Wednesday, September 25, 2013

S'mores Cake

I am not an ambitious baker. When I need a recipe for something to take to a party, I tend to google  phrases like "easy chocolate dessert" or "easy dessert bars." One of my favorite go-to recipes is the ol' pie filling cobbler: apple pie filling topped with yellow cake mix and a few tablespoons of butter. Stick it in the oven for twenty minutes, and boom. Done.

That's what makes my even attempting this dessert so bizarre. I... separated eggs? I used the MIXER?? I basically use the mixer NEVER. But it was the birthday of two dear friends, one of them being my roommate, and they are both major dessert lovers.

Go big or go home, right?

I started by paging through Emily's Pinterest recipe board to see if anything caught my eye. What I noticed was a LOT of s'mores-themed recipes. Bars, cupcakes, and everything in between. Okay! S'mores it is!

After looking at a few different pins, I decided that a cake might be the way to go. But despite looking at MANY different recipes for s'mores cakes, I never found the perfect one. So what follows is an amalgamation of several different cake recipes. For ultimate deliciousness.

But nothing too ridiculous. FAR too many recipes called for me to make my own ganache, or other such nonsense. And I love my friends, but HECK no.

This recipe gave me a lot of inspiration, but on the whole it was just too complicated and time-consuming for me to attempt. So the main recipe I pulled from was this one, because it involved a graham cracker cake.

A graham cracker cake??? Who knew such a thing existed? Not this kid.

Now we just needed a little more chocolate. For my birthday this year, my sister made me an AMAZING cake (from this recipe) that was two layers of chocolate cake surrounding a layer of brownie.

That sounds good. A brownie layer it is!

Sunday morning before church I got up and whipped up a box of dark chocolate brownies in a round pan that I prepared with wax paper and a LOT of non-stick spray. It popped right out and I left it to cool while I went up to work in the church nursery.

When I got home, it was cake time! I got out the mixer, separated those eggs like a boss, and got to work on the graham cracker cake. This is, without a doubt, the most high-maintenance cake I've ever made. Mixing the egg whites, adding in the butter and sugar, alternating the addition of the milk with the graham cracker crumbs... it was crazy. But I did it! With only slightly messy results.

When the (super weird-looking) batter was done, I poured it into two round pans, that I had again prepared with wax paper and a TON of non-stick spray. Like, really. A lot a lot. I did not come this far to have my cakes stuck to the bottom of their pans. Heck. No.

So this is where being a SUPER FUN AND BUSY SINGLE GIRL ON THE GO YOU'RE GONNA MAKE IT AFTER ALLLLLLL gets a little in the way. Because from here I had to leave to go to a concert downtown. (And by concert I mean like a symphony, not like One Direction or something.) And my roommate, one of the birthday girls, was due to come home at any minute!

If this were a TV show, this is where there would be a jump cut to these two little graham cracker cakes resting on wire cooling racks on a pink Rubbermaid container underneath my vanity in my room.

Sometimes a girl has to improvise.

I wanted to wait as long as I could to ice the cakes, so when I got home from the concert, I put them each in a big ziplock bag. Then when I got home from work the next day, I was on a TIGHT schedule. I had less than thirty minutes to change for the birthday dinner and build/ice the cakes.

I put the first graham cracker cake on the cake stand and covered it with a layer of chocolate icing. From a can. Not homemade, but it tasted fine to me! Then I added a few dollops of marshmallow cream (again from a jar--what WHAT!).

The marshmallow cream was much stickier than I'd counted on, which led to this lovely look.

Awesome. Well, who cares, because next came the brownie layer, more icing and marshmallow cream, and finally the last layer of graham cracker cake. By this time my hands were shaking because I was seriously running out of time, and I kept running to the sink to wash marshmallow off my hands, chocolate was everywhere... it was crazy. But I got the top layer frosted and promptly covered the whole thing with... a big pot lid. Because I have no cake cover. Hey, I told you I wasn't a baker!

After dinner, we came back home and I immediately set about finishing up the cake. I put a few more spoonfuls of marshmallow cream on top, but didn't really mess with them much so as not to disturb the icing. That turned out to work out GREAT, because in the next few minutes, it got nice and oozy and spread out just enough to look pretty dang awesome.

I arranged a handful of big marshmallows and rectangles of Hershey'son top, and dusted a small handful of leftover graham cracker crumbs on top. Oh, and I almost forgot, I used a lighter to toast some of the edges of the marshmallows just a little bit. I'm sure if you had an actual kitchen torch it would work a lot better/faster, but I worked with what I had!

The final result:

Boom Shaka Laka.

It ended up tasting WONDERFUL. Incredibly rich, which after sushi was maybe NOT the best choice? But still. Amazing.

Highly recommend.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Baby and a Book: Double Labor.

It's been a monumental summer.

Baby girl joined us on July 13th. She was exactly one week past her due date, but her timing was perfect. If I had a dollar every time I said one of the following in the past 2 months ...

1. I love you too much to keep you in this nasty diaper. Why are you fighting me?
2. It's a good thing you're cute.
3. AGAIN?!
4. If you could talk this would be so much easier.
5. PLEASE wake up and eat some more.
6. PLEASE go back to sleep.
7. Dear God, please help my baby girl to rest.
8. Here comes ANGRY NORAH!
9. I love you SOOO much, kid.
10. Thank you, Father. Thank you.

Everyone is right. This is the hardest yet most joy-inducing adventure of my life. HELP ME. She just woke up early from her nap."WHY ARE YOU AWAKE?" But then I brought her into the office with me and she just looked up and gave me that smile ... I'm hooked.

Norah was the first labor of the summer.

My book was the second. (Clearly I've got a number one fan.)

I've been working on a manuscript for almost three years. Who knew it would take so long? I've been thinking about writing a book since I was maybe 23 years old. I've always known it would be addressed to young women, a sort of spiritual memoir, and a way to greater connect with the audiences that I speak to.

The title of the book is Forget the Corsage. (Big shout out and THANK YOU to a tireless editor and great friend for that title. JORDY-LIZ edits for the WIN!)

The title comes from my unique prom story. I lived my entire high school journey in expectation of my senior prom. I had the dress, the heels, and the perfect hair but I didn’t have the date. At the last-minute, I recruited a friend to accompany me. He was to pick me up at the house, escort me to dinner, and drive me to the dance. He was supposed to bring me a corsage. Instead my date arrived to the dance after 10:30pm. (He had a good reason.) He rushed in to find me standing at the bottom of the escalator that had already delivered my entire senior class to their “Night to Remember.” (I did not have a good reason.) I had waited by myself for over an hour because I was convinced that I couldn’t enter the dance until I had my date and my corsage. I danced to only three songs that night and spent most of my prom thinking, “No one will ever want me.”

Since that time God has laid those words heavily upon my heart. If I truly am a daughter of the King, then I know the response to my own lament. Not only does Christ want me, but also He has given me an abundant and exciting life. His love provides the courage to live adventurously regardless of any dating status.

Forget the Corsage is a reminder to stop waiting for life to happen to us, but instead to go and live life to the full right now. It can be tempting to buy into the lie that real living starts when we graduate, get the perfect body, find Mr. Right, and land our dream job. But the truth is that we are waiting for something that has already been given to us from God: life to the full.

The target audience of this little book is young women. Each chapter begins with a letter to myself at different stages of my life.

"Dear fifteen year old Ginger ..."
"Dear eighteen year old Ginger ..."
"Dear twenty-seven year old Ginger ..."

(You get the idea.)

The letters span from 12 years of age until 27. That's about the target. If I could go back in time and give myself a pep talk or kick in the pants, this book is what I would say.

So which labor was harder? Giving birth to Norah was definitely quicker! I don't know. It's going to be a while before I consider repeating either again, but I am so, so proud of both.

And lest you think this was just one delightful day after another, let me tell you that more tears have been shed from May through September than you can imagine. My husband gets the Red Badge of Courage, the Purple Heart, and THE BEST OF ALL THE THINGS EVER Award for going through these two labors with me. Really, who decides to do both of these things at the same time? If nothing else, I've learned to let my friends and family see my tears. I am REALLYgetting good at apologizing, and slightly better at asking for help.

There's never a dull moment when poop is involved ... and I solemnly swear that this is the last time I will ever mention poop on social media. I give you my word.

The book is for sale at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Westbow Press

(In case you are wondering - The baby is not for sale.)