We had a team meeting at the office and like to have little themes from time to time. We decided to have an Indoor/Outdoor Picnic as the theme. I catered a hamburger bar for the food but wanted to make something fun for the group. I thought about making individual cupcakes you see online with the Hot Tamales candies as little hot dogs on a grill but I wanted to make something different. I liked the idea of that but wanted to go bigger. I decided to do a cake that looked like a BBQ grill.
I like doing a schematic to see how things will look and keep me on track with what I need to do and things I need to get.
Now I have my idea, just have to make it!
I found an ice cube mold of hot dogs, which was the inspiration to making a cake. They were too big to put on a cupcake but just right for putting on top of a cake.
I took some red melting chocolates in a Ziplock bag and microwaved for 1 minute, kneaded the bag, then microwaved for another 30 seconds. I didn’t want the color to be RED-RED. I added a few pieces of milk chocolate and kneaded that in the melted red chocolate till I got the color that looked more like a hot dog.
I cut off a tip of the corner of my bag and squeezed a little melted chocolate into the molds and tapped on the counter to make sure the chocolate got into all the groves and removed any bubbles. Then I added some honey roasted peanuts on top of the chocolate and added more chocolate on top and tapped the mold to settle everything.
These went into the freezer to set completely before removing from the mold. The mold had grill marks so I took some black food color on a toothpick and marked the grooves. Save some of your red chocolate to use later to glue them to the grill.
I needed to make the grill for the top of the cake. I made a pattern and printed to the size that will fit on top of my cake.
I took my pattern and taped wax paper on top. Then I put white chocolate in a Ziplock bag and put in the microwave for 1 minute, kneaded the bag then microwaved for another 30 seconds. I added a few pieces of black melting chocolates to the white to get a grey color and kneaded the bag to make sure there were no solid pieces and my colors were well blended. I cut a small tip off one corner, gave a quick practice squeeze on my wax paper to make sure the hole was the right size, then started piping onto my grill pattern. I needed to make the lines a little thick so this doesn’t break when I remove from the wax paper. The good thing with chocolate, if it breaks, take more chocolate and glue it back together. You can use your hot dogs to cover any mistakes!!
Once my grill was made I took some sliver edible dust and brushed my grill to give it a metallic look. I’ll add the hot dogs after I put my grill on top of my cake to prevent it from breaking.
Since these little BBQ grills have handles, I made a simple pattern and taped to some wax paper and piped on black melted chocolate. I printed these is several sizes so once my cake was made I could use the size that looked best. I’ll make these, let them set, flip over and add more chocolate to the back side. This will give it a little more roundness. I made them a little long so I would have enough length to insert into the cake to keep them in place.
Once these were set I took a parring knife and trimmed off the extra chocolate. Then I gave them a little dusting of sliver edible dust on the stem part to make them metallic looking, too. I left the handle part black.
Now the cake. I went with Red Velvet since that’s a favorite for so many and I’ll be using red frosting to cover my sides. I baked two 8-inch rounds using Bake Even Strips to keep the top of my cakes flat. I needed a flat surface to do the “coals”. I put my cakes on a rake to completely cool.
While my cakes were cooling I started working on my frosting. I needed to have red frosting for the sides to look like the BBQ grill, black frosting with chopped pecans for the top to look like coals, and then just added some pecans for the middle between the 2 layers without adding any color to that. I saved a little frosting and tinted it green to use around the bottom of my cake as grass.
Time to put it all together. I put my 2 rounds together using cream cheese frosting with pecans in the middle. I took a knife and shaved off just a little of the top edge of my cake to give it a rounded shape to look like a grill and covered the cake in a thin layer of red frosting to crumb coat and placed in the fridge for a little while to set. After about 30 mins I removed my cake from the fridge and frosted the sides of my cake (not the top) with my red frosting. I saved some of my red frosting to use around the top edges after I add the black frosting.
I took my black frosting with pecans (I added some chopped walnuts, too) and covered the top of the cake patting it flat. The chopped nuts will give it a bumpy look like coals that have burned down. After these chill in the fridge I’ll smooth the frosting out some more.
I put some of my red frosting I used on the sides and piped a thick band on the edge of my “coals” and blended to look like the top of the grill. To make it look like there’s still a little fire in the “coals” I sprinkle the top with some red sugar crystals and orange sugar flakes.
To finish it off I took my green frosting (using a #18 star tip) and piped around the base to look like grass and to clean up the edges and give it a little color. I, of course, had to add a ladybug in the grass.
Since this has to travel, I’ll package up my grill topper, handles and hot dogs in a box and add them at the event. The handles are just pushed into the sides leaving enough of the sliver part sticking out. The grill will lay on the top, and the hot dogs placed randomly on top of the grill. Now my BBQ grill with hot dogs cake is finished!
So, since one thing is never enough with me I decided to make some fun picnic cookies. I wanted to keep with the theme so I decided to make a little picnic blanket. And another schematic. I can take these and make my changes till I get the look I want. I’ll make some little hamburgers and fries on a plate. And, of course, add the ants!!
I took some sugar cookie dough (you can make your own recipe or use a mix or pre-made dough) and colored one batch red and the other white. Roll out your dough on a flour surface to 1/4 inch thick and cut into thin strips or squares. At this point you can either go with the strips or just cut out squares to make your checkered pattern. To do the strips you can do this…
To do the checkered pattern, just cut out red and white squares and place beside each other…
If you want to do a more realistic blanket, mix some of your red and white cookie dough together and make this pattern. It’s a few more steps but has a true pattern.
I decided to do the red and white squares because of time. I assembled my squares onto my cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
Since I needed to make these a nice size and allow for spreading I just did 2 cookies per sheet. I only needed to make 8 – 10 of these so this worked out OK for me. If I need to make a lot more I would have made them smaller and put 4 to a cookie sheet.
To keep the cookies from breaking (and to taste better) I turned my cookie upside down and I took some green melted chocolate and covered the bottoms. This will seal the bottom and give a little extra strength and taste. I’ll add some green chocolate to the sides to look like grass later on.
Now for the plates. I have a round 2 inch cookie cutter which is the perfect size to make the “plate” for my burger and fries.
I took some white melting chocolate in a Ziplock bag and piped some in my cutter to look like a plate. I held the cutter tight against the plate and shook to make sure all my chocolate was filled into the shape of the cutter. I put it in the freezer for a few minutes to harden then pushed out the chocolate. I repeated this to get enough plates for my cookies. You can just squeeze some chocolate on wax paper in a round circle if you don’t have a round cookie cutter.
I trimmed around the edge of the bottom to give it a little curve to look like a plate and remove the extra chocolate.
To make the hamburger buns I started with some mini Nilla Wafers. I took half of them facing up for the bun top and the other half upside down for the bun bottom.
I melted some white and yellow chocolate in a bowl and added a little milk chocolate to get the color I needed to look like a bun. I dipped each of my wafers and place on wax paper to set. On the wafers I had for the top bun, before the chocolate set, I sprinkles a few sesame seeds on top. Save the leftover chocolate in a ziplock bag to use as the “fries” later on.
I took my parring knife and trimmed off any extra chocolate to make my edges clean. Now to put them together to make the burger.
I got some more melted chocolate in ziplock bags in green (lettuce), red (ketchup), yellow (mustard) and dark chocolate (hamburger). I took my bottom buns (without the sesame seeds) and turned the flat side down on my wax paper and squeezed on a large dot of melted dark chocolate almost to the edge of the bun. I did this with the rest of my bottom buns and let them set.
Next, I cut the corner of the bag of green chocolate towards the bag to make ruffles when I squeezed out the chocolate. I did a few practice squeezes on my wax paper to make sure I was getting the effect I wanted. This was the lettuce. I squeezed my green on top of the dark chocolate circle trying not to cover the “hamburger meat”. I just wanted a few pieces of “lettuce” to be seen. I repeated this with all my others and let them set.
Next I added some red chocolate on top of my green lettuce and let set.
And, the yellow chocolate on top of that. I added my top bun (with the sesame seeds) before my yellow chocolate set to hold it in place. Now my little hamburgers are ready.
I needed to make some little French Fries to put with my burger. I took my leftover chocolate I used to dip my buns and remelted for 30 seconds, kneading and repeating another 30 seconds till my chocolate was melted. I added some white melting chocolates to lighten the color a little so it would look more like French Fries. I took my little plate I made earlier and piped little strips on one side of the plate, leaving enough room to add the hamburger. I sprinkled those with a little sugar to add texture and to look like there was “salt” on the Fries. I let those strips set, took a little brush to remove the loose sugar, then added some more strips of chocolate on top, let set and repeated. This gave the look of the fries piled up on the plate. You need to let them set before adding more to it or it’ll look like you are serving mashed potatoes instead of French Fries! When those were set I took a little melted white chocolate and glued my burger to my plate of fires.
Now back to the picnic blanket cookie. Take a little black melted chocolate in a Ziplock bag and pipe on a few ants off to one side (your plate with the hamburger will be on the other side). Just make three dots in a row for the ant, then add 3 legs on one side then the other. I find using a toothpick dipped in the chocolate makes it easier to add the legs. When you dip and pull up there’s a string of chocolate you can use to lay on the sides of the ants body. You can also use a black edible marker to make the ants, too.
And to make it look like your blanket is sitting in the grass, take some of the green chocolate you used to make the lettuce and squeeze on the edges of your cookie blanket. repeat this all around the cookie.
Almost done!! Take a little white melted chocolate and put a big dot on the other side from where your ants are on your cookie and add your plate of burger and fries. All done now!!