Easy Minecraft Cake

For my son’s 10th birthday party, I “made” a Minecraft cake (decorating a store bought cake):Minecraft Cake

I ordered a sheet cake from Safeway with green frosting on top and edges. I made brownies, which I then frosted myself with green frosting, using a frosting tip, to simulate grass blocks, which I stacked on the left. The “lava” is orange frosting dusted with red decorating sugar.

I dug out a rectangle on the cake and filled it with blue jello to make a pool/pond. I used crushed chocolate cookies around the edge of the water, although I don’t think that was terribly successful. It might look better without it.

I lightly toasted shredded coconut and colored it with green food coloring. The paper figures are from The Ultimate Guide to Minecraft Papercraft. They were kind of tedious to make. Figure at least 20 minutes for each, and have toothpicks handy.


Car racetrack cake

Image of Car Racetrack Cake

Car Racetrack Cake

This is the cake I made for my son’s 4th birthday. I baked two layers of chocolate cake, frosted them with green in the center and chocolate on the outsdie, so it looked like and placed them together on a plate. To make it look a little less like frosting and more like asphalt or gravel, I covered the frosting with crushed chocolate wafers. I used white Good ‘N Plenty candy to make the lines and added real Hotwheels, which of course were promptly grabbed and played with.

Here’s a larger version of the image.


Coffee Addiction May Be Grounded in Genes

See? It’s not my fault. I inherited it from my stepdad.

HealthDay News — Genetics may help determine how much caffeine one craves, new research indicates, with differences in two specific genes driving people to consume more — or less — of the world’s most popular stimulant.New research suggests that individuals who carry a so-called "high-consumption" variation of either gene appear to drink more coffee, relative to those who carry a "low-consumption" variant.

via Coffee Addiction May Be Grounded in Genes.


Restaurant Recipes

We all get that craving for some restaurant dish that we really can’t justify paying for more than once in a blue moon. Mine is Cranberry Bliss Bars from Starbucks. They’re only available at the holidays, too, so I’m SOL the rest of the year.

Wisebread has spotlighted a couple of sites where you can find these recipes in Restaurant Recipes at Home-Cooked Prices. I’ll also add one of my favorite sites – Top Secret Recipes. The recipes there are either free or available for next to nothing.


English Plum Pudding Recipe

Time to make the plum pudding! Remember, if you want to make one for Christmas, it needs to age a few weeks.

1/4 lb. flour
1/4 lb. currants
1 tsp. salt
1/4 lb. golden raisins
1 tsp. allspice
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 tsp. ginger
1 ounce cut mixed citrus peel
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 oz. shredded almonds
pinch fresh grated nutmeg
Juice and grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1/4 lb. fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 lb. treacle (or molasses)
1/2 lb. shredded suet
4 large eggs
1/4 lb. brown sugar
2 tbsp. brandy
1/4 lb. dried chopped apricots
1/4 lb. prunes
1/4 lb dates

Sift flour, salt and spices into a large bowl. Stir in breadcrumbs, suet and sugar. Add fruits, peel and rind. Beat lemon and orange juice, molasses and eggs together and add to other ingredients. Steam for 6 hours — a coffee tin filled with the mixture and placed in a steamer in a covered pan does well. After steaming cover in a cool place and let age as long as possible – usually about 5 weeks.
To use, steam again for 2-3 hours and unmold. Sprinkle with sugar; add heated cognac. Ignite and bring to the table. Serve with hard sauce or cognac sauce.


Finally it’s time for caramel apple cider

Okay, so I’m still having trouble finding some cider here in the Bay Area. But it’s the season. So here is my favorite recipe, which I originally found in Family Fun magazine.

Serves 4

1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups apple cider
1/2 cup water

Bring the cream and brown sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat (you’re making caramel sauce, which you can also use for ice cream). Stir in the cider and the water and raise the heat to medium high, heating just until the cider begins to steam, about 4 minutes. Serve as soon as possible, although you can store some in the fridge and re-heat it. It’s not quite as good, but almost.

Obviously the cream and sugar make this extremely high in calories. And it’s addictive. I gained a few pounds in about two weeks when I first discovered this. I think I did use light cream last year for a couple of batches and didn’t see much difference, if any, in taste.