Thursday, March 28, 2013

Show Me the Chevron!

When I moved into my last apartment a couple years ago, I picked up a pair of chevron pillows from the clearance pile at Kohl's. At the time, I didn't know what the pattern was called; I just thought it was zig-zag. But then, in the last year, the pattern started showing up everywhere, and I learned the actual name: chevron. I'm kind of obsessed (as is anyone with a flare for funky design).

As modern and playful as the pattern looks, it actually has roots in the military. The number of V's stacked on the sleeve of a military uniform indicates the soldier's rank or years of service. It wasn't until the 1970's that the fashion world stole the repeating V pattern; now, chevron has made a major comeback, appearing on everything from clothing to lamp shades to rugs. It even works as a paint or backsplash pattern! 

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Chocolate Cake You Must Try

As much as I love chocolate, I actually don't really like chocolate cake. But it was Frank's birthday a few weeks back, and chocolate cake is his favorite. So I began surfing the web for any clues about what distinguishes a so-so chocolate cake from an award winner. I came up empty, so I just settled on a highly rated recipe on 

I didn't want to risk the cake sticking to the pan, so I greased my cake pans and lined them with parchment paper. Yeah, well, the cake still stuck. (I found out later I should have used wax paper instead.)

But instead of tossing it in the trash, I improvised. I pressed the cake from one pan into the bottom of a glass dish. Then I mixed up a little chocolate milk, brushed it over the cake, and patted down the cake from the second pan on top of that. I brushed this layer with chocolate milk, too, and finally spread the homemade frosting on top.

Oh my gosh. The cake came out incredibly dense and fudge-like, with a deep, rich flavor reminiscent of dark chocolate. As Frank says, "It just falls apart in your mouth." It's the best baking mistake I've ever made!

Chocolate Fudge Cake
Adapted from

What you need
2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweeetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water
Hershey's chocolate syrup

For the frosting
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
5 1/3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup vanilla
1 tsp vanilla

Put it all together
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. Stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, then mix in the eggs, 1 cup of milk, oil, and vanilla, using an electric mixer (about 3 minutes). 
  3. Gently stir in the boiling water with a wooden spoon, and divide the batter equally between the two prepared pans.
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then crumble the warm cake. Firmly press the cake crumbles from one pan into the bottom of an ungreased 8" square glass baking dish. 
  5. Make chocolate milk: Squirt Hershey's syrup into the remaining 1/4 cup milk. Use a pastry brush to generously soak the first layer of cake with half the milk. Then press the cake crumbles from the second pan on top, and soak with remaining milk. 
  6. Make the frosting: Cream butter until fluffy, then alternately stir in the cocoa and powdered sugar and the milk and vanilla. Beat until smooth and spreadable.
  7. Once the cake is cool to the touch, frost the top. Then serve!