Popcorn, pretzel and M&M cake
, pretzel and M&Ms cake

Some people can decorate cakes. They swirl buttercream, twirl floral wires and fiddle with sugarpaste until what you have before you is not a jam sponge, but a rose garden, a pirate ship or a dragon.

I can’t decorate cakes. I’ve tried. I’ve studied how to fold icing into petals and make choir boys out of Walnut Whips, and the results always look like the aftermath of nuclear strike. When I’m rearranging the drooping bouquets of sugar flowers over the bubbles and tears in the grubby fondant, I ponder why this is. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because I’m a bit of a slattern.

I’m slatternish about many things. Taking off make up, polishing shoes, matching socks, stacking pans neatly in the cupboard rather than ramming them in and hoping they don’t crash out in an avalanche of lids and aluminium. But is where my slovenliness really gets stuck in. Or, being slovenliness, settles back and idly does nothing.

Band of Bakers 1st birthday party
A table full of non-slovenly cakes at the Band of Bakers 1st birthday party

I think it’s the emphasis on precision that brings out my inner Domestic Demon. Every gramme must be measured, every degree in temperature adjusted to. In my head I know this, but my heart – which seems to have more of a direct link to my hands than my brain – rebels. Extra shakes of flour and knobs of butter find their way into the mixing bowl and I often play chicken with the oven timer.

Generally, things work out. At least, when it comes to the baking bit they do. But with the decorating, every lazily measured ingredient and lackadaisically rolled slab of icing shows. I’ve had to accept that I’m psychologically unsuited to icing cakes, which made the Band of Bakers 1st birthday party a bit of a poser.

The theme was ‘celebration’, which conjured images of bunting, multi-layered cakes, curls and swags of icing. All of these could be found on the buffet table. Choux buns stood proudly, meringue kisses were crispy and triple decker sponges loomed like skyscrapers.

And there was what I did. I made a tower out of popcorn, pretzels and M&Ms. Because if you can’t do things the right way, you may as well make a 2 foot high feature of your failings.

Popcorn cake ingredients
The stuff children's dreams and my cakes are made of

Popcorn cakes are, unsurprisingly, an American thing. The internet bulges with recipes for them, but it was this one from Cookies and Cups that I settled on.

I adapted it for British measurements, changed around the quantities and made it in 3 cake tins so it could be stacked into a pillar of diabetic horror at the party. The 3 layers blended a bit when stacked, so using pillars between each cake would improve the final look. And next time I think I’ll shape the popcorn mix into balls, stack them in a pyramid and then cover the lot in spun sugar for a very childish version of croquembouche.

Popcorn cake in tins
This really does taste a lot better than you think it will

Popcorn, pretzel and M&Ms cake
Serves many

Sunflower oil, for greasing
150g popcorn kernel
250g salted butter, chopped
2 x 180g bags mini marshmallows
1 x 185g bag chocolate M&Ms
1 x 185g bag crispy M&Ms
150g salted pretzels

1 Brush 3 cakes tins – 15cm, 20cm and 25cm – with sunflower oil and set aside.

2 Add enough sunflower oil to a large pan to just coat the bottom and place over a medium heat. Add the popcorn kernels, cover and cook over a medium-high heat, shaking the pan occasionally. The popcorn will start popping and will keep popping for a few minutes. Once it has slowed down to one or two pops, remove from the heat.

3 Tip the popcorn into a large bowl and pick out the unpopped kernels. Set aside.

4 Wipe the pan clean, then melt the butter in it. Add the marshmallows and cook, stirring, until the marshmallows have melted. Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes to cool.

5 Stir the M&Ms and pretzels into the popcorn (you need an enormous bowl for this). Pour in the marshmallow mixture and stir to coat. Divide between the cake tins and gently pack the mixture in. Set aside to set for an hour or two.

6 To serve, run a warm butter or palette knife around the edge of the cake tins. Place a plate on the pan and then flip the tin to slide the cake out. Run the knife around the top to loosen the cake tin bottom. Stack the cakes on a serving plate and serve using a sharp, serrated knife.

Tagged with: AmericanaBakingChocolatePopcorn

8 Responses to Popcorn, pretzel and M&Ms cake

  1. Gemma Gannon says:

    Love, love, loved it! x

  2. I <3 this cake… perfect with a lovely cuppa.

  3. Jo says:

    Nice to see that time at Ballymaloe wasn’t wasted – I’m sure Darina would have been very proud of your diabetic tower! Did you go to the LitFest? Was gutted I couldn’t go but intend to go next time.

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      I can’t even begin to imagine Darina’s face when confronted with this. Pam, otoh, she might go for it. And no, couldn’t go to the Lit Fest but am thinking about going back in September for the 30th anniversary.

  4. Amy says:

    This is genuinely one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. I love the idea.

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