In university, I found a set of people who loved what I loved. Discussed things that I was passionate about. Played and laughed at games that were so cool, yet so absolutely ridiculous. Finally, I felt like I could pin my nerd badge onto my coat and wear it proudly.
Nowadays, geek citizenship is becoming even more widespread. Thanks to movie reboots and social media, we've got new generations of Trek, Who, and X-men fans. Being a nerd is cool. And you can feel at home almost everywhere.
But the show closest to my heart is Tabletop. The concept of it is simple: Wil Wheaton invites friends over to his house to play a board game. They film the results. Hijinks ensue. You may think that this sounds pretty boring, but we're not talking Monopoly here. This group plays games like Pandemic, Elder Signs, Munchkin, and Castle Panic. Never heard of them? That's fine. Wil is here to talk you through each one. In fact, a lot of the cast members invited onto the show have never played these games before either. So, as you're watching, you're keeping up and learning as fast as the players are.
Wil has a set mission in mind when he started up Tabletop: For him, this is a way to bring families and friends together. Turn off the TV. Unplug the internet. And just game. He also wants to promote a kind of wholesome nerdy togetherness that we've been losing in the community recently. I can talk to my friends over forums or through a video game, but that's not truly interacting. Playing a silly game, face to face, with those you love is so much better than an MMORPG.
Settlers of Catan is one of more popular games Tabletop has featured. Wil calls it a "gateway drug to gaming". This is because the rules are simple. And there can be a lot of backstabbing involved. Well, there doesn't have to be, but it usually devolves into backstabbing. The game involves sheep, wood, wheat, ore, brick, and the trading/collecting of all five items. So, have I sold you? No? Maybe this will convince you:
These cupcakes, in the shape of the Settlers' board, were made to celebrate what Wil and Felicia have set out to do: Make nerds feel comfortable in their own skin. Bring together groups of friends for a good laugh. Celebrate our own geekiness. We used a Victorian sponge cake, stuffed it full of lemon curd, and topped them each with a classic old fashioned icing. Mr. C painstakingly cut out hexagonal sugar cookies to put on top of each cupcake, and then we did our best to stay true to the board. There's even a little chocolate robber in our midst.
So bake cupcakes. Pick up a tabletop game. Gather some of your best buds. And be nerdy.
Settlers of Catan Cupcakes
Makes 24 Cupcakes and Toppers (but you'll only need 19 of them for the board!)
design inspired by Shower of Roses
Victorian Sponge Cakes
1 1/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
6 eggs (separated)
3 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoon vanilla
1) Place cupcake liners in your cupcake tin. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer until really light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix some more. In a separate bowl, whip up the egg yolks until light yellow. Add to your butter mixture and mix it together with a wooden spoon. Sift in the flour and mix together - the batter will be really stiff, but don't worry, we'll fix that later. In another bowl, whisk your egg whites until they've reached stiff peaks. Take about a quarter of the egg white and stir it into the batter to lighten it up. Take the rest of the egg whites and carefully fold it into the batter until everything has just begun to come together. Slowly fold in the heavy cream.
3) Spoon three tablespoons of batter to each cupcake liner. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until your cakes are golden and your cupcake tester comes out clean. Set out to cool before adding the filling or frosting.
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup and 2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 Tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch
1) In an saucepan, whisk together the butter, sugar, juice, and zest over low heat and cook for about five minutes. Add the eggs and cornstarch, whisking briskly to combine, and continue to cook while stirring for about 5 to 7 minutes. At this point the mixture will thicken. Remove from heat, pour into a large bowl, and cover tightly with a piece of plastic wrap. Make sure the wrap is touching the top of the curd, or a real nasty skin will form while cooling. Cool in the fridge for at least one hour before using.
Simple Sugar Cookies (for the Hexagon Toppers)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons vanilla
1) Cream together your butter and sugar until nice and fluffy. Add your egg and vanilla and continue to mix until everything comes together. Sift in your flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix until your dough comes together. Smush into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Let cool for about 45 minutes so it's easier to roll out.
2) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. When your dough has hardened a little bit, roll it on a floured surface to about a 1/4 inch thickness. Now, using your handy dandy knife skills, cut out your hexagons. Each side should be 1 1/2 inches in length, the width should be about 3/4 of an inch, and the inside should be 1 inch per side. Here's a handy picture to help you out:
3) Cut out your hexagons and carefully put them on your cookie sheet. You'll only need 19 of them, but we made about 24, just in case some cracked (or were eaten). Bake for 3 minutes, then turn your sheet around and bake for about 3 more minutes, or until just golden. Set out to cool before decorating.
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cups milk
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1)In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the flour and milk and keep on mixing until it starts to take on a thick, pudding-like consistency. Scoop into a wide bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap, pressing it right against the custard so a skin doesn't form. Set it in the fridge to cool completely.
2)Fluff up the butter in your mixer. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract and mix until everything has come together. Add the cold custard and beat for up to 6 minutes. The frosting will start to take on a lighter colour and will have a real creamy, whipped-cream like texture.
Toppers and Decor
Sheep Tiles (4) - mini marshmallows, green food colouring, grass piping tip
Wood Tiles (4) - pretzel sticks, green food colouring
Wheat Tiles (4) - frosted mini wheats, yellow food colouring
Ore Tiles (3) - oreo cookies (sans filling), cocoa powder (to be mixed in with your frosting), black food colouring, chocolate rocks
Brick Tiles (3) - red licorice nibs, cocoa powder (to be mixed in with your frosting), red food colouring
Desert Tile (1) - melting chocolate (to pipe out the thief), graham cracker
1) Core your cupcakes and fill with lemon curd. Frost your cupcake with some correctly coloured icing, depending on what tile you're starting with. Place one of your hexagon sugar cookies on top and cover with more icing. Decorate accordingly.