The Writers' Room

The Writers' Room
Geek Eats: Sweets Edition

Elizabeth Grunewald | 29 Dec 2010 15:52
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"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.

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