Milena’s Cooking Adventures
Sailing in the black void, accompanied only by the humming sound of your own failing engines, you see one distant piercing light. Could it be salvation? Your crew, gaunt and mutinous, eye you hungrily. The violent thoughts you sense in their gaze send a shudder down your spine. Your ship’s light flickers, then fails, and your heart leaps in the hope that the faraway light is another ship, a lighthouse, a desperate beacon of deliverance. You approach as your fuel drains away, making guttural noises in the dark, drifting ever more slowly forwards. Suddenly, fear grips like a vice over your heart, as all becomes clear. One giant glowing eye rises from the watery abyss. This is no lighthouse. It is death.
Sunless Sea is not a computer game known for its kindness to players. A vast dark map, set in a claustrophobic underground cavern, is the playing field for your tiny vessel, which navigates such horrors as cannibalism, bloody secret rituals, monstrous sentient icebergs, crimson nightmares, sacrificial victims, drugged dreams of chitinous insects, and violent corrupt courts ready at a second’s notice to tear you limb from limb. The gameplay is frustrating. Without a physical notebook by your side, keeping track of quests is nigh impossible. Your “Terror” bar is always on the rise, and when it hits the maximum, your character careens into permanent insanity. When you drift too far in the black ocean, to die alone and afraid, you stay dead. You must start over.
Naturally I thought this all was an excellent theme for a cake. 🙂
In 2017, FailBetter Games, creator of Fallen London and Sunless Seas, held a kickstarter for their new game, Sunless Skies. Unlike ordinary people who put up cheery kickstarters with normal prizes for donators, FailBetter Games proved themselves the unusual strange and twisted creators they are. Extra challenges included costume contests, stories, and one challenge to create a themed cake.
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, said this particular sea captain, despite having zero time that weekend. In a feverish state of exhaustion (only appropriate for such a game) I put together a cake that would honour the horror I knew so well from Sunless Seas.
I started with the image of terrible things coming up from the depths of the sea. In one particular area of the game, your ship sails over an underwater graveyard of huge glowing white bones. Though no enemies emerge in that location, it has always made me shudder.
For the bottom layer, I made a chocolate no-bake cheesecake base that I set in the fridge. Then I piped separate white chocolate bones onto parchment paper and stuck them into the cheesecake when they were set.
I then added some crumbled oreos to mimic stones and dirt.
Then began the dark flood. Blue raspberry jello, made more intriguing by the addition of green food colouring, cascaded over the ancient bones. Thick liquid oozed over the chocolate ocean floor. Of course, this being a Sunless Sea cake, nothing truly went as planned. The cheesecake tin was not waterproof, and the gelatinous matter spilled out the cracks. Meanwhile, the warm jello mixture began to melt and warp the bones. After a brief moment of panic, it was remarkably satisfying to watch, and fit the game’s atmosphere perfectly. It was perhaps the most pleased I’ve been about a cooking disaster. I shored it up with a baking pan and shoved it in the fridge to set as quickly as possible, before it all leaked out…
As it set, I crafted some marshmallow fondant and created a little ship to sail the lonely sea.
All that was left was to light its “ship’s light” and send it out on its long and nightmarish journey.
The shadows approached, the sea beckoned, and from somewhere far above, the breath of the gods (that’s me) sent a cruel wind to douse its insignificant flame…
My brother took this small lost ship to Twitter, where it helped the Sunless Skies kickstarter achieve its cakey goals.
Then we gods revelled. We ate ship and crew, and drank in the black depths of the ocean, crunching the submerged bones, swallowing the grime and the dirt, laughing with stained teeth and blue tongues. The cake entered our body, and we were revived. Or, with poetic license, as Sunless Seas might say:
There were screams— a flood of dark water— the unforgettable sound of a ship’s spine breaking. There were no witnesses but the gods.
[I’m not including a recipe in this post, since the flavours– blueberry jello and chocolate cheesecake– though good on their own, turned out to be rather weird together, and the technique needs work. I’m planning on perfecting a recipe like this one for further adventures. The idea is good. The player’s execution, like any good game, needs some more thought and practice.]