PubCakes Cooking Class – Making Cupcakes with Beer

San Diego, CA has managed to become the craft beer capital of the country. Supposedly there are more local breweries here than any other county, including past champion Portland, OR. With places like Karl Strauss, Stone, Green Flash, Ballast Point, Pizza Port, and many more breweries, it was only a matter of time before someone smart and entrepreneurial created something like PubCakes. PubCakes are cupcakes created with craft beer. Beer in cupcakes. As if that is not mouth-watering enough, each cupcake is iced, filled, and/or topped with ingredients to match the beer flavor.

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Not long ago, Misty Birchall, the creator of these delights, did a Kickstarter campaign, so she could start selling craft beer cake mixes, so people like me could actually try making such cakes. Despite my non-existent baking skills, I thought this was a great idea. Even better was the option to be taught by the master herself about how to create such tasty treats. This past Saturday, I got to attend my first cooking class.

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The group of students were divided into two teams. Misty brought all the custom ingredients for us to craft our cupcakes. Mango, lemon, lime, orange, chili, cayenne, honey, vanilla extract, bacon, sea salt, Jameson’s, jalapeno sauce, chocolate, strawberries, pecans, almonds, coconut, peanut butter, and more were available for our noses to match with the specific beers. I was on Team Spicy, which ended up using the chili and cayenne. Team Brought The Beer did just that and was willing to share.

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I was definitely beyond my baking knowledge in this class. Most of the others already had good skills, following Misty’s detailed explanations easily. One woman had an apron that read “Baking is Science for Hungry People”, which she got from the online comic Questionable Content. Not that our skills mattered much. We made the decisions and Misty ended up doing most of the work. I did learn how to use an apple corer to create a space for cupcake filling. And to hold the icing bag like a boob. And how to melt chocolate correctly in a microwave. And to use a scale for measuring ingredients. And that I need to hang out with my foodie friends more often.

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In the end, each team crafted three cupcakes each. I wish I could remember the three beers used. But it was 9 AM on a Saturday and I had three (half) beers and three (half) cupcakes before lunch. What was unforgettable was how good they all were. Some were more successful than others. Besides leaving with more than six cupcakes and a bag of craft beer cake mix, the experience was a fun time. It was a mixed group of people (about half men and half women) that ended up having fun making and tasting and joking and learning together. My hope is that Misty gets to do these classes more often. We were the guinea pigs. Many more would enjoy just how crafty she can be with beer and cake.

Interesting Stuff Last Month – September 2013

Steve McCurry Looks Back on His Stories Career
“Certainly when you have the time to really dig deep into a story, it is a great opportunity to explore every aspect of a topic and potentially find some interesting angles to include in the story. The same can be said for continuing to return to the same places over the span of many years.”

Military Rape, Enemy Within the Ranks
Photo-journalistic investigation into an odious problem. A good example of how one story can lead to another.

Sam Abell Interview
“It’s shifted in a good way, away from what you might call the singular successful image, to the sustained body of work. Yes, there are billions more photographers, and billions more photographs every day, but who’s building up a point of view? Who’s photographing with intention, and whose body of work will sustain itself and survive?”

RIP Gotham – Rands in Repose
A lament and attempt at recreating the discarded Instagram Filter.

Top 12 Photos by Paul Caponigro – Selected by John Paul Caponigro
The photographer and educator picks the top 12 photos created by his equally famous father. The result offers insights into both artists.

How Three Famous Photographs Were Edited Before Photoshop
The exhibit for Richard Avedon’s “Portraits of Power” included a photo of Jackie Kennedy done for Life magazine with marks similar to those shown in this article. It is naive to think that photos were pristine before the digital age.

The Economic Collapse Seen Through Aerial Photos of Abandoned Mansions
A fascinating way to visualize the economic fall out of the Great Recession.

Witness to a Massacre in a Nairobi Mall by Taylor Hicks
The photojournalist goes into an active terrorist attack as the police try to get bystanders to safety and contain the attackers. Truly news as it was happening.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About James Porto
A short interview with a wildly creative photographer. I had been clipping Porto’s early covers for Wired, before I was fortunate to meet him. Wish I had been able to take the Photo-Illustration class with him at SVA.

Francis Cisafio: Filter Photo Festival Blow Up Winner
I see faces everywhere and in many inanimate objects. So it’s always fun to see people mess around to create new faces.

Marty Knapp – Portrait of a Photographer
A short film about a photographer in northern California, who has been photographing Point Reyes for a long time.

Laurie Rubin Interviews Brook Shaden for Women in Photography
A good friend interviews a fascinating photo artist who is starting to gain recognition for her work. A future blog post will review her book, which comes out soon.

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling
Very good advice for those telling stories in any medium – visual or otherwise.

Road trip begins for world’s largest film camera
Although cameras like this are a novelty, the prints must be amazing to see in person.

Interesting Stuff Last Month – August 2013

A fascinating peek into Dinner in New York
How people in New York eat dinner is as unique as each person. Here’s an interesting view into their meal time worlds.

Day-to-Night in the City with Stephen Wilkes
Fascinating cityscapes with night and day time scenes blended together.

Bigshot – The Camera for Education
Buy a build-it-yourself digital camera for $89. Perfect for teaching kids how to make tech.

108 Years of Herman Miller in 108 Seconds
A fun, iconographic look at this influential design firm.

Photography Phone Call – Are Snapshots Dead?
A phone call conversation with photo collector, giving insight into what he looks for and why.

Kathy Ryan’s Instagram Photos on Absurd Consciousness
The photo editor for the New York Times magazine regularly knocks my socks off on Instagram. Go follow @kathyryan1

20 Photographs of Abu Dhabi by Martin Sigal
I’m partial to the industrial photos of the freeways, but the landscapes and other photos are also excellent.

Strange, Disturbing Figure Work by Masha Ermak
Very curious article about how a thesis project developed and the stunning work it produced.

Photography Is the New Universal Language and It Changes Everything
“The dialogues you can have with neuroscientists about photographic images are as interesting and as provocative as the dialogues you can have with artists.”

Maggie Taylor (video 8 min)
Another short film about Maggie Taylor, her fabulous photo composites, and how she creates them.

4 Sisters Photographed Every Year for 36 Years (Nixon Sisters)
“Whilst the fashion, haircuts and indeed their lives & personalities continue to evolve and change over the years, one thing that is incredibly evident is just how much of a loving bond there is between the four of them.”

Ellen Wallenstein Interviewed by Elizabeth Avedon about “Respecting My Elders”
An interview with one of my SVA instructors about one of her long-term projects and the book she made of it.

A Photo Editor Interview with Erik Madigan Heck
“I saw photography as a medium that was actually doing something new when Callahan took photographs, because he had perfected this space where reduction and minimalism were not exclusive to humanity.”

Interesting People on Instagram – petesouza

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”
— Ansel Adams

Pete Souza is a photojournalist. He also happens to be the Chief Official White House Photographer for President Obama. He was the primary subject of the National Geographic special and book The President’s Photographer, which described all the photographers who have had that job. His photos from the White House have been uploaded to Flickr for some time and are very worth checking out. A month or so ago, he also started posting photos to Instagram. You can follow him as @petesouza.


Besides being a rare glimpse into the political world of the President of the United States, this Instagram feed also offers a view into the head of a great photographer. Using the same, limited tools as the rest of us on Instagram, Pete Souza is showing what those tools are capable of doing.


Years ago, someone on the Photoshop team looked at the metadata from one of the White House photos and discovered that the latest version of the product was not being used to process the images. So the team sent a copy. The photographer (or the White House) sent the software back. It was a high priced gift that they could not for legal reasons accept. Although software is now used to create all digital photos, I also imagine that as photojournalists, the White House photographers cannot appear to be “Photoshopping” their images. Looking at the Instagram feed, most of the photos are very unfiltered, but there must be times when filters and frames are added.


Pete Souza is not doing selfies with POTUS. He is documenting history and working like a professional photographer. His experience shows in all the photos he takes, whether using a mobile phone or a DSLR. He is another example of an idea that many great artists express – it is the mind wielding the tools which is most important in the act of creation, not the tools themselves.

“It’s the singer not the song/ that makes the music move along.”
— Pete Townshend

White Dinner Party 2013

A few weeks ago was the 2nd White Dinner Party in San Diego. This is a pop-up party with the location released in the early afternoon on the day of the dinner. A location, tables, and chairs are provided. The rest must be brought by you and your table of friends.

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The idea is that of a spontaneous show of elegant dinning. Everyone is encouraged to wear white and to bring glass, china, linen, flowers, lights, and good food. Some tables go all out and even have personal chefs preparing the meals. Others bring fancy picnic baskets. Each table is as unique as the people dining there.

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At the right time, music starts playing and a mass dance happens. Some people have done this before. It’s a white, cloth napkin spinning line dance. And soon everyone is doing it and having fun. The meals begin with everyone soaking up the atmosphere they’ve created for their table but also across the whole pier.

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The band starts playing and the dancing really begins.

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This year the party was on the Broadway Pier near downtown. The next pier over is the berth for the USS Midway museum. The aircraft carrier’s structure with its red, white, & blue lights was a nice backdrop. The sunset and San Diego skyline also added to the ambience. And everyone had a good time.