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. šŸ˜‰

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Attention RT People – Cupcakes at the Bar

Our 1st fully decorated Iron Druid batch.

Our 1st fully decorated Iron Druid batch.

I hope this gets the attention of anyone attending Romantic Times this coming week. There was discussion of cupcakes at the bar. I would call it cupcakes and coffee, but realistically it could very well be cupcakes and hooch. Or cupcakes with hooch in them. Or both. But it will be happening.

My plan is that we will be there by 5:00 on Wednesday. So realistically I am thinking between 6:00 and the disco party that night (or 9:00 for those keeping score) is a perfect time. And yes, we have costumes for the party so we are totally going to the disco event.

You'll have to ask Dakota the theme of that cupcake...

You’ll have to ask Dakota the theme of that cupcake…

What I am looking for is an approximate idea of who all would be showing up for some cupcakes, drinks and discussion. Our current cupcake tote carries 24 cupcakes (assuming we don’t go crazy with the decorations on them), so if I need to plan for a blister pack I need to know as soon as possible. So please comment below if you plan to join us.

Also, I am looking towards what to make. If you have any requests as to type, add that in to your comment. I will say that this early in the growing season Hornicorns would be tough to make. Fresh sweet corn isn’t an easy commodity to come by right now. (Sorry Phin.)

My list of current book-themed cupcakes are as follows:

  • Hornicorn – sweet corn cupcake with candied bacon topped with a maple cream cheese or white chocolate cream cheese frosting.
  • Trampire – a hard cider cupcake with a cider and apple compote filling and cinnamon cream cheese frosting.
  • Ryzkahl (spicy demon lord) – an ancho chili devils food cake with a cayenne ganache filling and a white chocolate cream cheese frosting.
  • Velveteen – a black velvet (grey really) cupcake with a white chocolate ganache filling topped with a grey cream cheese frosting.
  • Iron Druid – a stout chocolate cupcake filled with an Irish whiskey ganache and topped with a Baileys frosting.
  • Snugglepumpkin – a pumpkin cupcake made with honey and topped with a honey yogurt drizzle. (Safe for dogs and humans. When not making for dogs, replace drizzle with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.)
  • The True Cupcake – (nothing to do with the book, more to do with the author’s tastes) devils food cake with a peanut butter cup baked into it frosted with a dark chocolate cream cheese frosting and garnished with a couple of Reeces Piecesā„¢.

I have a collection of other recipes as well. Those are just the book related ones. I think that is all of them anyhow. It’s tough to keep them all in my head.

Comment below and we’ll see you in Kansas City.

Swamped and Soaked in Wisconsin

One explains my lack of posting, while the other explains the effect of the last vacation we just got home from. Overall it is me telling myself why I am a horrible blogger. Not that it isn’t obvious by my lack of posting since the In This Moment concert. Hell, I’m already planning on if I can make their next show in Madison (early December in case you’re wondering).

Now the soaked portion of the title will come into play later. That will be a discussion of our cruise from New York to Halifax and back. As you can guess by its teaser in the title, water was more than just a little involved. But that is a story for another day…

Swamped. Writing. Editing. Working. Vacations (without wifi). Politics. In other words… swamped. All of this worked to keep me from posting a wrap of the Authors After Dark convention in New Orleans. I’ll try and correct that problem currently.

The first to consider is us getting the four dozen cupcakes prepped and ready to drag on the train with us to NOLA. This included making the toppers for the cakes and prepping a bunch of frosting to come with us in containers to be applied once at the hotel. Yeah. It was that crazy. First there was the bus trip from Madison to Chicago. Robin got all intimate with the cupcakes. Darn near biblical. See?

Seriously she had a couple inches of space for the ride down to Janesville. Yes, that Janesville (for those of you up on current events). Once there we switched buses for the last leg of the trip and were able to give the cupcakes their own space. Either way, it was interesting to say the least. Once we were on the train, there was plenty of space. Through a mix up, we’d been put in a family sleeping car as opposed to a bunkhouse. The cupcakes got their own seat there too.

Once there we piped frosting onto all of the cakes and brushed out the toppers (we transported them in sugar). Then the hotel stored them in the kitchens for us. But since I know you all are dying to find out what they were…

The Trampire

This one was brought to Romantic Times this year as well, but I did a return visit since people liked it so well. It takes a bit of doing and isn’t as “wet” of a cake as some of them, but it has a rather unique taste as it uses both whole wheat and regular flour as well as two kinds of sugar. (Brown sugar and standard sugar, for the curious.) The cake is a hard cider cake which is filled with a Granny Smith and hard cider compote. Which is the time consuming part of the process. It is topped with either a white chocolate cream cheese frosting or aĀ cinnamonĀ one. (For AAD all of the cupcakes got the same frosting.)

For fans of the Sabina Kane series (the source of the name Trampire and the flavor choice) you’ll notice the chocolate topper is a hand piped version of her birthmark that resembles the Caste of Nod symbol. Or as we like to call it, our mostĀ breakableĀ topper transported. (We packed extras.)

The Ryzkahls (Spicy Demon Lords)

Another of my “go-to” cakes when baking for my gaming groups, this is a modification of the classic Devil’s Food recipe that I took from my Bleeding Heart Bakery cookbook. It is made with ancho chili in the batter giving it just a little heat with the rich devils food chocolate. The dark ganache inside is dusted with some cayenne for a bit more heat. This cake is actually meant to get the standard white chocolate cream cheese frosting. (Though I have considered trying a dark chocolate cream cheese frosting for this one.)

And while the Trampire toppers were the most breakable, these toppers were the ones that never were. I picked up an ice cube tray that makes AK47 bullet ice cubes. Doing those in chocolate leads to a lot of air bubbles. We need a couple more tries to get them right. My wife did do one bullet in gum paste and painted it for Diana’s topper. The rest of them were garnished with chocolate covered almonds so they wouldn’t be naked as Prince Harry on a Vegas bender.

The Velveteens (Goth Velvets)

Although not out until next month, I have read this book and knew that with a character named Velvet a cupcake had to follow. The attempt was for a Grey Velvet (same as a red but with a different color). We found when adding black coloring to the cocoa flavored batter it was hard to get grey. So we went a little Elvis and made black velvet cakes. It is filled with a white chocolate ganache and topped with the white chocolate cream cheese frosting. With more time open, I would do the frosting in grey to give us the three “goth colors” of black, white and grey.

Without spoiling too much of the story, the toppers are skeleton keys as they’re what Daniel Marks said would be an excellent element from the book. Taking his word on it, one of my friends gave me a present of getting the food safe silicone and molding me the key molds. They are a little thin for chocolate, so Robin made these out of gum paste and hand painted them.

The Hornicorns

This one seemed to have the most people excited about them. Sometime soon, I will post the recipe for these so y’all can make them at home. Warning, this does involve “shaving” raw sweet corn. In other words, a bit messy. Also, this is the only one of the four that wasn’t filled. It doesn’t really need to be filled. It is a sweet corn cake that I folded chopped bits of pig candy into. (Pig candy is candied bacon.) Half way through the baking cycle I sprinkled a bit more pig candy on the tops of the cakes to add to the bacon flavor and to add a texture layer to it. I had first topped it with a maple butter cream, but for the convention I topped it with white chocolate cream cheese frosting. Either works well.

For the topper, we placed the hornicorn part into it with a gum paste unicorn horn. We even disco dusted it like the unicorn poop that both we and Allison Pang had made. And since these were for her Phin the unicorn sidekick from her series, it seemed appropriate. Also these spurned the comments of “surprise horn” as the unicorn horns were pretty long so we buried into the cupcake.

This is a whole lot of description of the cupcakes, so I think I will leave things here and post up more news and photos of the trip to New Orleans later. Give me until like Tuesday or Wednesday.

Casa de Zombie Gets An Upgrade

Yet another long and exhausting weekend is behind us. In Casa de Zombie the passing of the weekend did not leave us unchanged. Our condo has been populated by a new staple. We’ve upgraded our 4 quart mixer to a 6 quart, 1 horsepower professional mixer. And (as Costco offered it in all three colors) we were even able to get it to match our appliances. The real motivation here was that Costco had them on sale so this bad boy was costing us less than getting the 4 quart one at Best Buy or Target. A full reworking of our kitchen to include a place to store the 4 quart one during normal times still has to happen. Since it was a new toy, we needed to play with the Big Daddy though. (C’mon, it’s the big mixer in Casa de Zombie, like I wasn’t going to name it with a nod to a Romero zombie?)

I know everyone is dying to find out what the first thing to be mixed up in our first professional grade mixer. If you guessed one of the novel themed cupcakes I’m prepping to bring to Authors After Dark in New Orleans, you’d be right. Of course the Trampire is set and the Ryzkahl is pretty much set (I’m going to add a ganache filling). So I threw down with the one I needed to truly experiment with, the Hornicorn.

For those of you who haven’t read A Brush of Darkness or A Sliver of Shadow by Allison Pang, the sidekick to her main character is Phineas the Unicorn. 18″ tall, he loves booze, bacon and biting people on the butt. His favorite sleeping spot is in her underwear drawer. Thus, the Hornicorn. The only thing I knew for sure is the cupcake would include bacon. As I had already done this with the Elvis cupcakes, I wasn’t scared of using bacon in the cake. As soon as I called it a Hornicorn, my wife suggested a corn cake. Searching online I found a couple recipes I liked, changed them up a bit (still not sold on cake flour as opposed to all purpose flour) and gave it a swing.

I’ll do a full write-up later, but I think we nailed it the first time out of the gate. Aside from a test run with regular flour, and actually making the little fondant unicorn horns for them there was no proposed changes to them from my taste testers. They did say that the frosting didn’t seem to have enough flavor, but then worked really well with the cake. I may up the maple in the final batch, but I’d be afraid of making it too sweet and ruining the overall effect. Also, I’m considering reducing the amount of bacon in the batter and sprinkling some on top of the cupcakes about half way through the baking process to give it some crunch.

Not wanting to sit idle, Mrs. Zombie made some panda cupcakes for her team at work. This meant Big Daddy was busted out again to mix up a double batch of devils food spiked with mint leaves. Hopefully they realize they were mint leaves and not something else leafy sprinkled into chocolate treats. I could have easily mixed a triple batch. Maybe even a quad. At this rate I’m outdistancing my oven capacity.

Overall the purchase was a righteous one. Also, in addition to discovering that shaving uncooked sweet corn kernels is a pain in the ass, I have locked down three of the four recipes for New Orleans. Four of five if you count the “Jane True” cupcakes – although honestly they’re just peanut butter cup cakes. Seriously, who would eat seaweed cupcakes? Although it would be similar to green tea macha.

A full posting will follow once I’ve nailed them all down, but well before Authors After Dark. Want everyone to know what they’re getting into, right?

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. šŸ˜‰

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.)

Of Migraines and Cupcakes

a.k.a. In Where Zombie Joe Rants About the Optometrist

Well not really theĀ optometrist, more the store where we picked up our glasses. A while back I believe I blogged about how much I regret not getting polarized sunglasses sooner. The effect on my migraine instances was immediate and pretty dramatic. Over a month ago the horrible happened – an arm fell off of my sunglasses. I took it in figuring the screw slipped out and I just needed a new one. Nope, it broke.

Nobody sat on them, there was no accident, they just broke. So the person at the shop found the frames at one of the other stores and was going to have them FedEx’d to the location by my house. Notice I said “over a month ago” above. Even with the holidays going on, I should have the new frames by now. Needless to say, between this and the problems my wife had with her glasses, we won’t be going back there again.

The lesson to be learned here? I would have campaigned for still shopping there had they presented good customer service and fixed my problem. Hell, if they’d just kept in contact with me to let me know what was going on I would’ve given them the benefit of the doubt.

What does this have to do with the title of the blog? Well, yesterday I was hit in the face with a migraine. Let me emphasize… in… the… face. Although this did lead to a somewhat comfortable day off. I sat in a dark room and finished Sins of the Demon. I picked up what I needed for my cupcake orders. The dog and I went for a nice long walk (wherein I broke the poor thing and he slept the rest of the day). But the fact remains that with some polarized glasses I may not have had the migraine at all.

My other victory for the day was calculating out the calorie count on a branch of my cupcake base recipes. My devils food cupcake base (and by extension my Rhyskahl cupcakes) counted out to 166 calories. With my white chocolate cream cheese frosting each one comes in around 306 calories. While that may seem like a lot (as much as a cup of beef stew), it really isn’t too crazy as far as sweets go, and really does fit into my goal for each day. The downside being of course that I only made enough to fill my orders for today.

So nobody feels to sorry for me, there was a cup of coffee ice cream in my path last night. And nothing soothes the aches and pains of cupcake loss like coffee ice cream.

So let’s hit the stats for Wednesday then…

Change Write Now (1/11/12)

  • food – on task, came in about 200 calories too low
  • water – hit at least 64oz
  • exercise – too the dog for too long a walk… 30 minutes
  • good habit – wrote later in the day
  • bad habit – didn’t touch the scale (new bad habit to kick)
  • checked in – I think I checked in… will look back in emails

Project Stats

  • Reading (print) – finished Sins of the Demon, picking up Silver Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells
  • Reading (Nook) – The Power of Less byĀ Leo Babauta (Team Awesome Book Club read)
  • Listening (iPod) – still catching up on podcasts
  • Writing – scrapped first draft of naughty project and started re-writing it

Spicy Devil Cupcake

Posting this to Twitter last week, Julie Butcher responded with questionable exclamations about the taste of a chocolate with spice in it. In response I told her I would post the recipe – this is the recipe. šŸ˜‰

The base is a vegan Devil’s Food that came from the book Who You Callin’ Cupcake? by Michelle and Vinny Garcia from Bleeding Heart Bakery in Chicago. I cannot say enough about this book, the bakers and how much help they were through social media when I ran into some problems with a recipe. Not to mention the Elvis cupcake is crazy awesome. (End Plug)

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ancho pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 and 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 cup HOT coffee
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line cupcake pans with liners
  2. Place flour, sugar cocoa powder, baking soda, pepper and salt in a large bowl and mix with a whisk. (I mix in our Kitchenaid mixer.)
  3. In a small bowl combine the oil, vanilla and vinegar. Slowly add to the dry ingredients while whisking. Mix in the cup of hot coffee afterwards, still whisking.
  4. If there are still lumps either keep whisking or knead/mix it with your hands. With a bowl mixer, you can just keep mixing.
  5. With an ice cream scoop fill the cups about 3/4 full and then put in the oven for about 15 minutes. The tops will mound a bit and get cracks in them.
For mine, I topped with a white chocolate cream cheese frosting. It left just a touch of cool for the spice/heat of the cake. The second batch I did for my gaming group I ran out of white chocolate so I did a dark chocolate cream cheese frosting. Both were good.