Archive for March, 2009

THE CHOCOCHOP

March 25, 2009

I remember, back in 2004, my friend Scott telling me “You should read dinosaur comics; they are a veritable cornucopia of delight.”  That’s right, I still remember the exact wording of his recommendation.  So, it seems that it was completely inevitable that I should eventually make a cake based on this comic, and the moment has come with inspiration provided by the New England Webcomics Weekend 2009.  Inspiration struck while I was at the gym (because naturally I should be thinking about cake while working out), and I decided to make a cake based on the idea of a chocochop, which has been referenced in three different episodes of dinosaur comics.

Of course I had to deviate slightly from the definition, as shaping a giant lump of chocolate into a pork-chop shape didn’t seem very interesting, and I don’t have any real porkchop bones lying around.  So instead, I went with a chocolate cake, iced to look like a porkchop.

The cake itself was two layers, and I separate each layer into 3 pieces to make it more realistic.  Also, the cakes fell apart when removed from their pans (I had baked them in a water-bath to get a more flat top on them because leveling cakes tends to waste some of the deliciousness), but that meant that the sides were not baked sufficiently to make the cakes fall out of pan with ease… but I still managed to cut out the pieces that I needed.

Cake 2: Chocochop - Layer 1

I decided to use the appropriate colours for icing the bottom layer, to keep up the realism of the chocochop:

Cake 2: Chocochop - Layer 1 with icing

Getting icing to be raw-meat red in colour is pretty difficult.  I used caramel icing, since it already had a hint of tan (the icing for the fat was sans-food colouring), but it still took like a tablespoon of red food colouring gel to achieve the desired colour.  I considered making the icing with lard rather than butter because it would be so fitting, but the thought kind of made me want to vomit, and I figured it would induce real vomiting if actually attempted (although it’s a great idea for the BACON TAKEDOWN next Sunday – make icing with bacon grease!).

Here’s the completed first layer, complete with the buttercream icing bone:

Cake 2: Chocochop - Layer 1 icing complete

Assembling the second layer:

Cake 2: Chocochop - Building layer 2

The completed 2nd layer:

Cake 2: Chocochop - Layer 2 complete!

The finished top of the cake:

Cake 2: Chocochop - Top icing complete

Icing the sides: one of the most difficult tasks, as the icing kept pulling off bits of cake:

Cake 2: Chocochop - Side icing, first layer

And finally, some completed views.  I think I am almost TOO proud of this cake, based on the number of pictures… but I was also terrified of the cake getting destroyed in transport (it had to survive a 4 hour drive to Massachusetts), so I wanted plenty of evidence that it actually had existed.  I kind of considered getting a “baby on board” sticker for my car window to encourage the cars around me to drive courteously and not endanger the cake.

Cake 2: Chocochop - Complete! View 1

Cake 2: Chocochop - Complete! View 2

Cake 2: Chocochop - Complete! Top view

Oh, and since I mentioned that I cut out the pieces for the cake from 2 13×9 cakes, this picture shows the “non-choice” cuts of chocopork:

Cake 2: Chocochop - Cake detritus

Fear not, these pieces did not go to waste!  They instead were used to make a 2nd cake that was very fitting for the pulled-pork party that I went to that night:

Cake 2: Chocochop - 2nd cake

So Henry and I did indeed bring the chocochop with us to NEWW, where EVERY SINGLE PERSON knew IMMEDIATELY that the cake was for Ryan North (creator of Dinosaur Comics), which was almost uncanny.  But it makes sense, given this shirt and the cover of this book.  Presenting the cake to Ryan was terrific, and is fully photo-documented, but my camera is in my car right now and I don’t want to go get it.  Ryan was amazingly nice and awesome (which really shouldn’t surprise anyone), AND he asked me to proofread a chemistry-related shirt that he’s working on.  It was probably my most validating moment as a chemist.

Cake the First

March 25, 2009

The first cake made after beginning cake-decorating lessons:

 Cake 1: Rainbow cake

 The units make the writing a little off balance, but as a good scientist I had to include them.  Also the 0’s are different sizes, but they are at least consistent within each number.  At this point we had learned some basics with the star-tip, mainly just making stars (surprise!) and zig-zags.  I wasn’t really paying attention when I made the left cloud and it ended up not covering the edge of the rainbow, so I made a kind of pathetic attempt at covering it up (notice the lame additional zig-zags at the top):

 Cake 1: Rainbow cake - Left Cloud

The right cloud was much better:

 Cake 1: Rainbow cake - right cloud

And here’s a close-up of the stars on the rainbow:

Cake 1: Rainbow cake - rainbow close-up

Overall not a bad first attempt at cake decorating.  I need some more practice with icing the cake itself, as getting a nice, smooth surface to work with took WAY longer than it should have (although once I learn the techniques to work with fondant, getting buttercream icing to be smooth will possibly no longer be necessary). 

Most importantly, the cake itself (yellow-type with a layer of HOMEMADE caramel icing in the center!) was determined to be delicious by the attendee’s of Saturday’s pulled-pork party.  Much more delicious than a pulled-pork mojito, I must say (However, if you want to be hip and cool and also maybe induce vomiting, you should start ordering drinks with pulled pork garnish by using the phrase “bacon on the side,” coined by my friend Patrick).

Oh, and according to Henry, the decorating icing tastes like Chrysanthemums.