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Sunday
Sep212008

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Sweet Trompe l'oeil

A Sweet Trompe l'oeil
We never understood why tourists went to go see the fish being thrown at the Pike Place Market until one day, when walking by, we saw an errant throw, which resulted in a fish hitting an unsuspecting passerby. All of a sudden we understood--now that's funny. Is there anything more rewarding than a little mischievous fun?

And now that you understand our sense of humor a little bit better, we present our project, done for the "24, 24, 24" Foodbuzz launch: A Sweet Trompe Trompe l'oeil.

What's a trompe l'oeil? The phrase, French in origin, roughly translates to "trick of the eye"; it is often used to refer to a work of art rendered such that is tricks the viewer into believing it is something else.


In our case, the trompe l'oeil was not a painting but foodstuffs, created completely out of cake and sweets, made to resemble a fancy restaurant's menu, and served to a group of unsuspecting dinner guests. They came expecting a sumptuous dinner, which of course they got--but what they didn't know was that it was all comprised of cake, cookies and various sweets! Here's what we served and what they thought:

Egg Cream
Let the games begin: Would you care for a drink?
For something with the fizz of champagne but a super-mega dose of sweetness, we decided to serve Egg Creams!
What it is: An egg cream is a treat first discovered during one of our spies' college years in Brooklyn. Contrary to its name, it contains neither egg nor cream. Its name is shrouded in mystery--some say "egg cream" is a slurring of "chocolat et crème", some say the original recipe actually did include eggs; others say it comes from the Yiddish echt (meaning "genuine" or "real", as in "this drink is the genuine creamy article"). But no matter where it comes from, it is very delicious, and must be consumed immediately after making otherwise it will lose its head and separate (probably why there's never been a mass produced version).
How we did it: Here's the recipe we used, care of What's Cooking America: Now, we know that a *true* Egg Cream can only be made with Fox's U-Bet Syrup, but alas--it is not easily found in Seattle, so we settled for...another brand.
  • Approximately 1/2 cup cold whole milk*
  • 1 cup bottled seltzer
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup**
* Skim or 1% milk won't foam as well
** Fox's U-Bet Chocolate Syrup is used in New York.

Pour 1/2 inch of cold milk into a tall soda glass. Add seltzer or club soda to within 1 inch of the top of the glass; stir vigorously with a long spoon (this will cause it to become white and bubbly with a good head of foam).

Very gently pour 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup slowly down the inside of the glass; briskly stir with a long spoon only at the bottom of the glass where the chocolate sits. The resulting drink should have a dark brown bottom and a 1-inch high pure white foam top (if you mix it too much, the foam disappears).

NOTE: Do not let Egg Cream sit for a long period of time-5 minutes or more; it will go flat.
Effectiveness: OK, nobody was fooled by this one, even though we served it out of a repurposed sparkling wine bottle. Also, our crew found the Egg Cream to be...shall we say an acquired taste. Luckily we had some real bubbly on hand to soften the blow.

Caviar on toast...made of cake and sprinkles!
A Pinkies-out Appetizer, Perhaps?
At this point, we brought out the appetizers and the bread basket. Let's start with the appetizer.
What it is: "Caviar" made of chocolate sprinkles with crème fraîche (really cream cheese frosting) atop "toast" (cake).
How we did it: Slicing a piece of pound cake, we made sure to use a side piece so that we could get a nice triangle shape; we coated it with a healthy layer of cream cheese frosting for the crème fraîche, and topped it delicately with some chocolate sprinkles (we took care to find the perfect shape--not too oblong--ultimately we found the perfect shape at Seattle's ultimate cake resource, the Home Cake Decorating Supply Co. (they have everything!).
Effectiveness: It worked! While it may not have fooled tasters into believing it was going to be caviar, they did think it would be savory.

Bread and Butter
Well-bread: Time for some carbohydrates!
After enjoying a sweet drink, our guests were presented with the bread basket. Certainly they were ready for some carbs...but a sweet surprise awaited them!

What it is: Various cakes--ranging from cupcake "rolls" garnished with poppyseeds to pound cake (deemed the perfect choice because of its coloring and "crust") with a dab of buttercream "butter".
How we did it: This one was easy; the cupcakes looked like rolls in the basket; the pound cake was just sliced thinly, and the butter(cream) was presented in a butter dish.
Effectiveness: It fooled them! Since we served it at the same time as the "caviar", nobody had yet made the sweet discovery, so they thought this was just "regular" bread. Heh heh.

Sweet Salad
The Plot Sweetens: Salad time!
Oh, we're proud of this one.
What it is: A green salad made of "lettuce" made of green mint confectioners chocolate; cookie "tomatoes" and cake "croutons".
How we did it: For the salad, we melted the confectioners chocolate on the stovetop, then spread it in a thick layer on a piece of saran wrap. Fold over saran wrap so that it covers the layer of chocolate; "scrunch up" by hand to spread the chocolate and also to give it a slightly rippled effect. Let cool for about 30 minutes, and remove plastic wrap; voila! Lettuce! ** For more details and pictures, check out this post.
Effectiveness: Once again, nobody was fooled by this one--at least, nobody thought it was real veggies--but nobody was quite certain what it was made from. More importantly though, everyone thought it was pretty much the awesomest salad ever, so we'd consider that a victory.

Steak Cake
Steak CakeCake
A Cake...Steak?
Certainly by this point in the meal everyone's ready for some protein...right? Wrong!
What it is: A cut of steak "cake", made out of a thin slice of spice cake (not for any reason other than we thought it would be a nice flavor variation) covered in rolled fondant and then painted using food coloring; "green beans" comprised of vegan (that is to say, salmonella-free) cookie dough, and a side of "risotto" made of brown rice pudding (made using this recipe for rice pudding.)
How we did it: For the "Steak", we referred to the Confetti Cakes cookbook (check out their blog too!), using its tips for creating a "wood" look on a fondant cake (page 42); we used colors more appropriate to meat, and added a cross-hatch on the top to simulate grill marks. For the green beans, we added four drops of green and one drop of yellow dye to a baseball-sized ball of dough, mixed thoroughly by hand, and rolled out small balls into bean-shapes.
Effectiveness: This main dish was a hit! Serving it to a vegetarian crew, it was easy to pass off as a soy-based meat product, so while nobody thought it was actually meat, tasters dug in expecting a savory soy cutlet or something of the like. Boy, did they have a surprise waiting for them! The green beans were declared a hit (can you really go wrong with cookie dough? far more delicious than marzipan, we think), but the rice pudding was perhaps too sweet (then again, perhaps palates had been numbed by this point?).

Chocolate cake
There's always room for dessert: Cake Time!
What it is: It's a chocolate frosted cake, silly.
How we did it: We made it using this cake and this frosting.
Effectiveness: Our guests were wary by this point, so very little of this cake was eaten (oh well, just more for breakfast!). However, there was at least one plaintive plea for "a piece of celery, some cheese, just anything without sugar, please!". And that, friends, means sweet victory.
Chocolate cake
Thank you to Foodbuzz for giving us the chance to let our creativity run wild on this wonderful experiment and supersweet experience! We're gonna send our dentist charges to you, hope that's OK.

 

 

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