Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Cake

My husband is an introvert. He isn't anti-social, he just has different limits when it comes to people and being the center of attention. Enter me, the antithesis of introvert. I'm not a complete polar opposite, and I wouldn't say he's on the far side of introverted either. But we do balance each other.

Yesterday he said, "I hope you've taken my introverted nature into account for your surprises." The surprises he mentions are in relation to his birthday. It was also yesterday. If he could get away without anyone knowing that he would be just fine with that. Once again, enter me. I love birthdays. Especially my own. I'll tell everybody it's my birthday. I love celebrating life. I love celebrating me. Even more than I love celebrating me, I love celebrating those I love.

My Need to Celebrate - My Husband's Introverted Nature = Pent-Up Energy Looking for Escape

Since I couldn't expend all my energies letting the world know how my incredible husband came into the world yesterday and nothing could make me happier (because he wouldn't like that) I turned all that energy inward into trying to do the things he would like.

He only asked for two things, so I gave both of them to him. He says I spoiled him. I can't see how I did him anything close to justice. I mean, how hard is it to shop? The thing that took the most effort and planning wasn't either of the gifts. It was the cake.

My husband loves chocolate. Lu-uhves the stuff. Milk. Mild. Dark. The man is a regular choco-holic. His favorite treat combines his love of chocolate with peanut butter in the Reese's Dark Peanut Butter Cup. A perfect balance of the bitter with the sweet, the smooth with texture. They aren't easy to come by in the States, so getting them in Korea was unthinkable. But I could...I could make a cake!

From Good Gracious Cakes, found here.

This is my vision for a future cake of his because he loves The Wizard of Oz equally as much as chocolate. But, as I think you and I both know, that was so not happening.

When I was searching for recipes for cakes and frostings and how to do what all the different sites have members with rated cooking experience. I would rate my experience at "wishful thinking." I've never made a cake from scratch. I've never made a layer cake. I've never made frosting. Sure, I worked in a bakery where I took the PRE-BAKED cakes out and frosted them with the PRE-MADE frosting, and even learned how to use the fancy piping tips to edge, make roses, and even leaves (I never could get the proper control for writing). The bakery also had the cake plate that rotated for easy control, and actual tools for spreading the frosting.

So here I am in Korea with no experience, no tools, a counter-top convection oven, a whole lot of energy to expend, and this vision of a chocolate cake with a peanut butter center, complete with chunks of actual peanut butter cups, and topped with whole peanut butter cups. didn't turn out like that.

But I did achieve (personal) rockstar status with what DID happen.

First, it's nearly impossible to get Reese's in Korea period. So there went that idea. However, they do carry Peanut Butter/Chocolate Creme filled Oreos. Yeah...that'll work! But before I ever got there I trolled the internet recipe sites. I wanted a good chocolate cake, but I also knew that I was coming in with a knowledge deficit, and a $25 hand mixer to make this happen, so it had to be simple enough I could do it. A few months back I found this cake on Pinterest, and I thought I could probably make that (sans the liqueur). But the making of melted chocolate drizzle, and the prohibitive pricing for things like Kit Kats or Twix here (which don't taste the same as the ones at home anyway) led me down a different path.

After lots of searching I ended up going with a very basic recipe from Hershey. It's their "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake. And the site also includes their "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting. I remember he had mentioned something about his mother's peanut butter frosting recipe, so I did some searching online and found this at However, as you can see in the myriad comments there seems to be no agreement about the proper way to make it, but it seems almost no one follows the recipe as it's written.

So here's what I did.

Using my one 9" cake pan I made the cake exactly according to the recipe and baked my cakes one at a time (which is why they are uneven, because I couldn't "equally distribute" the batter as I was just eye-balling the results). And, instead of flouring the sides of the pan after lightly greasing them I dusted them with cocoa powder. After the cakes were baked and cooled (I did this a day ahead) I wrapped them in foil and tossed them in the freezer.

For the frosting I halved both the recipes. I decided to fill the center with peanut butter and top it with peanut butter, then do the sides in chocolate. I followed the measurements for the amount of butter, vanilla, and cocoa/peanut butter to use, but beyond that I didn't measure anything, I just alternated powdered sugar and milk to consistency. No, I've never MADE frosting before, but you can trust me I've spread plenty of it (or...on occasion...eaten it out of the container from a everybody does...). I left the peanut butter quite a bit thicker because I wanted it to be more like the center of a Reese's. The chocolate I thinned out quite a bit because I wanted to make sure I had plenty to cover the whole cake. And because I'm short on proper bowls I had to mix one frosting in the mixing bowl, scrape it out into another regular bowl, wash it and the beaters, then do it all over again for the other frosting.

I repeated a mistake I've made in the past and froze the Oreos. The problem when you smash them is that the cream doesn't budge and the entire cookie becomes completely pulverized instead of nicely crushed. Note to self: next time leave the Oreos at room temperature.

I took the cakes out of the freezer (learned this from the baker: if it's frozen it's less likely to fall apart while you're frosting it, and since I was using THICK peanut butter frosting I needed it to stay as in-tact as possible) and placed one, rounded side down, on an upside-down, aluminum-foiled baking sheet (because it's what I had). It made for a slightly uneven cake, but I certainly was not going to attempt to level the sucker with a knife. I spread the peanut butter frosting quite thick, then pulled out the un-pulverized Oreo centers and stuck them on, then spread a thin layer of the icing on the bottom of what would become my upper layer so the Oreos would be nicely sandwiched with icing. Then I spread the remaining peanut butter frosting on the top of the upper layer.

Next, I frosted the sides with the chocolate frosting. The gap between the two layers was rather enormous because the frozen Oreo centers had absolute NO give...nor did my frozen cakes, so I was worried about filling in the gap. But shortly after beginning I saw that it would be fine.

Because I lacked the tools to really trim the cake nicely I decided to stick with the messy look. I placed the remaining Oreo centers on the top (had I been thinking of aesthetics I would have reserved some whole cookies for beautiful cake toppers...but I didn't), and sprinkled the pulverized cookie bits on the top. At which point I decided, wouldn't it be fun to have the bits all around the outside? So I scooped up some and literally threw it at the sides of the cake. It was atrociously messy and decidedly delightful to literally throw cookie dust at the cake. Some of the bigger pieces need a little firm pressing to stay attached, but it was really quite fun.

Voila! The sinfully decadent (and delicious!) result...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


So I'm not really much of an activist. I've never been a sign-toting, pledge-signing kind of person. However, there are a few things that stick very closely to my heart, and I will always fight for. And no, these are not in order of importance.

First, the PRIVILEGE that U.S. citizens have to vote (and, to their everlasting shame, one that they squander). But that is a soap box for another day my friends. This post is reserved for something different.

Two, the neglect, abuse, and/or murder of children. No, I'm not a mother. That does not mean I don't have the instincts of one, and will do my best to protect any child I can regardless of my relation to him/her. The idea that anyone could knowingly or intentionally take advantage of, manipulate, maltreat, or otherwise harm such an innocent, malleable, helpless being deserves whatever judgments the God I believe in has to serve.

Last week was the first time I had heard of/saw anything regarding Joseph Kony, as I'm sure many of you did. My initial reaction after watching was, "Let's get this done!" I wanted to shell out the $30 and buy our Action Kit immediately. But my husband, the prevailing cooler head in our relationship, suggested we wait until it wasn't such a "tight" month. So I waited.

As I waited the rush of doing it cooled. Opposing responses appeared, rebuttals followed, etc. I observed these things and sat back, taking it in. But the fire that ignited inside me to be part of change burned on. I began researching other organizations that work to promote real change. But they all had drawbacks of some kind or another. Reasons why one "shouldn't" donate to them.

So I reflected on what's important to me. What I think "worthy" causes are, and on some of the comments people made that we need to start taking care of our own before we start taking care of the world.

This is what I came up with.

Every month I donate 10% of my earnings as a tithe to my church, which supports causes like humanitarian aid. I believe very much in what they do, and the same group who oversees the spending of that tithing is also in charge of the humanitarian arm of our church. Currently they are receiving donations that go toward the following projects:
I can willingly, happily donate to these causes, and I am confident that my money will not be lining pockets, but actually working on the intended cause.

Additionally, I was reminded of something my husband read to me. One of his favorite comic artists posted something on Twitter about not having access to books as a child. Both of us agreed that not having access to books is nothing short of tragedy. So I've been looking into charities that focus on literacy. An excellent list of charities, non-profits, and volunteer organizations who do just that (it has 125 on the list!) can be found at Playing by the Book --a site dedicated to reviewing children's books.

One that I've found, and wouldn't mind supporting, is First Book. According to it's website, "First Book has distributed more than 80 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada. By making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis, First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and the elevating the quality of education." They also receive a 4 star ranking on Charity Navigator which you can find here.

Also, I believe that individuals can be the change. I have the good fortune of knowing a woman who has started the grassroots campaign to "be the change." She encourages people to be the change wherever they are. Her name is Ashley, and it's called The Shine Project.

And last, going back to what I said about children, I feel that children are often neglected when parents get caught up in dangerous, harmful situations. Sometimes the children are not taught what is dangerous and they become those same kinds of parents. It took years for people to figure out smoking was bad for you. Some people are starting to sound advance warning about pornography in the same way, and I support them. Their non-profit organization Fight the New Drug focuses solely on educating people--especially youth--about the harmful effects of pornography. People who stand with them are fighters. I am a Fighter.

Overall, I think people should not be won over by bouts of mass-propaganda. I do think one person makes a difference, and by choosing to make a difference in the lives of others that sphere of influence expands and overlaps with other people. We can make this world a better place. We can shape the future. We just have to find our book, our shine, our fight, and go with it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Talent Show

So I am terribly remiss in posting this, considering the talent show of which I write occurred in JANUARY. Ahem, that aside, here it finally is and that's what really counts. Right? Right!

It all started with an email recruiting female teachers at the school I work at in South Korea. The guys generally participated, but they felt a little more estrogen was needed. And thus formed the OWP Girls dance troupe (not really, but we did a one night that's something).

ANYWAY...back to the important part of the story, we decided to do a dance number. There were four of us in the group. Mary, Katherine, Lorelei, and me. We had nightly practices for three weeks and learned a K-Pop dance routine using the YouTube dance tutorial.

To get an idea of what we were trying to do you can watch the actual K-Pop group...

...and this is the tutorial we watched to learn the dance (well, one part of it, anyway).

The hours were long. There were room scheduling issues. And sometimes there were curse words (like the night before the performance when I broke my shoe). But in the end it was a lot of fun, and I'd do it all over again.

This video has our dance and the remaining portion of the talent show (don't worry, it's only 6 minutes long so it won't kill you).