Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

The Sierpinski Cake

June 14, 2018

The verdict is in:  despite my less-than-perfect cutting and decorating skills, a Sierpinski cake does indeed look pretty cool.

Sierpinski Triangle made of cake

I had been so distracted by the descriptions of triangular cupcake liners that I didn’t order any, but certainly those would have made for more equally shaped triangles and a crisper looking design.  This was made by baking a 9″×13″ cake, cutting it into 3 long strips, and doing a zigzag pattern on each to get 9 equilateralish triangles plus a bit extra.  Now I just need an extra-large platter for serving, because we are SO having this again sometime…


The mysterious triangle

June 12, 2018

I was just looking up triangular cupcake molds, as one does — or at least, as one does after the upcoming birthday child asks if their cake can be made into a Sierpinski triangle, and you both mull about it and then realize that that would be CRAZY because then no one would get any cake, and then you get distracted wondering if it could be approximated with cupcakes and you realize that would be awesome and the next time you make cupcakes they really should be displayed in a Sierpinski triangle — and  upon looking at a couple pages of molds I noticed a funny thing.

Amazon has trouble with triangles.

Granted, I only saw oddities on two pages, but since that’s 100% of the pages I looked at, it was still a pretty high percentage.

Exhibit #1:  Triangle is now a color:


Exhibit #2:  Triangles have a diameter:


Of course, triangles do in fact have a diameter, since there’s a maximal distance between points (which turns out to be the length of the longest side).  So presumably these are 2″ per side, and Amazon gets bonus points for an unnecessary use of Diameter.  I admit, though, that part of me thinks that what they called “diameter” was really the distance from a vertex to the opposite side, because from a visual perspective I think that seems the most like the diameter of a circle.  That would mean that the actual side length was (2/√3)*2″, or about 2.3″.  The other cupcake liners were 2″ to a side at the base and 2.4″ to a side at the top, which means that either number would be consistent even if these were the same size.

So in the end, I’m not sure of the answer.  What I am certain of, however, is that the Sierpinski approximation cupcake is an awesome idea, and should become a reality as soon as possible.


Happy Star Wars Day!

May 4, 2013

Godzilla is celebrating Star Wars Day with a Severed Wampa Arm Cake (recipe from justJenn):


Ewwww — that looks kind of gross.  Godzilla is such a monster.  Here’s a less bloody angle:


May the Fourth be with you!



The Godzillas make Chocolate Éclair Pie

August 23, 2010

No math today (except the usual fractions in cooking):  the purpose of this post is to introduce you to Godzilla’s young ward, who currently (but not necessarily permanently) goes by the name Mini-G.   Little Godzilla is not very tall:

but this means he gets to travel more, and do things like ride the bumper cars at amusement parks.

Today (well, actually, last weekend) Big-G and Mini-G teamed up to prepare a delectable feast of a dessert that is dangerously easy to make:  Chocolate Éclaire Pie, the recipe of which is due to our no-longer-brand-new faculty member Nicole.  (Actually, I think the recipe comes from her mom, and possibly someone else before that.  Thanks Nicole’s mom and anyone else it might have come from!)

Here’s how you start:

1 box of Graham crackers
2 small boxes of vanilla instant pudding
1 (8oz) carton of Cool Whip
3.5 cups of milk

Grease the bottom of a 9×13 cake pan (so maybe this is really a cake and not a pie) and line it with graham crackers.  You’ll use just under 1/3 of a box, so you’ll have some left over for snacking.

Mix the pudding with milk and beat it about about 2 min.

Then blend in the cool whip. You’re practically done with the cake-part now!

(There’s about an 80% chance that someone was singing, “Whisk it!  Whisk it good!” during the filming of this portion.)

Pour 1/2 the mixture over the crackers. Add another layer of crackers and cover the rest with pudding mixture, then add a final layer of crackers to the top of that.

Cover it, and refrigerate it at least two hours.  When it’s about ready, it’s time to make the Topping!

¾ cup cocoa
¼ cup oil
4 tsp vanilla
3 cups 10x (powdered) sugar
6 Tbsp (3/8 cup) milk
6 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted
4 tsp white karo syrup

Mix all the topping ingredients together until smooth.  [An electric mixer would have been more effective, but harder for the Gs to hold.]

Spread on top of the graham crackers, and refrigerate it for 20 more hours.  And now it’s ready!


Note 1: The original recipe only had half the amounts for the topping, but Nicole confessed that she always doubled it, so who am I to argue?

Note 2: When I made it the topping came out a little thick, so it might be OK to add a little more milk if it seems that way to you too.

Note 3: I’m not totally sure about that final 20 hours; I keep meaning to double check that it’s not a typo.  But I kind of like the 20 hours because it means you have to make it a day in advance, which works well if you’re having people over or bringing it somewhere.

I want to make a Chocolate Chip so Big…..

August 14, 2008

Last night at dinner, out of the blue, out 8-year old announced, “I want to make a chocolate chip so big that if it was 6 ft tall, a person would be a millimeter.” We all pondered the Giant Chocolate Chip, and then he asked if it would cover the United States. I said I didn’t think so, and he asked if it would cover any state. “Maybe Rhode Island,” was my reply.

Or maybe not. Curious about just how big that chocolate chip would have to be, I bought some “research supplies” and measured them. It turns out that a chocolate chip is 8 millimeters tall (with a tiny bit of variation, but not enough for me to measure effectively). According to the bastion of truth, the average height of an adult male in the US is 175.8 centimeters (just over 5′9″) and the average height of an adult female in the US is 162.0 centimeters (almost 5′4″). Therefore I declare the average height of an adult in the United States to be 168.9 cm. This gives us:

\frac{\mbox{Giant Chocolate Chip}}{\mbox{person (168.9 cm)}} = \frac{\mbox{6 feet}}{\mbox{1 mm}}

That’s a lot of different units there. Let’s convert to centimeters. The millimeter is just 0.1 cm, and we know that 6 feet is 6·12·2.54 cm since there are 12 inches in a foot and 2.54 centimeters in an inch. Speaking of which, did you know that there are EXACTLY 2.54 centimeters in an inch? That even though inches are way older than centimeters, that inches have been redefined to be exactly 2.54 centimeters? Apparently this happened in 1958, but I only found out about it last month.

So anyway, we know that 6 feet is 182.88 cm, which gives us:

\frac{\mbox{Giant Chocolate Chip}}{\mbox{person (168.9 cm)}} = \frac{\mbox{182.88 cm}}{\mbox{0.1 cm}}

This means that the height of the Giant Chocolate Chip is (168.9)·(1828.8)=308884.3 centimeters. That’s about 3.1 kilometers, or about 1.9 miles. That’s a BIG chocolate chip.

But not big enough to cover Rhode Island. The diameter of a regular chocolate chip is 1 centimeter, which is really cool if you are looking for a mental way to envision centimeters. That means that the diameter of the giant chocolate chip is about 2.4 miles, giving an area of 3.76 square miles. And Rhode Island is actually 1,545 square miles, so you’d need 410 giant chocolate chips to match the area.

But this got me thinking — there’s a lot of chocolate in that humongous chocolate chip. What if we melted it down and spread it out over Rhode Island? How deep would it be? Thinking of a chocolate chip as a cone (which ignores the little swirl on the top), the volume of chocolate is (1/3)·(area of the base)·(height), which for our Godzilla chip is about 2.4 cubic miles. And if it was really hot and the giant chocolate chip melted, it would cover Rhode Island to a depth of 99 inches.


Sierpinski Cookies

June 25, 2008

Last week I was inspired by the folk at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories to make some Sierpinski Cookies. I was pretty sure that they wouldn’t look as good as those (and they didn’t), but they were fun to make.

Naturally, Godzilla did most of the work. He’s good that way.

At the suggestion of EMSL above, he used the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated (posted at instructables, where they use it to make pixel cookies). You know you can trust the folk at Cook’s Illustrated because they’re the ones who revealed (to me, anyway) that the secret ingredient in pie crust is vodka. Seriously — using a mixture of vodka and water lets you use more liquid, and the vodka boils off and the crust stays tender.

Here’s Godzilla mixing the ingredients.

Godzilla likes to take breaks while cooking to watch Chef Gordon Ramsay.

Actually, Godzilla spent so much time watching Hell’s Kitchen and trying to imitate GR yelling, “It’s RAW!” that he forgot to pose for photographs of the next part. He made another batch of chocolate dough (again, following the instructions at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories (and the chocolate dough is amazing. Plus, no raw eggs, for those who worry about such things when eating raw cookie dough)). Then he formed the dough into long square strips, put them together with a chocolate strip in the middle, chopped them up, and put them together again (with a bigger chocolate piece in the middle) and Lo, Sierpinski cookies!

See? Not nearly as neat as the originators, but he still thought they tasted mighty fine.

Lemon Pie Recipe

March 13, 2008

lemon-pie-recipe.jpgYes, it’s March 13 and the countdown to Pi Day has begun! While people gather round and sing Pi Day Songs, you can make Aunt Mattie’s Lemon Pie. Aunt Mattie worked for my grandmother’s family, and was known for her pies: chocolate, butterscotch, and lemon. My grandmother once carefully measured and wrote down the ingredients that Aunt Mattie used, giving the recipe shown here. (Hmmm. It looks like this card could well be that original recipe. I am, perhaps, the messiest cook I know.) Click here to see Godzilla demonstrate how to cook a lemon pie.

Junk Food Geometry

January 11, 2008

oyster-crackers.jpgI was about to post about the interesting shapes in the cookie cake tops at our grocery store (which I’ll do shortly), and I found myself getting distracted thinking about all of the interesting shapes in the snack aisle itself. (more…)

French Silk Pie

January 3, 2008

french-silk-pie.jpgThis pie recipe comes from Terri, one of my grad school roommates, and I like to make it because I think of her and I smile. Of course, I also like to make it because it’s a delicious, scrumptious chocolate pie. And it’s easy to make, which is especially good if you’ve invited 20 students over for a pre-Putnam dinner and somehow got it into your mind to make 6 pies. So without further ado….

Click here for the recipe.

Penzeys Buckeyes!

December 25, 2007

buckeyes.jpgToday’s recipe for Buckeyes is brought to you by the shape sphere. I first encountered Buckeyes in a Penzeys Spices catalogue, and they immediately became a holiday favorite: they are easy to make, even for kids, and taste fantastic. The recipe later appeared in one of the very first issues of the magazine Penzeys One (which is perhaps the most socially conscious and inclusive cooking publication I’ve ever read, sharing the stories and family recipes of regular folk around the US and world.) Click here for the recipe!

Soda Cracker Candy

December 8, 2007

cracker.pngNeed a break from the end-of-the-year crunch? Perhaps a little snack will cheer you up! Soda Cracker Candy is amazing, and the ratio of taste-to-work is way up there: it’s hard to find an easier candy/bar cookie that tastes as good. And they have chocolate in them. And they’re mathy: they’re made from saltines, and saltines are squares. How’s that for a justification? Click here for the recipe.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ice-cream Pie

November 30, 2007

ice-cream-pie.jpgIn preparation for the dozen or so students who are coming over for dinner tonight in honor of Saturday’s Putnam exam, I made the pie pictured here. I made a bunch of pies, actually, because pie is really good. And then I thought “Pie is a mathy kind of dessert. We need a pie category on our Blog!” The premier recipe is this Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ice-Cream Pie by Heather Eckman. Click here for the recipe