I have a thing for cupcakes. I adore them and it has nothing to do with the cupcake craze that everyone says is totally over. It will never be over for me. Even the recent demise of Crumbs (moment of silence) will not end my love affair with this little morsel of all that is right with the world in one bite. So when I saw news that someone had created something called a crupcake, I was intrigued.
What is a crupcake? It’s part cupcake, part croissant. I know, right?! How can these two things not go well together and why didn’t someone think of doing this sooner? I think the answer is that we were all too busy focusing on that potato salad kickstarter to focus on important stuff like crupcakes.
The idea belongs to one Nick Chipman over at Dude Foods who has a website full of weird, amazing, and potentially delicious foods. Although, the deviled ostrich eggs just kind of freak me out and make me feel like I’ve just walked into a scene from Alice in Wonderland. I’m shrinking!
But, I digress. Crupcakes. Nick made these by putting some croissant dough on the bottom of a traditional cupcake wrapper and baking them for a bit before adding standard cupcake batter. You can see by the cross-section that you get two delicious treats in one.
Seeing as it’s summer and the kids are home and very often looking for something to do, I believe I may have found today’s something. It’s not even a particularly complex process, so I think I can actually pull this one off and impress the heck out of my kids. Or, just put them in a sugar coma, which is just as good.
Either way, any variation of cupcakes is destined to be delicious, so off I go to the grocery story to pick up the necessary supplies. Let them eat crupcakes!
I love Halloween. It’s such a festive time of year when everyone can dress up and be a kid again! Childhood memories abound of favorite costumes and movies, all of the geeky variety! Here are some crafts and treats that are twists on Geeky Halloween favorites.
If there’s one influential geeky Halloween movie that everyone can agree on it’s Hocus Pocus! Danna Maret did a wonderful job in bringing the magic to life in this Hocus Pocus cake. Check out the fabulous details; it makes you just want to yell “Boooooook!”
It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a favorite movie of mine. Every year I wander through the pumpkin patch and think…is this the year?? Emily McCall dressed up her little Charlie Brown for the holidays and surrounded him with real great pumpkins. No one would dare pull a football away from this adorable kid!
Who can forget the little alien that warmed our hearts and filled our bellies with those delectable peanut butter candies? NoshWithMe took our sugary childhood memories and turned them into cookie form with Oatmeal Reese’s Pieces Cookies. I’m sure E.T. would want some of these for the road home!
I know I keep saying this is my favorite movie—no this really is my favorite movie— but I love Halloween so much they are all my favorites! Mad Monster Party was a movie I watched over and over. The stop motion animation is mesmerizing and the character voices from the likes of Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller really bring everything to life.
Ok, Buffy isn’t just for Halloween time; it’s definitely a geeky year round show for most of us. But wooden stakes, blood, vampires, and demons just seem fitting for October 31st. This Buffy the Vampire Slayer party had it all, from Giant Pocky “Mr. Pointys” to “Back From the Grave” cupcakes with zombie hands reaching out of cookie dirt. Spooky and delicious!
Extrageektacular Activities are geeky field trips that encourage your child’s creativity and are a fun time for the whole family!
When you have a kid who loves art and drawing there are a lot of ways to encourage their hobby. Art classes and museums are good options, but a unique way that might not readily come to mind is one of my favorites: food! Cake decorating is a great exercise in creativity, especially when you add elements from comics, video games, and books. I took some kids to Duff’s Cake Mix in West Hollywood to put their art skills to the test.
Duff’s Cake Mix is a part of the West Coast operation of Charm City Cakes, a custom bakery made famous by Duff Goldman and his show Ace of Cakes. Here they have a walk-in bakery filled with baked goods like brownies, cupcakes, and some unique items like Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake and their popular Cake in a Jar.
The real fun is the attached Decorating Studio. Parties can come and decorate their very own cakes using a Decorating Kit. When we got there we were assigned a decorator helper who told us about the process and how all the stations worked. With the help of an easy-to-use form, you pick your cake and filling flavors, the canvas (base) color type, and medium: frosting or fondant.
Watching a professional put fondant on a cake was a sight to behold, they make it look so easy! Once the cake was covered it was off to choose tools and equipment then to the “Goodie Bar” to choose frosting piping bag colors and candy decor.
I took a 9-year-old, a 7-year-old, and a 4-year-old. Normally the bakery doesn’t advise having children under seven participate but they do allow it. The older kids were given cake and the youngest was given cupcakes which proved to be the perfect match for his attention span.
A good idea is to discuss ideas with kids beforehand, figure out what they want to make, and visualize how they were going to make it work. This helps a lot in getting the process going. Sketching out ideas is a good way to understand how they plan to execute it.
The 9-year-old went with a Minecraft theme; of course he did! He started with a canvas of blue fondant then chose to mold a Creeper head out of green fondant, using the same color as accents. Then he frosted a Minecraft pig in the front and added “gunpowder” (silver sprinkles) around the top. A true Minecraft masterpiece!
The 7-year-old loves Batman so that cake got the yellow fondant treatment for the canvas. He used the black fondant for cookie cutter letters and the Batman head he cut by hand. The kids really got into the details like the candy pearls to make the cakes look finished.
The 4-year-old (in his own chef’s coat, no less), with a little help from his mom, really enjoyed rolling and cutting the fondant, and using the candies to decorate. Moving from one small cupcake to another was just what he needed to keep his interest. Even though he was young, he worked right alongside the big boys and had a lot of fun. He said the best thing about it was that “I got to do it all by myself!”
The entire staff at Duff’s Cake Mix was so helpful, they happily answered questions and gave tips on easier ways to get things done. Everything at the studio was extremely organized, you never had to look too far for anything. I do a lot of baking and decorating, but I can’t imagine doing this at home. Here the space, the details, and having all the equipment and supplies at your disposal definitely made it worthwhile.
Cake decorating was a great exercise in getting kids to think creatively and use the right tools to solve design problems. Using sculpture, drawing, and mosaic they got to have a lot of fun and see their creations come to life. The best part of creating art out of food? Eating it!
I am not a baker by any stretch of the imagination. I can use the box mixes to make passable birthday treats, but that’s about the extent of my prowess in the kitchen. So when I got my hands on Trophy Cupcakes and Parties, a cupcake cookbook and party planning guide, I decided to take the opportunity to level up my baking skills.
While the book may be daunting for geeks like me who are not handy in the kitchen, the party themes and activity ideas in the book are fantastic for any parent stumped on what to do for the next family birthday party.
Trophy Cupcakes is one of Seattle’s favorite cupcake bakeries. Known for using high quality ingredients and carrying a unique assortment of flavors, shop founder Jennifer Shea carries these same ideas over into the cookbook. While I might not have Valrhona cocoa powder from France as recommended in the book, I do appreciate the advice to pick better ingredients if I truly want to up my baking game. The book also includes valuable tips on how to frost a cupcake (a skill I sorely need to practice) by using the right tools. I had to Google “offset spatula” to see just what I should buy, and now I feel a little more like a real baker after adding one to my kitchen.
The assortment of cupcake recipes in Trophy Cupcakes and Parties is dazzling. One day I might work my way up to Banana Cream Cheese Cupcakes or Lavender Crème Brûlée Cupcakes, but for now I’m content to practice vanilla and red velvet. While my first attempt at Vanilla Buttercream Cupcakes didn’t work out very well, I’m eager to try again.
The cupcake recipes in the book are great to have, but the book really shines when it comes to party themes and decorations. Of course the first one to draw my eye was the “Superhero Training Camp Party.” The author encourages letting children use their own imaginations to create their own heroes, rather than just having a Superman or Wonder Woman theme, to spark their creativity and make the party feel like it’s really theirs. The book also includes ideas for a superhero crafting station for guests, an activity for party-goers, and of course, a recipe for cupcakes to serve.
Trophy Cupcakes and Parties might not immediately seem like a geek-friendly pick, but the party ideas inside will appeal to many geek kids out there. Themes include a Forest Fairy Tea Party, a Life Aquatic themed first birthday party, and a soiree for preschoolers based on The Very Hungry Caterpillar. If you prefer to host birthday parties for the kids at home, Trophy Cupcakes and Parties is definitely worth a look for the decorations and party activities alone.
If there is one type of product certain to send my geeky heart a-flutter, it’s bakeware. My kitchen is full of everything from Portal cookie cutters to Star Wars cake pans so when Lakeland (one of my favorite kitchenware stores) announced their exclusive collection of Doctor Who products, I may have danced for joy. Lakeland kindly sent along a sample of products from the collection and I have spent the past few weeks trying them all out.
The first products I tried out were the Dalek cupcake wraps. These are simple cardboard wraps and toppers that are placed around a finished cupcake, transforming them into Daleks. The £9.99 pack contains 24 wraps in four colors—a good number for a child’s birthday party. As it happened, a few days after receiving them I was baking cupcakes for my village fair so I decided to try them out there. I stuck with the white, red, and blue wraps simply because I didn’t want to spend the extra time mixing up orange food dye when I was already busy. The wraps are very easy to use but I did find a few problems with them. First, even at its smallest, the wrap was significantly larger than the cupcake, making it very hard to pick up, especially for clumsy kiddie fingers. I ended up using a craft knife to make another slit further around the wrap; not a major problem but one I could happily have done without in the busy prep time for the fair. Any of us who have catered a child’s birthday party knows that convenience is key and adding in an extra job was more than a little annoying. Secondly, to make your cupcakes look anything like the pictures on the packet you would need an extraordinary quantity of icing on top. I was using standard size cupcake cases filled to the brim with cake and what I felt was a lot of icing, especially for a child’s cake, yet my cupcakes still didn’t come close to the catalogue pictures, and the Daleks ended up looking somewhat squished. I can only assume the wraps are designed to be used with larger-size muffin cases, as this would help to eliminate both problems. Naturally this would also result in the cakes being rather big, especially to give to a child. Regardless of these issues the cakes went down a storm at the fair. I saw lots of children (and adults) dragging people over to the cake stall to point them out and they sold out rapidly.
Next I tried the cookie cutters. These come in sets of two each priced at £4.99 and you have the choice of Dalek and Sontaran, K9 and Cyberman, and the TARDIS and a Weeping Angel. I’d prefer if they were sold individually as this double-pack method means anyone wanting to make the TARDIS and a Dalek must purchase two additional cutters they may not want. (Perhaps that’s the idea?) The cutters are all spring-loaded to make removing the cookie dough easier, and each one is incredibly detailed, especially the Dalek. This detail means that the cutters get sticky very quickly; I found myself dunking them into flour between every use to prevent sticking. This was especially helpful with K9’s thin and fragile tail. My cookies came out with a varying degree of success. My TARDIS cookies were especially wibbly-wobbly, but this can be at least partly attributed to baking with a three-year-old and partly to my own lack of skill at making cookies stay straight. I generally found the TARDIS to produce the least defined results while the Sontaran and Dalek cutter provided exceptionally defined cookies. The level of detail made icing them very fiddly. I used a tiny piping nozzle (Pampered Chef number two for those baking aficionados) which worked well but even that felt a little clunky in some parts. If you’re hoping to reproduce the pictures on the website make sure you have a good piping kit and a small nozzle on hand. The results do look fabulous even though I didn’t use any color on my batch. If you have the time and the patience, you could produce something truly spectacular.
Some of my favorite baking items are my collection of chocolate molds. The £4.99 TARDIS chocolate mold can make 12 chocolates in the same designs as the cookie cutters and has the added cool factor of being shaped like the TARDIS itself. The shapes are quite shallow making nice thin chocolates that won’t break your teeth if eaten direct from the fridge. They’re solid enough, though, to easily remove them from the silicone mold. Each one is also highly detailed; surprisingly so for tiny chocolates measuring only about an inch tall). I think this is one of the most flexible items in the collection, especially as it’s one of the lower cost items as well. The chocolates can be used on top of cupcakes, to decorate larger cakes, or just eaten as they are. If you use white chocolate you could even dye them—blue chocolate TARDIS chocolates, anyone?
The final product I tried was the cake pan. I was fairly dubious about this one simply because the catalogue photos didn’t look all that spectacular; if they can’t make the cakes look great for expertly photographed promotional photos, then what hope does the average home baker have? The cake pan creates six dome-shaped cakes with the characters as raised figures on top. The first issue comes with the pans themselves. The characters are fairly small and detailed so you really need to grease them well; a bit of butter rubbed on with a paper towel just isn’t going to cut it. I used Wilton’s Cake Release which has never once let me down. Even so, you need to be careful that the product doesn’t pool in the indentations, since that will prevent the cake mix from filling them. I found this to be a particular issue with K9’s tail. The cakes are also an odd size; significantly larger than a cupcake or even a large muffin but smaller than a full sized cake. It makes them a little too big for eating in a single serving but also awkward to use as a full size cake. And who wants half a Cyberman in their party bag? As I predicted from the photos, the cakes produce less than impressive results. Icing them helps but because they are dome shaped, the designs arch away from you making them difficult to ice and also somewhat awkward to actually see. Out of the collection, this is definitely the one I’d say to avoid. Personally, I’d simply invest in the cookie cutters and use them to cut fondant icing shapes to decorate a regular cake.
There has been a lot of thought put into these products, which is to be expected from a company with such a bakeware and cookery pedigree as Lakeland. The items in the collection are not cheap, but they’re pretty reasonably priced compared to other products in the store and most importantly, they produce good, consistent results except for the cake pan. If you have a child who loves Doctor Who or if you just want to impress your friends next time they visit, then I cannot recommend the collection highly enough. The range is exclusive to Lakeland but the store ships worldwide. If you do order any of the products, let us know how you get on with them. There’s nothing we at GeekMom like more than drooling over pictures of delicious geeky treats. Yum!
Baking can teach you a lot of things. Following directions, measuring, fractions, and even chemistry. This is a simple experiment using a basic cake/cupcake recipe that I’ve cut in half for smaller batches. We’ll make eight batches total, and in seven of them we’ll take away an ingredient. You’ll learn how all the ingredients work together to make a delicious cupcake.
Sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla extract, all purpose or cake flour, baking powder, milk, cupcake liners, a small cupcake tin, a mixing bowl, an electric mixer, and a spoon.
You’ll also need a notebook and a pencil to record your results.
The first batch will be your control. Having a control in an experiment is important, so you know what happens when everything goes as planned. Because this control turns into tasty cupcakes, you could also double the recipe to make twice as many of the control batch. You know, for science.
For a standard batch of six, take six cupcake liners and write “C” on the bottom (outside) of the liners with pencil before using them to line your cupcake tin.
(makes six cupcakes)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup (one half stick) butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup milk
Using a mixer, cream together the sugar and butter. That means mix them together until they are light, fluffy, and pale. Add the egg and vanilla. Next, mix the flour and baking powder into the batter. Finally add the milk and mix together until blended. Spoon into the paper lined cupcake tin, and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow the cupcakes to cool before eating.
Use your notebook to record the taste, texture, smell, and general appearance of the cupcake. Did it rise? Did it appear to collapse? How is the texture?
For the next batch, write “1” on the bottom of your cupcake liners. This time, follow the same recipe, only leave out the sugar. For batch “2,” you’ll leave out the butter, for batch “3,” you’ll leave out the egg, and so on until you’ve made a batch missing each ingredient. (Make sure you allow extra time for the flourless version to cool–it will be a very hot liquid and might burn if the cupcake tin spills.)
Write down your results for each batch. How was the flavor? Did it rise? Did it collapse? Did the texture change? What role do you think that ingredient serves in the recipe? Would you want to leave it out in the future?
What you witnessed:
Vanilla is the only ingredient in the recipe that doesn’t change the structure of the cake. It only changes the flavor and smell.
The flour forms the main structure for the cake–you may notice that the cake is a pile of goo without it.
Baking powder is a leavening agent that makes a carbon dioxide foam as the batter cooks, and that’s one of the key reasons the cake batter rises. The sugar and butter also help with rising. The fat and sugar are creamed with the mixer, which traps air around the sugar crystals as they’re surrounded by the butter. Those tiny air pockets also fill and expand with the gases from the baking powder. The milk and egg proteins act as binders to keep the foam from collapsing as it cools. The browning and delicious baked smell comes from a Maillard reaction, which is caused by a combination of heat, sugar, and proteins.
I love planning my kid’s birthday parties. It gives me an outlet for my creativity and I can be as crazy with paper, glue, and cardboard as I want. My daughter and I pick a theme several months in advance so we have plenty of time to make things together. It is great mother-daughter bonding time and we get to share our love of crafting.
This year, however, Geekette had to share her party with her new brother, who would be having his first birthday at the same time as hers. (They are 6 years and 6 days apart. No idea how that happened.) So the theme this year needed to be gender neutral, i.e. no princess party. Thankfully, Geekette saw the Star Wars movies last summer and had been waiting eleven months to have a Star Wars party. Her one stipulation: it had to be things from the original movies, IV through VI. Once I started doing my research for decorations I came to a sad conclusion: there were very few decorations out there that go with the original trilogy. In fact, I ended up having to make everything. So, if you are planning a Star Wars party and want to stick with the original movies, here are some ideas:
Cupcake liners and picks: These liners set our party’s color scheme. Given that there is a lot of black and white in the movies, these gave us some color ideas. So we went with red/blue/and silver/black. See the review by fellow GeekMom Patricia. I do have to agree with her that $12 is a bit steep for what you get AND when you bake dark colored cupcakes, the designs basically disappear. We did red velvet in the red cupcake liner and Chewbacca was practically invisible. I got my liners for Christmas, though, so I can’t complain too much. If you’re handy with Photoshop or other software, you could probably make your own using pictures and toothpicks.
Wookiee Cake: Since it was my son’s first birthday, I wanted him to have his own cake. It was going to be a Wookiee cake so I made a practice one that you can see here . For his official birthday cake, I baked a small 6″ cake, made the Wookiee out of modeling chocolate, being careful to thoroughly dust the counter with cocoa powder which kept it from sticking, and then went a little crazy trying to make his belt. For his ammo belt, I made some marshmallow fondant and colored it black and gray. To get the gray a bit shiny, I brushed some silver pearl dust on it. This was my first time using fondant too, and while it was easy to make, I think I got mine too dry as it kept cracking.
Star Wars Cookies: Since I love to bake, these were a no-brainer and so much fun! I also did some that I glazed in white and then drew characters on.
Birthday banner: Continuing with our color theme, I used a large vinegar bottle and a round lid from another bottle for templates and cut out 26 red and blue circles from card stock in two sizes. We used some acrylic sparkle paint to lightly decorate the dark blue. I got a fantastic Star Wars font, printed out the letters and then cut them out. We used scrapbooking adhesive to hold the circles together, punched holes in the top, and threaded some black ribbon through. I also learned how to install a font. Woot!
Fireplace cover: I like the idea of those scene setters you can buy, but they are so expensive. So I made my own, smallish one to cover our fireplace and give a nice backdrop for pics. This was so easy to do! I got a silver plastic tablecloth, found silhouette pictures of an x-wing, tie fighter, and the millenium falcon, printed them out, cut them out with an x-acto knife and rubber cemented them to the tablecloth. Then I hung it on the mantel. The hardest part of this decoration was the detailing on the x-wing.
Personalized Door Signs: This was one of the tchotchkes that the kids got to take home. I found some Star Wars stickers at Hobby Lobby that were the old school characters. Using the same font as I did for the birthday banner, I printed out each guest’s name in Star Wars letters. I then glued their name to some see-through vellum with silver stars on it and glued that to another piece of card stock. I then put the stickers on the paper and used a paint pen and stencils to put silver stars all over.
Picture Backdrop: Yet another use for those plastic tablecloths. This time, I measured one to fit the size of my wall over the kitchen table. Once I had the size, I found various pictures of the characters online, printed them out and glued them to the tablecloth with rubber cement. I added the stickers I had leftover from the name plaques and the left over ship silhouettes. It looked fantastic with our cupcake display and gave us a great backdrop for pictures.
Cupcake Display: A long time ago, in a city far, far away I went to a Big Lots and got several deeply-discounted Martha Stewart cardboard cupcake displays. They were meant for the fourth of July, but I adapted them to a different revolution. Instead of the patriotic ribbon, I got some silver ribbon and used the included double stick tape to adhere it to the edges of the cupcake board. Voila! Instant theme appropriate cupcake display. My son got some darling Star Wars bath toys so we put the yoda on the top.
Kitchen Breakfast Bar: I ended up layering a red streamer and a blue streamer on the edge with scotch tape and then used the leftover pictures and ship silhouettes from the other decorations to give it a little pop.
Front Door: I printed off several of the vintage Star Wars masks and hung those on the door as well as the kid’s name signs that I talked about earlier. I drew eyes on Princess Leia so she wouldn’t look like a zombie, but most of them you could fill in the eye holes with black.
Vintage Star Wars toys: Apparently the Force was with me because a few weeks before the party my father-in-law came across a box full of old Star Wars toys that belonged to my husband and his brother. I spent several hours cleaning and regluing the decals with rubber cement. I used fishing line to hang some ships from our light fixtures. and added a few of the new action figures too. Then I arranged them on our buffet chronologically starting from Star Wars through the Return of the Jedi. The other parents launched into stories of their toys and what they had too and were just as excited as we were at finding them.
Wanted Posters: These I just printed and hung on the walls around the room.
Death Star Pinata: My daughter has wanted a pinata the last couple of years so I thought this would fit perfectly!
One last thing I made for the kids to take home were very basic Jedi robes. I found some cheap brown cotton fabric and using my daughter as a guide, cut it into a poncho shape. Basically, I draped it over her and cut a V where her head could come through. I know, I am a sewing goddess. Then I used jute string to tie at the waist. Super easy and very cute!
The party was a huge hit with the kids and they had a ball beating fighting each other (outside) with the lightsabers than expected. I probably could have just not planned any other activities. Here are the links to the games and other things I made for the party. Enjoy!
Star Wars bowling pins: These were fun to make and the kids really enjoyed them. I used a Clone Wars ball I got at Target for the bowling ball and beans in them to help make them more stable.
I have a daughter turning five, and she has a problem. Two problems, really. The first is an inability to decide what she wants for a birthday theme. The second is a mommy who thoroughly enables this indecisiveness. Last year it resulted in a cake shaped like Gotham City with a bat signal on top of a Hello Kitty village with a Spider-Man web connecting them. This year the superheroes got replaced by pirates and Mario, but Hello Kitty stuck around.
Lucky for me, short of something they make a cookie cutter for, there is no easier fondant request than Hello Kitty cupcakes. The cat’s head is an oval with ears, two dots and some whiskers. You can do this in your sleep. And as tired as moms always are, you might have to.
There are some tips for making or buying the fondant in my Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy cake instructions. It’s hard to get a true black with dye, so I don’t make black fondant except in very small amounts. I definitely recommend buying some if you want to make Badtz-Maru. If you can’t find Satin Ice locally or if it’s too expensive, Wilton sells a package of Natural Colors fondant that includes black. Michaels stores also now carry the Duff (Ace of Cakes) line of supplies, including tubs of colored fondant.