Tag Archives: art

Giant Cupcakes, Cookies, and a Blondie

Look into my eyes…

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I’m going to make you giant cupcakes, and you’re going to like them.

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I’m going to make you giant cupcakes, and you’re going to like them.

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I’m going to make you giant cupcakes, and you’re going to like them.


So I made giant cupcakes a week and a half ago – along with some regular small ones – and I liked them. And, as a plus for any cook or baker, the other people who tried them said they liked them too. Now all I need is for another friend’s twins to also have their eighth birthday so I can make, upon request, another pair of giant cupcakes.

The first step to making giant cupcakes is to get a giant cupcake mold. This I accomplished through some internet searching, a little feedback from a friend, and a trip to the nearest store that had them in stock (Michael’s).

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If you search like I did, you’ll see that Wilton is one of the few players in the Molde de Pastelito Gigante game. Repeatedly seeing the name Wilton also triggered the good memory of the early days of MLS when we’d be watching the Metrostars on tv and Andres Cantor on the Spanish broadcast would pronounce the players names, such as Welton, with a vigor that in Welton’s case made it, “Wellllllllllllll-tonnn.” I’m pretty sure it was Andres Cantor, of you know, Goooooooooooooooooolllllllllllll! renown, but please let me know me if you know otherwise. The closest confirmation I could find through solely internet searching was this article, in which the author reminisced, “Believe me, no one could make the name ‘A.J. Wood’ sound so extraordinary.” In the end, Welton turned out to be a four-year flash in the MLS cupcake pan.

The next step after acquiring a Wellllllllllllll-tonnn Giant Cupcake Pan was to find a giant cupcake recipe. I got some intel the twins liked chocolate, and I wanted to add a simple frosting, so I went with the following two recipes I found online:

I followed each recipe as written, except for how long I baked the cupcakes (I let mine bake a little longer). What worked well in my oven, based on my sample size of two giant cupcakes, was to bake the bottom-half of the cupcake for 75 minutes and the top-half for 55 minutes (at 325 degrees). The cupcake mold is a single connected piece – the well for the bottom-half is connected to the well for the top-half (see the picture below) – so as recommended by some others, I started by only adding the batter for the bottom-half. Then, 20 minutes into the baking (with 55 minutes left), I added the batter for the top-half.

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Giant cupcake #1, here in two pieces after being taken out of the mold (top-half on L, bottom-half on R)

After the baking is done, the final steps are assembling the pieces and adding the frosting. Here’s a quick description of the process, based on what I did:

  1. Take the base of the cupcake (R in the picture above) and slice off the rounded crown part
  2. Take the top cone piece (L in the picture above) and slice off the rounded part that’s underneath
  3. Spread a layer of frosting on the now-level surfaces to serve as the glue
  4. Combine the two pieces to make one giant cupcake
  5. And then spread the frosting on top to finish it off
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Here’s how the two pieces looked after making the surfaces level (steps 1 and 2 above)

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And how one of the giant cupcakes looked after full assembly and frosting

In the process of making the giant cupcakes, I also confirmed The Cookie Writer’s FYI that there would be cupcake batter left over. And so what to do with the extra batter? Make more cupcakes! Small regular ones in this case.

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The full cupcake yield

After taking care of the extra batter, all that was left was the extra matter…of the rounded tops and bottoms that I had sliced off earlier to make the cupcake pieces level. Resisting the temptation to eat them right then, I turned two of these rounded parts into a giant whoopie pie, using the remaining frosting as the filling.

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In an interesting bit of culinary timing, I had also made this giant whoopie pie and the giant cupcakes exactly one year to the day after having made a made a pair of giant cookies. A few friends were having a holiday cookie-exchange party on the same day last year, and I was making regular-sized, pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies for it. When I ran out of baking sheet space but still had some batter left over, I rubber-spatulaed the remaining batter into two large pie dishes. The result? Two giant awesome pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies. One of the party’s hosts is purported to have eaten most of one of the giant cookies in a single sitting the next day. The other giant cookie is purported to still be in my freezer.

And finally, to end with one more giant cookie memory (who knew there were so many???) and yes again, art, here’s something I made back in college (and recently reacquired when my parents started cleaning out our old rooms).

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The class was called Two Dimensional Design, and the assignment was to tell a story using four items. (We had to do several of these.) Previously, we had been clipping interesting pictures out of magazines and making a mess with paint on paper, so I already had the top cookie picture and the 18″ x 24″ background sheet (in black-and-white splatter) ready to go. Then I added a brown layer to the background sheet, found some appropriate pictures of the family dog, and the story was complete. Cookie, cookie, everywhere, but not a bite to eat.

Before anyone feels too sorry for her, though, I can assure you that outside of art, in real dog life, she got many a food scrap, took her role as the pre-dishwasher cleaner-of-plates seriously, and was a success in the chocolate-acquiring business. One time she ate a third of my birthday cake off the kitchen table after my dad had briefly left the room, and another time she got and ate most of an entire bag of chocolate chips. It’s like they say: every dog has its day
(full of chocolate).

She was a good dog, we all loved her, and although Blondie was no giant (she came up to around our knees), I’m sure she would have had no problem taking care of an over-sized chocolate cupcake, or two.

The Art of a Radish Seed Contest

Look out below!!! I’ve got a radish bomb of a post, and I’m dropping it in three, two, one…

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Bombs away! I make no claim to be a reluctant rebel leader or avian symbol of same, but this I will promise for what’s to come – there will be art, math, pictures, words, prizes, rhymes, and more, all brought together through the magic of radish inspiration.

To pick up the story where I’d left off a few weeks ago (In the garden, looking back, looking now) , I was recounting the end of my community garden plot for the year, and in the process, I had put forward a contest — Guess the number of radish seeds (and seed pods) that I had collected from the garden, and win some seeds! And radish art!!

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How many seeds are in this many pods???

There were four entries altogether, including one that was submitted a little past the deadline and another that was left on Facebook. These ones didn’t follow all of the instructions, but as the contest-creator, participation-encourager, and all-around great guy, I’m going to declare them all valid. Done! Doing so also makes it more interesting, and given the contestant to prize-ingredient (seed) ratio, we can also make everyone a winner in The Ultimate Radish Seed Contest.

To recap, these we’re the clues:

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A profile shot of the quart-size bag

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And for reference and math, a picture of a handful of pods…

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…and a picture of the seeds from those pods

And these were the guesses:

  • Jane – 60 seeds pods, 360 seeds
  • Galina – 120 seed pods, 480 seeds
  • Jim – 240 seed pods, 650 seeds
  • Abel – (no seed pods guess), 1080 seeds

Who’s going to take it? Whose seed guess was the closest, to win first prize?? And whose seed-pod guess was the closest, for second prize?

First prize, if you recall, included not only a packet of the seeds, but also an original radish drawing. Second prize was radish seeds by themselves. The week before Thanksgiving, I was happy to find one farmer at the farmers’ market who was still selling radishes. So I bought a bunch, brought them home, and made a sketch one night.

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This particular radish might also be the bomb in the Mockingjay’s clutches above, but I can’t tell for sure. It was, in any case, one of nine good-looking models I had to choose from.

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The radish sketch above was actually the second radish drawing that I made. The previous night, I had sketched a small cluster of the seed pods.

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I had overlooked this cluster and another small one in my car. As a result, they hadn’t made it into the seed pod bag along with all the others. That’s a good thing though, because otherwise this drawing wouldn’t exist! And now as there are two drawings, the first-prize winner will have a choice to make: select the one with the radish, or select the other awesome one with the seed pods.

I ended up making a few more drawings – all radish-inspired – but first, back to the contest.

The first step in counting the seeds was to count the seed pods. To do this, I took all the pods out of the bag and then lined them up in groups of ten.

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To the right of the pencils, I placed all the full pods. Large or small, as long as they weren’t broken, I put them here. To the left, I put all the broken or partial pods. Any extra pieces, such as twigs or pod-scraps without seeds, went into the non-pod pile above. For the purpose of getting a final tally, I counted each partial pod as a half pod.

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The full pods

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And the partial pods

And so the final number of pods? Let’s do the math: 202 + (64/2) = 234.

Congratulations, Jim!! You won second prize. And did so with an impressively close guess.

But what about the number of seeds?? Let’s take a look. I noticed that at least a few of the contestants used some math for their guesses – Jane with a 6 seeds/pod multiplier, Galina with a 4 seeds/pod multiplier, and Jim with a… 2.70833333333 multiplier. Based on firsthand knowledge from doing the clues, I thought there would be about 5-6 seeds per pod. And that turned out to be about right, but only if I included just the larger and the most dried out, lightweight, and maraca-like pods. The bag contained a variety of pod sizes and types, and I included them all.

As I was opening the the pods, at first I was disappointed that they weren’t all perfect maracas and didn’t all have lots of perfect seeds. But then I reminded myself that it’s okay for things – for nature, for people, for anything – not to be perfect, and that it’s the actually imperfections that make things real and good. To wish or demand otherwise would be to seek something that’s not there, and to court the opposite of peace and happinesses. As I was tallying the seeds, I tried keeping that in mind.

All the seeds from the pods

All the seeds from the pods

And so the final number of seeds??? Good question! The picture above shows 852 seeds, and I collected another 75 seeds from the bottom of the bag (they had already fallen out of their pods), so that makes for a grand total of 927.

Zoom in on the picture, though, and you can see that the (250) seeds to the right have a different, potentially nonviable aspect to them, and the ones down below (27 on the left, 54 on the right) have more of that. There was part of me that didn’t want to include them – they weren’t perfect! and it wasn’t how I’d planned it in my head (my radish-contest exuberance and seed-saving inexperience had me thinking I was going to find only viable seeds and so would only have perfect seeds to count). In the spirit of acceptance and imperfection, though, I say let’s count them all. So there you have it: 927 seeds.

Congratulations, Abel! You won first prize.

And with that, I have one more thing say:

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Actually, including that one, I have seven more things, or rather seven drawings with radish wisdom and gusto. Like the discovery of the radish flowers in the garden, and the development of the contest that followed, the following additonal art series wasn’t planned at the beginning but rather happened happily along the way.

For your enjoyment, and for the radish growers of America, if and when they decide it’s time to form a national radish promotion council, here you go, the full series. Enjoy!

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Determining the cost of breakfast

It took me three months, but I’ve done it! I’ve determined the cost of breakfast.

I don’t remember when exactly it became my breakfast – two pieces of toast, one with jam and the other with peanut butter and honey – but I know it was at least three and a half years ago.

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This is how breakfast looked in May 2014. It would have looked pretty similar in May 2011.

I can date it to at least then because I remember remarking to a few friends around that time how I’d stopped eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – but not my regular breakfast. I’d needed a (temporary) sandwich siesta, on account of a Latin American trip during which a relationship ended and during which, at the expense of more local food exploration and adventure, I’d acquiescingly eaten more PB&J than I’d wanted. I needed a PB&J break, but that didn’t mean I had to forgo my regular PB toast & jam toast breakfast. A sample friend exchange at the time went:

Him/her: But they’re practically the same thing.
Me: Nah, they’re not the same. They might get mixed around once they’re inside, but they start off separate.

Back then, honey also wasn’t involved everyday yet, but over time it has become a standard PB toast companion (jam meanwhile has continued to go solo). (Side note: if you want to increase the PB toast breakfast-decadence, try adding squares of butter to the toast first, then peanut butter, and then the honey on top of that.) (Second side note: if you want to experience the grounded sensation of anticipation, peace, hope, joy, and more, all at the same time while having a great PB&J sandwich, do a siesta as noted above and then eat a PB&J sandwich for the first time a few months later when you’re ready.)

But back to 2014, breakfast, and determining the average daily cost of it. Here’s how everything looked three months ago on Day 1:

      • Whole Wheat Bread, 18 slices (Whole Earth Center) – $3.50
      • Bonne Maman Peach Preserves, 13 oz (Whole Foods) – $3.99
      • 365 Peanut Butter, 16 oz (Whole Foods) – $1.69
      • Fruitwood Orchards Blueberry Honey, 16 oz (Whole Earth Center) – $5.89
      • Glass of water, 8 oz (the tap) – Priceless
        (free to me)

On the first day then, May 20, 2014, the cost of breakfast was $15.07. That’s a lot, but the plan of course wasn’t to determine the cost of breakfast in a single day. There was still food left to eat and average out. I was going to keep going, two pieces of toast at a time (breakfast everyday), until I’d used everything up. Whenever one ingredient would get finished, I’d buy another one, like for like. Only when I’d finished the last of the original ingredients (if you guessed it was the honey, you’re right!) would I be done. 

And now, the rest of the story.

This includes not only pictures and words (always helpful), but also numbers and words (spreadsheet!) and pictures and numbers (art!). You might say the last two are complementary, supplementary, and…. alimentary.

May 20

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All assembled, Day 1

May 29

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First replacement today! New bread.

June 21 – Here, getting ready for a new jam (and getting in front any questions about the ‘science’ involved (I am a religious rubber spatula user))

Pre-spatula

Pre-spatula

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Post-spatula

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Next!

July 4

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Homemade friend breakfast!

Okay, so there were a few days when I didn’t eat my regular breakfast. Sometimes, you know, you’re out visiting friends, on vacation, or doing a bike ride or something else. All such variations are noted and accounted for on the spreadsheet, however. On July 4, for the record too, I did eat my regular breakfast later on that day to keep pace.

July 28

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The changing of the peanut butter. Here also – the spatula again, and a tomato photo bomb.

August 20

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Honey almost gone… happy face, sad face

When I took this picture of the honey and peanut butter, at first I was like, Finally, I’m almost done! And then I was like, Wait, but then I’ll be done! It reminded me of a time in middle school when I was reading a book that I liked so much that I didn’t want it to end. I tried to remember what book it was – I was recalling kids, a secret garden, and an element of mystery and magic, and possibly it being a Battle of the Books book (EB reference) – but in this case my insufficient memory trumped my internet skills. Any thoughts? It wasn’t The Secret Garden, as I learned later after taking that one out of the library and reading it for the first time, but as a bonus, at least now I know another kids book that I like.

August 27

I said goodbye to the last of the original 16 oz of honey on this day, and with my limiting reagent now gone, it was time for step two: mathematics. The interesting thing is, math can be creative too. This is not to say I made up the numbers, but rather that I enjoyed creating the requisite spreadsheet. What’s not to like about figuring out formulas and making accurate and interesting notes??? I’ve got columns for weekday, date, bread, jam, peanut butter, day, effective day, the cost of breakfast, food notes, and extra notes.

Check it all out here. (Xls available too.)

September

Before I could finish the spreadsheet and determine the cost of breakfast, I realized there was one more thing to do: determine and subtract out the value of the food amounts remaining at the end. The honey was done, so I was set there. And bread is bread, so I could easily determine the remaining bread value. But to make the final adjustments for the remaining jam and peanut butter, I needed to know or at least factor in the tare weights of the jars.

Not owning a scale myself, I made a special trip to the Whole Earth Center, where they have several scales to weigh the bulk items. I took my jam and peanut butter measurements – ‘jar + the amount left’ for each one – and then since I hadn’t weighed them ahead of time at the beginning, I brought with me unopened jars of the same jam and peanut butter and weighed those jars too. Then you subtract the partially-used jar number from the full jar number, and the tare is gone and you’re on your way.

If this sounds like a lot of words and you think seeing it more graphically would help, with the actual numbers, I agree. In part with this in mind, and in part because, well, I like to draw and I hadn’t done much drawing in a while, I made some art math. If it helps to get a sense of the progression of style, I’ll note too that the pictures appear below in the order in which they were created.

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And all together now

Between the spreadsheet and the art math, I feel like there’s a lot to work with here. Math teachers, number lovers, and food and life blog readers of the world, there you are – enjoy and feel free to use as you see fit, responsibly and with attribution.

As for the ultimate numbers for breakfast, here are the main ones:

  • The number of days it took to determine the cost of breakfast: 100
  • The number of effective days it took (aka the number of days it took to eat 1 lb of honey): 83
  • The total amount spent on bread, peanut butter, jam, and honey (after the final adjustments): $70.98
  • The average amounts consumed daily for breakfast:
    • 2 slices of bread
    • 0.86 oz of jam
    • 0.84 oz of peanut butter
    • 0.19 oz of honey

And of course, the final number – now trimmed a bit from where it started on day one:

  • The cost of breakfast, determined: $0.86