When a co-worker’s family and fiancée would be out of the country on his birthday, it became something of a running joke that I would make him a SpongeBob SquarePants cake for his special day. I would have made good on it too. Only trouble is he doesn’t like cake.
His dad, also a co-worker, said his son preferred tart candies and pies to anything fluffy and frosted. Suddenly the once-somewhat-daunting task of making a SpongeBob SquarePants cake (like I’d done before)–which would require several hours to prep and decorate–seemed easy.
Between brainstorming and Google, I found a couple hopefully passable substitutes. First, inspired by the big jar of Peanut M&M’s that this co-worker, Matt, keeps on his desk, I thought a square-shaped peanut brittle dipped in yellow-colored chocolate might work. But I’ve made peanut brittle before and wasn’t sure how easily I could shape it into perfect squares.
I searched for make-at-home recipes for Sour Patch Kids or something akin to them, which returned instructions for pate de fruits–basically a fruity, jelly candy coated in sugar. An easier version (whose ingredients weren’t listed in grams) was a recipe for sour gummy candy that I kept going back to.
Boil water, mix unflavored gelatin, Jell-O and Kool-Aid until dissolved. Pour into candy molds or a pan and refrigerate until firm. Could it really be so simple? One reviewer hoping to make her candies a little more tart was advised by another to add citric acid. I had Sure-Jell, a pectin product used in canning, on hand, which contains citric acid, so I added a few dashes of that, not really sure how much to use.
The gelatinous form came out of the fridge as expected, and the fondant cutter I used made perfect little yellow squares that I threaded onto lollipop sticks. Following another reviewer’s suggestion–as well as looking to boost the tartness factor–I dredged the candies in a sugar/Kool-Aid powder mixture.
While it definitely worked, it also made the candies begin to melt a little. I’m not sure if I should have gone straight sugar or if the gelatin squares weren’t quite room temperature or what. Coating them again, this time just in sugar, helped some, though the pops were still melting, just not as much as before.
In the final flourish, I placed SpongeBob stickers on the front of each little bag that covered the pops and tied them off with a red ribbon (for the character’s red tie) and a tag that read “Happy Birthday, Matt!”–printed in the signature SpongeBob font (which you can download free online), of course.
He appreciated the treats–and I appreciated the challenge. It took a bit of thought, but after stumbling upon the right idea, the rest was easy. Maybe even easier than making the cake after all.