Step 7: Making the Hard Candy & Pulled Sugar
This was a key element in my cake design. I have seen tons of fondant cauldron cakes, but all of them had buttercream icing for the "bubbling goo" and maybe some fondant body parts thrown in. I really wanted my goo to look more like a transparent liquid, and I knew without a doubt that it had to "glow". Well if I could do that, then surely I could make fiery ambers as well, right? This was my first time working with cooked sugar of this type, my goal here was for the solid top, the little spurts and splashed of green pulled sugar were just for practice and actually, came out surprisingly well for my first attempt.
Preparing the molds:
Finding a candy recipe was easy (there are tons on the net), but I had to figure out how to mold or shape it. For the green goo, I used a flat glass lid from on of my glass Pyrex bowls. Then I cut out pieces of a cardboard egg carton and trimmed them all lower than the lid then just taped them on the bottoms so they wouldn't move around. Next, I used heavy duty aluminum foil to cover the whole thing and made depressions in the foil. I didn't want this too thick so I kept the depressions shallow. I think it ended up being maybe 1/4"-1/2" thick. Be careful though, too thin and it will break during assembly, too thick and it will be too heavy. (my piece was pretty heavy as it was) After you're satisfied with the mold, spray lightly with a non-stick cooking spray.
Hard Candy (think lollipops)
1 C white granulated sugar
1/2 C light corn syrup
1/4 C water
3/4 tsp extract flavoring (I used pineapple flavoring)
(you'll also need a candy thermometer)
Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Place your thermometer into the pan, keeping it from resting on the bottom. Heat to a boil without stirring, until candy reaches 295-300 F. (hard crack stage) Remove from heat and quickly stir in your extract and food coloring. Immediately pour into molds. Let set at room temp until candy hardens. (it only takes a few hours) Store in a cool dry place (not the refrigerator) covered with plastic wrap until ready to use.
For the green goo:
I used just a few drops of neon green food coloring. After I poured it into my mold, I poured just a portion of it onto a silpat mat. I let it cool until it was still soft but I could handle it. With gloves on, I pulled it just to get some sheen. Now, I really didn't know what I was doing here, I was just following how I've seen pulled sugar done. (This is a technique that is used to make sugar ribbons.)Then I pulled little pieces off and into long strands. For the spirals, I lightly sprayed a metal knife honer and as I pulled a piece off I quickly wrapped it around the honer. It set up rather quickly then I was ready to slide it off. I made some other quirky shapes just so I would have pieces to stand up in the cauldron goo, so I really didn't have to be so precise.
I did the green pieces way ahead of time (about 1 week prior to assembly), since this was my first time trying out these sugar techniques. If I use this technique again, I'll wait until it's closer to the time of assembly. My kitchen is really super humid and so some of the delicate pieces either broke, or melted. Which actually, I had expected anyway. This type of sugar art will take some practice but I will definitely revisit the idea at a later date. I waited until the entire cake display was assembled before attaching the spiral shapes to the top of the green goo. This was pretty easy because at this point, they were pretty sticky. It was just a matter of balancing them on there.
For the coals:
I used the top plastic part of the egg carton, but this time, I crumpled up a large piece of parchment paper, then laid it over the tray and made some more depressions. Be sure to let the paper rise above the plastic tray, else the sugar may be to hot for it and melt it (plus I didn't want my coals too big) Spray the parchment paper with non stick cooking spray. I used the same recipe as above, only this time, I tried to throw in some powdered Koolaid mix to make an "orange pineapple" flavor. (this was a tip I found on one of the sites) However, I would NOT recommend this, the candy was really bitter and I only used less than a teaspoon. The green one tasted much much better and more like pineapple lollipos. Leave the coals in the paper mold until you are ready to use them because they will be sticky and they will melt and fuse together once they are touching.
Again, although I completed this step first, I decided to add it in here, where I would actually do it the next time.