Considering my general enthusiasm for Christmas in my last post, it would be reasonable to expect today’s Zoosday Tuesday post to feature some Christmas-related animal, like reindeer or something. But no, today’s post features… Pufferfish! Ya, I know, a bit of a curve ball, right? Or a puffed-up, spiky ball might be more accurate. Many times over the course of last (academic) year, Kat was my partner in crime when it came to baking and trying out new recipes. But we haven’t baked together since Graduation at the end of June (being in two different towns makes that a little difficult…) and I’ve really missed it. So when I went up to St Andrews a few weeks ago to visit her, we decided to rectify that and bake together again.
Obviously, we didn’t pick something straightforward to make. Oh no. I’d had the idea of pufferfish cake pops a few weeks previously, so that’s what we decided to attempt… We had great fun mucking around and creating a general mess (well ok, so I created most of the mess and Kat cleaned up after me. This is why we make such an awesome baking team – though I clearly get the better deal). Neither of us had made cake pops before, so we more or less made it up as we went along (with lots of taste-testing along the way, obviously…), but that’s how we’ve always baked together, so nothing new there!
We faffed around quite a lot whilst making the cake pops and then got distracted by James Bond (helloooo Daniel Craig) and a fair amount of wine, so it took us two days to make them but I think they turned out rather cute. Before anybody comes out all smart-arse and points out that pufferfish aren’t that colour, I’ll just say that there are at least 130 known species of pufferfish. These are blatantly the very rare orange-spiked pufferfish (which is clearly not a species that I’ve just made up, ahem). So anyway pufferfish cake pops, definitely a success! And unlike most pufferfish, these aren’t poisonous, which is always a bonus… They also happen to taste delicious. Hurrah!
Pufferfish double chocolate cake pops
Makes ~24 cake pops (we ate quite a few before they reached cake pop stage)
Cake recipe adapted from SquirrelsLarder
Making cake pops does take a while since there are several stages that involve waiting for things to cool, chill or set, but you can leave them to cool/chill/set for quite a while as you go about your business and fit the cake pop making process around it. We chose to make the cake because home-made cake is always better, but you can just use shop-bought cake and crumble that up if you want to save some time. Although I’m giving directions using an electric whisk, you can make these entirely by hand as well. I know, because that’s what we did. Since making these, I have read that adding some Crisco (or other vegetable fat product) helps to smoothen the chocolate coating. We didn’t use any so I can’t tell you for sure whether this works, but if you do try it, let me know! We found that this video gives a useful overview of how to make cake pops, so if you’ve never tried them before, watching it might help to visualise some of the stages.
For the cake:
175g unsalted butter
175g brown sugar
3 large eggs
150g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g cocoa powder (at least 70%)
1 tbsp water (optional)
For the cake pops:
200g unsalted butter
400g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g white chocolate
Caramel food colouring gel
Black food colouring gel
For the cake:
1. Butter two 20cm sandwich cake tins (or one larger tin if you don’t have two – it doesn’t matter too much since the cake is going to be crumbled once it has been made). Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
2. Using an electric whisk, beat the sugar and butter together in a large bowl until well mixed. Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl with a fork then mix into the butter and sugar mixture a little at a time (if the mixture curdles, add about 1 tbsp of the flour and continue mixing until smooth again).
3. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into the mixing bowl and fold into the butter and sugar mixture. If the batter seems too thick, add some of the water, but this depends on the batter (we didn’t need to add any).
4. Split the batter between the two sandwich tins (or pour it all into the larger tin), smoothing the tops with a spatula. Bake both on the middle shelf of the oven for 20-25 mins, until a toothpick comes out clean.
5. Cool completely on a wire rack.
For the cake pops:
6. As the cakes are cooling, making the buttercream icing. Whisk the softened butter and icing sugar together in a medium bowl using an electric whisk (be prepared for a minor icing sugar explosion). Add the vanilla extract and continue beating until smooth and fluffy. Set aside about 4 heaped tbsp of icing in a small air-tight box, ziplock bag or small bowl with a cling-film cover and refrigerate.
7. Once the cakes have cooled completely, crumble the cake into a large mixing bowl. A good way of doing this is by rubbing the two halves of each cake together (watch this video for a demonstration). Add about half of the buttercream icing to the crumbled cake and mix together (the easiest way is to just use your hands). Once mixed, add some more of the icing and continue mixing. Continue adding buttercream icing until the mixture binds together enough to roll into balls. Add any remaining buttercream icing to that which has already been set aside.
8. Roll the cake mixture into small balls (ours were a little smaller than golf balls – we were making these in St Andrews, you can’t seriously be surprised at our choice of comparison) and place on a baking tray. Put the baking tray in the fridge for a few hours until the balls have hardened a little (we left them overnight).
9. Once the balls are set, melt the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Add a drop of chestnut food colouring gel and mix well. Remove the cake balls from the fridge. Dip the pointy end of a bamboo skewer into the melted chocolate and insert into one of the cake balls (don’t poke it all the way through to the other side – ⅔ of the way in is good). Dip the cake ball into the melted chocolate and gently roll until coated. Allow the excess to drip off before sticking the skewer in a piece of styrofoam or in a tall glass (or cupcake stand – the important thing is that the cake pop isn’t in contact with anything). Repeat for each cake ball. Allow all the cake pops to fully set (this may take a few hours).
10. Dip a toothpick into some black food colouring gel and gently dab it around the top of the cake pops to make little black spots (look at the photos to get an idea).
11. Remove the buttercream icing from the fridge and remove about 1 heaped tbsp into a small bowl. Add a drop of black food colouring gel and mix until the colour has been fully incorporated. Add a tiny bit more if necessary to get the colour that you want. Transfer the dark grey/black icing to a piping bag prepared with a thin round tip. Pipe the eyes and mouth (use the photos as a guide).
12. Transfer the remaining buttercream icing to a different small bowl. Add a drop of the chestnut food colouring gel and mix well. Add more if you’re not happy with the colour (but remember to only add a tiny amount at a time). Transfer to a piping bag with a slightly thinner round tip than used for the eyes and mouth. Pipe tiny spikes over the top and sides of the cake pops (again, refer to the photos as guides). Then pipe the fins as little triangles built outwards over each other. Try and make sure that both fins are at the same level on the cake pop (this can be quite difficult – having somebody to hold the cake pop steady for you is a great help. Thanks Kat!!).