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Cake or Cheesecake?

Why not both?

Most Sundays we get together with a few friends to play have some fun in our imaginations with a good ol’ tabletop RPG (we’re being pirates in 7th Sea right now).  Typically, this involves us making some sort of food.  If we’re hosting, it’ll be a main dish, but when we make the arduous journey to their place (it’s, maybe, 1.5 miles), we like to bring a snack, or side dish, or dessert.

Not long ago, we picked up a new bundt pan for 50% off.  What a deal!  I thought it was time to break it in, and am I glad I did.  While I can’t take credit for the recipe, I’ll take credit for googling it.  I knew I wanted to try a stuffed bundt cake, and this didn’t let me down.

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Not content with leaving the recipe alone, though, I wanted to kick up the cheesecake part a little bit.  My first instinct was to make a strawberry jam to swirl into it, and I was going to stick with that plan until we hit up the local farmer’s market.  There was a booth with a very friendly gal that let us taste a few samples, and after doing so, it was pretty clear some cherry preserves needed to go into this cake, not what would have been a lame attempt at strawberry jam by yours truly.

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My only regret is I should have used more.  The bites of cake when you get the cherry, it’s a delightful tartness to offset the richness of the dense chocolatey cake.  Those bites just didn’t happen enough.  Next time, they will.  Not that the bites without the cherry weren’t great, because they were.  It’s one of those instances where something awesome gets taken up another notch from one little addition.

As far as other modifications to the recipe, I omitted the espresso powder, simply because we didn’t have any, and I had to bake it for about 75 minutes.  I think adding a little cherry liqueur to the glaze would have been a welcome addition as well, but I thought of that too late to incorporate here.

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Part of what makes creating things fun and worthwhile is when you get to share those things with other people.  I don’t think I’d make nearly as many things as I do if I just kept them to myself (though I was tempted to do that with this cake, at the risk of suffering Tiffany’s wrath).  Luckily, when you bake something, it’s much easier to share the results with others.  They appreciate eating cake much more than they do anything I’ve ever tried to feed them that I’ve made from wood.

 

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Stir the Pot

It’s a spoon.  I made it from Bolivian Coffee wood.  It took a few hours, and this being the first project I’ve filmed, it took longer than it probably would have otherwise.  But I enjoyed it, it was a fun process (I’ll dive into the process in a bit, you can also hop over to YouTube and watch it there), and I hope the recipient enjoys it (I’ll talk more about this now).

The team I work with does a lot to impact how our business operates.  We do good work, and it’s reflected on our reputation.  We aren’t ones to just let things be the way they are, simply because that’s the way they’ve been.  We’re happy to be the ones to stir the pot.

Recently, the manager of our team suggested in an email chain that we should have something at our desks to remind us, or ask us, “Did you stir the pot today?”.  I thought it would be a neat project to whip something up and get it on her desk before she got back in the office.  My mind jumped right to a wooden spoon.  Maybe with the phrase “Stir the pot” engraved onto it somehow.  But then you just have a spoon lying there, and I don’t really have an easy way to engrave right now.  “Why not make a stand for it?”  I asked myself.  “Duh, I can 3D print such a thing,” I responded.  So after work, I stopped to get a chunk of wood, and got to work.

I used one of our wooden spoons as a template to get the basic shape I was going for.

Tracing Spoon

After having it traced out, it was just a matter of getting the basic shape roughed out.  That started at the bandsaw to remove the excess by the handle, then used the lathe to turn the handle down to a cylinder shape with a couple little details for some flair.

With the handle done, it was time to hollow out the spoon part.  Had I picked up some carving tools, this would have gone much quicker.  Alas, I used what I had available.  The drill press with a forstner bit made short work of getting the bulk of the wood out of the way.  Then it was on to some carving with a rotary tool.  This left behind a really uneven surface, and while trying to even it out, I thought I’d end up carving right through the entire thing.  Eventually I remembered that I had a curved scraper (which I hadn’t used before this project).  Once I started using this, I was able to smooth out the roughness left behind by the rotary tool, and get a (mostly) consistent spoon shape.

Then it was just a matter of getting the outside of the spoon to look more like a spoon.  This is where a belt sander really comes in handy.

Sanding

With the shape of the spoon done, I put on a thick coat of mineral oil (so it can be food safe should it ever be used as an actual spoon), and got to work on crafting a stand for it.

This was the hardest part of this project.  I’m very much still a noob when it comes to 3D modeling.  But I opened up Fusion 360 and got to work.  A few hours later, and voila!

Model

It was late, so I set it to print, and went to bed just hoping that it would print successfully over night.  Spoiler Alert!  It did.  And with that, and just a touch of paint to highlight the phrase, we had a completed project.

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It’s a pretty neat spoon, in my biased opinion.  It’s also a good reminder, not just at work, but in general, don’t be content with things as they are simply because you’ve grown accustomed to them being that way.  If there’s an opportunity for change, and that change is for the better, then dive into it.   Change can be terrifying and difficult, but if were easy, it’d probably be done already.   This attitude being an integral component of our department’s culture is a critical piece of me enjoying my job.  If you want new ideas to bubble up to the surface, you have to stir the pot.