Play With Your Food!

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

When we were young, how many times have we heard our moms say, "Don't play with your food!?" These days, that's a bulk of how I spend my time. I investigate food shapes, colors, textures, and try to recreate whimsical representations of the foods we all love. So, when Celebrity Chef Gail Chandler, Cake Lady-On the Scene Cuisine, asked me to create some cupcake toppers that she would use to decorate a cake she was serving to over 200 people at a recent magazine launch party for L.I.M.E. Social at Jewel in Melville, I jumped right on it. Cake_toppers_660_wm

Her two-tier creation included a pumpkin cake with layers of mango coulis and pumpkin mousse frosting and a vanilla cake with layers of sautéed black cherry and Bavarian crème topped with coconut milk frosting.

Since Chef Gail serves up gourmet meals right out of her mobile food truck, I crafted the kind of items that she sells.

Chef Paula's Cookie Sliders were front and center since they’re my most favorite whimsical treat to make. They start off with a sesame seed sprinkled Nilla Wafer bun, a Peppermint Patty burger, cheese & lettuce are shaped from Toostie Fruit Rolls, and a tomato crafted from either a red gum drop, or my newest find, Darrell Lea Strawberry Soft Eating Licorice. To see my tutorial on making these Grillin' Goodies, check out my August 30th posting.

Hot Diggity Dogs are made from a marshmallow circus peanut for the bun, Kraft Caramel Square for the dog rolled into a tube shape, red & yellow icing for ketchup & mustard, topped with green pickle relish which were little flecks of green gumdrops.

On Top of Spaghetti uses Keebler Simply Made Butter Cookies as a base topped with piped white chocolate spaghetti strands & a Ferrero Rocher candy dipped in strawberry preserves for the meatball and sauce, and white shaved chocolate makes great parmesan cheese.

Longing for Lo Mein has the same butter cookie base covered with melted coco-colored chocolate strands for the noodles, a broccoli floret which was actually a green Tootsie Roll cut in half and splayed apart, dotted with chocolate on the tips and then dipped in dark green sprinkles. Then for added effect, some roast pork bits were added, which were cut up pink Tootsie Rolls.

Short Stacks & Eggs are 3 Nilla Wafers stacked up as pancakes with a caramel square placed on top to make syrup. The syrup melts down the stack while briefly in the microwave. The final touch is to add a little pat of butter made from a yellow Tootsie Roll square. To go with the pancakes, I created Sunny-Side Up Eggs which were actually small white melted chocolate blobs and a yellow M&M yolk center.

3-Layer Choco Cakes are created by stacking 3 Nilla Wafers with melted chocolate piped between layers, and then melted chocolate was used for frosting the sides and top. Sprinkles, decorating icing, and mini marshmallow slivers finished the cakes.

There were definitely some challenges in figuring out ways to make the designs portable. Ordinarily, these cupcake toppers are placed on top of frosted cupcakes. So, I had to figure out another way to execute some of the food groups and make them more durable. Instead of frosting, I substituted melted chocolate on top of a butter cookie, and the spaghetti and lo mein came to life. This approach would give Chef Gail the flexibility of putting the toppers anywhere on her cake. Even if they were placed on their side or upside down, they would be sturdy and not roll off. All of the ingredients I used for this job were purchased at various supermarkets. So, you can still get a great end result without having to go to a specialty cake supply or craft store.

Truth be told, it took me 9 hours to create 24 of these li'l beauties for the event plus a few more for my portfolio. I guess I used up this month's quota of playing with my food. But, boy, did I have fun!! And, you will, too!!

We’d love to hear from you with comments, your own photos of these crafts, or with any questions.

Happy Cooking,

Chef Paula

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