For the 2nd year in a row I got to participate in the Zootown Arts Community Center (ZACC) Mini Show, their annual fundraiser, with proceeds funding this amazing non-profit. Local artists donated smaller works to be auctioned off, and local chefs also donated 2 dozen mini desserts each that were auctioned off after dinner. Several chefs participated and all did a fantastic job.
This year's theme was VINTAGE CIRCUS, and I had a blast with that.
Immediately my mind went to the red and white stripes of an old circus tent. From there it was a short leap to an old popcorn box, and that's where I dove in.
I wanted to create that popcorn box out of chocolate and fill it with the dessert version of caramel corn. Half the fun is to plan the plan right?
I'd never made this combination before. I managed to find fresh corn (out of season here) and I set out to impart that distinctive sweet flavor into a créme brûlée base. This involved light roasting and steeping for 48 hours. While that sat I started in on the box.
I found molds typically used for catering appetizers and broke down the shape for each of the sides. Then I made a mockup.
I made the sponge cake and layered it with the custard, plus fresh corn corn kernels for added pop. Once it set I cut it into cubes. I filled the molds with a salted caramel mousse and pressed the cake/custard cubes into that. Then I set that in the fridge overnight and unmolded the next day -- the day of the event.
Each striped chocolate side got pressed up against the mousse and then I added the homemade caramel corn on top. For testing I used regular popcorn, and I ended up going with a thicker custard layer rather than two thinner layers because it brought a more pronounced corn flavor to the foreground (aka "flavor forward").
What I didn't at all expect was the bidding enthusiasm.
From $200 to $600 pretty quickly...
From $600 to $800 to a whopping $1,000. For 2 dozen mini desserts!
And as the auctioneer continued, a bidder went to $1,200...
And then someone shouted $1,500 and the place went nuts.
In the end I could not have been happier that I could help the ZACC bring in that much for their programming. For me that's right up there with my favorite #cakeitforward moments, when you feel the impact right in your squishy little heart.
I can't wait 'til next year's Mini Show. Who knows what fun desserts will come out of that?