Nico’s Birthday Cake

For Nico’s birthday last Saturday, I made a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting that turned out to be one of the best cakes I’ve ever made.  I took the recipe right off the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa box and modified it (along with the frosting recipe) to suit our non-refined white sugar sensibilities.

Below is the original recipe with my changes in parentheses. I am not certain that anybody would even suspect that my version was not made with regular sugar. The cake was moist and delicious and the frosting, which is different than the one listed, was very good. If you are striving to exclude refined white sugar from your diet, you’ll never miss it with this cake. I guarantee it!

Here’s the Hershey’s recipe with my honey-sweetened modifications.

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

2 cups sugar (or 1 1/2 cups honey)
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or coconut oil, which is what I used)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water (1/2 cup boiling water if using honey since the honey is liquid.

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. (I used a large sheet cake pan.)
2. Stir together sugar (or honey), 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.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with “PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

VARIATIONS:

ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

“PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” CHOCOLATE FROSTING (I have made this before and it’s delicious)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine (or 1/2 cup coconut oil, which is what I used)
2/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar (or 1 1/2 cup honey)
1/3 cup milk (if using honey then add an additional box of cream cheese)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter (or coconut oil). Stir in cocoa. Use mixer to alternately add powdered sugar (or honey) and milk, (plus chunks of cream cheese if using honey) beating to spreading consistency.
Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.
Let chill for 30 minutes to an hour (if using honey)
About 2 cups frosting.

For my cake, I made a cream cheese frosting:

2 packages cream cheese

3/4 cup of honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

Whip until smooth and then frost cake.

This is not my photo. It came from Marin Mama Cooks.  My cake looked very much like this, however, with the cream cheese frosting.

chocolate-cake-with-cream-cheese-frosting

Daughter Liz’s Birthday

Elizabeth Beaty, aka Liz, Bibbie, Ellabee, and Honey Bunny (for Ron) is 32 years old today.  She was born at home in Denison, Texas and kept me up way past my bedtime that first night with a tummy ache in her very small tummy.

We like to say that Liz was born talking.  That isn’t quite true.  It took until she was a few months old before she started babbling, then talking, then asking questions incessantly. By age 3, we remember her talking before eyes were open in the morning and after she was sound asleep in the evening.  She has always had lots to say.

This past weekend we went to Ensenada, Mexico and stayed in a house on the beach.  This was a lovely place with all of our family and it was a very happy time. The main sound I heard every morning when I woke up was Liz’s laughter and often that was the last sound I heard as I fell asleep.  She has always had a wonderful sense of humor.

Liz skipped 2nd grade, graduated from college in three years, has an accountancy certificate, a Master’s degree in Anthropology, a JD from an accelerated law program and passed the bar the first time around. She can absorb information like a sponge and has organizational skills that are hard to surpass. She has always been a natural learner and is forever curious.

She and Ron have also driven across the country and back visiting family friends, traveled to several foreign lands, and hiked up, down and around many a wilderness trail.  She and sister Sarah went both to Peru and Belize on archaeological digs that required a fair amount of grit just to get to the locations to dig. She has always been a natural adventurer.

Now Liz and Ron are living in Ojai and trying out life up there.  Luckily, everything is slowly returning to normal after the Thomas fire and she and Ron are resettling into their little house in the orange grove. Liz likes to aim for happiness rather than settling for anything less. She is a risk-taker.

Liz is also loyal, funny, dedicated, and loving. She is there through thick and thin and will never give up on a friendship.  She is one seriously loving, sweet and kind aunt to her very lucky niece and nephew as well. Her family and friends know she can be counted on no matter the occasion.

I feel very fortunate to have spent these past three-plus decades with daughter Elizabeth. She has brightened my life since the minute she was born and I am one of the happy recipients of her bountiful love.

I love you, sweet Liz. I hope you had a great birthday and will have an even better upcoming year.

Here’s to good conversation, laughter, natural curiosity, adventure, happiness and love!

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Ojai

We drove from Ensenada, Mexico to LA, picked up our dogs and headed to Ojai. Tomorrow is Liz’s official birthday and though we have already celebrated, we thought we could at least be around for part of the day before heading back to LA after lunch tomorrow for work. Liz and Ron are actually returning to the orange grove tonight for the first time since early December when they were evacuated due to the Thomas fire. They had only lived here two weeks when the fire started. Alas, maybe life will calm down a bit finally. We all hope so.

We had so much fun on our Mexico trip. I feel very grateful to be bringing in 65 with such a bang.

The sky here in Ojai is clear and full of stars. The smell of ash lingers despite the rain, but it is not oppressive. We are just happy to be here.

Sleep well, my friends. I will check back in with you tomorrow.

My favorite photo from Baja.

Today

Today was beach day. That was pretty much it except for homemade banana pudding for Liz for her birthday and gifts for Liz and me since our birthdays are close. Low key and lovely. Exactly right. We reluctantly head home early tomorrow after a wonderful time.

Here are some photos:

Nico’s Birthday

Today, we celebrated Nico’s second birthday here in Ensenada where Gregorio’s family lives. Nico’s grandma and grandma, two uncles, his aunt and first cousin came for the day and we ate lunch together then headed to play on the beach.  We all had a lot of fun and Nico’s birthday was commemorated with lots of love.  What a lucky little fellow.

Here are a few pictures of this lovely day:

Nico and his Grandma

Nico and his grandma

Sarah and Carlos, Nico’s Grandpa

sarah and carlos.jpg

Opening Presents

presents.jpg

Ron, Liz, Rachael and Me

ron, liz, rachael, len

Family Shot

family on the beach

Ensenada, Mexico

We have come to Ensenada, Mexico in Baja to celebrate a whole host of things.  Nico turns 2 tomorrow, Elizabeth turns 32 on January 16th and I turn 65 on January 21st.  Ray turns 60 this year and this is the trip we took when I turned 60, fives years ago.

We are in a beautiful home right on the ocean.  I am surrounded by my kids, grandkids and son-in-laws. The only one missing is Ariel, who had to work this weekend and just couldn’t take time off.  We miss him!

Here is a photo taken five years ago and then again this morning.  Life is very good, my friends.  I am feeling grateful to be surrounded by such love.

family

Safe Travels, Lona!

One of my beloved students, Lona Tehrani, is headed off to Honduras tomorrow on a medical mission trip with other students from Brown University.  Lona and I have bonded over the past several years and I had the pleasure of seeing her while she was home from school over winter break.

Wishing you a safe trip, Lona, and a wonderful experience.  I admire your adventurous spirit.  I will look forward to hearing all about the good work you did in Honduras when you return.

Much love to you, my dear.

Lona

 

Flash Fiction, Memoir and Essay

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