How to Make an Iron Druid

Kevin, showing off the completed product.

Kevin, showing off the completed product.

No, this isn’t going to be a blog post on the process of binding an iron amulet to your aura to protect you from magic while not hindering your own. Hunting pixies to feed to the iron spirit is just to damned time consuming. If you’re lost, go read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles.

This is about making the Iron Druid cupcake, one of the two cupcakes I set up as homage to the series and characters. Also the one I know from memory, so easier for me to blog on. The Snugglepumpkin involves making the cupcake dog friendly so is a bit trickier. At the end of the blog I will leave the instructions on how to transform the Iron Druid cupcake into the Wayland Rock N’ Roll cupcake. D0n’t worry, the instructions are easy to follow.

The Prep

Bring 1 cup of stout and 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter to a simmer in a pot. (Optional: If you cut the butter in half, you’l get a more stout tasting cake. Not quite as moist, but also not as crumbly.) Once they are simmering, whisk in 3/4 cup of Dutch process high-fat cocoa until the mixture is smooth. Once fully combined, set aside to cool. You can put it in the fridge, but don’t leave it too long. You don’t want it to set, just not be steaming. (Note: You can use any stout beer you like. I normally use Guinness myself, though One Barrel Brewing in Madison has an oatmeal stout I want to try working with.)

Mixing it Up

Once your cocoa-stout mixture is cool, preheat your oven to 350. If you have a kitchen helper, have them paper 24 cupcakes into tins. (2 tins of 12 each) This will have things ready for the batter.

In a large bowl (NOT your mixing bowl), whisk/mix/shift together 2 cups of flour with 2 cups of sugar, 1.5 tsp of baking powder and 3/4 tsp of salt. (I usually just mix them together with the whisk. Sifting is time consuming, messy and doesn’t alter things that much with this recipe.)

In your mixing bowl, mix together 2 large eggs with 2/3 cup of sour cream on medium speed until smooth. Scrape the sides to be sure it is fully combined.

Pour your stout cocoa mix into your egg cream mix and blend on low speed until just combined. If your stout mix is to hot it will start to cook the egg. This will make you hate your life.

Mix in the dry ingredients into the wet and mix on medium speed until there are no lumps. Scrape the sides and bottoms to make sure you have a good blend. You don’t want some with clumps of dry stuff in them at the end.

Fill the 24 papers about 2/3 full (I use an ice cream scoop with a scraping trigger on it) and put into the oven. Bake for 17-19 minutes. The middles may still be moist when coming out (especially if you used the full cup of butter). You can leave them in until fully dried on the top, but that might burn the bottoms. You’re going to core the middle out anyway.

Give Them a Touch of the Irish

Here is where we diverge. What is listed below is the recipe I use for the Iron Druids. The notes on changing for Rock n Roll follow that.

Put 2 cups of dark chocolate in a bowl with 2 tbsp of softened butter, a slight drizzle of agave (about a tbsp or so) and 2 tsp of whiskey. In a pot, bring 1 cup of heavy cream to a simmer. Once steaming, pour the cream into the bowl. Let sit for about 60 seconds before whisking the holy hell out of it. Beat it like it owes you money! The goal is to get it smooth and melt all of the chocolate. For ease, use good dark chocolate chips. The higher quality and darker the better.

Adjustments:

Use more cream to give you a soupier ganache. The more wet the filling, the more likely it will be to soak into the cake, so don’t go to crazy.

To make a Wayland Rock n Roll cupcake (named so for the batch I made for a concert where I made the adjustment), use double the whiskey in the ganache. It isn’t too much, but definitely puts more kick in the cake.

What kind of whiskey should I use?

In the YouTube show, Put It In Your Mouth, Charles St. Micheal answers the same question about wine. “Cook with the kind of wine you like to drink.” The same goes here. I use Johnny Walker Red as it is Scotch that I like. Sure, it costs more, but you use so little in baking, you have to like drinking the stuff for the other 95% of the bottle.

In future versions, I might use some Jesse James Dupree bourbon, because the band Wayland is managed by him and they have a bottle of his stuff on stage from time to time. Also, because… why not?

Frosting on the Cake

Here you can go two routes, a white chocolate cream cheese frosting, or an Irish cream frosting. Both are essentially the same, just one has Baileys mixed in with it.

Take a stick of softened butter and mix in your mixing bowl with 4 cups of powdered sugar. Once it is light and fluffy take an 8 oz block of COLD cream cheese and mix it in. Use your hands, get messy, and tear off chunks of it and throw it in like you’re dropping virgins in a volcano.

While that is mixing, take 2-4 oz of white chocolate (again, I use chips for ease) and melt in a bowl. Usually I add in a splash of milk or cream to help smooth it out. Just a dash. A tbsp or two tops. Normally for me it takes 1 minute in the microwave and some mixing with a fork.

Once the frosting is lumpy and sticking to the paddle, stop the mixer and scrape the frosting off the paddle and sides. Pour in the melted white chocolate and then beat on med speed and adjusting to high once the moisture is down. Beat it on high for as long as you like. It will make the frosting light and creamy. I’ll usually use the standard frosting for mine.

If you’re adding Baileys

Only add in about 2-3 tbsp of the Irish cream to the frosting. You can add them one at a time at the end and taste after each. If you want to do this, I would avoid adding the cream to the melting white chocolate. The more liquid, the soupier the frosting. This will make it harder to pipe on later.

Decorating

For the Iron Druid, we had a Celtic bear design my wife piped out with chocolate. Those are a bit difficult to do, but are specific to the story. There are Celtic knot molds out there that are easier for you to work with should you go that route.

For the Wayland Rock n Roll cupcakes, we took pieces of strawberry Austrailian style licorice and put a small gumpaste “fuse” in the end to make it look like a stick of dynamite. (It’s the cake version of an Irish car bomb. Get it?)

Some time in the future I might do a video making it, but that all depends. I’m not the most photogenic person, and I make a mess when I make these. 😉

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Iron Cupcake Madison – March 2012

I am posting this ahead of time as the next few days will be all work and no play. Likely not even time to go see Hunger Games (although I am campaigning for a 3 hour break). This coming Sunday is the March installment of Iron Cupcake Madison – this being our second attempt at it. Our last was in September with late summer fruits in which we presented a chocolate cherry stout cupcake with a cherry rum cream cheese frosting. Our display was a haunted lighthouse/cherry orchard theme as that was the inspiration on our “inspiration trip” to door county.

This time has not been quite as easy for us. We’ve decided on an Asian theme and going with a chocolate ginger cake. (The theme this time around is chocolate.) We’ve had some issues modifying our recipe to the point we’re comfortable with it. Add to that my wife’s dislike for ginger and we’re not having as good of a go at it this time around. I think I have nailed down the amount of powdered ginger to use in the batter to make the taste pop without killing the person eating the cake. The ginger-tinted ganache going on top I think is spot on.

Then we started discussing filling to add another layer to the taste. This led to my first attempt at a mango compote less than a week before the competition. Let me just say this, a compote or chutney isn’t as easy as they make it look on the cooking shows. Generally it is just time consuming, but fresh mangoes are no fun to deal with. Also, I have decided to use something other than sugar for the compote. I’m eccentric that way. We’re using agave.

We also had issues with our display. Fairly major ones. Which is to say large enough issues that I couldn’t take that impulse trip to Naperville on Wednesday for a Lissa Price book reading/signing. Other than my daily writing goals, this was the single chance I had this week to feel like a literary person. On the upside, I did get a surprise mailing that perked my spirits right the hell up. Of course then I calculated how much ganache I was going to need to make and remembered we needed to make/get printed cards for the display table.

[Shameless Plugs Begin]

The signing was for Starters by Lissa Price. A dystopian YA that I hear is amazing. I have my copy ready to read once I have the time. (I know, right?) Seriously though, go pick it up. It will give you some good post-apocalyptic society to read while waiting in line for the Hunger Games. 😉

While I’m not really describing my author surprise, let’s just leave it with a link to the Horngate Witches series. Definitely something you should look into. At least I know I’m loving it and Diana Pharaoh Francis’ world building is pretty amazing.

[Shameless Plug Ends]

So the schedule for the weekend includes shopping tonight (holy mangoes, Batman), baking prep Friday (compote and ganache), Spartacus tomorrow night (some things simply cannot wait), and baking most of Saturday. I may have to subcontract the gingerbread coins we’re using to put our numbers on the cupcakes. Not sure yet.

A full blog with photos from the event will follow Sunday night or Monday morning. (That may have to be my words quota for the day.)

My wife tried to kill me…

So after the first week of dieting a number of things have happened. I started eating more, which triggered losing weight. I bounced back from a flare up of my spinal injury. I started the rebranding of the blog but didn’t finish it this weekend as planned. Produced several batches of soup and stew in individual sized containers. But most of all, was almost killed by my wife.

I will get into the rest of it later, but let’s focus on the statement that will invoke me getting “the look” – that’s right, the part about almost getting killed. The statement itself is a bit of an exaggeration, but makes a more humorous image than “my wife tried to give me a hypoglycemic event.” What actually happened is that we went out for breakfast before going grocery shopping. A “Fit Slam” at Denny’s was the meal of the day – 550 calories of egg whites, tomatoes, spinach, muffin and fruit. That was at 9:30 in the morning. Shopping lasted until around 2:30-3:00.

Consider that the diet program gives my wife considerably less calories per day than I get. Now consider for the last week I have focused on eating five small “meals” a day. I had the breakfast in the morning, but had skipped the mid-morning snack of fruit or yogurt, the light lunch and was well on my way to skipping the midafternoon snack. It was bad enough that on the way home when we stopped at a new cupcakery that opened up to check it out I splurged and picked up and unfrosted special they had to go with my coffee.

Once we were home, I went to attempting to make a batch of cupcakes (I now have 3 dozen on order for this week) and couldn’t remember how to make the recipe that I’ve had memorized for well over a year. I had to stop, sit down and eat something with actual nutrition in it before continuing on with making the trial batch of cupcakes, stew and the soup we were cooking.

Come Sunday I was a bit more adamant about when we had to stop for food.

On a less blood-sugar-dipping note, this weekend I went and picked up a new bathroom scale. Our old one was sounding touchy (making all sorts of cracking sounds) and is several years old – like older than most of my grandchildren. The new fancy glass one reads more effectively and is easier to see. During my weigh in for the week it revealed that even though I was upping the amount of food I ate (even though it was home made meals) I lost weight. As of this morning I am down 4 pounds. Now that is faster than the program is supposed to drop, but not like I dropped 10-15 pounds in a week or something. So not enough to be concerned, but more than enough to see results that are motivating me.

As for the cooking and baking, Zombie Cakes did make its first debut at the September event for Iron Cupcake Madison. The theme was Late Summer Fruit and we arrived with a chocolate cherry stout cupcake (after a trip up to Door County for a ridiculous sized tub of cherries) with a cherry rum cream cheese frosting. The display was decorated to look like a haunted cherry grove in Door County, complete with a haunted lighthouse to hold the cupcakes. We didn’t win the taste category (although I counted any taste vote taken from a trained pastry chef a win), but we did take best display. And when I say we, I mean my wife. She’s the presentation person in the relationship.

This has lead to where we are today. Doing more cooking around the house. Baking more options with our baked goods to have more unique things to try. It has also led to two orders for cupcakes making for 3 dozen this week. More difficult than just that we’re talking three dozen “surprise me” cupcakes. That’s when you ask what they’d like for flavors and they say “surprise me.” I considered making my Ryzkahl cupcakes as they’re chocolate base and I just restocked my ancho chile powder, but we’ll see. One dozen is for a cardiologists rehab group – I’d hate to cause “an event.”

And just for the humor factor, when people at Iron Cupcake Madison asked why we were Zombie Cakes, I simply told them, “Because our cupcakes eat other cupcakes.”

I also rebooted my Sunday night gaming group. We had been off for long enough that I didn’t think we could keep going with the game as it was. Also one of the members was stepping out due to real life taking up more and more time. Tonight’s session was all role playing to flesh out the characters. Player’s actions in the game would determine their class, skills and abilities. Overall I think it went well – we’ll see what they all thought once I do a D&D specific post on it.

One of the players did text me before the game saying he was excited to be back into gaming on Sundays as he was jonesing for cupcakes. I know, right? Not “hey, I appreciate your work running the game” or “hey, you’re an awesome storyteller and DM and I can’t wait to start in” – just that he had a hankering for cupcakes. I damned near told them all I didn’t have any.

Let’s end today with some weekend stats…

  • First Meal Prepped – double batch (14 cups) of pasta fagouli (203 calories per cup)
  • Second Meal Prepped – beef stew with tomatos, onions, garlic, carrots and potatoes (17 cups at 282 calories per cup
  • Breads Baked – butter milk cornbread muffins (at 165 calories per)
  • Cupcake Test – cranberry, apple and walnut cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese frosting (calories not calculated yet)
  • Reading – Sins of the Demon by Diana Rowland
  • Listening (iPod) – podcasts
  • Writing – this blog (so far)

Change Write Now Stats

  • Water – on track for the weekend
  • Food – Kept under my calories for the day and only 1 “event” this weekend
  • Exercise – topped out higher than the 20 minutes a day goal
  • Writing – Sunday wasn’t kind to me (I’m not counting writing for the game)
  • Habits – only the Sunday lapse on the good habit, revising my bad habit for tomorrow
  • Checking In – every day so far