Thursday, November 17, 2011

The World's "Best" Chocolate Cake

Last week was my Hubby's birthday which called for chocolate birthday cake, his personal fav.  And although he would be delighted with one of the box mix variety, I wanted something more. 

I have been on an ongoing pursuit of the perfect made-from-scratch chocolate cake for a couple of years.  Some attempts have had a resemblance of success (we ate it) and some failed miserably (so dry it needed plenty of milk to wash it down).   Not to be deterred from my quest, I used my husband's birthday as an opportunity to try out a new recipe.  

I found  "The BEST Chocolate Cake" recipe from kevin{&}amanda and gave it a try.  Now before you point out the fact that this recipe starts with a box mix let me define my idea of "from scratch".  As long as I am deviating in some way from the original directions on the back of the box I consider it from scratch.  I know, its a loose definition but box mixes have come a long way from when I was a kid making messes in my mom's kitchen.  They really are quite good; sometimes even better than homemade.  (as in brownies!)

The recipe calls for the following ingredients:
Chocolate cake mix, vegetable oil, instant chocolate pudding, milk, sour cream, eggs, vanilla and chocolate chips. 

It is an amazingly easy recipe to mix together considering it claims to be the BEST.  I guess BEST doesn't have to be HARD.  

All the ingredients minus the chocolate chips get mixed up in the bowl until well combined. 

Then the chips make their appearance.  I chose to use the mini variety.

Once they are incorporated into the batter I poured (actually scooped) it into the prepared round cake pans.

I popped these into the preheated 350 degree oven and baked them following the time guidelines on the back of the cake mix box for the appropriate pan size.  

Once the cake layers cooled, I removed them from the pans and proceeded with my favorite part of cake baking, the frosting!

I made a fudgey butter-cream chocolate frosting and l smeared it on thick.  You see, in my world cake only exists to hold up the frosting!

So, was this truly the BEST chocolate cake?  My answer is that it is the BEST I have made so far.  The chocolate chips seemed to disappear into the cake.  I really expected little chocolate chunks in the cake which may happen if I used regular sized chips but I like the extra chocolatey goodness that the mini chips gave to the texture of the cake.  It's definitely a keeper recipe. 

So thanks kevin{&}amanda for helping me on my quest.  

The Best Chocolate Cake Ever
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 small pkg instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a very large bowl, mix together everything except chocolate chips. Batter will be thick. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into cake pan of choice (I normally use two 9-inch pie pans). For cooking time, I use the cooking times on the back of the cake mix box as a guide and usually add 10 mins to whatever it says. Then I do the toothpick check, and if it’s not done, I check on it every 5 mins after that. It usually takes around 45 mins for two, 9-inch pie pans. 
P.S. I didn't add the extra 10 mins and started checking it at the end of recommended cooking time, adding extra minutes as needed. 


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

One Thing

She was just being Martha.  She was just doing what she was good at, what she was gifted to do.  She was just preparing the food that the group of hungry travelers needed.  She was just fulfilling her responsibilities as the head of her house.  But she was also distracted, worried, bothered, disturbed.

Her sister on the other hand was just being Mary.  She was just listening to Jesus, considering what He was saying.  She was just sitting at His feet as a student before a teacher.  She was just beholding His beauty, meditating on His words, heeding the call of God in her Savior. 

And that is what got Martha's goat.  "Lord, please tell her to help me!"  

Martha was a doer.  Mary was a thinker.  Martha made to do lists and goals and plans.  Mary went with the flow of life.  Two polar opposites perhaps.  Two distinct personalities.  

"Martha, Martha. Mary has chosen the one thing that will never pass away, the one good thing."

So was Jesus telling Martha to quit being Martha?  Was He saying she needed to be a Mary instead?

Later, when Jesus makes another visit to their home after Lazarus had died and been buried for four days, who is it that runs out to Jesus acknowledging that He was the Christ, the Son of God, the One who could make anything happen by asking His Father?  It was Martha.  And where was Mary? Still sitting in the house.  It was Martha who called her sister to come see Jesus.  Martha was doing.  Mary was sitting.

Again, Jesus comes to Martha and Mary's home town and is served a meal by none other than... Martha.  And His feet are anointed with costly perfume by...Mary.  Martha was doing.  Mary was sitting.  

Jesus' reply to His friend, Martha, draws her attention as well as mine to what really matters:  seeking Him.  Jesus didn't tell her to stop doing or stop being Martha.  He wanted her (and me) to seek Him first and THEN be Martha.  Maybe she had gone over board in her preparations.  Maybe not.  But it is a given that her attitude was in need of an adjustment.

I see that Martha didn't stop being Martha.  But she did seem to learn to chose that one thing that doesn't pass away, the one good thing that is necessary.  She learned from the merciful rebuke of the Savior and the example of her sister.  Seek Jesus first.

It's okay to be a doer.  It's okay to be the thinker.  Who we are is designed by God and makes us perfectly suited to fulfill the ministry He has for each of us.  As for me?  Well, I am no list maker, goal oriented, can't sit down until everything is done Martha. I can identify better with Mary's tendency to sit and be laid back and go with the flow.  But I can still have my Martha moments when I am worried, bothered, distracted by what I "need" to do.   No matter which end of the spectrum we land on, we both must seek the one thing that is necessary before we do or think or sit or whatever it is we feel called to do.  Listen to Jesus.  Let Him lead me instead of running off or sitting down relying on my own insight.  

"Occupied with Jesus, then occupied for Him."--Lois Reynolds Carpenter

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"It was a dark and stormy night...."

Only it was a dark and stormy morning actually.  The weather took a turn toward winter in my part of the world today.  And after the most amazingly beautiful fall it was a smack in the face!  Maybe that is the reason I sat at my desk this morning in a funk.  No, I was in a funk: cold, wintery day or not.

The discussion at Bible study this week centered on the friendship of David and Jonathan, two men who were individually devoted to God and together devoted to each other.  We examined the traits of godly friendship and after the analysis I felt that I came up short.  

A friend once told me that I am a private person.  Some would use the word introvert.  I agree; I am very content hanging out by myself.  It takes a few days of hermit like living until I start to crave human contact.

God has impressed upon me in the last couple of years that He equipped me to be a listener and I am content with that role.  I would rather ask the questions and get another person to talk about themselves  than be the center of attention.    I kind of like being "invisible" in the crowd.  

But maybe that is only one side of the proverbial coin.  Letting another do all the talking and revealing of their heart might leave a "dot, dot, dot" at the end of the conversation (like the title to this post).  Am I being too one-sided in my friendships?  
Exodus 33:11 "Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend..."
This kind of interaction requires both faces to be involved, to be communicating, to be listening and speaking, to be vulnerable.  It's a two way street.  But that can be risky.  Some may not understand.  I have seen the glazed over look on a person's face after opening up my heart and realized that they didn't get it.  I have opened myself up only to feel ignored.  But what if I never again take the chance?  What will I miss out on?  

I'm feeling a nudge from God here to speak up.  Take a baby step out of my comfort zone and be willing to reveal my heart in a deeper way with people.

Oh, I think I just did!