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October 25, 2013

parasite (in foot) cake.

Okay. Give me a chance to explain.

I'm in a Parasite Ecology class/lab. Recently, the class was assigned this creative extra project sort of thing that we could do for a chance to win a large fish to dissect in lab. Large fish = more parasites for my partner and I to isolate!

The result of my attempt? this cake.

I actually initially wanted to write a blogpost on this endeavour to validate the fact that I didn't just find a picture online - that I actually baked, shaped, and created this beauty (if that's what you'd like to call it).

But then I started searching online for inspiration / to see other similar things, because the world is huge right? Someone else must have made a parasite edible item of any sort too?

It turns out there aren't many things that come up, although that heart one out there is pretty nicely done. Which make my tons of pictures of the process just slightly irrelevant, but I have them, and so they are going up.

Let's start with some background!

So parasites are not those things that crawl around rotting material. That's bacteria. Parasites are eukaryotic organisms that live in/on a host, and generally, the host suffers from this relationship, while the parasite benefits. Hosts can be animals - from fish to moose to humans.

This specific cake details a situation termed "larva migrans." This involves a type of roundworm parasite (a nematode). Parasites are usually extraordinarily adapted to specific hosts. That means that there is a type of roundworm that infects dogs specifically. There's another separate species that infects humans. And so on. When a roundworm penetrates a host other than its own (ie - dog roundworm in a human), there be issues.

And that issue is called larva migrans.

This is just a general summary of the condition and parasites in general, but it should suffice to explain the cake!

Onto the sculpting process!

I started with cake mix and canned frosting ... I had such difficulty buying these. I think I feel more comfortable making fortune cookies from scratch than doctoring up a cake mix.

I baked the cake in a 7x11" pan. I added yogurt in place of some of the water. To make the cake more flesh-toned (not necessary, but Type A personality here), start with yellow cake mix, then add 2-3 drops liquid red food dye.

While the cake was baking, I prepared the frosting. I dumped in into a bowl and immediately added some vanilla extract. I also added the teeniest pellet of yellow food dye powder ever. Can you see it in the picture?? It's in a fold of the frosting, seeping a little into the vanilla.

Anyway, that barely did anything, so I continued on to add yellow powder (mostly), orange powder (very little), red dye (few drops, less than yellow though), and green dye (just 1 drop). Voila, flesh-toned frosting!!

The cake was still baking, so I prepared the "worm" too - didn't have twizzlers, but found random strawberry licorice that I cut up!

After the cake has baked and cooled, start stenciling out your foot shape. I literally just looked at my own foot and carved freehand. Have fun with it! My initial stencil looks kind of like a scolex ..

I cut the main foot part horizontally to make it thinner. Pile on scrap pieces to make a stub of an ankle. Carve out the toes roughly.

Using plain frosting (any kind - don't use your dyed frosting!!), apply a crumb coat. Apply enough to coat all the crumbs and make any loose pieces of the ankle adhere. I chilled the foot halfway through before finishing the crumb coat. Also, this is when you place on your red parasite. Chill the foot for at least an hour.

Apply the flesh-toned frosting. Really get into the toes. It's encouraging to see a seemingly senseless mass of cake scraps and pieces meld into a cohesive, not bad looking foot! If you'd like, take a drop (or half drop) or liquid red food dye on your finger and dab around the area of the worm. It will enhance the inflamed look.

What do you think?! I was pretty proud. Fondant may have looked better, but I appreciated the overall simplicity of it. No need for fancy instructions or ingredients (besides the dye, perhaps, but that's extra anyway). It inspires me to do other complex cakes! Perhaps in the future....

But until then. Who wants the slice with the parasite? (he he)

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