June 2011

Bente’s Birthday Cake


When I found out my younger sister Bente was going to be in Dallas for her birthday, I suffered an extreme anxiety attack over what type of cake I was going to make. I seriously could not stop thinking about it, and google came up with nothing when I searched ‘Bente’s perfect party cake.’

The cake needed to be fun, unique, and extraordinary, just like her. I should add low maintenance to the list as well, but I don’t like baking low maintenance things.

I settled on a chocolate cake for obvious reasons. I did a mixed candy topping because Bente loves candy. She really prefers things like skittles and starburst, but that doesn’t really go with chocolate cake. Plus I was in charge and I don’t like skittles and starburst.

This chocolate cake recipe is superb. It has a perfect chocolate flavor, it’s deliciously moist, and can easily be eaten in one sitting.


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 8×2 inch pans with parchment paper, then butter and flour the bottoms and sides.
Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, baking powder, and salt in a Kitchen Aid standing mixer with a paddle attachment that you just received for your wedding shower. Just kidding, it does not need to be from your wedding shower.
In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With mixer on low, slowly pour liquid mixture into flour mixture. Add coffee, mix just until combined (over-mixing causes the cake to be dry).
Pour the batter into the pans and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let them cool completely. Prepare frosting.
Buttercream frosting:
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 stick butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4-1/2 cup whole milk
I’m not sure I would follow this frosting recipe exactly. I am a wild frosting creator that cannot be bound by anyone’s rules. Start with the first three ingredients and add the milk very slowly.
Once the frosting is done you can place the first layer of cake on your cake stand (I got the one below from my wonderful future mother-in-law), and frost the top and sides. I decided to add caramel syrup because it seemed like the right thing to do.
Let that sit for a minute, then add the second layer and finish frosting. I then took each of the following candies and crushed them into pieces: Kit-Kat, Reese’s PB Cup, M&Ms, Caramello, and Heath. I then topped the cake with the candy pieces, along with about 7 jars of rainbow sprinkles.
I finished the cake with a little more caramel syrup because it didn’t seem like I had enough stuff on there yet. Done!
Seriously, I would make this birthday cake – it is the best cake recipe I have found (other than Funfetti), and it was relatively easy to assemble. It also turns out that this cake tastes awesome the next day, and even more awesome smashed into ice cream two days later.
*** I also tried a version of this cake gluten-free for the party goers that can’t eat gluten. I followed the recipe above, but replaced the flour with a gluten-free blend, and created my own baking powder that consists of 2 parts cream of tartar, 1 part baking soda, 1 part corn starch. It tasted awesome!
I LOVE this book.

It is my favorite baking book yet, given to me by my wonderful future sister-in-law. The pictures are great and it has nice little introductions for each recipe so you know what you’re getting yourself into.  I secretly think that if the authors [Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito] met me, we would become best friends.

This weekend I tried the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake. I modified the icing to use a caramel glaze rather than the cream cheese. I think it is a perfect breakfast cake, if you’re into eating cake for breakfast.


  • 8 ounces chocolate chips
  • 1/2 t. bourbon, Scotch, or favorite liquor
  • 1 1/2 c. plus 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. rolled oats
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t. cinnamon
I notice a substantial difference when I bake with ingredients that are at room temperature. I rarely ever do it because I forget, but I would still like to tell you that you should.
Start by tossing the chocolate chips in the liquor; mix in 2 tablespoons of the flour. This will keep the chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom.
Heat 1 c. water to a boil. Pour over rolled oats and butter in a separate bowl. Mix to cover thoroughly, then let sit for 25 minutes. I admit, that is an annoying part of this recipe.
In another bowl mix the sugars, salt, soda, powder, and cinnamon. I also added vanilla here because I love it. Stir in the cooled oatmeal mixture and then the chocolate chips. I know I say this all the time, but eat some of this batter. It seriously is so good, you won’t believe yourself.
Pour into a greased/buttered 9 by 13 inch pan (I used a square pan instead, but then wasn’t able to use all the batter)…and bake at 375 degrees for exactly 45 minutes. The middle takes a while to bake thoroughly, and there is a lot of brown sugar in the recipe – so it will look dark and slightly burnt when it is not.

Take the cake out and let cool completely. For the glaze, melt 4 T. butter on low heat. Mix in 1/4 c. sugar and 1/4 c. brown sugar until dissolved. Add 1/2 c. heavy cream, and bring to a low boil. Remove from heat and pour over the cooled cake.

Mmmm….as you can see some of my chocolate chips sank to the bottom, Matt Lewis is a fraud! That’s ok, I will forgive him as that’s what best friends do. It did not impact the taste of this delicious little cake.


Chicken Stir-Fry


This is one of my all-time favorite meals. I used to choose it as my birthday dinner nearly every year growing up – it is my mom’s recipe and it is so delicious, easy, and healthy. Of course it was not so healthy when it was followed up with her to-die-for layered chocolate birthday cake.

2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 chopped onion
pinch minced garlic
1 red bell pepper
2 full broccoli crowns
1 c. chopped carrots
1 c. chopped mushrooms
1/2 can corn

1 1/2 c. water
2 T. brown sugar
3 T. corn starch
4-5 T. soy sauce

It is best to make stir-fry in a wok – mainly because it is fun, festive, and makes you look like a serious stir-fryer. Start by combining the chopped onion and 1 T. olive oil in the wok over medium heat. Cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add a pinch of minced garlic (we don’t really like garlic, you can add more here if you prefer).

Next, add the broccoli and carrots. Stir in 1/2 c. water and cover; steam the vegetables for about 5-10 minutes. Don’t over-steam because they lose their crispness.

Add mushrooms and peppers. Add more water if necessary, and steam for a few more minutes.

Remove vegetables from the wok, and add chicken with another tablespoon of olive oil. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, just until chicken is browned.

Mix vegetables in with the chicken. Add the corn. Corn, you might ask? Yes, corn. It should go in everything you make.  In a separate bowl, whisk together water, brown sugar, corn starch, and soy sauce. Add mixture to the wok, and stir until sauce thickens. Serve over rice.