Thursday, December 20, 2012

Nuclear Chicken Apocalypse

 (cauliflower mushroom cloud)

We humans seem to have a continuing fascination with the end of the world and civilization as we know it. This is evident through the popularity of apocalypse films/fiction and also the obsession we have with the impending Apocalypse on 21.12.2012

The stories and themes present in apocalyptic films/fiction are generally a reflection of the times and examine very real concerns felt by society. In the 1950s and 1960s, many apocalyptic films/fiction focused on nuclear warfare reflecting fears of a nuclear holocaust occurring after World War II. In the 1970s through to the 1990s, the subject matter of apocalyptic films/fiction centered on government control and corruption. Now in the 21st century, there is a focus on natural disasters reflecting current concerns over climate change and viruses going out of control as a result of advancements in technology/medicine and its misuse which all accumulates into zombie territory - the natural outcome of the apocalypse is that we all eat each other. 

Out of all the apocalypse scenarios that humanity could face, I think that the threat of a nuclear apocalypse is a real concern. Until there are no nuclear weapons on this world, ‘MAD’ (aka mutually assured destruction) could happen at any time.

Game Theory provides an explanation for why countries keep stockpiling nuclear weapons and won’t agree to disarmament. Bertrand Russell famously compared the ‘Game of Chicken’ to nuclear brinkmanship

The ‘Game of Chicken’ is a type of strategic interaction in game theory modeled on conflict. It describes a situation where two people are driving their cars towards each other at high speeds on a collision course and there are two strategies available to the drivers – go straight or swerve. One driver must swerve, or both will die in a crash, but if one driver swerves and the other does not, the one who swerved will be called a ‘chicken’. Each driver prefers to not be the ‘chicken’, but the worst possible outcome is when both drivers don’t chicken out. So as each driver attempts to secure their best outcome (ie: not be the chicken), they risk the worst. In the situation of a nuclear arms race, countries are essentially engaging in a showdown that is similar to the car race in that no one wants to back down and appear weak. 

So my final apocalyptic dish is a tribute to the doctrine of ‘rationality of irrationality’, where a rational strategy would be to do something irrational as it can be a way of achieving credibility for threats. The possession of nuclear weapons is irrational but for some nation states it is a completely rational way of keeping away threats and protecting their sovereignty by putting themselves in a self-destructive situation, which is to the detriment of its people as resources are diverted away to building weapons rather than society, not to mention the risks of nuclear annihilation faced by many hundreds of millions of people. This is madness right? (If you want a real world example, look to North Korea)

My apocalypse cooking ends with a Chicken Nuclear Apocalypse. 


Grilled turmeric and lemongrass chicken wings from bonappetit.

 (Nuclear Chicken)

Deep fried cauliflower

Cut a cauliflower into florets. Cook the cauliflower in a large pot of salted water for 5-6 minutes until it is tender. Drain the cauliflower and refresh under cold water, allow to drip dry.

Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Dust cauliflower in a little flour mixed with curry powder, shaking off the excess. Deep fry until the cauliflower has browned. Remove and place on a plate lined with paper towels.

Baked potato 

Wash a potato, wipe dry with a paper towel and then use a fork to poke some holes in it. Rub some olive oil onto the skin and some salt. Place the potato on a tray and bake for 30 minutes.

Turmeric Rice

Wash 1 cup of basmati and soak in water for 15 minutes. Then drain thoroughly.

In a frying pan heat 1 tablespoon of ghee with 2 cloves and 20 curry leaves. Add rice to the pan, spices (1/4 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon garam masala, ½ teaspoon cumin) and salt to taste. Mix to coat the rice.

Pour in 2 cups of boiling water or stock. Cover with a lid and cook on medium heat till the rice is done 10-12 minutes.

Check out my other Apocalyptic Posts:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Yaki Onigiri and Dashi Green Tea Broth – Ochazuke

My first experience of ochazuke was during my first visit to Jun Japanese Kushi-Yaki restaurant a few months ago. My friends and I ordered an assortment of izakaya dishes to share and seeing on the menu a dish called ‘yaki onigiri with salmon flakes in a clear broth’ I had to order it for myself. I love eating soup with rice added in it. The dish came in a bowl with a yaki onigiri inside hot off the grill with a crunchy crust, which gives way to soft fluffy rice inside when you break it apart. With contrasting rice textures, bits of salmon providing flavour against the subtlety of a simple broth, it was very pleasant and comforting to eat. 

I researched the dish and found that I had consumed ochazuke - a Japanese dish consisting of a bowl of rice with different savoury toppings and green tea poured in to submerge the rice. It is commonly served at the end of a meal as green tea is good for digestion, eaten as a midnight snack or enjoyed as a light meal at any time of the day. It’s also considered a good hangover cure as the antioxidants in green tea help to detoxify the liver, and has the qualities of a chicken soup as it’s tasty, hearty and nourishing and something that people like to eat when they are not feeling well. So I can’t find a reason why I wouldn’t want to be eating ochazuke all the time, especially when it’s so easy to prepare. At a very basic level it’s just rice and green tea, which by itself is quite bland but there is a lot that you can do to elevate the flavour and provide different textures. I have been making ochazuke at home containing yaki onigiri to get rice that is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. I add salmon flakes cooked Nobu style where the salmon is marinated in sake, mirin, miso and sugar for 2-3 days resulting in a wonderfully tender, sweet and slightly caramelized fish. I like sprinkling furikake over the top, providing a mix of savoury flakes, and instead of just pouring in green tea, I combine green tea and dashi to get a broth that has more depth of flavour with an umami hit. 

Any green tea can be used but I like to use genmaicha which is green tea leaves with roasted brown rice as the rice balances out the grassy flavour of the tea by providing savoury aromatics with a toasted, nutty flavour. 

I love the concept of ochazuke and it has become one of my favourite comfort foods. Here’s my version of ochazuke. Enjoy :)

Yaki Onigiri


•    cooked plain hot sushi rice shaped into a triangle with onigiri mould or shape with hands (use this method)
•    soy sauce mixture - 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 ½ tablespoon mirin
(pack the rice in, insert the top part of the mold, squish down and release your onigiri)

 (Onigiri mould)


Heat a frying pan with a little oil. On a medium heat, fry each side of the onigiri until the rice forms a crisp skin and is lightly brown, then brush each side with some soy sauce mixture and continue to fry each side on a low heat until it forms a nice crust. 

Note: Keep a careful watch over the onigiri when frying it after it has been brushed with the soy sauce mixture as it can burn.

 (Yaki Onigiri)

Grilled Salmon Nobu Style 

(Adaptation of Nobu’s Miso-Marinated Black Cod recipe via momofukufor2


•    2 salmon fillets with skin (about 200g each)
Miso Marinade
•    2 tablespoons sake
•    2 tablespoons mirin
•    2 tablespoons white miso paste
•    1 ½ tablespoon sugar


In a small saucepan, bring the mirin and sake to a boil over medium heat, then turn the heat down to low and whisk in the miso until it has dissolved. Turn heat up to medium, add sugar and cook, whisking until it has just dissolved.

Transfer marinade to a baking dish and let cool. Then add the salmon fillets, turn to coat evenly with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 days. 

Preheat oven to 200C. Heat frying pan and add some oil. Take the salmon fillets out of the miso marinade and lightly wipe off the excess with a paper towel and pat dry. Add the fillets into the pan and cook skin side down over medium-high heat until browned (1-2 minutes). Flip the fillets over and cook for 10-20 seconds, then put them onto a baking sheet and roast for ~ 10 minutes.

Break apart salmon into flakes.

Dashi Green Tea Broth


•    Japanese Green Tea (I used genmaicha - green tea leaves with roasted brown rice)
[pic – green tea]
Dashi Stock
•    3 cups water
•    10cm square piece kombu (dried kelp)
•    3 tablespoons of katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) 


Dashi Stock
•    Using scissors, make a few snips into the kombu to help release the flavours. Place water and kombu in a saucepan and soak for at least 30 minutes (the kombu will soften and expand).
•    Place the pan over medium heat and bring to boil. Just before it reaches boiling point, remove the kombu and discard. Add the katsuobushi to the pot, boil for 30 seconds. Turn the heat off and let steep for 5 minutes.
•    Strain dashi stock through a fine sieve. Do not squeeze out the flakes, as this will make the stock cloudy and very fishy. 

Make green tea according to packet instructions

For 1 cup of hot water, I added 2 teaspoons of green tea and let it stand for 60 seconds, then strain.

Dashi and Green Tea Broth

When ready to serve – combine 1 cup of green tea with 1 cup of dashi stock, then season with a little salt to taste. 


Place a yaki onigiri in a bowl, add salmon flakes on top of the onigiri and sprinkle over some furikake. Pour in dashi green tea broth to submerge the onigiri.

 (Onigiri topped with salmon flakes and furikake)


Sunday, December 16, 2012

What to eat in an Apocalypse – Canned Apocalypse.

My apocalypse food haul
In this day and age, when everyone is trying to cook more from scratch using fresh produce, eat better, healthier and sustainably … after much research, I am reluctant to say but I have come to accept that in the event of an apocalypse, canned foods will become your best friend. The reality is that you’ll be fighting your neighbour for the last can of baked beans and it will no longer be anything to be ashamed of. 

Canned potatoes
Throughout human history, food preservation has been essential to survival. Traditional methods of preserving foods include drying, salting, smoking and pickling. Modern food processing was developed in the nineteenth century to serve military needs and canning was invented as a cheap and effective method of preserving large amounts of food for long periods of time. Canning is a form of sterilisation, which involves cooking food, sealing it in cans or jars, and boiling the containers to kill or weaken any remaining bacteria and micro-organisms which cause food decay. The advent of canned food was valuable for feeding troops on the battleground and enabled the extension of military campaigns and larger scale wars. Canned food was then adopted commercially due to the rise in demand for convenience food for working families. Having some canned food in the pantry now would be a staple for most families. 

Canned Mushrooms
It’s interesting to note how a lot of modern technological advancements have occurred during wartime, in times of adversity, technological development is accelerated as we adapt and create tools to solve problems. During the Second World War, there was increased funding for computer development to exploit its potential strategic importance and shortages of natural rubber led to the US government to embark on a program to produce a substitute, leading to improved synthetic rubber production. The capabilities of the Internet were also advanced during the Cold War to create a virtual communications network that would be immune to a nuclear attack. 

So I wonder what technological developments the impending apocalypse will bring?

Looks like the Japanese are already ahead in the game. 

Water Scarce After the Apocalypse? Install These Water-Conserving Cyborg Internal Organs

Japanese design studio Takram are designing a set of robotic organs called the Hydrolemic System which regulates how much water the human body can retain and recycle. This system could keep people alive on just 32 millilitres of water a day! 

This year I have noticed a lot of articles popping up on 3D food printing. Is 3D printing the future of food in an apocalypse?

3D printing could radically change the nature of food and how we consume it.  Edible inks, well anything with a liquid consistency are used to print food that can potentially look like anything. This technology could convert alternative ingredients such as proteins from algae or even insects into tasty looking products by grounding it up and mixing with other liquids to create novel food inks. A food printer could also open the pathway to personalised food where nutritional requirements could be customised and food preferences met. 

3D printing is still in its infancy so in the meantime, canned is the way to go. It is convenient to stock up on canned food in an apocalypse. It’s cheap and accessible to all. 

What canned foods do you currently have in your cupboard? Have you stocked up?

Canned Salmon
There are many benefits of eating canned food in an apocalypse:

•    Canned food is a safe option. Did you know that you should avoid plant life unless you know for a fact that it’s edible (not poisonous) because plants have an array of mechanical and chemical defenses against insects and herbivores. Animals, fish and insect life are a better bet. At least you can without a doubt know that canned food will be safe to eat as long as it is still sealed and the container has not been damaged.

•    Canned food has a long storage life. If stored well in cool, dark and dry conditions at room temperature (between approximately 20-25 C degrees) and not opened or dented, its storage life can be prolonged beyond 2-4 years. Canned food as old as 100 years have been found in sunken ships to still be microbiologically safe to eat. 

•    Canned food is convenient to prepare as the food inside the can has already been cooked during the canning process so you don’t really need to cook it before eating. Bonus! Cooking time = Zero. 

•    Contrary to popular belief, canned food can be more nutritious than their fresh counterparts. Canned pumpkin has 20 times as much vitamin A as fresh pumpkin because the intense heat of canning breaks the fruit’s beta carotene away from the protein to which it is normally bound. Canned tomatoes contain as much and sometimes more lycopene (cancer protective carotenoid) as fresh ones. Canned salmon is higher in calcium than fresh or frozen salmon because the salmon is canned with its calcium-rich bones, where the canning heat process softens them so they are easily ingested with the meat of the fish.

•    Empty cans have versatile uses – you could use them to store things, make a ‘two cans and string’ telephone to communicate with fellow survivors or use as a weapon to throw at zombies.   

Here are some meal ideas using canned foods I have developed for Apocalyptic times. I have used canned ingredients as well as other non-perishable goods like spices, flour and instant noodles. Stock up!

Warning: There were no fresh ingredients used in the following recipes. This was a first for me!

BREAKFAST – No knead bread and canned sardines

Bread is a food staple and nothing beats fresh bread straight from the oven. I have never made bread before and wondered what would be the easiest way to make bread in case I ever have a craving for it in an apocalypse. I found a no knead bread recipe from the New York Times by Jim Lahey which has become quite well known as the go to simple bread recipe to make at home. It was very easy to make and required almost no effort, and the result was crusty bread with an interior that is spongey and light. 

Baked no knead bread

Canned sardines are the Asian equivalent of canned tuna. I ate canned sardines with tomatoes quite a bit when I was young because my family was poor and it provided a cheap and easy meal. My mum would often prepare it for lunch and we’d stuff a crusty Vietnamese style bread roll with sardines.

Canned sardines with tomatoes
Sardines on fresh baked bread! Couldn’t think of a better way to start the day if I was living in an apocalypse.

I always heat the sardines through but you could probably just have them straight from the can.

LUNCH – Canned vegetable and bean patties

Vegetables are readily available canned. In its processed form, straight from the can, I do not find canned vegetables very pleasant to eat as the canning process renders vegetables overcooked resulting in a decline in flavour, soft and mushy (basically blah!). But I found a way to add texture and make canned vegetables palatable – mash up vegetables with spices and make them into patties. The spices provide flavour and frying the patties gives them some crunch factor. A lot of canned vegetables are preserved in just water and salt, thus canned vegetables tend to be salty which reduces the need for additional seasoning. Tip: do not need to add any salt when cooking with canned food.

Canned Vegetables

Add 1 can of potatoes (drained and chopped into 3cm pieces), ½ can of butter beans (drained), ½ cup of peas (drained), ¼ cup of breadcrumbs, 1-2 teaspoons of cornflour and 2-3 teaspoons of spices to taste (I used a mix of ground cumin, ground paprika and ground turmeric). Use a potato masher to mash everything up roughly. Shape the mix into patties that are about 1.5 cm thick and 5cm in diameter. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the patties until golden brown on each side. 

Add some grilled canned asparagus and jarred pickled vegetables as sides. Lunch is served.

DINNER – Instant ramen noodles with canned vegetables and salmon

Stash of instant noodles at my parents
There is always a stash of instant noodles at my parents house (essentials for any Asian household) and growing up I ate instant noodles as much as others would have eaten fast food. They are bad for you but tasty with an addictive dose of MSG and artificial flavours, and can always be depended on for quick meal fix. Instant noodles in my household are never eaten alone, they are always padded out with whatever meat and vegetables can be found lying around in the fridge. All that is required is hot water, although sometimes it can even be consumed directly as a snack without further cooking. 

Gourmet Ramen
So in an apocalypse I can imagine that instant noodles will become a go to meal for me, made into a gourmet meal with the addition of canned vegetables such as bamboo shoots and mushrooms, canned salmon, plus some nori sheets.

Do you cook with canned foods? Do you have some recipes to share?

(p.s I have one more Apocalyptic Dish to post, check back before 21.12.12)

Check out my other Apocalyptic Posts:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stir Fried Hokkien Noodles

Noodles are one of the staples of Chinese cuisine, after all the Chinese invented it. Although the origin of noodles has been a matter of debate, the 2005 discovery of 4000-year-old millet noodles in China (the oldest noodles ever unearthed) provided evidence to settle the argument that noodles were first produced in China and not Italy or the Middle East.

Noodles featured regularly on my plate growing up. They make for a simple and economical meal, and its long shape has been used to symbolise longevity and for celebrations such as weddings, birthdays or Chinese New Year, there will always be a special noodle dish served to represent long life and good health.

A packet of Yunion’s Hokkien noodles was included in the November Urban Locavore box and when I picked up my box, I knew that there was nothing better to do with it than to cook some stir fried Hokkien noodles. The Hokkein noodles were in the Urban Locavore box to be teamed up with Red Hot Spatula’s laksa paste but I only used half a packet in the stir fry so there was plenty leftover for laska. So from one packet of Yunion Hokkein noodles, you can cook two different dishes – laksa and stir fried noodles! 

Stir fried Hokkein noodles is one of those dishes that would be in every Chinese family’s repertoire, a simple home fare. I learnt to cook it from my dad but overtime I have tweaked the recipe here and there. My version is a little lighter in that it’s not lathered with a dark thick sauce which is what you might get if you order it at a restaurant. It’s a bit drier as I don’t use stock and the sauce is absorbed straight onto the noodle. The addition of hoisin gives the sauce more sweeter undertones against the soy sauce but I think I have found a good balance of flavour. 

If you cook this dish, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do :)

Stir Fried Hokkien Noodles

(Original recipe by Blue Apocalypse)


•    500g Hokkien noodles (I used half a bag of the Yunion Hokkein noodles)
•    250g chicken thigh (chopped into bite sized pieces and marinated for 20 minutes with a bit of salt, pepper and oyster sauce)
•    10-12 prawns (shelled and deveined)
•    3 garlic cloves (minced)
•    1 bunch choy sum (trim the ends, chopped into 5cm lengths, washed and divided into stems and leaves)
•    1 cup of carrots (finely julienned)
•    2 cups of bean sprouts

Choy Sum
Note: Although you can use any type of vegetable (cabbage, kai lan, bok choy), my choice of Asian green for this dish is choy sum which is characterised by small yellow flowers which has a mild mustard like flavour.

Sauce Mixture
(Approximate quantities, can adjust to taste – if you want it a bit saltier add more soy sauce, if you prefer more sweetness add a little more oyster or hoisin sauce)

•    3 ½ tablespoons oyster sauce
•    3 teaspoons light soy sauce
•    3 teaspoons dark soy sauce
•    ¾ tablespoon hoisin sauce


In a pot of hot boiling water, blanch the noodles for about 60 seconds (use chopsticks to break up/untangle the noodles) and thoroughly drain. This loosens and warms up the noodles, as well as removing some of the excess oil on the noodles.

Excess oil

Heat some oil in a wok and fry the chicken, when it starts to brown, add in the prawns and stir fry until the chicken and the prawns are cooked. Remove and set aside.

Heat a little more oil in the wok and fry the crushed garlic for 30 seconds, then add in the Hokkien noodles and stir fry for a bit to combine with garlic (I find it easier to use chopsticks to stir and toss the noodles around).

Add in the choy sum stems and stir fry until they start to soften, about 2 minutes (I like to cover all the choy sum with the noodles and let it steam for a bit). 

Then add in the carrots and bean sprouts and stir fry for 1 minute. Add in the choy sum leaves, cooked chicken and prawns, sauce mixture and a little salt.  Stir fry everything together for 1-2 minutes until the sauce mixture is thoroughly mixed through and coats the noodles.


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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chocolate Tofu Cake. No Eggs. No Butter. Vegan Friendly.

“Secret Cake Club Perth is a group of bakers, food lovers, friends, strangers and general lovers of social gatherings, who come together once every 4-6 weeks to celebrate their love of baking. We set a theme, and up until the last moment, the location of the event is secret! We all show up to the secret location with our baked goods in hand, eat as much or as little cake as we feel like!”  (

The last Secret Cake Club Perth for 2012 was held on Saturday 1 December and the theme was “Secret Ingredients” with a competition to see who could guess correctly the most secret ingredients. It was interesting to see what people came up with, there was so much creativity as well as trickery, as people tried their best to conceal what the secret ingredient in their cake was. So much so, that out of 13 cakes the highest score achieved for guessing the correct secret ingredient(s) in the cakes was 2 and Jacqui indicated that she had been very generous with her marking. I got a score of 1. 

It was quite hard trying to guess the secret ingredient(s) in the cakes. Often I could detect something but found it hard to articulate what the ingredient was, I couldn’t put a name to it. As the ingredients are mixed altogether into the cake batter, it’s easy to disguise the taste of something by combining it with a stronger flavour (eg: cocoa/chocolate). After a few cakes I was kind of drunk on sugar in that I could no longer concentrate properly or recognize flavours in the cakes. There are on average 12-15 cakes brought to each cake club event but I never eat every single cake, I generally taste a few and take a piece of the others home for later. One can only eat so much cake! But this time around, because it was a competition, I ate every (well almost) cake. 

 Cakes with number display - write down secret ingredient guess next to cake number.
My cake was No. 10

When I was trying to come up with a secret ingredient for my cake, a number of ideas ran through my head such as using different spices, adding alcohol or incorporating vegetables, but I felt that it would be to obvious. I wanted to use an ingredient that people wouldn’t normally think of adding to a cake.

In the end I settled on tofu as my secret ingredient. I had come across it being used in desserts before but I had never eaten tofu in a dessert or made a sweet dish with tofu before. I love eating tofu but it’s one of those ingredients that people either love or hate, with the haters perceiving it as bland and find the texture strange. I’ve grown up eating tofu in many savoury dishes – stir fried, deep fried, grilled and steamed, I’m all over it. Tofu is one of my favourite Asian ingredients. 

I googled for a tofu cake recipe and settled on a chocolate cake as I thought that the chocolate would be the best at masking the taste of tofu. What I also found out was that tofu can be used as a substitute for eggs in baking. I used an Eggless Chocolate Cake recipe from the Eggless Cooking blog. The mixture is enough to make a two layer cake but I ended up making a one layer cake and used the rest of the mixture to make muffins so that I could try some of the cake before cake club to make sure that it was ok. For the icing, I simply melted some chocolate and butter together, then dusted the top with a little cocoa powder.

The recipe for the cake contains a pretty standard list of chocolate cake ingredients - flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, sugar, vegetable oil, milk, coffee and vanilla extract, except that there are no eggs and butter with ½ a cup of pureed silken tofu added instead.

Puree tofu looks like yoghurt

When the cake finished baking I was surprised at how well it turned out. It rose nicely and the texture ticked all the boxes of what a cake should be - it had developed a nice crumb, it was moist and a bit dense which is what you want in a chocolate cake. It tasted fine and was very similar to other chocolate cakes I have eaten. But it’s quite strange to take an ingredient that you have grown up eating in certain ways and putting it in a different context. Knowing that it contained tofu and I was not making a stir fry with it, for some reason I couldn’t get it out of my head that there was something not quite right about the cake. My mind kept trying very hard to convince me that the cake kind of smelt weird, the texture was a bit off… having tofu in cake just feels kind of wrong…

 Chocolate Muffins

 Baked Chocolate Tofu Cake

Chocolate Tofu Cake

At Secret Cake Club Perth everyone commented on how good my chocolate cake tasted and no one detected what the secret ingredient was. Before revealing the secret ingredient, I asked everyone if there was anything that they felt was weird about the cake but everyone thought the cake was delicious, no one felt that there was anything odd about it. No one could tell that there was tofu in it. So I fooled everyone, including myself. A chocolate cake with tofu and no eggs or butter = a deliciously moist, rich tasting and dense chocolate cake. Another bonus is that it’s vegan friendly and would be quite healthy too.

The other cakes at Secret Cake Club had secret ingredients that I would never have thought of to include in a cake – cannellini beans, five spice powder, Corona (yes the beer), balsamic vinegar, chickpea in icing and special mention goes to this cupcake that contained 7 secret ingredients and multiple layers of flavours inside.

This cupcake was made by Dervla Delights – the cupcake batter contained matcha powder and Japanese mayonnaise which was dyed brown to fool us into thinking it was chocolate. There was jelly inside containing mango and lychee puree and a layer of caramel with coconut cream powder inside. An almond crumble was sprinkled over the top with nori and chilli powder. 

Although it is bursting with a parade of flavours and layers of textures, there was a unity in the cupcake which you don’t expect when you eat it all at once. This cupcake was on another level. 

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