By Donna Zitter Bordelon
No Easter basket is ever complete without some Peeps — those little, yellow (and now many-colored) marshmallow chicks that were first born more than 60 years ago, with a company slogan, “a great candy isn’t made…it’s Just Born.”
Sam Born, Russian immigrant owner of Just Born candies, invented chocolate jimmies, the hard chocolate-candy shell on ice cream bars (Eskimo Pies) and a machine that mechanically inserts sticks into lollipops (the Born sucker machine). He is also the man who hatched Peeps.
Once made by hand, one Peep originally took almost 30 hours to make, compared to just six minutes today. The chicks lost their wings when they were made more quickly through automation. Their eyes are made of an edible wax, carnauba, and are added last.
At the Just Born factory in Bethlehem (made in the USA), an average of 5.5 million Peeps are made every day. Peeps aren’t just for Easter anymore. There are Peep trees for Christmas, pumpkins for Halloween and hearts for Valentine’s Day. An annual, two-day New Year’s Eve “Peepfest” is held in Bethlehem each year, and it includes a 4-foot, 200-pound lit Peep chick that descends at 5:15 p.m. on Dec. 30 and 31. There is an annual “Peeps Eating” contest. The 2016 winner ate 200 Peeps in five minutes. Peeps culture has also extended into the art world, where Peep photo diorama contests (Peep shows, if you will) are held annually by several newspapers, as well as MIT.
As a joke in 1999, scientists at Emory University experimented to see how indestructible Peeps were, and concluded that Peep eyes “wouldn’t dissolve in anything.”
Just Born’s research revealed that 25 percent to 30 percent of Peeps’ eaters enjoy them slightly crunchy — a little stale. Some people (they’re really Peeple) claim to freeze extra Peeps with success, so they always have a ready stash on hand. But not everyone enjoys those little marshmallow critters. The Peep’s artificial, yellow tuft and round shape are not the only characteristics it shares with Donald Trump. You either love ’em or you hate ’em, for Peeps sake. On some issues of taste and opinion, there is no soft center.
From Trumpsters to Peepsters, here is a blooming chocolate flower cake recipe with decoration provided by Peeps.
PEEPS FLOWER CAKE
2 cups flour
1½ cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup brewed coffee
1 cup buttermilk (or add 2 tsp. vinegar to cup of milk)
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ cup canola oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients.
Add remaining ingredients. Beat on medium for 2 minutes.
Pour into two 9-inch round cake pans.
Bake for 30–35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool cake completely before decorating.
6 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/3 cup milk (plus 1–2 Tbsp., if needed)
2 tsps. vanilla
Chocolate chips or chocolate jimmies, if desired
In a large bowl, beat butter until fluffy.
Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa into the butter, and beat to incorporate.
Add milk in two portions, beating after each addition to desired consistency. Stir in vanilla.
Remove Peeps from boxes unseparated.
On serving plate, place one cake layer on top of other with thin amount of frosting between layers. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake.
Without separating, arrange/gently press Peeps in connected segments around the side of the cake near the top edge, with beaks pointed down and tails up. Use additional Peeps, if needed, to fill any gaps.
Arrange/gently press Peeps in a circle on top of cake, placing Peep segments next to each other, facing center.
Sprinkle chocolate chips or chocolate jimmies around the center to resemble seeds.
Eat well, live long, enjoy!
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at Whats-cook-inNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)
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