I freaking love the Ninja Turtles. I grew up watching the cartoon as well as playing hours and hours of “Turtles in Time” for the SNES (Super Nintendo).
So when a friend recently commissioned me for ninja-turtlelicious cake pops as a surprise for her friend’s birthday, I immediately jumped on it!
And as soon I accepted the request, I did my photo-reference research. I was so determined to make like THE best turtles out of the universal cake pop gallery.
Let me tell you about how much of a challenge that was, and what I learned… (especially for all of you pursuing a career in cake pop artistry. 😛 )
My first goal was to sculpt the heads to be a little more shapely and realistic than just a plain ol’ round ball, because I noticed that a lot of the existing ninja turtle cake pop photos look very generic (hmmm, there’s a reason for everything). I knew also, that I didn’t want to use fondant, and that I wanted to pipe on (with a pastry bag, filled with candy melt) the turtles’ masks, and use candy sugar eyes.
One of those two ideas prevailed; the sculpting. Consistent shapes—-meh, notsomuch.
And while I changed my mind about the piped masks because I wanted to avoid having to melt 4 other different colors of wafers after using the initial 4… I recalled from recent genius advice that I could substitute gum paste for fondant, which acts similar in shaping things. Gum paste just dries quicker and tastes a little more like a gummy marshmallow. The tedious making of 8 little masks followed, as well as canning the bulging sugar eyes idea for hand-painted eyes.
Little did I know that
I was going to spend the next 6 hours of my life sculpting turtle faces and pizzas, dipping with my fingers crossed, sprinkling, sculpting inconsistent gum paste strips, fixing huge cracks, experimenting with edible paint, getting crap all over my fingers, and contemplating selling ninja turtles or any cake pops involving gum paste for like $5 a pop!
I’m not complaining,…just reflecting.
Really, it was quite the therapeutic shitshow.
And definitely a shitshow that I am actually really grateful for.
I hope you have your eyeballs perked up for what I’m going to share about what I learned in those very long 6 hours.
1) It is fair to charge extra for any fondant or gum paste work, when preferred or required. (Note to self. Pricing adjusted.)
2) Once again, gum paste tastes like a chewy, gummy, marshmallow. It’s not bad, just different.
3) NEVER, EVER put your specially sculpted cake pops in the freezer in an attempt to speed up their drying process, even if the cake was room temperature before you dipped them. You will hate your life when you have ALL 8 OF YOUR TURTLE FACES TO MEND BY HAND. (I’m not bitter…
…okay, maybe just a little…teehee!) -_-
4) Always make sure you have a few extra cake pops rolled just in case your first attempt at something fails. Although this rarely happens for me, my first ninja jerkwad’s head detached from the stick as soon as I dipped and tapped him off.
Luckily, I only needed one spare pop to save me and keep it moving.
5) Do not eat your failed attempts. Do not make it a habit. Just don’t. Let them dry, save them for later, give them to a friend, or feed them to your dog. <<No, don’t do that.
Those calories add up quick!
6) Use specialty tools or a butter knife to cut and shape fondant/gum paste. For real.
7) Again, charge extra for that. ^
8) Hand-painting is fun, but already colored fondant/gum paste is your friend.
9) Edibleart paints ARE AMAZING! (http://www.edibleartpaint.com)
10) It is a little difficult to mix red and blue edible paint to make purple. I ended up with a dark purple, even after adding a little bit of white. Be careful not to add too much blue, and only work with a few drops at a time. That paint is too expensive and valuable to waste!
11) It is fair to charge for detailed painted work.
12) PLAN YOUR DESIGN. This is something that I haven’t been taking the time to do, and I can tell that not having a blueprint is slowing me down.
13) BE PATIENT. With the cake pops, and YOURSELF.
14) When you have multiple characters to work on, focus on your layers and use colors in stages amongst all of your pops, versus one pop at a time. (i.e. painting on all of your mouths, then drawing all of your outlines, then painting all of your masks, etc.)
15) If you are planning on shipping your precious character pops after hours of detailed work—just PRAY.
16) I will make this easier on myself next time.
17) Perfectionism is a curse.
EDIT: 18) Do not paint with edibleart paint over luster or pearl dust. It WON’T set, and you’ll have horrendous smudging all over the place.
After all was said and done, I was of course very proud of myself for having not only FINISHED, but accomplishing what I set out to do. And I’d say they turned out pretty good.
But I won’t do them that way again. 😉
Thank you so much for reading about one of my challenges! If you have any questions, I’m sure I can give you a lot of tips to help you along the way in your own cake-dipping adventures! It really is a lot harder than it looks…I know. ❤