda well as it gets lumpy and to use very exact measures.


 
 
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Food Photography and Food Styling by Penelope Beveridge©
 
 
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Recipe from cookbook Photography and Food styling by Penelope Beveridge©
 
 
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Ingredients for the Filling
900 gr  Red Onions, sliced
200 gr   Goats Cheese
  40 gr   Pecorino Cheese (parmesan can be used as well)
   25 gr   Olive Oil
               handful of Thyme sprigs (about 20 sprigs)
               (extra thyme for final garnish)
      8  tbsp Balsamic Vinegar                                                                                                                    salt and cracked pepper

Tart Pastry
175gr Plain Flour
  75gr Butter Soft
1 beaten Egg
 50gr cheddar cheese can be added
small amount of cold water

Tart Filling
Warm olive oil in a large pan and stir in the balsamic vinegar, thyme and sliced red onions, uncovered, reduce down the liquids and stir often for about 30 minutes. We are looking for lovely glazed carmelized onions.  Allow the onion mix to cool until ready to add into the pastry tart case.  

Method
Prepare the pastry first by rubbing the butter through the flour, this is when you can add the cheddar cheese for a cheesy dough.  Gently add the cold water, only enough to smooth the dough.  Wrap the dough and place in the refrigerator for approximately 20 minutes and go onto making the tart filling.  Roll out the dough thinly and either lay out on greased tray or cut into round pie shapes depending on the desired shape and whether they will be slice and shared  or served as individual tarts.  Bake in the oven for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.  To prevent the pastry from lifting you can add pie weights or make a weight using foil and rice to keep the tart flat.  Bake until cooked through then cool on a wire rack.  Once the pastry has cooled next step is to brush beaten egg inside the pastry and pop back into the oven again for a further 5 mins to help prevent the pastry from going soggy when the mixture is added.  Spoon in the tart mixture and sprinkle goats cheese on top and thyme.  These can be served immediately or if desired sprinkle extra percorino over the tart pop back into the oven for 1 to 2 mintues to melt cheese.  Delicious as a party canape, lunch or serve with drinks.  Other cheeses like cheddar can be added to this tart. 

You can make individual tarts or one larger tart as shown in the photo above.  This recipe would make approximately 8 tarts in mini flan tines 9cm x 2.5cm high (3.5 inch x 1 inch).



 
 
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Food Photography and Food Styling by Penelope Beveridge excerpt from cookbook "Building the Perfect Meal from Scratch"
 
 
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Food Photography and Styling by Penelope Beveridge excerpt from the "Building the Perfect Meal from Scratch" Cookbook
 

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