February 16, 2012

Infamous Chocolate Cake

I love making cakes.  And with my resolution to make my food prettier, it gives me an excuse to make cakes... right?  A friend was throwing a Valentine's Day party so one of my infamous chocolate cakes seemed perfect.  I have never found a better recipe for chocolate cake, but this thing would probably give you a heart attack if you ate the whole thing.  I made a raspberry ganache and raspberry buttercream frosting for decoration.  The biggest problem I ran into was my frosting was too soft.  It sort of ran down the sides while I was trying to decorate.  The fridge became my best friend though, and I eventually got it to go my way.  I also melted chocolate, let it cool on a cookie sheet, then cut it into pieces so it looked like broken glass or mosaic tiles and assembled them on the outside of the cake. 

I stole this from Meg's blog cause she has better photos of the cake than I do.

Due to popular demand!  Here is my recipe for chocolate cake.  It is very bad for you, but it is the best I've ever had! 

1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
2 small or 1 big package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix together cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, vegetable oil, eggs, and warm water.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Pour into well greased pan.
3. Bake for about 45 minutes, but I would check continually on it after 30 minutes to make sure it doesn't overcook.  A toothpick inserted will come out clean.
4.  Cool and decorate!

I've made this as a bundt cake too, which you would cook for 50-55 minutes.  This was for my husband's birthday a few years ago, and it ended up being the same night be proposed!  I covered this one in a dark chocolate ganache and white chocolate covered strawberries.

For the Valentine's Day cake, I made a raspberry ganache and icing.  They turned out too soft, but if you add  more powdered sugar or less jam it should turn out better.

Raspberry Icing
1 cup butter, at room temperature
6 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

1. Cream butter and jam, about 2 minutes.
2. Sift in powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
3. Tint with icing color if desired, otherwise it will be light pink due to the jam.

I tried out some more new things from my cake decorating kit too.  It's a cake strip that you put around the outside of the pan and it makes your cake even!  I don't know how it does it, but your cake won't have that big bump on top anymore!

February 13, 2012


I worked on cloth napkins last night.  It was an extremely easy project, it's just a bit time consuming.  I made two different sizes with two different fabrics.  And my shoulder was sore after so much continuous sewing.  Now I just need to throw a dinner party so I can use my fancy napkins!

And coming soon (hopefully this weekend), new curtains!

February 12, 2012

The Impossible Curtains

This week has been the week of fail.  From a glass dish exploding in the apartment, to finding bugs in our cornmeal when I went to make pizza, to not being able to put screws into our bookcases so they wouldn't fall down, to finding a crack in one of our new glass pitcher... I think I just need to crawl into bed and start last week over. 

To add to my week of fail, I thought I'd try to add some curtain to our living room.  We have big windows (almost 14 feet across), so it's not an easy task.  And I didn't want to spend a bunch of money on it either!  Online there are lots of people who are using electrical metallic tubing (EMT) as a cheap way to make curtain rods.  You can get 10 feet of it for less than $2.  So the Hubby and I headed over to Home Depot to pick up a couple of supplies.  We bought 2 sets of piping cut to be 1/2 of our window, a bunch of brackets, screws, washers, and drapery hooks to use.  It cost us about $12 total. 

We get home and I immediately want to put them up.  The Hubby gets me to go out for Mexican first to celebrate our anniversary that was a few days ago.  Then it's back home with full stomachs to do hard labor!  That's when we remembered our ceilings are concrete... fail.  So I spend the next few hours trying to figure out what to use, but with the layout, you can only hang them from the ceiling.  I know a lot of people have used Command adhesive hooks for their curtains, but how was I going to hang that from the ceiling?!?!  A few hours later I realize that the strong part of those strips is the adhesive itself.  I put that up on the ceiling to hold the hooks we bought.  The Hubby keeps saying how it's not going to hold... what does he know... it ends up working perfectly!  I also found out in the process that our ceilings are not even.  I put two sets on each end of the bars (so two on each end and four in the middle). 

Oh, then I tried to add the curtains... The hooks I got were too small for the size of the rod.  I had those little rings that open (with a hinge)... I don't know what they're called, but you find them in officey stuff.  I sewed the curtains onto them and hooked that around the curtain.  And finally, voila!!!  At least the curtains were easy to sew as I just made a small hem on each end of the fabric and called it a day.  Some of them probably aren't even, but no one will be looking at it that closely!

The new curtains looking out the window.  It's too bright out to see them though!

One of the end curtains.

Here they are with the blinds closed.  You can see it all a bit better here!

February 9, 2012

New Challenge

This year I'm trying to make my cooking prettier.  I can make really good tasting food, but not very pretty food.  I tried my hand this weekend at cupcakes.  I made simple yellow cupcakes and buttercream icing with a little grapefruit juice added to the icing and brushed on top of the finished cupcake.  My decoration was supposed to look close to this...

But it instead turned out like this.  My icing was too soft so it kind of collapsed.  It tasted fine, but didn't look too good. 

Hopefully next time will work better... I'm making a cake for a Valentine's Day party, so let's cross our fingers!

February 8, 2012

Cooking Fail

Here is today's cooking fail.  I was making short ribs for the first time.  I've seared the beef and the recipe says to pour a bottle of wine into the dish next.  As I am pouring (hot dish, room temperature wine), the dish explodes.  Glass everywhere.  It made it all the way across the apartment.  

The short ribs... that looked so good!!!

And the glass aftermath... 

What is your worst cooking failure?

February 7, 2012

Fabric Shopping

I went fabric shopping to my new favorite store... ever.  There is a fabric store here in Chicago that is a three story warehouse filled with fabrics.  I had a Groupon to the store, but I would have gone anyways at some point.  They have walls upon walls of fabric, buttons, zippers, etc.  You can get all kinds of fashion fabrics, home decor fabrics, even creepy fabric that feels like my dog's fur.  And all of it for a great price!  I ended up going crazy...

I bought black on black plaid fabric and lace for a dress I've been wanting to make for a while.  Also a bunch of jersey fabric in blues, greens, reds, and grays.  I got 10 yards of gorgeous sheer fabric to make curtains for the living room.  Some blue striped suiting fabric for a pair of Katherine Hepburn inspired pants.  I think I bought around 20 yards of fabric, maybe even more. 

I forgot to take photos while I was there or of the fabric before I started cutting it out.  I was just too excited while I was there!

Then I went home and checked out Etsy to see if I could buy notions for cheaper than in stores like JoAnns.  I spent about $20 and was able to buy 10 zippers, around 250 shirt buttons (in 3 designs/colors), and 8000 yards of black and white thread.  I am going to go crazy sewing over the next month or so!

February 6, 2012

Sew Weekly- Made This Look

I realized that I forgot to post my Sew Weekly Challenge from last week!  I have been trying to make clothing that is work appropriate.  I have lots of sundresses and cocktail dresses, but not many pants, blouses, or work dresses.  I borrowed this pattern from Meg (New Look 6000), but I wasn't completely satisfied with the way it was designed on the envelope.  I ended up combining about 5 different patterns by the end. 

I started with the side pleating detail, but that design did not have bust darts... who thinks that is a good idea?  I drafted the side details with bust darts.  Oh, and then combined three different sizes to make this dress.  Due to all of these alterations, it took me a little longer than usual to make, but it turned out fantastically!

It relates to the Sew Weekly Challenge  since we were supposed to make something that you could buy off the rack.  My original inspiration has a little different waist, but it still has that big collar that I find so interesting.  Oh, and the original is from Shabby Apple, which is an amazing website! 

I couldn't get the best photos because our one snowstorm of the year hit... I hate Chicago weather... it doesn't snow enough.  We get one big snowfall and it all melts within a day or so.  And it hasn't snowed in a week and half since.  But my hate of the lack of snow in Chicago is not the point of this post. 

And if you want to see my Sew Weekly post, head on over to here.