Chocolate Cake with Blackberry Buttercream Frosting

I usually use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to make something ridiculously decadent and pink. I did really well this year.

The frosting isn’t raspberry or strawberry: it’s blackberry. I love a little blackberry jam on my toast but can’t eat more than a thin layer. The sour berry lends itself perfectly to sweet frosting! It makes an extremely rich and deep flavor, rather than something too sweet.

And the decorating was really easy too. Get a 1M or 2M decorating tip, make a circle, and then swirl around the circle two or three times! My frosting was a tiny bit too runny, but that’s okay. My decorating inspiration came from the wonderful I am Baker, who posted a great rose tutorial here.

Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake

2 c sugar
1 ¾ c all-purpose flour
¾ c cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 c milk
½ c vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c boiling water

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans or one 13x9x2-inch pan.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

Blackberry Buttercream Frosting adapted from Sammyw

1 c unsalted butter, room temperature
½ c seedless blackberry jam
4-6 cups powdered sugar

Beat butter and jam with electric mixer with paddle attachment. Cream until well incorporated, bout two minutes.

Gradually add powdered sugar until you reach the desired consistency.

To assemble a layered cake, cut in two however you like. Spread a layer of blackberry jam along bottom layer. Place the second layer on top. Decorate with blackberry buttercream frosting.

Prompted 365: February 1/2

Here is the first half of February’s Prompted 365. I’m much happier with my photos this month than January’s, which I posted here.

Some of these are a bit of a stretch and take some explaining, so if you’re not sure how they apply to the prompt, leave me a comment asking!

3 Feb: Doorway
I am still finding ticket stubs and receipts from Italy hidden in my coat pockets and at the bottom of my purse.
For this photo I tried my hand a freelensing, which is where you disconnect the lens from the camera body and and manually focus. Freelensing lets me get a very dramatic depth of focus and get very close to the subject. It’s a fun technique but takes a bit of patience.

4 Feb: “A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.”

5 Feb: Space

6 Feb: Faith

7 Feb: Right

8 Feb: Fragile

9 Feb: Community
Yes. A community of soda working together to ruin my insides! This one was taken for “black and white Wednesday.”

10 Feb: Shadow

11 Feb: Old News
I don’t subscribe to a newspaper so didn’t have any actual old news at home.  I combated this photo of fresh news with some old treatment.

12 Feb: Strangers
I spend a lot of time with strangers I really like: Ira Glass, David Sedaris, Jonathan Goldstein, and Jad Abumrad to name a few. This photo was also a freelensing experiment.

13 Feb: Gift

Snowpocalypse 2011

Six inches of snow is not a big deal for most of the world, I know. I’ve seen and driven in much more snow than that in Europe (especially during our December 2008 vacation to Germany).

But Texans are unprepared and unable to deal with such weather. So last week, Joseph and I were trapped in our house for five days! Almost the entire city was closed–his work shut down, and my school cancelled classes all week. Actually, I’m home in the middle of the day right now because our classes were cancelled yet again due to snow.

On day three we took Leonardo out to play in the snow. He is an indoor cat who is always curious about the world beyond our windows, so we thought this would be a treat. We had him on a leash just in case – he’s a runner when frightened!

Look at that delicate little paw print! So pretty.

He didn’t get very far in the snow but stayed out there a good few minutes. He didn’t seem to mind the cold or the wet but was definitely on edge since he’s not used to being outside.

Cory, on the other had, is wild. He loved the snow, even though it was higher than his legs!

We played a game in which we threw his treats out into the snow. It was so deep that they would get completely buried, and he had to sniff around and dig them out.

Snow nose due to intense sniffing.

I hope you all stayed safe and warm during this weather!

52 Weeks of Self-Portraits: Completed

Warning: this post contains more photos of my face than you would ever want to see. I’m a little apprehensive about posting this, but please bear with me.

Last year I started my first ever photography portrait: one self-portrait every week, for 52 weeks.

This week was my very last photo! I’ve enjoyed this but don’t think I would do it again; I much prefer the prompted 365 I’m doing right now. Having photos only once a week made me feel like I needed to do something too big (and so I felt a lot of my photos were too unnatural and contrived), and I like having direction now.  Still, it’s nice to look back on; I can remember what was happening that week that prompted me to take the photo.

I’m glad I completed it. I felt like I hadn’t made much progress over the year, but looking through these photos I feel otherwise, so that’s good! One of the things that struck me most was seeing how much I’ve learned to use light, which is very important.

So, here are my favorite photos from the past 52 weeks. You can see the entire album here.


Week one with Leonardo

 

Click the link below to view the rest of the photos (which get progressively better, I think!)

Read More»

Chunky Cauliflower, Cheddar, and Potato Soup

With snowstorms rolling through the US, soup is absolutely necessary. I firmly believe there is no better way to get warm (though I have a contender–I managed to fit my warm house shoes inside Joseph’s, and my feet feel amazing).


I made this soup last week, and when preparing this week’s menu had to add it again. At first, the recipe sounded pretty disgusting, but I’m glad I stuck through! It’s more like a baked potato soup with bits of cauliflower. They go together very well, and this is going to be made a lot around here.

Chunky Cauliflower, Cheddar, and Potato Soup from Relish!

2 russet potatoes , skins left on and roughly chopped
4 cups cauliflower florets (about one head)
2 carrots , roughly chopped
2 garlic clove(s), roughly chopped
1 white onion , roughly chopped
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups beef broth
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
¾ cup milk
¼ teaspoon caraway seeds
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
freshly ground pepper, to taste
¾ cup buttermilk
4 green onions , chopped

Place the potatoes, HALF of the cauliflower, carrots, garlic, onion, salt and broth in a soup pot. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

While this is simmering, steam the remaining cauliflower for 5 minutes, or until tender, but still a little crisp, drain and set aside.

Remove the potato cauliflower mixture from stove after 15 minutes, and let cool 10 minutes. Puree the entire mixture, in batches in a blender until smooth and creamy. NOTE: make sure to let the steam escape! Return the mixture to the pot and add in the cheese, milk, caraway seeds, mustard and pepper. Simmer on low for 15 minutes.

Stir in the steamed cauliflower and heat for a few more minutes. Just before serving, mix in the buttermilk. Serve soup garnished with green onions and extra cheese, if desired.

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