Friday, July 26, 2013

Glumfetti cupcakes, serial killers and Starbuck's!

Today was billed as Funfetti Cupcake Day! Be ready!  How upbeat and positive.  We were looking forward to a special treat.  Unfortunately our Funfetti baker was having a bad day.  In fact, we think it was a bad week overall.  Needless to say despite trying to keep the fun in funfetti by even singing a verse of "Put on a Happy Face" and "When you're smiling!" to our no longer enthusiastic friend, the tone stayed downbeat!  Our colleague remained rather glum and thus funfetti became glumfetti. We think the glumness had to do with failed western blots or something else related to research.  When you consider that this is the first experience with research at the very beginning of any kind of science career, continuing on this path would probably not be good for the emotional health of our glum comrade.  This clearly has to factor into any professional decisions to be made.

This is what we were expecting!!     

Initially this is what we got!
Nothing that Betty Crocker can't handle!
And this was the final presentation!

These did not meet expectations given the first pic!
It's because I'm glum and would rather be alone!
Nonetheless there were funfetti cupcakes that had been baked but needed to be frosted. Out came a can of Betty Crocker frosting which was promptly swabbed onto the cupcakes to complete the treat. This was probably not the most precisely prepared cake hour offering but since it was now glumfetti our expectations were pretty low.  The cupcakes were fine and the frosting tasted like Betty Crocker frosting always does.  
For added fun we found some ice cream!

One of these days we'll try to figure out what the big deal about Funfetti is. Throw a few artificially colored candy pieces into cake better and it becomes a taste sensation?  Hardly.
Sure it's a gimmick, but it's fun!
In conjunction with the glumfest our conversation turned to the macabre. Somehow we got on the subject of serial killers. This was partly due to the recent event in Boston where a young woman was abducted and found later dead. Although she was out with the perp other folks were unable to help her. This prompted the advice to the young people assembled to make sure they draw attention to themselves in any questionable situation.  This was reinforced by a "Designing Women" episode back in the 80s. See:
They learned how to Stand and Fight!

Talk also migrated to TV shows like "Criminal Minds" and from there to serial killers.  While watching these TV shows focusing on all these violent stories you are likely to be dismissive thinking such things are really going on to the extent that they are depicted.  Then you do a little research and find out that yes they are and that there have been some pretty gruesome serial killers. Another reason to be glum.  
They're out there!
Do serial killers like Starbucks Coffee? That question wasn't asked but somehow we went from mass murder to Starbucks.  The General Consensus was the Starbucks is okay and for some it is a favored place. There was agreement that it is fun to go to Starbucks and not use their names for sizes but rather order a small, medium or large.  Recently, in a Boston Starbucks, something that any normal person would call a sticky bun was desired.  When the "sticky bun" was ordered, the barista looked confused.  Further clarification was attempted by referring to it as a pecan roll or cinnamon roll followed by directions as to where it was in the case.  The barista still looked like he didn't know what was being referred to but finally pointed to it.  When told that was the it his response was "Oh, you meant the "Morning Bun." We'll be sure to continue to refer to is as a sticky bun or pecan roll because who else says "Morning Bun."  
It looks like a pecan roll/cinnamon role/sticky bun, but no it's a Morning Bun!
These are sticky buns!  Looks like your Morning Buns, Starbucks!
The serial killer connection with Starbucks might exist after all.  There is advice on the Internet reminding people in Starbucks not to piss off the baristas because there might be a serial killer behind the counter. There is also this quote in reference to baristas : "They stand there with smiles that can probably be pinned down to a serial killer’s wish to murder their customer, happily taking their drink order and processing it as quickly as possible."  Hmm, maybe we will call it a "Morning Bun" after all!
Call it a morning bun because I might be a serial killer!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Magic Cake is followed by the Miracle Cake!

Student cake month continueth apace! Our contestant for today claimed to never have baked anything before.  There was some anticipation and anxiety on her part as to what she would do.  We just expected to get another store bought cake that we had most likely tried before.  But to our surprise, our friend did a little research, came up with a credible recipe, executed it well and brought to us her first homemade creation.  To her it was something of a miracle to pull it off so yesterday's magic cake became today's miracle cake!
My first time as a baker and it's a miracle!

This is why it was called a sprinkles cake!

A quaint homemade look, don't you think!

It was described as a sprinkles cake.  Can you guess why?  The colorful sprinkles on top of the cake is a dead giveaway.  Actually the presentation wasn't bad.  The cake was served up on a bright green plate which contrasted nicely with the hue of the frosting. As mentioned the brightly colored sprinkles added to the effect.  The cake does a bit of a homemade look to it, don't you think.  Clearly the chef did not break out her pastry bag and cake decorating tools.  The frosting does seem a little fluid but that makes for a nice skirt around the base of the cake.  This probably was not intentional.

Not sure if the skirt around the cake is intentional!
So what is this miracle cake? The frosting is raspberry butter cream and we were told this was the second preparation as the first was a failure.  We're glad our baker did not give up but gave it a second go. It was a vanilla cake but once sliced there was a surprise in that two of the layers had been colored so as to give the cake itself some contrast. This was a nice creative touch.  Perhaps last year's BCA cake was an inspiration! It gave the cake portions some visual appeal. 

Surprise!  The layers are colored!
Bicolor cake appeal!
The miracle cake tasted good but not miraculous.  The cake was requisitely moist and the frosting tasted pleasantly of raspberries without being as oleaginous as so many fat based frostings are.  They went well together and everyone agreed that our first time baker had done good for her first baking feat.  For the extra creativity and effort we give her the five star rating.  The cake actaully went pretty quickly and in the end all that was left on the plate for those who wanted more were the guts of the cake. 
And it's going fast....
.....leaving only the guts!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The magic cake of Nutella will stop her beer drinking so we can have better western blots!

You may ask what is Nutella?  That would not be too surprising.  Nutella is the Euro-world's version of peanut butter. It is a concoction of hazelnuts paste, chocolate and sugar that families on other continents serve their kids like families in the US serve their kids peanut butter...assuming that some kid with a nut allergy is not around in which case you have to evacuate whatever building you are in. Most Americans when they first experience Nutella are not impressed and think it is a tad disgusting much in the same way that Nutella families think peanut butter is disgusting when they first experience it. It is a mutual lack of admiration society.  Nutella is gradually becoming more accepted here across the pond which is fine.  It is after all a better choice than Marmite another European spread that truly is disgusting.
The world famous Nutella - if you think this is digusting...
then stay away from this.  Yeast Extract? That's what we feed bacteria!!
Our student cake for the day is Nutella Magic Cake.  Isn't that a great name? You can't help but be excited about a Magic Cake and wonder what kind of magic is in store. Once the cake is baked, however the magic is over.  This is called a "Magic Cake" because during the baking the batter settles into three distinguishable layers. From one layer of batter three layers of cake magically appear.  Could anything be any more fun?  To make it even more fun our student baker added a layer of bananas and some cocoa powder on the top!
Our Nutella Magician for the day!
Cake of Nutella Magic with a banana flourish!
Not a bad looking cake!
Great cakescape - banana and choco powder for the top!
The response to this cake was very good.  There were quite a number of Nutella fans in the bunch.  As we had some canned whipped cream left over we sliced this cake up and served it with small floret of whipped cream.  When you tasted the cake the dominant flavor was from the bananas.  The top layer turned out to be like cake although our baker felt that it had fallen and was not as "crunchy" as it had been when it was first finished. The other two layers, which were not easy to distinguish, had the density and taste of a chocolate pudding and for that reason the added chantilly was a good idea. Even without, the magical cake of Nutella went over very well and get a 4 and a half star rating.
Note the three magical layers in this commcercial photo!
If you look real close you can see distinguish the two bottom the magic was done!
We had some of the usual sob stories about people and their Western Blots not working. There was also a need for more of the chemiluminescent reagent needed to read them. Just to be a wag I pointed out that the recent seminar on infrared imaging was supposed to obviate our need for all these supplies and that people should use the instruments.  That prompted all sorts of comments about how they are not allowed to use them and we should have our own machine to use.  The response to that was if they stopped using the reagents and film we could save enough money to get the machine.  Then folks started volunteering other ways money was wasted and could be saved. This led to and aforementioned affection for drinking on the part of one of our summer gang and we blamed the lack of our own machine on that habit...if only she would stop drinking we could save $50,000 and get our own machine.  That's a lot of drinking!
If our colleague hadn't drunk all these...

We could get one of these and our Western Blots would be awesome!
I'll get her to lay off the beer because I want that machine!

Monday, July 22, 2013

A pseudo tiramisu, a tiger cake and a visitor from Nashville!

Another day, another cake hour in student cake month.  Today we had a tiramisu - sort of.  If you go back to a few blog posts here you will notice that we have had our share of tiramisus.  Furthermore, a graduated Italian colleague had spoiled us by frequently bringing in one from an authentic Italian recipe - or so we were lead to believe.  Hence we are somewhat snobbish when it comes to this particular dish.  There have been a few attempts to supplant the recipe but they were unsuccessful.
A bowl full of tiramisu...sort of!
There is an added layer on top!
It's missing the powdered cocoa but the whipped cream is a great substitute!
Today our student competitor brought in his version of a tiramisu.  Clearly it was different.  Notice the lack of cocoa powder on the top.  Instead the top was a layer of whipped cream. That is not a usual ingredient and the top layer is normally mascarpone.  Since it is whipped cream we surely don't mind but for tiramisu purists this could be an issue.  Under the whipped cream was the requisite mascarpone layer(s) and the lady fingers. Since this is a variation on the classic recipe we dubbed it a pseudo-tiramisu.
Whipped cream, mascarpone and lady fingers - almost a tiramisu!
Its' got the layers!
That doesn't mean we didn't like it. Hell, no! If you are going to add anything to tiramisu whipped cream would always be a good idea.  It added another layer of lightness to this version that went will with the mascarpone. The lady finger were fine as was the mascarpone cream. Said cream had a little more texture that what we have had and it's not clear why.  it tasted good though.  We weren't sure if this recipe included the lady fingers being dipped or soaked in coffee or if the obligatory rum or amaretto was included.  It didn't matter because the pseudo way it was prepared was fine with everyone and we give it a four and a half star rating.
Four and half stars with some consideration for the bowl!
With the amount of people that have been showing up for cake hour we just managed to have enough to give folks a reasonable tasting.  For those that wanted more there was an unannounced surprise.  A former colleague who moved on to medical school in Tennessee, of all pieces showed up for a visit as she is summering doing research nearby in Boston.  As she well knows the cake hour drill,  she brought with her an additional cake treat as well as a bottle of vino.  This enabled us to give a little extra to all.
The cake we called a tiger cake. It was a chocolate roll with vanilla cream that was frosted with chocolate which was then overlaid with stripes of vanilla. It looked a little bit like the negative of tiger stripes.  The cake was good although a few found it to be too sweet.  It might have been better if the filling had been whipped cream which is often seen in one of these.  But it was a nice unexpected treat.
It could also be a caterpillar!
Chocolate roll - make that white sugar cream whipped cream and its a hit!
We were going to save the bottle of wine for another day but someone suggested cracking it open and it was done. A bit of a wine tasting ensued. There was also a bottle of champagne.  Now you would think having a bunch of students around, presumably with some affinity for alcoholic beverages,  when a bottle of red wine and a bottle of champagne are offered up, that there would be some celebration.  Surprisingly that was not the case. We take that to mean that they were anxious to get back to work and not that they are total neophytes and unappreciative of good wine. In the end, since only about three people tried the red wine we stuck with that and the champagne will wait for another day.
Now to appreciate a good merlot!
Ahh,  so great to be back in PVD!

Friday, July 19, 2013

On a hot day have an Eiskaffee!

We have done this before and it being a sweltering day it seemed appropriate to settle for something very cooling and delicious.  So we served up some more Eiskaffees! In case you still don't know what these are, they are the Euro-version of ice coffees.  Instead of just cold coffee over ice an Eiskaffee is cold or iced black coffee served in a tall glass with one to two scoops of vanilla ice cream. This is topped with whipped cream, a piece of chocolate and/or a wafer cookie.
The necessary ingredients!
Happy to the first to get the treat!
It looks a lot better in a tall glass!
Take the shot quick so I can dig in!
I'm down for an Eiskaffee...can't wait to see what it is!
I'm gonna love this Eiskaffee!
It is a great treat for a hot summer day and goes well with any kind of pastry.  Since today was an open day for student cake month and it was very hot, we opted to bring these back and introduce them to a new group of cake hour friends. Several of the summer people were missing...probably off drinking beer somewhere.
What the hell IS this?
I guess it's not so bad!
I already finished it but take a photo anyway!
Why are you taking my picture!