Let them eat cake!

Geeky Cakes

I have a new hobby – as if I need any more, really.

I have been making fondant birthday cakes for my friends and family, and since we are all geeks, most of the cakes have been a reflection of that fact.

The first fondant cake I did was for my daughter’s 12th birthday. I made my own fondant out of the marshmallow-powdered sugar recipe. Quite frankly, it was a pain in the ass. In the end, it turned out alright. Not a total wreck for a first try.

The second fondant cake I did was for the Wrecking Crew’s alpha’s birthday. Pictures of that will be forthcoming, but it was a simple white background, with a wavy band of red at the base, blood drops, and the crew logo on top of it hand carved out piece by piece and layered. I also made marbled d-10’s to scatter on top of it out of the fondant. We were all amused by it.

The third fondant cake was for my daughter’s boyfriend’s birthday. He’s a NASCAR fan, so I did a simple race track and fondant racing cars.

The next two cakes were for my twin brothers. One of them really likes Tinkerbell, the other one is an old school gamer. (Note: I am still learning the ins and outs of WordPress.com. I cannot for the life of me get the slideshow or the gallery not to show the other pictures in the post. Grr!)

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One year later, my last attempt was for my daughter’s 13th birthday. This year it was Invader Zim.

I have learned quite a lot about cakes, frosting and fondant with just those six cakes. I have learned that:

  • It’s really fun, but I will never be a professional at this (and I really would not want to be).
  • Commercial fondant bought at Michael’s Arts and Crafts is much easier to work with than marshmallow fondant, and tastes better.
  • To spray the plastic molds with Pam before squishing fondant into them. Otherwise, just do white chocolate and colored white chocolate.
  • The type of cake you use matters greatly. Do not get the extra pudding in the mix cakes. If at all possible, just bake complete from scratch instead of using a box. The home-made cake stands up to having the heavy layers of fondant on top.
  • Simple ideas can come out more elegant than first envisioned.
  • The notes you find about the fondant reflecting every imperfection in the frosting – absolutely true.

Still, all that matters is that those I have made them for absolutely loved them despite my lack of skill.


Chili recipe (gluten-free)

Homemade chili recipe (gluten-free)

Beans
Small yellow onion
Minced garlic
Diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
Chili powder (optional)
Onion powder (optional)
Garlic powder or garlic salt (if garlic salt, decrease the amount of salt used) (also optional)
Black pepper
White pepper
Salt
Nutmeg
Coriander
Meat of choice
Olive oil

Notice that there are no measurements. I let my tasting, and my sense of smell be the judge of when something is spiced right.

This time around, I started with two packages of dried beans and soaked them for two days straight. I had to rinse them and re-soak them during those times, because the heat herein AZ makes anything left like that ferment fairly fast. I have used canned beans before as well. Honestly, I’ve found that choice of beans really doesn’t matter. This batch is pinto beans and white beans, and it tastes absolutely wonderful. (Please note that two bags of beans actually made two pots of chili, and I had to use two of our three slow-cookers for the chili this time.)

These went into the slow-cookers. I added about 6 tablespoons of chili powder, a couple teaspoons of black pepper, a couple teaspoons of salt, and some onion powder and garlic powder to each and turned on the crock pot. I filled the pots up with water to cover the beans and have 1/4 inch left on top.

Over the next four to six hours, I stirred the pots occasionally and added water when needed so the beans didn’t burn.

When the beans were mostly soft, I added half a large onion, diced, between the two pots, some fresh minced garlic (about two teaspoons each pot), several more tablespoons of chili powder, a teaspoon of nutmeg, two teaspoons of coriander, and two teaspoons of white pepper. I also added the tomato sauce at this point.

Then it was slow cooked for another 8 hours.

In the morning, the husband diced some chicken, sautéed it in olive oil, added a little bit more chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, then added it into the chili. We’ve used both beef and turkey before too, but I think I like the chicken the best.

After about another hour, the chili was finished.

The only thing I would have done differently this time perhaps is add the meat earlier. The beans are just a little too soft.

In the past, instead of just plain water, I’ve used both black tea and red-wine to add more fluid to it. Over the years, I’ve learned that iced tea actually adds to the flavors of the spices I tend to use regularly, rather than just dilute it down with plain water. The red-wine was nice Chianti mixed equal parts with water. They both turned out well. The tea was good for the turkey, the red-wine for the beef.

I like the garlic powder and onion powder for the dry beans, because it allows them to take on the flavor during the initial soak without having mushy onion or garlic in the finished product.

With the onion, you can also sauté them separately in a little bit of olive oil so they sweeten, and then add them to the meat so they cook in the pan with the meat before the meat is added to the chili.

Why nutmeg and coriander? I have this recipe for fondue that uses nutmeg and coriander. I thought them unusual ingredients at the time (well over a decade ago) but have since learned to love them for chili, and just the coriander for stews.

All the spices I have are gluten-free, and using dried beans instead of canned ensures no-cross contamination or questionable additives. It does make it a longer process over all, but the actual hands on time was less than an hour.

Enjoy!