Can I Make this "Eyeball Cake?"
Just in time for Halloween or all year-round as the case may be (Shout out to my Dad, my bro, my sis-in-law, and my sis-in-law's family! :) ) I saw this while I was watching 'The Kitchen' on the Food Network and I had to try it! The main ingredients are: Jell-O no-bake cheesecake, milk, sugar (conjunctiva), Jell-O (iris), and Jell-O with food coloring (pupil). Little veins are made from gel or icing.
Wednesday, October 30, 2019, Attempt #1:
I made a 1/2 batch to try out the recipe (microphthalmia).
Note: The recipe uses different amounts of ingredients than what are on the instructions on the Jell-o box and on the No-Bake Cheesecake box. So don't follow what is on the box.
For the 1/2 batch, I used the following ingredients in the photo: Jell-O No-Bake Cheesecake (2 boxes), Jell-O (1/2 package), actually only 4 oz. of butter, food coloring and icing. I forgot to include sugar and milk in the photo. The milk is to make the cheesecake and the butter is to mix with the graham cracker crust for the cheesecake.
You construct your eyeball by making each layer, putting it in a bowl and letting it set in the fridge. It is easy and there is no oven. You only need boil some water in the beginning to make some Jell-O. The prep is easy; you just mix stuff together (~10-15 min. in total), but minimum cook time is probably ~4 hours because you have to each layer set in the fridge. You can leave things in the fridge longer if you're doing other stuff with no problem.
It was fun to make Jell-O (the pupil and iris). I haven't made Jell-O since I was a kid. Also, most of the time, growing up, we wouldn't make it at home; I would just get it in the hospital cafeteria when I was with my parents when they were doing rounds in the hospital.
First, you make some of the Jell-o (with less water than on the box to make it denser). Following the recipe for a 1/2 batch, I only mixed 1/3 cup of boiling water with 1/2 package of Jell-O. I got blue as in the recipe for a blue-colored Iris; you could get another color.
You use part of the blue gelatin mix you made and add in food coloring to make the pupil.
As soon as you make the Jell-O, I recommend pouring a little into 1 bowl (as directed in the recipe) to make the pupil and than the other part (~3/4 of what you made; for the iris) in a separate bowl (as I did in the central photo below), instead of leaving it in the pot. While you are making the pupil, the rest of the Jell-O may set a little bit and be hard to get out of the pot. It is not a problem if it sets a little bit because you can microwave it for a few seconds to soften the Jell-O, but you can't microwave a metal pot.
To make the pupil, I mixed in some gel food coloring to part of the gelatin mix. The recipe calls for using black. The pack I got didn't have black color; it had violet and brown. I mixed in some violet and brown to get the dark-colored pupil. This worked well.
Note: Before you pour your layers into the bowl, spray cooking spray all over the sides and base. This is to make removing the cake from the bowl easier when you are done.
To construct the first layer of the eyeball, I poured the pupil Jell-O into the bottom of the bowl and put it in the fridge for ~30 minutes. I noticed that it wasn't completely set, so I left it in for ~10 min. The pupil was probably in the fridge for ~40 min.
While the pupil Jell-O was in the fridge, I just left the iris Jell-O at room temp.
Conjunctiva (No-Bake Cheesecake) and Crust
While the pupil Jell-O was in the fridge, I made the conjunctiva and crust. I have never made No-Bake Cheesecake. It's easy as you might imagine. :) You just add a little sugar and milk and mix with an electric mixer. I added 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 1/4 cups of milk according to the recipe (for 2 boxes, instead of 4).
For the crust, you add melted butter to the graham cracker crust provided and blend together. To make the crust red, you add in red food coloring to the melted butter before pouring it onto the graham crackers.
Back to the Pupil & Creating the Iris
Once the pupil Jell-O seemed like it set (~40 min. in the fridge), I took out the bowl and placed a round cookie cutter in the middle and cut out the excess gelatin around it as it says in the recipe. (The pupil is the small dark central area of the eye.)
When I removed the excess pupil Jell-O, some got on the sides and end of the bowl. I used a paper towel to make sure I wiped off off the excess because the cake at the sides of the bowl is what is visible when you remove the cake at the end.
I then made sure to re-spray the bowl with cooking spray -- for easy cake removal.
In the recipe, it says to use 2 1/4" round cutter. Since I was doing 1/2 recipe, I used a smaller one. These cookie cutters I got to make the Aquarium/Shakashaka cookies worked well and are coming in handy. :)
Actually in the future, I would just just put the small cookie cutter in the center of the bowl as a mold and pour the pupil Jell-O in there so there is less cleanup.
This is what I did with the iris Jell-O, I placed the larger cookie cutter in as a mold and then poured the iris Jell-O in. I put it back in the fridge for ~30 min.
Going Rogue / Cataract Formation and Fixing It
After 30 min., the iris Jell-O didn't seem like it was set. To accelerate things, I went a little rogue and tried putting the bowl in the freezer for ~15 min. After I took it out the Jell-O was really frozen and looked like a cataract had formed. Haha. :)
To fix this and soften the Jell-O, I had the idea to use my hair dryer to provide a blast of hot air (central photo). Haha. :) Sounds like something Alton Brown would do. I read he uses an electric fan to make beef jerky. Anyways, I just turned on the hair dryer for 2-5 seconds. It worked well! New non-invasive surgical technique invented. :)
I removed any excess iris Jell-O (there wasn't much), then I took out the cookie cutter / mold.
Adding the Conjunctiva and Crust
For the final layers, I added in the no-bake cheesecake (conjunctiva) and crust (on top). The cheesecake mix had been sitting on the counter at room temp while waiting on the Jell-O and had set / thickened significantly to my surprise. It was not thin enough liquid where I could pour it into the bowl; I had to scoop the cheesecake mix out to put it it in the serving bowl.
In the recipe, it says to put the cheesecake layer into the fridge, let it set for 1 hour and then add the crust on top and put it back in the fridge.
Since my cheesecake mix was pretty much set, I added the cheesecake mix and then added the crust on top at the same time. Then, I packed it all in by pressing down on it with a spatula and then put the whole thing back in the fridge (see photo).
RESULT: Success / Failure. Learned some things. :)
It does not look like the picture, for sure, but I think it's pretty and looks like abstract art. :) It tasted good too. The photos are at the bottom of the post.
We are good at this? / We are good at this!
The recipe says to leave it in for ~1 hour (after the crust hardens) and then remove and serve. I was actually working on some things and left the whole thing in the fridge for ~6 hours. It didn't matter.
I took the bowl out of the fridge and flipped the bowl to try to remove the cake. It was not coming out.
I followed the tip in the recipe. I placed the bowl in a larger bowl of hot water.
I tried to flip it again and to my surprise, the cake came out -- all in one piece!
Then, I used red gel icing to make the veins around the eye.
I will definitely try this again sometime and make some adjustments based on what I observed.
1.) The shape of the bowl you use is important.
-- Before pouring in the layers you have to visualize how much volume the layers will occupy in the bowl. I used too big of a bowl; that's why my eye is kind of flat. I have not made no-bake cheesecake before and thought it would take up more space. I will use a smaller bowl if making 1/2 batch to make sure that the final cake / eyeball is more round.
2.) Working on Jell-O Technique / Recipe
-- The Jell-O didn't set well enough when I was forming the pupil and iris. I will try to add a little more water to the Jell-O in the beginning and maybe leave those layers in the fridge longer.
3.) Use cookie cutter as molds for the pupil and iris Jell-O layers from the start.
-- This works really well and really minimizes the excess gelatin that needs to be cut out.
4.) Shorten time in hot water during cake removal (if it is needed)
- Also, I may have left the bowl in the hot water a little too long when I was trying to remove the cake. It was in there for ~10-15 seconds. This may have caused the Jell-O to melt at the end and become runny / smeared.
Anyways, check out the pics and give it a try! This first photo is a pic after I tried some. Ruptured globe -- such a geek! :) More photos at the bottom of the post.