When we were visiting Mister Ed’s Elephant museum the other day we picked up some candy rocks and I wanted to make something extra fun with them…so little edible terrariums it is!
chocolate cake: You can make a simple pan of your favorite chocolate cake, use leftovers, or just pick up a plain cake to use. We had leftover chocolate bundt cake.
small jars: You can use canning jars, or save small jars from foods like little olive jars, jelly, etc.
candy rocks & pebbles: these are optional, but really add a realistic touch to the terrariums! You can buy them online too.
shredded sweetened coconut:This is used to create the moss, but if you don’t like coconut you can also use plain granulated sugar and color in the same way.
chocolate sandwich cookies: like oreo, newsman’s own etc.
gum paste: this is used to create the mushrooms and comes in white, or you can buy it pre-coloredif you prefer not to worry about that step.
lollipop sticks or toothpicks are optional but can help the mushrooms keep their shape. Just remember to tell younger children if you have sticks in the terrarium before they go to eat it.
1. The first step is to layer your terrarium “dirt”. put a slice of cake in the bottom of your jar and use a spoon to break it up slightly so it spreads out and covers the entire bottom. If your jars are small these layers will need to be small, but can be much thicker on big jars. Just remember you are going to want to keep some room in there for mushrooms, but still be able to fit the lid on.
2. The second layer in the darker soil which is made by chopping up the chocolate sandwich cookies in a food processor. I used about 5 cookies to make 3 terrariums.
3. Next drop a few rocks in. You can use one of the lollipop sticks to push a few of the rocks down into the soil along the edge of the jars.
4. To create the moss I used about 1/2 cup of sweetened shredded coconut. I added about 8-10 drops of my green food colors (I had two shades) and 1-2 drops of red. The red is just to give it that dark dirty mossy color. Then I dumped the coconut into the food processor to chop and mix the color. Do not worry about cleaning out any bits of cookie crumbs from the soil layer, they will just enhance the moss! If you don’t want to use the coconut you can substitute granulated sugar instead.
5. Spoon a small amount of moss into each terrarium jar and spread around so that the dirt layers still peek through in areas.
6. Now it is time to create the mushrooms! Gum paste might seem a bit tricky to work with (this was my first time) but here are a few tricks. You’ll want to keep your gum paste sealed and work with a small piece at a time or it can get dry and crack. Make sure to knead your gum paste (you can use a little shortening to help knead it) Knead it for a good few minutes until all the cracks are gone. To shape the mushroom bases I rolled my gum paste around the top of toothpicks (or lollipop sticks in the case of the larger mushroom) You just want to go for a mushroom shape. Once done I sat the mushroom bases that were on sticks into a small cup, to let them dry. For the very small mushrooms I just made a little base out of the gum paste (no toothpicks needed) and let them sit on their own to dry.
7. For the mushroom caps I simply rolled the gum paste into small balls and poked a small indent into the underside of each. Then I put them on top of the bases.
8. Now there are so many different ways to make your mushrooms look realistic (and it’s sort of the fun part!) For my very small white mushrooms I used a mesh sieve and sprinkled a little bit of cocoa powder on top. For my red polka dot mushrooms I pressed some pearl sugar into the gum paste before it dried. I like the look of pearl sugar because of the irregular shape, but you could also use white nonpareils instead. For my larger mushroom I simply used a small amount of brown food coloring when kneading.
9. Once your mushrooms have dried out a bit (30-60 mins) you can insert them into your jars. You can cut your toothpicks if they are too long, or slowly pull them out of the bottom of the mushroom completely (again, good idea if small children are going to be eating them) You can add a few more candy rocks or moss as needed.
*** A few final tips and notes..
-If you are going to be traveling with the terrariums (bringing them to a party etc) You may want to use a layer of chocolate frosting or pudding after the cake layer to help hold the dirt and moss in place. I would also save the mushrooms and add them once you arrive.
-You can also use marshmallow fondant in place of the gum paste to make the mushrooms (but these should be made a few days in advance so they can harden)
-You can easily make these vegan by creating a vegan gum paste using a vegan cake, etc.
-If you do not have the time or desire to create the mushrooms you can always buy mushroom cupcake toppers to add instead!