Food & Recipes

Ultimate Chocolate Layer Cake // Joe’s 29th Birthday Cake

September 13, 2016

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Every year I make my husband a birthday cake, and every year Joe asks me to bake a chocolate cake. One of Joe’s favorite recipes of all time is a recipe I developed a couple years ago when I was working for Betty Crocker. Let’s be clear when I say that yes, this cake starts with boxed cake mix, but it’s anything but ordinary.

Actually, I should clarify that I have nothing against boxed cake mix in certain situations, including this one, where using boxed cake yields some of the best cake around.

This was my first attempt at baking this cake in layer format rather than in a bundt pan, and with a few adjustments and adaptations, it turned out really well! I would make this cake again and again, and you should, too, if you’re looking for a chocolate cake recipe that will blow your guests minds.

Plus, the leftovers taste pretty great, too. Not that I would know anything about eating leftovers after taking photographs in the middle of the day or anything. ūüėČ

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Ultimate Chocolate Layer Cake // Joe's 29th Birthday Cake
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 8 slices
 
Ingredients
  • Cake
  • 1 box Betty Crocker Devil's Food Cake Mix
  • 1 box (4-serving) chocolate instant pudding and pie filling mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Frosting
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Make the cake layers:
  2. Heat oven to 350¬įF. Grease two 9-inch cake pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In a bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, oil, water and eggs and beat until smooth and well combined. Batter will be thick. Beat in the chocolate chips just until combined.
  4. Divide batter between the two pans and spread evenly in pans. Bake on the middle oven rack 22 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool 10 minutes on wire racks. Run a knife around the edge of the cakes and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire cooling racks, about 1 hour.
  6. To Make Frosting:
  7. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the chocolate and beat until well combined, about 1 minute more. Beat in the milk vanilla and salt, followed by the powdered sugar, beating about 2 minutes or until the frosting is smooth and spreadable.
  8. To Assemble Cake:
  9. Place on cake layer on a cake plate or serving tray. Spread some of the frosting on the top of the cake evenly. Top with remaining layer. Use remaining frosting to frost top and sides of the cake. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Cake recipe adapted from One-Bowl Strawberry Bundt Cake 
Frosting recipe adapted from Magnolia Bakery Cookbook 

Family

Donut Wednesday

September 10, 2016

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This summer Ainsley and I started a tradition called Donut Wednesday. If you follow me over on IG, chances are you’ve seen a few photos of our weekly donut dates, where I take my coffee along with me to the bakery (because the bakery has such bad coffee) and Ainsley orders a sprinkle donut and proceeds to eat all the sprinkles off the top of the donut.

I’m convinced she is my child because she loves sweets just like her momma and has taken to waking at ridiculously early hours, just like her mom.

As Ainsley has gotten older, I’ve been working on being more intentional in my parenting. Slowing down, pointing out the little things, letting Ainsley walk down the street ridiculously slow while she points at every little rock and crack in the ground.

And it’s not the most natural thing in the world to me – doing the same puzzle fifteen times or going to the park for the third time of the day or looking at rocks in the landscaping. Sometimes it feels dull. Sometimes, when Ainsley is having a day and seems dissatisfied with everything, including me, I can let that little voice in my head tell me that I’m just not very good at this motherhood thing.

When I’m at work I consistently feel good at what I’m doing. Sure, I have days where I question things, but figuring out the right words for a freelance article feels easier than negotiating with a toddler who isn’t sure what she wants.

I’ve been thinking a lot about slowing down in all areas of life, working hard at things that don’t come naturally and giving myself grace when it doesn’t come¬†right away. I’ve been reading Present Over Perfect, which came at the perfect time in this season of slowing down.

In the past I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve lacked discipline. I’m a procrastinator by nature, pushing off the hard for what’s fun, easy, and provides instant gratification. But motherhood isn’t about instant gratification. It’s a season of watering the ground, again and again, waiting for the seed to come up. Believing that all the watering, day after day, will eventually yield the fruit you dreamed about when you planted the seed.

And it shows, very little by little. A “thank you” or a random show of affection. When Ainsley puts her toys away on her own or shares a toy with a friend. The glimpses are fleeting at this age, hard to come by for sure. But I’m waiting, being patient and believing that the fruit will come if I continue to water the seed, day after day.

In recent months¬†I’ve been inspired by women who are modeling ¬†intentionality in their posting, their motherhood, how they interact with social media and others. If you’re looking for resources yourself, I’ve listed a few of my favorites below!

Laura Wifler // How Intentional Mornings are Changing My Life 
Shauna Niequist // Present Over Perfect 
Risen Motherhood // Ep. 27 Intentional Motherhood: It’s the Little Things
Design for Mankind // Well Done (every mom needs to read this!)
Food Loves Writing // An Essay on Parenthood, One Year In 

Madison

Food & Recipes

Pie Week #2 // Apple

September 2, 2016

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Whew. Coming in right under the gun and posting a second pie recipe before the week is over. I made this pie twice in the last week, and I’ve found that pie making is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do. First, because it’s relaxing and second, because there is nothing like the look of delight on someone’s face when you say that yes, you brought them pie, and yes, it’s from scratch.

Oh, and it’s a great way to use up all the apples that have been coming my way from my aunt and mother-in-law.

I’ve realized that making pie allows me to cater the pie to my exact preferences, too. Take, for example, this apple pie. Joe and I both agree that we like the apples to be soft and free of any crunch, with a hefty dose of cinnamon and a crust that’s deeply golden brown and covered in coarse sugar.

Is that your kind of applie pie? Then this recipe is for you. And me.

This pie series has already been so much fun I can hardly handle it. And now that I’ve been making crust for a while (video to come, I promise!) I don’t need a recipe, just a couple measuring cups and a little extra time.

Pie Week #2 // Apple
Author: 
Serves: 8 servings
 
Ingredients
  • Pie crust for a double-crust pie
  • 10 cups peeled and sliced apples
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg yolk, whisked
  • 1 tablespoon half and half or heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar (turbinado)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375¬įF. Lightly grease/butter the bottom of a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Set aside.
  2. Roll out half the pie crust to form the bottom crust. Drape pie crust into the bottom of the pie plate and press gently into the bottom and sides of the plate, leaving the crust hanging over the edge of the plate.
  3. In a large bow, combine the slices apples, sugar, corn starch and cinnamon. Stir until evenly combined and spoon apples into pie crust, mounding apples slightly in the center.
  4. Roll out the second half of the pie crust and drape over the apples. Press the crusts together and roll/crimp as desired. Use a sharp knife to cut a few slits on the top of the pie to let steam escape.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and half and half or heavy cream. Brush on pie with a pastry brush. Sprinkle top of pie with the coarse sugar.
  6. Bake pie 45 minutes at 375¬įF. Reduce heat to 350¬įF and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour more, until filling is bubbly and crust is deep golden brown. If necessary, cover the edge of the pie crust with a pie shield or aluminum foil to prevent over-browning during the last portion of baking. (For the record, I didn't need to)
  7. Cool at least 1 hour before cutting into slices to serve.

 

Family, Infertility and Miscarriage

miscarriage, fertility and the value of life

August 30, 2016

MadisonBW

This post has been mulling around in my head for weeks. I feel as if the writing on this blog has been full of fluff and low on substance, lacking the meaty content that comes in waves depending on the season of life I’m in. Truth be told, seasons of shallow writing usually mean one of two things for me: things are going really, really well or things are going very poorly. Though this time, it’s a little bit of both.

Life is sweet right now. Ainsley is growing and changing rapidly and becoming so FUN to be around. She has a spunky little personality that keeps us laughing and smiling on repeat. And work is fulfilling for Joe. And I’m loving my new flexible work schedule that allows me to spend more time at home while still doing things that inspire me.

Life is sad right now. Because we miscarried for a third time last month, our second month trying for a second child. Because I hoped that this time around things would be different, easier and that I wouldn’t have to dig up all those old emotions and fears that I packed up and put on a shelf after Ainsley was born.

I didn’t share sooner because, as anyone who has walked a road of infertility and miscarriage can tell you that when you share about your fertility struggles the worst thing that someone can do is look at you with that look. The look, full of pity, that says, “I’m sorry you don’t have what I have.”

But I love you all. Some of you I know personally, others I know via e-mail and social media. Your prayers lifted us countless times over the years and I’ve been humbled by the kindness of strangers more times that I can count. In the year and a half since Ainsley’s birth I can’t tell you the number of strangers I’ve met who have told me that they’ve prayed for my daughter. It floors me every single time.

So, because you share in our joy, I’m sharing with you our sadness, too. Because I know that this blog is made up of readers who are my tribe of women. Women who have walked the difficult, weary road that only the fertility-challenged can understand. Women who have cared about our fertility struggles even if they haven’t experienced them personally.

To my fellow mommas and mommas-to-be who are trying to grow you family:

You are the bravest group of women I know. Every time you smile in the face of adversity or deliver a baby meal for a friend’s new baby or take a shot or pill or five thousand crazy vitamins and supplements, you’re brave. And when you choose JOY for others instead of bitterness, jealousy or envy, you’re doing kingdom work that is glorifying God.

I don’t know if our journey to our next (God willing) baby will be long or short, but I do know that I’ll need your support, and my desire is to provide support and encouragement for those walking this road with me. Longing for another baby while being deeply thankful for the amazing gift of the child that we do have.

Thank you for¬†making this space such a supportive and safe space for me to share about our family. I’m so thankful for each and every one of you who read the words that I write.

Madison

Fashion

Favorite Early Fall Old Navy Finds

August 29, 2016

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Top: Old Navy Classic Chambray Shirt // Jeans: Madewell High Riser Skinny  //
Shoes: Coolway Open To Booties

While I love quality in my clothing for the most part, I have a fair number of pieces from Old Navy as well.¬†Their clothes are trendy and adorable, and if you pick your pieces right, they can stand the test of time. You just need to know what you’re looking for. Over time I’ve found certain materials and styles from Old Navy just aren’t worth my time, while others are great values.

Their clothes for fall are SO good, you guys! From chambray tops that fit so well to fun, long-sleeved dresses, here are my favorite recent finds for fall.

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Top: Relaxed Boat Neck Tee (Old Navy) // Shorts: American Eagle Tomgirl Shorts // Necklace: Natalie Borton

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Dress: Knit Swing Dress (Old Navy) // Shoes: Coolway Open Toe Booties 

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Sweater: Open Front Cardigan (Old Navy) // Jeans: Madewell High Riser Skinny // Shoes: Target