Sunday, July 29, 2012

Easy Dune Cupcakes

Spice Cake and Chocolate Sietch.  Note the edible glitter spice blow.

Arrakis.  Dune.  Dessert Planet.

I'm a huge Dune geek.  I love Star Wars and Star Trek, and have great respect for Stargate, Doctor Who, Ray Harryhausen and the like.  But in my heart of hearts, Dune is where my geeky little soul truly lies.  I've read all the books, played the board games (both versions), the video game and heavily compared and critiqued the David Lynch movie version to the SyFy series.

So when one of my oldest friends asked for Dune cupcakes for his birthday, I was compelled to oblige.  My friend is a pretty avid fan himself and when he once called my then-new-boyfriend a geek, the bf simply replied, "He had a collectible sandworm figure in the original box, and then had a second one to play with.  I'm not too concerned with him calling me a geek."

Occasionally, I run across really great Dune-themed cakes. 
See this? It's awesome. Yeah, I can't make that.*

That cake is amazing but impossible for a mere mortal. Instead, following are cupcakes that any Fremen can make in his sietch. 

Arrakis Spice Cake with Spice Frosting

Spice Cake
Any spice cake recipe will do.  I used the America's Test Kitchen recipe and it was delicious but crazy complex so I recommend just using a mix.

Many, many ingredients.

Make the cupcakes about 2 hours ahead of time so they have plenty of time to cool.  
It's best if your cupcakes have flat tops, not domed ones.  Makes 'em easier to decorate.

Flat Tops.  They're not just for the 80's anymore.

Spice Frosting
2 8-oz packages Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, softened
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Tbl Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Real Maple Syrup

2 tsp Maple Extract

Cream the butter and cream cheese together.  Add the sugar and cream until smooth.  Add the syrup, cinnamon, salt and extract.  Set the bowl in the fridge for about 15 minutes to set up.

Shai-Hulud: Gummy Worms (or any kind of edible wormy thing), cut to fit on the cakes
Sand: Vanilla Wafers or Shortbread Cookies, crushed into cumbs
Rock: Bulk Chunk Chocolate, smashed with a hammer into small chunks
Spice:  Edible Gold Glitter, available at specialty baking shops

Sietch Signs
Make tiny flags for the cupcakes by writing or printing the names of the sietches, cutting them into small flags and gluing to toothpicks or party picks.

Sietch Abbir
Sietch Gara Kulon
Sietch Jacurutu
Sietch Tabr
Tuek's Sietch
Windgap Sietch

Frost the cupcakes by hand.  You can carefully sculpt dunes if you're good.  I'm not, so mine were flat desert.

We'll never reach the safety of Chocolate.  Well, maybe that small Chocolate.

 Sand: Either roll the cupcake tops in the cookie crumbs, or sprinkle the crumbs from the top.
Rock: Carefully poke in some of the chocolate shards to resemble a sietch.
Worm: Gummy worms don't bend well, so get creative. Shai-Hulud won't mind.
Spice: Sprinkle a little glitter around the worm. The worm is the spice.

Tasty enough for the Kwisatz Haderach!


*Courtesy of Jana's Fun Cakes.  Click the photo to see the source post.
**Courtesy of  Click the photo to see the source post.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Skyrim Food: Apple Cabbage Stew

Pardon me while I stop mid-fight to eat 20 bowls of Stew.

Apple Cabbage Stew.  Sounds tasty, yeah?  Well evidently in Skyrim the only seasoning anyone uses is Salt.  That's fine if you're living in a fantasized medieval Nordic land, but for the rest of us non-Stoics with more than 2 tastebuds who don't actually like eating raw dog meat and mammoth snout, getting this recipe to the Tasty Place was tricky.

The more posts we do, the more Gwen and I feel like what makes our site special is our overwhelming (some would say unhealthy) obsession with canon.  A lot of food blogs are written by cool, well-balanced people with interesting interpretations on recipes.  We're not those people. 

We actually debated making a common version of this stew that exists in the real world.  There was discussion about things like chicken stock, onions, thyme, red wine; ingredients that would make it conventionally tasty and easy to make. 

Easy?  Conventional?  Non-Canon?  BLASPHEMY!!

I  have a giant monkey brain that I use to think through creative problems.  Three ingredients?  No seasoning but salt?  No problem.  Chicken stock is for the weak.

Liberties were taken with the quantities and preparations of the three main ingredients, but no additional foods or seasonings have been added.  The final redaction is a riff on traditional Northern European sauerkraut dishes.  Sauerkraut (preserved cabbage) would be a very likely preparation in Skyrim.

Ingredients: Apple, Cabbage, Salt.

  • 3 or 4 Sweet Apples, like Honeycrisp or Red Delicious
  • 2 lb Salt-Cured Sauerkraut, Canned sauerkraut won't do.  Get the naturally cured stuff in the refrigerator section at the store made with Cabbage and Salt.
  • 4 Cups Apple Juice or Apple Cider, The sweeter, the better; you're not going to add any sugar.
  • Salt to taste
Found these authentic Skyrim apples in a barrow. They look like they'd been there for a couple millennia.

  1. Empty the sauerkraut into a strainer, rinse and drain well.  Squeeze out extra moisture with your hands.
  2. Dice all but one of the apples
  3. Add the drained sauerkraut, apple juice and diced apples to a large pot and simmer over low heat for 3.5 hours
  4. Dice the final apple and add it to the stew
  5. Simmer another 30 minutes or until the stew is a nice dark golden color.
  6. Salt to taste

It's actually pretty good - it's a crunchy sweet-n-sour hot dish that can double as a side to pork. It's also vegan.  The sauerkraut absorbs up the sugars from the apples and apple juice and it mellows out the tang of the kraut.  The longer you cook it, the more caramelized the stew will become, and the sweeter and darker it will get.