Thursday, April 17, 2008

Vermicompost cupcakes

Vermicompost cupcakes? Ewww. Not really. (It's not real vermicompost.)

Actually it's that time of the month again. Time for me to hopefully submit my cupcake to the Cupcake Hero contest to Laurie and TW et al and patiently wait for the results knowing that I have a consistently good cupcake, but that someone out there has made one better than me. And then I get sad and I drown my sorrows in leftover frosting. OK, that's not actually true. I make a point of getting leftover frosting under running water as soon as possible after frosting the cupcakes so I'm not standing in the kitchen at midnight eating frosting out of the freezer with a spoon. So here we go again.

This month's theme is Earth Day, picked by the lovely TW! Now that's an odd theme for a cupcake. But I was pretty excited about it. There's all sorts of little things we can do to help the environment. By now, most of us are bringing our own bags to the grocery. (If you can't find bags, I know that both Walmart and Meijers sell them for 99¢. I've bought them and they're pretty great. Nice and roomy and the Meijers one has a little pocket in front and inside wine holders.) And if you're not bringing your own bags, why not? They're a great and easy way to do something good for the environment. And they hold a lot more than regular plastic or paper bags. So you can end up with 2 bags instead of 17.
Another easy way to help the environment is to say goodbye to bottled water. I know. I know. Bottled water is an easy way to get healthy. Water is good for us. That's all true, but there's a better way. Roughly 40 million plastic water bottles find their way to the trash can every day or become litter. You could argue that you can refill plastic water bottles and reuse them. That's true only for the first 3 times. Each time you use a plastic water bottle little cracks form in the plastic and after 3 times they are a bacteria breeding ground. ick. So what's a person who wants to drink healthy water to do? Buy a cool reusable water bottle. I got mine from Dick's for less than $10 (it was on sale).
You can also order them online from a variety of sources. I like the Life is Good line myself. What if you have really undrinkable tap water like I did in Indianapolis? Then buy a faucet water filter like this one from Brita. They are easy to install, inexpensive and last for 100 gallons. I would even bet that the cost of the filter and the replacement filters as well as the reusable bottle over time, even end up being cheaper than buying all that bottled water. But I couldn't figure out how to make that into a cupcake so consider it a public service announcement.
*It has been brought to my attention that In Europe the filters are recyclable while here in the US they are not. There is grass roots movement to encourage Brita to create a recycling program. To sign the petition go here. For a much better explanation go to Fake Plastic Fish.
*Make sure you wash your water bottle by hand and don't store water in it for longer than a day to keep harmful chemicals from leaching from the plastic into the water bottle. Apparently the water bottles also need to be recycled once they get pretty old and beat up. I've also heard there are stainless steel water bottles out there.

So what cause that is good for the environment can I make into a cupcake? Vermicompost! Vermicompost is a system of breaking down food scraps, into a rich fertilizer for houseplants and your garden. OK, it's worm poop. But it's really good for plants and it keeps all that junk from going to landfills. And the fertilizer is a completely organic way to have your plants (and vegetables) grow big and healthy. I can't seem to convince the Brain we should do it either. But my parents have a vermicompost system in their basement. You can read about theirs here. It's pretty odorless really. Kinda cool. I've convinced them to come "help" me plant my vegetable garden this year and maybe they'll transport some of the compost down here too! If you're interested in vermicomposting I highly suggest the book, Worms Eat My Garbage. I got it out of the library. It's easy to read and has some nice illustrations. Also here's a video with Martha Stewart and David Hyde Pierce (aka Niles Craine from Frasier) demonstrating how to do it.

So yeah. Here's my Vermicompost cupcakes. They're a rich dark chocolate cake studded with caramel bits and walnuts because really dirt isn't smooth and homogeneous. Then they're topped with dark chocolate frosting and "vermicompost" with coconut "newspaper strips". The newspaper strips are very important for worm composting (as shown in the video). Then I carefully piped red wiggler worms on top. Red wiggler worms are actually the best worms for composting. I read the book. Also, if you'll notice, my little vermicompost systems are in they're very own little Rubbermaid tubs. OK here I'm totally lying. These are silicon cupcake holders that my mom bought me and are really fun. They also can be reused so they're pretty good for the environment too. (Well OK, I sent a dozen off to my nephews and those weren't in the silicone holders. You know how boys are. They like worms, but i didn't want my square cupcake cups to get lost.)

Vermicompost Cupcakes
makes approximately 20 with leftover vermicompost

cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup Hershey's Special Dark cocoa
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup Kraft premium caramel bits

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place paper liners in wells (or silicon cups).

Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine walnuts and caramel bits in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl with a hand mixer beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Beat in the vanilla extract. Beat in eggs one at a time making sure each egg is incorporated before moving on. Add the flour in 4 additions alternating with the milk. Begin and end with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and beat for an additional 30 seconds.

Divide batter evenly among the cups, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the tops spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes back clean.

Cool completely.

Dark Chocolate Frosting:
6 Tbsp butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
4 Tbsp milk

Beat butter and sugar together with cocoa powder. Add milk one tablespoon at a time until spreading consistency. Set aside.

"Vermicompost" mix:
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup Kraft premium caramel bits
20 fudge sandwich cookies (I used the cheap kind, but fudge filled Oreos would work)
1 cup coconut

Pulse walnuts, caramel bits, and sandwich cookies in the food processor until crumbly looking. The caramel bits won't get chopped up hardly at all, but that's OK. Think of it as organic food waste particles. Stir in coconut to resemble newspaper strips. The leftovers of this would be great on vanilla ice cream.

Red Wiggler Worm Icing:
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp milk
1 cup powdered sugar
Wilton's Aster Mauve Concentrated Icing Coloring (or a combination of food colorings to achieve pinkish purplish worm color.)

Blend together butter and powdered sugar. Add milk to achieve very thick consistency. Add food coloring to achieve proper worm color.

To Assemble Cupcakes:

Transfer "vermicompost" mix to a wide shallow bowl. Frost cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Frosting. Then turn cupcakes upside down into "Vermicompost" mix. Your frosting should be completely coated in "vermicompost". Transfer Red Wiggler Worm icing into a piping bag fitted with a #4 tip. (Or you could just stick it in a small Ziploc bag and cut one corner off to make a little hole.) Pipe worms onto cupcakes. These worms aren't going to want to stick to well, but that's OK it just adds to the randomness of what worms look like.

20 comments:

Nikki57 said...

OMG so fun! Love the cuppies

CB said...

These are so fuggen fabulous! I was telling my hubbie about it and he said "Cool concept but I don't think I would eat anything with "compost" in the name." LMAO! Great entry!
Clara

Mary said...

Thanks Nikki!

CB- Actually these cupcakes are freakin' delicious. I think I ate 4 of them today (quite a feat 'cause they're pretty rich). My mom and my stepdad liked them too. But they do look pretty composty and the worms take some ignoring. :)

LisaRene said...

This is a motivational post! LOVE the cupcakes, you had better win for such an original idea. You really did a great job with them, even including the "newspaper"! Your nephews must have loved receiving these, perfect for boys :)

Kitt said...

Talk about vermisimilitude! Those are the funniest cupcakes I've ever seen! Bravo!

Fake Plastic Fish said...

Your cupcakes are adorable! But I have a comment about those Brita filters. It's awesome to give up bottled water and opt for a Brita filter. But have you ever wondered what happens to all the used plastic filter cartridges at the end of their lives?

If you lived in Europe, you could take that filter to a drop-off location where it would be sent back to Brita for recycling. But in North America, Brita is owned by Clorox, and they don't have a recycling program.

That's why I have signed on to the Take Back The Filter campaign (http://www.takebackthefilter.org) to urge Clorox to redesign their filters and provide a way for us to recycle them, as is done in Europe.

Here's how you can help:

Sign the Petition (http://www.gopetition.com/online/18444.html)

Send in your used filter cartridges: (http://takebackthefilter.org/2008/04/send-us-your-used-filters.html)

Read more about the issue: (http://www.takebackthefilter.org)

Spread the word to as many people as you know. This is a grassroots movement. If we don't speak up, who will?

Pixie said...

Now that's what I call original cupcakes! great entry Mary

Deborah said...

Love the cupcakes! What a great idea!

I have to tell you about a conversation I had with a co-worker yesterday. I have a few Nalgene bottles that I use for water, but now there are news stories saying that they are made with something that causes cancer. So our conversation basically went - well what do you do? Use a reusable bottle and get cancer or use disposable and ruin the earth? Hopefully they will come out with something safe soon!!

Mary said...

Hi everybody! Thanks for the positive comments.

I looked up the whole Nalgene / cancer issue and I found that the cancer and birth defect causing compound can come from the water bottle, but that this happens mostly when the water is left in the bottle for long periouds of time and the bottle is washed in the dishwasher. If you want to reduce your risk, fill the bottle with clean water daily and wash it by hand. Thanks Deborah for pointing out the connection. I had no idea!

Cynthia said...

Mary! you are something else. I knew that the cake was not real vermicompost but man! you did an excellent job impersonating it in those cupcakes.

How is the leg?

Cakelaw said...

Very cool and creative cupcakes Mary.

Bellini Valli said...

These are such an inventive entry for the event Mary. When we eat icing we are saving the environment as well:D All kidding aside you have left us with some great tips about helping our environment.

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glamah16 said...

How creative!You so need to win this one.Thanke for the information on this post as well. Just wonderful.

CB said...

Your cupcake has been chosen to be featured on All Things Cupcake. Looking forward to your next cupcake creation!
-Clara

Mrs. White said...

I love everything about this post: cupcakes, worms, and encouraging people to stop drinking bottled water. Bravo! :)

standing still said...

Amazing. A salute of the "green" movement in pastry. You rock.

rainbowbrown said...

Oh, I love these. I've got a worm bin and it's really just awesome. It makes me so happy to see vermicompost represented in cupcake form! Good show.

verovert said...

Hello, I'm a french journalist, specialized in gardening. Actually, I'm writing a book about vermicomposting and I found your wonderful vermicompost cupcakes. I wish to use your texte ans photos. Could you please give me the authorization to publish them, with the mentions you wish.

Mary said...

verovert- yes go ahead and use my text and photos! I'd love to see the final product!