Sunday, June 8, 2008

Vegan paleosol cupcakes (a novel)

So it's time for Adventure # 2 in our "Meg is a Complete Nerd" tale. (It's really probably Adventure # eleventy-billion at this point, as I'm sure Kelly can testify.)

Adventure # 1 recap: Meg likes baking. Meg likes science. Baking + science + MORE science (since it already is science, haha) = sexy funky fun. Some of you who have been around for a while may remember the trilobite cookies I made for the last day of my Paleontology I class last semester, modified from a recipe found on the PPK forums. My class, my awesome GTF (go buy things from her etsy store), and my professor loved them!

This term (which is ending this week) I took, from the same professor, Intro to Paleopedology, which is basically the study of paleosols, which = fossil soils). It's fun but a lot of it is way over my head. Still, I decided that this term my challenge was going to be: paleosol cupcakes.

Soil, and therefore paleosols, differentiate into neat little layers as they get more older and more developed, and they do so in different ways based on climate, organisms, time, the parent material, and the topography. It looks sort of like a layer cake, with all sorts of yummy bits inside. Of course the bits and the layering get smushed and changed as the soil is later weathered and buried, which is where the fun of paleopedology comes in - trying to reconstruct the original soil, and from that, the original environments. You can use paleosols to figure out all sorts of neat stuff (mean annual precipitation rates, for example...are you guys bored yet?).

I modeled my paleosol after the oxisols in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in central Oregon, which is gorgeous as hell but hot as all get out (and if any of y'all are anthropology geeks too, like yours truly, it's where fossils of the omomyid Ekgmowechashala were found - sadly I did not find any). Here's the group:

Jenny, Becky, me, Troy, Dimitri, Greg, and Jonathan

Here are some more pictures from the research field trip we went on in April.

Oxisols are basically rainforest soils - very deeply weathered, usually red, nutrient depleted, and quite useless for agriculture. Root traces in the form of drag root halos are often found in these soils. Here's an example. (Mine kind of ended up looking more like an alfisol but shhhhh don't tell anyone.)

So here's my (all-vegan, of course) cupcake version.

Look at the pretties!

It is:

(a) basic vanilla batter from VCTOtW (with red food coloring)
(b) vegan white chocolate chips from Pangea
(c) rich chocolate ganache from VCTOtW
(d) cream cheese frosting from VCTOtW (with green food coloring and chocolate cookie bits)
(e) flower sprinkles

And here it is all diagrammed out:

Paleosol cupcake 1

I spent way too much time dreaming about making these this term.

For those of you who know/care about paleosols, please keep in mind that all I know about them was gleaned from a paleoenvironment class during fall term and paleopedology this term. :P I'm not an expert so don't quote me for your school science project, either.

So hopefully someone from the Berkeley graduate school of education will see this and let me in, and disregard my GRE score.

I really should be studying for the last final of my undergradute career right now. At 5:15 I will have completed a B.A. with a double major in anthropology and German and a minor in geology. And it only took five fucking years and out of state tuition. Fun times.


e said...


ich vermisse dich sehr...

Neta558 said...

I had to skip some of the explanations because I'm a different kind of geek, but the cupcakes look great.

e said...

I especially enjoy the star sprinkles on the surface. When funfetti roamed the earth...

Sara said...

Oh, love the sagittal section of the cupcake! I too am a big science nerd, of the biology variety. The cupcakes look super yummy!!

WHAVegan said...

OOOH yummy yummy cupcakes, they look awesome.