The Writers' Room

Geek Eats: Sweets Edition


As Walter Kovacs warned us, the end is nigh: I heard my first diet advice this morning, on the radio. (It said to eat right and exercise. Shocker.) Yesterday, I addressed the savory side of science fiction and geek media, and now it’s time for the sweet.

Three days until the new year. Make them count.


“She’s as cute as a button in the eyes of everyone who ever laid their eyes on Coraline!” Coraline

I’ll be honest with you, life with Other Mother and Other Father does look pretty appealing. A gorgeous garden, catchy tunes, a rodent circus, and a talking cat, topped off with some sweet parental attention. The buttons thing is pretty creepy, though, so I think I’ll pass. On those buttons, I mean. These edible ones? Keep ’em coming.

This recipe makes about two dozen miniature cupcakes. If you don’t have a mini muffin tin, don’t fret; just make full size cupcakes, and bake them for about 13-14 minutes. One additional note: These cupcakes are actually gluten-free, but you’ll never miss the flour. Cross my heart and hope to be kidnapped by my Other Mother.

  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 375°F, and fill two miniature muffin tins with miniature cupcake cups.

Microwave chocolate and butter together in a microwave-safe bowl. The simplest way to do this is break the chocolate into little pieces, and cut the butter into chunks. Microwave for 40-45 seconds and give it a stir, then microwave for 25-30 seconds more.

Add sugar and cocoa powder to chocolate-butter mixture. Stir to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, and stir some more. The batter should be pretty dark.

Fill cupcake liners half-full and bake for about 7 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as they should come out when they’re bubbling and just shy of set. This sounds weird, but if they start to steam, they need to be taken out of the oven immediately. Let cool for a minute or two.

While cupcakes are still warm, take a toothpick and poke four holes into each cupcake to make your buttons. These are considerably better eaten than sewn onto faces.


“Eat what? There’s nothing here. Gandhi ate more than this.” Hook

This is one of the only scenes in Hook in which I don’t break into bizarre fits of weeping, so it’s one of my favorites. I’ll admit I’ve never been much of an icing girl, but I’ve never had a raucous food fight with it in a fantastical treehouse, so maybe I’m missing out.

Everyone I know, it seems, loves frosting, and could eat it on its own with no cake-based means of conveyance. They also think I’m nuts for not doing so. Just this once, I’ll take their advice and offer up this indulgent buttercream frosting. It’ll stay visible whether you pretend or not, but will show up better on everyone else’s clothes if you add a little food coloring.

  • 8 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • liquid food coloring

Whip the butter and shortening in a medium bowl with a hand mixer until pale and fluffy. Add sugar, and continue beating until sugar and butter are creamed together.

Add vanilla and half the cream, and beat on low until the liquids are fully incorporated. Keep adding cream until the frosting has reached your desired consistency and thickness.

Stir in a couple drops of desired food coloring, or separate frosting into a few smaller bowls and add a drop of a different color to each one. Enjoy with graham crackers or your fingers, but don’t play too much with your food.


“Ah, dessert! Chilled monkey brains.” Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

One of the most infamously icky dishes in cinematic history, and the reason my parents only let me see Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade when I was young, chilled monkey brains sound pretty damn unappealing. You’ll be pleased to know this recipe, which usually just goes by “monkey bread,” is neither monkey nor brains.

This is a great dessert to share, as everyone can just reach in and pick out a piece — no cutting required. Unfortunately, sharing requires sharing, and after a bite or two, that may not be a situation with which you’re comfortable.

  • 2 cans refrigerated biscuits (don’t use a dough labeled “flaky,” but other than that, use whatever you like)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350°F. Take the biscuits out of their cans and separate them, then cut each into four quarters.

Combine white sugar, cinnamon, and allspice in a largish zip-top plastic bag. Add the biscuit pieces, seal the bag, and shake to coat.

Melt the butter and brown sugar in a small pot over medium heat.
Butter a bundt pan and layer in the biscuit pieces. Pour the melted butter and brown sugar over biscuits, and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Remove cake carefully and let cool for a few minutes. Place a plate over the top of the pan and flip the whole shebang over, inverting the monkey bread onto the plate. Don’t worry about chilling these monkey brains; they’re best enjoyed while still warm.


“For my own part, regret nothing. Have lived life, free from compromise … and step into the shadow now without complaint.” Watchmen

Recently, we all learned how to make a realistic Rorschach mask, which is stupendous, but as I’m not a creepy right-wing vigilante, I think I might prefer making this cake. This is easily the most complicated recipe here, and not just because it’s two recipes in one. Seven-minute frosting is an old classic, but it requires a little more work than your average buttercream. The cake has a bit of flexibility in terms of ingredients, so you may not have to go buy something special just for this recipe, which is a pet peeve of mine.

This cake calls for a little artistic input, too: The finished cake is a white, fluffy circular dessert with a dark chocolate inkblot square in the middle. What sort of inkblot you design is up to you. Maybe a pretty butterfly.

Funnily enough, this is not only the most labor-intensive recipe here, but the one most likely to be unappreciated by its namesake. At least it’s a step up from a cold can of beans.

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour cream
  • 1 cup strong, black brewed coffee
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, canola oil, or applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F, and heavily grease two 9 inch round cake pans.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl, then add the eggs, buttermilk/sour cream, oil/applesauce and vanilla. Beat for a couple minutes, until combined. Don’t sweat it if the batter looks pretty thin, as it’s supposed to look like that.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick poked in the center of the cake comes out clean, switching the pan’s positions halfway through the baking time. Promptly put the cakes in the freezer. Yes. Once the cakes are chilled, remove from the freezer and start getting things together for your frosting.

  • a stiff piece of paper and a pair of scissors
  • 1 ½ cups white sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Fold the paper in half and cut a nonsense shape, making sure to keep the folded crease uncut. (Don’t do this near the edible ingredients, or you’ll get paper bits in your frosting, and that’s no good.) Unfold the paper to reveal your inkblot.

Combine all edible ingredients in a bowl and set atop a double boiler. Blend with a hand mixer for seven minutes. No, really. Seven minutes is important; that’s why it’s called “Seven-Minute Frosting.” Don’t cheat.

This icing will set pretty quickly, so keep the bowl covered with a damp paper towel while you frost. Frost one cake layer, then set the second one on top. Affix your inkblot shape to the top layer with toothpicks, then frost over it, being careful not to slop frosting under the edges of your pattern. Remove inkblot when finished frosting, and never compromise.


“Most curious creature, Captain. Its trilling seems to have a tranquilizing effect on the human nervous system.” Star Trek, “The Trouble With Tribbles”

There is just not enough spherical, Star Trek-inspired food out there. Luckily, these cheesy confections are here to fill the void. I’ve gussied up my recipe for That Dessert Cheese Ball I Made That One Time (which is exactly what it says on my recipe card) with some edible, tribblicious fur in the form of toasted coconut. Unfortunately, I don’t care for coconut, so I won’t be joining you. That’s okay, though — tribbles multiply fast enough that I’m sure I can find a coconut free version somewhere in my kitchen.

You can use any sort of cookie you want to enjoy this sweet cheese ball, but I prefer ladyfingers for their handy snacking shape. Know that, while this recipe is stupidly simple, it does require cooling time, so give yourself a generous couple of hours.

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup miniature chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup toasted coconut

Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy.

Add both sugars, and beat until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until fully chilled. Once chilled, carefully roll into a ball (use the plastic wrap to help you if it’s particularly sticky, but it shouldn’t be). Roll cheeseball in nuts and coconut, and serve with ladyfingers and/or graham crackers.

That wraps it up for Geek Eats for 2010. Never fear — no resolution will stop me from bringing you nerdy food in 2011. Just you wait.

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