Get Your Glue Gun (Or Everything is Better with Plastic Sharks)

I’ve been reading through old screenplay drafts this week, and it’s almost like reading old diaries. There’s something really satisfying about tracking your progress as a storyteller this way.

It’s kinda cool.

But let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about glue guns instead.

I had a small picnic recently and because I’m into being budget conscious at the moment I decided to recycle elements from my nautical birthday party two years ago.

My stenciled buckets made a comeback, among other things.

I bought these at Target and used my Martha stencils like a DIY goddess.

This is a pretty terrible picture of them, but you get the idea. 

It would not have been a challenge to just pull old party props out of a closet so I decided to throw some sharks into the mix. (That’s where the glue gun came in.)

See?

I glued a shark on a jar. Get excited for me.

I glued a shark on a lid. Get excited for me.

Actually, I glued a lot of sharks on lids.

More sharks on lids. Amazing.

So many pretty ocean predators. 

Riveting, right?

If you’re wondering what I did with the jars, I’ll show you.

Pea soup. Pea soup and sharks.

I put pea soup in them. 

This is the recipe for the pea soup, in case you want it.

And now I’m going to relax because someone told me today is the start of a holiday weekend.

Or whatever.

I Celebrate Shark Week (Or How to Make Shark Cupcakes)

Check out my shark week action.

It’s time to talk about sharks. Why? Because it’s Shark Week! And also ‘cuz I LOVE them. Like, you have no idea. For as long as I can remember, I wrote research papers about sharks. I mean, I wrote manifestos about conservation. When I was ten.

See, I saw Jaws 3 in 3-D before starting kindergarten and while some might say that was a serious error in parental judgment, I disagree.

The things that are wrong with me?

They weren’t caused by a rouge Carcharodon carcharias eating people at Sea World.

I promise.

So, anyway, Jaws 3 was a decisive moment in my childhood. Not because the movie was any good, mind you, but because it probably began my fascination with the Great White and sharks in general. As we settled into our seats with buckets of buttery popcorn, my 3-D glasses, slid off of my face. They did so repeatedly until my mom used my bobby pins to secure the glasses to the sides of my little head. Once we got that situation settled, I was riveted as severed legs floated toward my face and Louis Gossett, Jr. went running around Sea World shouting and shit.

It wasn’t just Jaws 3. It was everything Jaws. I read the Benchley book when I was 10. And I put the first two movies in a steady rotation during much of my childhood. I also devoured all of the information I could find on sharks.

When I was 16, I visited Washington, D.C. for a student government forum. I stood up and started grilling some political official (I can’t remember his title now — ocean something) about his stance on shark finning in front of about 200 people. (Everyone called me “Shark Girl” for the rest of the week. True story.)

And my dog? Apparently, he likes sharks too.

So, anyway, you get it. Sharks are my thing. And Shark Week speaks to my soul.

To celebrate this magical week and the majestic apex predator I adore, I made shark cupcakes.

I found inspiration in a few places. First of all, I got the idea to fill them with strawberry compote from this post on Cupcakes and Cashmere. The actual sharks themselves were inspired by Hello, Cupcake!. I didn’t exactly follow the directions because I didn’t want to buy fruit roll ups, miniature chocolate chips, or chocolate wafers, so I improvised a bit.

Here’s how I did it.

I put the Twinkies in the freezer for a while to make them easier to cut.

And for the fins? I opted for Trader Joe’s Maple Leaf Cookies. I sliced them like this.

Then I created a pointy end I could stick into the Twinkie shark for stability. Oh, and I also scraped the leaf pattern off of the other side of the cookie with my Shun Santoku knife.

I attached the Twinkie sharks to the cupcakes with some frosting. I sliced a small slit into the Twinkie and inserted the cookie fin.

Then I put the cupcakes in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Next, I heated up the gray frosting for a few seconds in the microwave (on the defrost setting) so that the frosting was runny enough to pour over the sharks. (Hello, Cupcake! recommends dipping the sharks, but I did not find that as effective as pouring the frosting over them with a spoon.)

If you end up with excess frosting on the cupcake, you can scrape it off after it freezes.

After I covered the sharks (and the fins) in frosting, I put them in the freezer until the frosting hardened.

After the frosting had hardened, I put on a little Frank Ocean and decorated those fabulous fish. Hello, Cupcake! recommends using fruit roll ups for the mouths and small chocolate chips for the eyes, but I didn’t feel like buying those things so I just improvised with frosting. It’s totally worth buying the book, though, because they have SO many amazing ideas. Plus it’s like $11 on Amazon. Total bargain.

After decorating the sharks, I put them in the fridge for a while so everything hardened properly.

Then I pretty much dove in head first. And devoured them.

I used Amy Sedaris’ recipe for the cupcakes, but I made my own cream cheese frosting. (I did use a butter cream for the gray frosting, though, because I wasn’t sure how well the cream cheese frosting would melt.)

Soon I’ll hook you up with the owl cupcake tutorial. Remember those? From the baby shower that didn’t happen because my birthday buddy decided to arrive early?

I made the cupcakes anyway… for fun.

But now? It’s time for my other love: NFL pre season football.

Amy Sedaris and the Cupcake Makeover (Or How to Make Amy Sedaris’ Cupcakes)

Amy Sedaris makes me laugh. But can she make my mouth water? Oh, come on! I didn’t mean it that way!

When I heard people raving about Amy Sedaris’ cupcakes I had to know what the hype was all about. So did my mother. We both made them this week. And we both thought they were worthy of a second bakery date, but they might not be our new bakery boyfriend.

If you’re the sort of person who is accustomed to cake mixes and this is your first foray into truly homemade cake, then you will probably be much more impressed than we were. Given that my mother and I categorically despise cake mixes and absolutely refuse to use them, I was not entirely surprised that our inner bakery snobs basically had the same reaction to the recipe.

They’re the sort of cupcake boyfriend that needs a major makeover. Like, these cupcakes are tall enough and smart enough so the fundamentals are strong, but you’ll need to overhaul their wardrobe, trade in their car for something cooler, and just basically throw out all of their shoes. In cupcake terms that means slathering them with a fruit frosting, adding vanilla bean to the batter, or filling them with a surprise in the center.

I decided to go the strawberry compote surprise in the center route, and that made a HUGE difference. Once I did that I actually sort of loved them. (Are you listening LA men? I might be willing to make out with you if you buy a chainsaw, toss your skinny jeans, and learn how to drive a car with a manual transmission. K?)

Where was I?

Making out… with cupcakes?

Oh, right. Amy Sedaris.

And her recipe. It makes 24, and you should probably give it a shot even though I’ve been kind of critical. If you do make them, I’d love to know what you think.

Oh, and here’s how I filled the cupcakes with compote.

I started off with this Wilton 230 tip.

Then I stuck the tip into the cupcake and squeezed the pastry bag. It was fun. True story.

I made owl cupcakes and Shark Week-inspired Shark Attack cupcakes out of the cupcakes. More on that later.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 9 (Or Here’s the Peter Pan Party Decoration Download)

It’s probably time to talk about the rest of the decorations at my party. Then I really will wrap this up. I promise.

I’m ready to move on from the boy who refused to grow up to Jaws anyway.

Tonight Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is airing a special called, “How Jaws Changed the World” and OBVIOUSLY I set my DVR for that. Plus I have the champagne to pop ready because I looooove Jaws.

And sharks.

They’re sort of my thing.

On Thursday I promise to write a post entitled, “How Jaws 3 in 3-D Changed My Life” complete with a shark cupcake tutorial, but until then…

Peter Pan and the decorations.

This is my quick watermelon carving of Hook’s Jolly Roger, complete with the menacing croc. I wish the windows were level, but alas… I was rushing.

I did a freehand sketch for the sign, and it’s a quote from J.M. Barrie’s novel. I wanted to include it just in case people didn’t understand why there was this weird crocodile lurking around Hook’s ship.

If you want to get yourself a cool croc, I found that guy on Amazon here. It’s not the cheapest croc online, but it’s the best looking, and let’s be honest: that matters. A lot.

This is my (bad) attempt at a papier mache version of Hangman’s Tree. Hangman’s Tree is a departure from J.M. Barrie’s original story (there were multiple entrances into the Lost Boys’ home under the ground).

It was easier to do one tree and explain it on my Neverland map than to get into the whole passage about how Peter fits boys for their own trees, so that’s why I went this route.

Here we have lipstick on the proverbial pig with pearls hanging from Hangman’s Tree.

The entire skeleton of the tree was made with painters’ tape and twisted newspaper. If I had it to do all over again, I’d probably use a few real twigs and maybe even a little chicken wire. For the final layer of the papier mache, I used paper towels. I found posts online saying that makes it easier to cover the piece with paint.

I was in a hurry so I turned on the oven to dry out the tree. It’s probably a fire hazard or whatever but I kept an eye on it and didn’t let the dogs investigate it with their faces.

In retrospect, I think white tissue paper would have been better because I could have achieved a look more like this:

Photo Courtesy of Ultimate Paper Mache

And what would be a Peter Pan party without a little Tink?

I hate Tinkerbell, but you can’t really leave her out of your Peter Pan Party.

She is a scheming bitch, but she’s essential to the story.

The lantern is this little ditty from Ikea. I made Tink out of pins and tissue paper from Target.

At one point I considered hanging the lantern from a ribbon in the yard and surrounding it with green and white suckers, but I decided to reign myself in a bit.

My menu was another freehand sketch, but you could easily trace the silhouette and keep it simple. (Simple is something I SO need to learn.)

Here’s the Peter Pan Party menu situation.

I promise I’ll write my full wrap up post, so we can really fly away from Neverland. Forever.

Not that I’m going to grow up or anything….

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 7 (Or the Glazed Lime Cake Crisis)

It’s time to talk about cake. Why? Because I’m the birthday girl and I said so. Actually, it’s because I’ve been milking this birthday cow for far too long and I’m getting ready to wrap it up.

So… I’m going to do two posts about cake today, and pretty soon I’ll be moving on to things that make me legitimately happy. Like Shark Week. And the countdown to college football kick off.

But back to cake for now.

Since I share a birthday with my good friend, I always do a separate birthday cake for her. She loves my glazed lime cake and asks for it every year. So I make it every year.

And the cake makes me mad.

Every year.

Here’s the dilemma: The cake will sink in the middle if you don’t cook it long enough.

Please stop focusing on my armpit fat and concentrate on the cratered cake instead.

The problem with cooking it long enough to prevent it from sinking in the middle is that you end up drying out the cake a bit — particularly around the edges.

What to do?

See how fluffy and perfect-looking this is? I think the cake is dry, but I’m also a bit of a bitch about baked goods….

The problem with the cake could actually be that I have cheap baking pans, and I need something that conducts heat more evenly to get this cake to really turn out properly. I wrap my pans in aluminum foil every time I use them to prevent the edges of my cakes from burning or drying out, but I have more issues with this cake recipe than any other when it comes to uneven baking. I’m not even lying. I’ve made this cake at least 11 times and I swear I alternate between letting it dry out and letting it sink in the middle. Both options just send me right to the moon with rage. I could try the glass pan baking method (that the recipe actually calls for), but I don’t have a glass pan that is the right size. So maybe I’m just being one of those jerks who doesn’t follow the recipe and then says the recipe sucks. You know those people. They say, “I substituted margarine for butter, stevia for sugar, and grape Kool-Aid for grapes,” and then they can’t figure out why the cake now tastes like crap. (I kinda want to punch these people. Why write a review?!? It’s worthless to everyone who reads it.)

So anyway…

One potential fix for the dryness might be to double the amount of lime syrup you pour over the cake. Maybe you just make it moist by saturating it with syrup. Or you get over the fact that it looks ugly when it sinks in the middle because it tastes better that way. I don’t know.

Or maybe I just need to get married and register for some proper bakeware because I’m tired of buying my own bath towels and kitchen supplies. (Kidding.)

But before I run off and marry some Hollywood weirdo who wears fedoras with thrift store pants and Kicks just so I can register for swag at Sur la Table, I should mention I’m not the only one who has had sinking issues with this cake. If you read the reviews on Epicurious others mention the same problem. If you have any suggestions, or have a different experience making it. PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

The batter may actually be the most delicious batter on earth, and I should mention people psychotically love this cake. So, I might be crazy for being so superficial about its appearance.

Now that I’ve totally maligned this innocent cake, you can check out the recipe here. You’ll notice it’s made with powdered sugar and doesn’t have any leavening in it.

If you have questions about what baking pan to use when and why, this link is useful.

And now on to the chocolate cake, which you can check out here.