Monday, August 14, 2017

The Triforce of Tastiness: #EatWhatYouWatch

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 
Guardian Cake & Classic Nutcake

The Legend of Zelda is hands down my favorite game series and nerdy cakes are one of my favorite things to make, so when I heard there was a Zelda food contest being hosted by Binging with Babish (#eatwhatyouwatch), I simply could not resist! After considering the many delicious Zelda dishes I could make, I eventually decided to try my hand at the humble Nutcake a la Breath of the Wild. ...But since I also wanted to max out the nerdiness, I decided to make a Guardian (Nut)Cake, as well. 

The elusive Goat Butter! 

According to the official Zelda recipe, Nutcake only has four ingredients: Any Nut, Goat Butter, Cane Sugar and Tabantha Wheat. The goat butter (a.k.a. #GOAT butter) was by far the hardest thing to track down, but I managed to find some and I'm glad I did. It was fun to work with and had a unique flavor that carried into the final product without being too overbearing.

For Tabantha wheat, I used half wheat flour and half white flour to give it a nice, rustic taste and texture, and for cane sugar, I used cane sugar.

Clockwise from left: Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Pepitas & Almonds

As for the nuts, I went for a mix of flavors, textures and colors I thought would taste good and look similar to the Zelda version. You can probably use most any nut (just like the original recipe says), but I went with almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and pepitas, which while technically not nuts, have delicious flavor and great color! 

Pro Tip: Soak the nuts for a few minutes before throwing them in the batter to prevent them from soaking up extra moisture from the cake.

Who knew you could bake in a Pyrex measuring cup?! 

To get the proper shape for the Nutcake, I decided to go ahead and bake it up in one of the Pyrex mixing bowls I used while preparing it. While I may have added a little too much batter (my Nutcake was a little on the tall side), the shape was just what I was looking for!

Da na na na! You made a Nutcake! Press (c) to eat. 

This simple, hearty and rustic cake is best served fresh and warm with a generous dollop of whipped cream. (Those game developers knew what they were doing!) As for the actual recipe, I used one of my favorite holiday baked goods as inspiration: a family recipe for Cranberry Orange Bread. I changed just about everything flavor-wise, but the general ratios were handy for crafting this new recipe.

Classic Nutcake


"Forest nuts give this cake a pleasant texture and a simple, understated sweetness."

Ingredients:


  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • ¼ cup goat butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1½ cups whole, unsalted nuts

Preparation:


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease and flour a pint-sized Pyrex (or other chosen baking dish).
  3. Sift together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.
  4. Mix melted goat butter into dry ingredients. 
  5. Separately, beat egg with oil, almond extract and almond milk.
  6. Mix wet and dry ingredients until well combined, then fold in nuts.
  7. Spoon batter into prepared baking dish and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a skewer stuck into the center comes out clean. If the top begins to brown too much, cover with foil and continue baking until done.
  8. Cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes, then use a butter knife or spatula to loosen the edges before removing from the baking dish. 
  9. Serve fresh with a dollop of whipped cream!
But wait, there's more! To make one of the infamous Guardian Stalkers in cake form as well as a Classic Nutcake, a double batch of the above recipe will do it. I personally used the first batch to make the classic version and middle layer of the Guardian, and the second batch to make the Guardian base and head. 

An inside look at how the Guardians were forged 10,000 years ago.

To get the correct shapes, I found a tiny souffle-esque dish, a medium, oven-safe bowl (seen holding the nuts above) and a large, round casserole dish. Since the petite blue dish was a bit too petite, I added a ring of foil that would allow the cake to get taller (it totally worked). From smallest to largest, the Guardian cake layers took about 30, 40 and 50 minutes to bake. 

The Guardian Cake is stacking up nicely.

Once all three pieces of the Guardian Nutcake were baked and cooled, I leveled the middle and top layers so they would stack up nicely. In general, I would also level the bottom layer, but since I knew I was going to showcase it on one of my super nerdy triforce plates with almost bowl-like depth, I left it as is and it fit perfectly.

Note: Since this Nutcake is full of whole nuts, you'll want to use a very sharp knife to cut through the nuts for smooth cake slicing.


Guardian legs in the making

Now for the hard part. While this isn't my first cake with legs, these ones are a bit more intricate than what I've done in the past. It's always a goal of mine to make my cake creations entirely edible (no toothpicks, wire or dowels here!), so I decided to coat some pull-and-peel Twizzlers (3 small ropes each) with white chocolate and refrigerate them in triangular foil troughs. Once they were hardened, I broke the white chocolate every centimeter or so but left the Twizzler intact to achieve the cool, segmented look. 

Guardian feet a.k.a. cashew talons

As for the feet, I kept with the nut theme and enlisted the help of 24 whole cashews. Who knew these nuts could make such convincing talons? To help them keep their ferocious arrangement, I put a small blob of melted butterscotch chips on a piece of foil, arranged the four cashews as seen above with the blob in the center, then added more melted butterscotch to the center top to cement the claws together. I also employed melted chocolate to make the horn-like headpieces, simply piping melted chocolate onto wax paper and refrigerating until they hardened.

Hot-Footed Frogs + Winterwing Butterflies + Magic Beans + Hyrule Bass = ???

Now since I have three triforce plates and the Guardian Nutcake only takes up one, I decided to throw in two extra Breath of the Wild dishes just for fun. For my first choice, Dubious Food, you can use almost anything to make it recipe-wise, but I chose to go the dessert route with an assortment of gummy frogs, butterflies, fish, magic beans (circa Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask) and...

!!!!

...Chuchu Jelly! I mixed bright green and blue Jolly Rancher gelatin powders and half the water they called for so it would be extra sturdy, let it partially solidify in the fridge, then added cut-up bits of all the gummy candies and let it finish setting. For the iconic white bone sticking out (where did that even come from?), I simply greased a bone-shaped cookie cutter, placed it on foil, filled it with melted white chocolate and let it chill overnight to harden.

Purple rice is twice as nice!

To fill my final triforce plate, I opted for the playfully purple Monster Rice Balls. To dye the rice purple, I cooked it in a mix of blueberry and pomegranate juices instead of water, and also added three drops each of red and blue food coloring to give it a little extra oomph. When the rice was done, I stuffed the balls with dried cranberries and added a little bit of grape fruit leather to complete the look.

As for the Guardian Cake... 

It doesn't seem to have noticed Link yet...

Once it was cool, I frosted the whole thing in chocolate hazelnut frosting, then piped caramel frosting on the different layers mimicking its intricate designs. For its single, ever-watching eye, I used a light blue Skittle, lasers deactivated.  

The Guardian is awakening!

Once the caramel frosting scrollwork was complete, I used some bright pink frosting to add its aura of evil. Then it was time to build.

Some assembly required.

Once I had everything in its proper place, I started attaching the legs and feet. Two key points to note: using melted/hardened chocolate is very difficult on warm, summer evenings. AND, don't expect the feet to stay in place on a smooth table like the one pictured. If you want the legs/feet to stay up on their own, attach them to each other with a bit of melted white chocolate/butterscotch, and make sure to either prop them up against something (like a triforce plate) or have a rougher surface for them to stand on.

Bzzrt!

Hooray! After all that work, the Guardian Cake was finally done! Only two of the legs actually stood up (due to the aforementioned smooth table issues) but it still looked pretty rad if I do say so myself. 

"It's too gross to even look at. ... Eating it won't hurt you though... probably." 
Once the Dubious Food had set completely, I cubed it for that pixelated look and piled it high on a triforce plate, then stuck in the white chocolate bone for the finishing touch. ...Yum? 

"Rice balls flavored with monster extract. Their unique aroma is not for everyone."

The Monster Rice Balls actually tasted pretty good, and theoretically are good for you since they're made with pure blueberry and pomegranate juice. Apparently Monster Extract is full of antioxidants!

Guardian Nutcake + Dubious Food + Monster Rice Balls = The Triforce of Tastiness!

After I finished my photos for the night, I packed everything up and took my nerdy creations to work the next day to get some glamour shots courtesy of the amazing KBC of knead. bake. cook. If you like gorgeously-styled food that also happens to be exceedingly delicious, check out her blogshe knows her stuff!

Dubious Food never looked so good!
They're monstrously delicious!
Link looks rather pleased with himself after lopping off those Guardian legs.
A classic cross-section of the humble Nutcake

Phew! Done at last. Just like in the games, that Guardian Cake sure gave me a run for my money, but in the end I had the last laugh (and the last bite). 

To see some of the other amazing entries in the Zelda food contest, search for #eatwhatyouwatch on social media, and be sure to check out Binging with Babish for even more nerdy deliciousness! 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Halloween 2016: Costume pARTy!

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is almost here again, and you know what that means... costume pARTy! In case you missed the original Halloween Costume Art, I like to commemorate the holiday by drawing various (often hilarious) costumes pulled from the latest costume catalogs.  

Random Costume Assignment

This year I enlisted my brother to help randomly assign costumes for my usual cast of characters. Even though the costumes were completely random, a lot of them worked out quite well for the people who received them.

1st time is not the charm

Once I knew who was who, I took some time to sketch out a possible plan. Ten people is quite a lot to fit into one picture, especially since I wanted them to interact in some fashion. 

Getting ink

A few preliminary sketches later, and I was ready to start inking. This is one of my favorite parts of the process, as it refines all the hazy spots and makes it look so official!

Gibdo attack! (Bonus points if you get the OoT/MM reference!)

As luck would have it, one of the randomly assigned costumes is also the one I'll be donning this year: Link, the Hero of Time! (And if any mummies come after me, I have an awesome new Hylian shield backpack with which to defend myself!)

Mwee hee hee! Don't feed the octopus, kids!

But what's this? Nine tenths of the way through inking I realize I have a giant blank spot in the bottom right corner that sets the whole page off balance. So what's a girl to do? Add a purple octopus, of course! This was the only non-random costume of the bunch, and while there was legitimately a purple octopus costume in the catalog, I took some liberties to make it everyone's favorite octopus royalty, Ultros.

Success!

At long last, the ink is complete and it's starting to look like a real picture! 

Sketches, what sketches? We woke up this way.

Next step? Destroy the evidence! (A.k.a. erase the pencil lines.)

Let the coloring begin!
With the black and white coloring page ready to go, it was time to bust out the markers and get coloring! With the magic of musical soundtracks to inspire me - Into the Woods for Little Red Riding Hood, Chicago for the flapper, Newsies because it's awesome, and so on - I was able to enjoy some therapeutic coloring time, like those adult coloring books, but from scratch!

At last, it's done!

And voila! I used a mix of Prismacolor markers, Staedtler pens and some metallic Sharpies for this one, plus for the pattern of Disgust's dress, I drew the pale flowers with white coloring pencil first, then applied a wash of green marker and added the blue and green flowers at the end. It was something of an experiment and I'm quite pleased with how it came out!

Thumbs up!
If you want to get your coloring on this Halloween, feel free to use the black and white image above. You can also check out the one from two years ago. Either way, if you do I'd love to see the final product. Happy Halloween everyone!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Nailed It! The Art of Pinspiration

Bird's Eye View

Have you ever wanted to draw, but had no idea where to begin? This sort of creative block seems fairly universal to most any creative avenue (writing, painting, cooking, you name it), and one of my favorite ways out of this rut is to step back and do a little R&D. 

When it comes to art, for me that means working from a reference. This not only gives your creative brain a break while still flexing the muscles, but also gives you a chance to study up, refine your skills and experiment with new styles. Where can one find references like this, you ask? Pinterest, of course!

Hey, fancy ladies!

These fancy ladies were inspired by this Fashion Photo which struck me as soon as I saw it. I referenced the clothes, hair and postures of the ladies, but gave them to a few of my own characters instead. (If I really wanted to maximize the learning experience, I should have gone after that background, too, but... maybe next time!)

Women's Fashion Sketches

These sets of sketches are based off pins curated by Pinterest's Men's and Women's Fashion categories. As you can see, photos of people are great examples of how clothes hang, fit, etc. on a body, as well as a person's stance, weight, expression and so on. As usual, I took all of the above and gave them to my original characters to add a little of my own style and fun.

Men's Fashion Sketches

Along with photo references, I've also recently delved into my Art board for inspiration. For this study, I picked out a few pieces with a slightly abstract, colorful style I seem to be drawn to. I didn't have my watercolors handy, but I did have a nice set of very inky markers I wanted to test out, so it worked out rather well.

Color Study x3!

I based these exercises in color on these awesome pins: HorseFace and Bird. Of my own renditions, the bird is by far my favorite, partially because it turned out so well and also because I like the original so much (it's the cover of my Art board!). In my opinion, the face turned out pretty well, too, and the horse is... okay. And you know what? Okay is okay because this is practice. Phew! It's amazing what a little grace can do for the creative process!


Face & Bird... Take 2!

These two pieces are based on Face Profile and Bird Profile, because apparently I'm fascinated by faces and birds! Once again, the originals were watercolors and my renditions were done with marker, but perhaps I will bust out my watercolors to practice those awesome effects soon. 

In the meantime, to see how fashion advertisements and costume catalogs can also be handy (and hilarious) references, check out my Guess Who: From Catalog to Coloring Book and Halloween Costume Art blogs!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Dewey's Debut: The Birthday Book Brownie

Birthday Book Brownie!

This year's birthday cake was extra special because I got to share it with another awesome character... Dewey! I love a good book and this guy's no exception. I drew the little dude as part of my Leadership class project (a donation station benefiting the local library), and then made the cake in honor of Dewey's official debut. So what kind of cake to you bake for such a celebration of literacy?

So we meet again...

A book cake, of course! Or in this case, a book brownie. In the interest of fewer crumbs in the library (and because I make a killer brownie), I opted for a brownie cake instead of the usual. 

Books & Brownies? Yes, please!

A good tip for showstopping brownies? Doctor up a boxed mix with tasty extras like cinnamon, vanilla and chocolate chips. I also swap out half the oil for applesauce, as it's less oily and you can't tell the difference.

Isn't he cute??

When it came time to decorate, I decided to freehand Dewey. The original artwork (above) took me a few tries (and a little Photoshop) to get just right, but I only had one go with the icing...

Now that's what I call food art.

To do the line art, I simply put some chocolate frosting in a ziptop bag, cut off a corner and used it as a piping bag. For single attempt in icing, I think it turned pretty well!

Because sprinkles are for winners!

For some finishing touches, I added a thicker line of chocolate around the edge to mimic the book cover (plus a little at the spine for the bend of the pages). The sprinkles were for extra color and fun. 

Ready to book it!

All packed up and ready to go... to the library!!

A deluge of Deweys!

As part of the Leadership project, our class held a coloring contest featuring Dewey. It was super fun to see so many fantastically colorful versions of Dewey on display and know I had a part in it.

Coloring contest winners - Great job, kids!

These three masterpieces were the winners of the contest and earned their artists great prizes, like the chance to roll the first "gold" coin down the wishing well.

Dewey's Donation Station!

While I did the artwork for Dewey and other graphics on the signs, this wishing well was a huge team effort involving everyone in the Leadership Folsom class of 2015. Thanks to everyone from the build team to the fundraising crew and all those in between, the whole project was a success, and we were even able to donate $3000 to the library at the debut celebration!

Leslie Knope would not approve

The event itself was a total blastlocal dignitaries showed up along with parents, kids, business owners, caterers and more! Since the shindig just happened to be on my birthday (and had a delicious book brownie (birthday) cake), I decided it was actually secretly my birthday party. How nice it was for everyone to come! ;)

Let's READ!

Here's to another exciting year to read, write, bake and otherwise creatively make the world a funner, tastier and all around better place. Let's read!