Terror Lake 

You know the dark underbelly of old house ownership? Quirky wiring? Lead paint worries? Quirky…plumbing??

Saturday, The Flyer and I were getting ready for an actual date – dropping Feisty with her grandparents and going to lunch/movie. The Flyer successfully unclogged the bathroom sink, but noticed that the tub wasn’t draining either. With our time crunch, he decided to just shower and we could deal with it when we got home.

Yeah, bad plan. We ended up with a gushing pipe (until I walked in, stoppered the tub and grabbed a bucket for bailing) and a massive lake of potentially subfloor-damaging water EVERYWHERE.

So bad. We mopped up. We almost cancelled our date, but my parents talked us out of that. Sunday morning, my dad came over. He is seriously the freaking house whisperer. My parents have renovated five houses now, and I only recall them hiring a contractor like twice.

So we have a functional tub again. It was minor after all, just a giant clog downstream. Terror Lake is relegated to the hopefully permanent past. And while The Flyer and the father were flushing the gunk out of drain, I made donuts. Never let it be said that I don’t do my part.

I used this recipe, minus the nutmeg, for baked cake donuts. I frosted them with my great great aunt’s recipe for caramel frosting. Normally, this is used to recreate her signature chocolate cake, but thinned down, it was pretty darn delicious as a topping for donuts- caramel iced cake is a favorite donut flavor around here.

Aunt Rene’s Caramel Frosting (donut edition)

Frosts 1 dozen standard size donuts

2 T salted butter

1/2 c brown sugar 

4 T heavy whipping cream 

1/2 t vanilla extract 

1 c confectioners sugar

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat, being careful not to brown. Adjust heat to medium low if necessary. Add cream and sugar, stir until dissolved. Bring to a rapid boil and boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat, beat in 1/2 c of confectioners sugar. Cool slightly, add vanilla and remaining sugar. Frosting will be thick – add additional cream or whole milk to spread easily over donuts.

When doubled and with the cream amount dialed back to 3 T, the recipe frosts a 9 x 13 sheet cake. Go chocolate on this one. Make the Hershey’s classic recipe with dark chocolate and oh man… No regrets. Serve French vanilla ice cream over it for the full Aunt Rene experience. Just use all-purpose flour or the icing will decimate your delicate cake.

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Mission accomplished

Well, I did not mean to be away from this blog for so long! We’ve been working on finishing up the (currently occupied) bedrooms, plus I’ve been going into the office more, which equals less blog time for me. Also, does anyone else follow “The Wonder Weeks” with their baby/toddler? Feisty is on Leap 9 of 10 (almost done with the leaps, thank God, thank GOD) and therefore deigns to sleep alone for like 20 minutes a night.

Speaking of Feisty, her nursery is complete! Here she will stay until she’s old enough to move into the Big Girl Room. The finishing touches included a birch tree mural on one wall, plus a “metal” letter. I do want to re-upholster the ugly wing chair in that room at some point, but I’m still calling it done!

Photographic evidence:


The tree mural wasn’t quite as difficult as I’d thought – once I scrapped the idea in which I actually would draw a decent looking tree. I used this tutorial and stenciled some birds onto the finished trees.

I had planned to buy a metal letter from Anthropologie – they aren’t out of sight expensive – but came across a tutorial to make faux-metal letters on the extreme cheap, so, of course, I did that.

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They turned out pretty well! Trotting horses will never notice. I even made an extra one for over the fireplace, as we’re finally going to start painting the downstairs soon and will be able to then hang up stuff.

In food news, I’ve been hard at work with the usual granola, muffins, random weeknight dinners. Lent is starting tomorrow, so I’m getting ready to simmer a big pot of red lentil (haha LENTil) soup. The meatlessness of Lent is actually a boon to my organization because it forces me to think ahead and have veggie options available.

I also attempted a king cake in the spirit of Mardi Gras! I’d never actually had king cake prior to making it, mostly because the store versions look really cloying and too rich. It was pretty time consuming, plus the dough took foreverrrr to rise in our chilly house, but the results were delicious! I used Sara Bonisteel’s recipe from The New York Times Cooking. Well, a modified version. I replaced the almond extract with lemon, filled it with cream cheese filling and used regular whole milk in place of the sweetened condensed milk in the icing. No offense to John Besh (haha), but mixing sugar with SC milk just sounds like tooth-decaying overkill.

The dusting sugars, though. The green and yellow were beautiful, but I discovered when I attempted to make purple that we are out of blue food coloring. Thus, the jankified purple I mustered up with a bit of green and a lot of red. And I didn’t quite sub the regular milk in a proper ratio, so the icing was super runny. Still tasty, though!

Wacky Cake

When I was a kid, my mom used to make this cake we called “wacky cake.” The wackiness? It doesn’t follow the usual rules of cake making. I’m sure there’s a technical term for this type of cake, but I have no idea what it is (leave me a comment if you do!). Regardless, it’ll always be wacky cake to me.

Yesterday, I wanted cake, but we have barely any butter, one egg, and no milk. (The freezer is barren, too, but that’s neither here nor there. Time to hit the grocery…) So, ingredient-less, I remembered WC and dug out the recipe for it. Its leavening comes from a baking soda-vinegar reaction, and it was at this point I realized I had poured all the white vinegar down the basement floor drain trying to clear it.

We still had balsamic vinegar, though, and a quick Google search confirmed that chocolate/balsamic flavor mashup is actually a thing. Figuring it would be either good or horrible, I threw it in. It was good.

My mom always made the straight-up, as-written WC recipe, but it occurred to me that this would take well to changes: nut oils, coffee instead of water, infused vinegars, different extracts. I may be off on an experimental WC binge this week. Mom always served it dusted with confectioners sugar, but I was craving a little extra chocolatiness and made a quick frosting out of roughly 1/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips and 2 T. of heavy whipping cream, microwaved for a minute and stirred together until well blended. Buttercream, a drizzle of royal icing, or some fresh fruit (or fruit syrup) would all work wonders, too. I feel like we used to have some kind of chocolate/royal icing snack cake as kids and now I’m totally nostalgic for it.

Before I get to the recipe, I will say that this is a tasty bit of nostalgia for a snack/weeknight dessert, but not some earth-shattering cake I’d serve at a dinner party. Also, this cake DOES NOT invert well, so just serve it from the pan.

Wacky Cake

Serves 8-9

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. sugar

3 T. cocoa powder

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

6 T. neutral oil

1 T. white or apple cider (or balsamic!) vinegar

1/2 t. vanilla extract

1 c. cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 square or 8-inch round cake pan. Use a fork to mix dry ingredients right in the pan. Make a large, a medium, and a small well in the center.

Add oil to the largest well, vinegar to the medium well, and vanilla to the small well. Pour cold water over entire thing. Blend thoroughly to combine.

Bake 35 mins or until tester comes out clean. Frost or dust with confectioners sugar as desired. Enjoy the wackiness!

*Sugar amount seemed excessive to me, but I went ahead with it. Results weren’t overly sweet, but I might play with this in WC experiments.