Chocolate Lavender Cake for Couch Day 2015

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Dear Readers,
Everyone says having a baby changes everything. And I want to blame the baby (who is really a little boy now, and not really a baby, tears!!!) for the fact that Couch Day 2015 was very different this year. But, I can't. Viggo was READY for our traditional Couch Day -- drinking at noon, and sitting on someone's lap as we took a group photo on our front porch -- but, our so-called friends and Couch Day regulars moved on. Some actually moved, far away, and some decided to take trips during this sacred couch weekend. So, we did what people do best - adapt and make new memories. We had a mini BBQ with some baby friends, and baked a fancy chocolate cake. It was fun.

The husband wrote about his cake struggles (below) and Viggo decided he would do his very own Couch Day photo shoot. As you'll see, he was a natural.

By the way, I know the husband doesn't mention how the final product turned out, but, it was delicious. Maybe not the best cake in the world, but definitely the best cake he's ever made.


I have a love for cakes, but I also have a cake curse.  Never, ever, ever have I made a good cake.  This is not hyperbole.  With my younger brother’s assistance, I’ve made cakes that are dense, that fall in on themselves, or are dry as a desert (not dessert, sadly).  Most often, someone in my family will take a bite, and then express their condolences.  The worst critique, the one that goes down even more disappointingly than a slice of my own sad cake, is when someone, usually my mom, says “wouldn’t it be easier to just use a box mix?”  Ouch.  When something is difficult, and I’m not good at it, I’ve learned it’s easiest to give up.  And so I did. 

But then a few things happened after I forsook cake making.  One, the blog lady loves cake now that she’s a mom.   Second, Lincoln opened near our Altadena home.  They make beautiful cakes.  Tasty cakes.  Cakes for all seasons.   One day, me and the blog lady split a slice of of their multi-layered lavender cake that nearly made me weep.  This was then followed by one of our friends making an incredibly rich, flavorful lemon cake after cooking a whole pig in a caja china.  These instances inspired some part of me I thought I’d thrown away. I began to believe that maybe I could make a cake.  A cake that people would eat, and more importantly, enjoy.

I went back to lavender.  I wanted a lavender cake, with lots of dark chocolate.  And I wanted it to have this simple but elegant look to it (elegant for a guy who can’t really spread frosting on baked goods).  Thanks to the internet’s ability to ensure anything I dream up has been done before and oftentimes better, I found the recipe I wanted to use. 

There were a lot of stops and starts, logistical butter issues, and a delay of about 3.5 weeks to get this cake out.  But on the weekend of Couch Day, when all of our Couch Day friends had forsaken us by moving to new places, visiting Utah, or some such things, I decided to honor the couches and our dinner party guests with a cake.  
Viggo wants ALL the cake.
While we ate ribs, corn, slaw and cake, Viggo did his best to eat his baby friend. Here he is trying to pretend he's not going to eat her.
 Viggo takes on the Couch Day photo shoot, solo.
Dark Chocolate and Lavender Cake
via www.butterandbrioche.com

For the dark chocolate and lavender cake:
1 tbsp. culinary lavender
430 g / 15.2 oz. plain flour
90 g / 3.2 oz. dutch processed cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
510 g / 18 oz. caster sugar
115 g / 4.1 oz. salted butter, melted and cooled
3 medium eggs
115 ml / 4.1 fl. oz. milk
225 ml / 7.5 fl. oz. boiling water

For the chocolate frosting:
200 g / 7 oz. dark chocolate (70%)
280 g / 10 oz. salted butter, at room temperature
200 g / 7.1 oz. icing sugar
60 g / 2.2 oz. dutch processed cocoa powder
½ tsp. vanilla bean extract
4 tbsp. whipping cream

Making the chocolate and lavender layers:
1) Pre-heat the oven to 170 C / 350 F. Grease and line three 15 cm / 6-inch cake pans. Alternatively, prepare one and bake in three stages. We used two 9-inch pans.
2) In a food processor, blitz together the lavender and 3 tbsp. of the sugar to combine. Stir this mixture back in with the rest of the sugar and set aside.
3) Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and soda into a bowl. Add the sugar, melted butter, eggs and milk. Beat for a few minutes to just combine. Add in the boiling water and beat to form a thick and uniform batter.
4) Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans for 10 minutes, before inverting them onto a wire cooling rack. Once cool, level any domed tops.

Making the chocolate frosting:
1) Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Set it aside and let it cool to room temperature.
2) Beat the butter until light and creamy. Add the icing sugar and cocoa powder a little at a time until evenly blended. Mix in the melted chocolate and vanilla extract. Add the whipping cream gradually and beat for a few more minutes until the frosting is smooth, thick and shiny.

Assembling the cake:
Place the first leveled cake layer on a plate or stand. Evenly spread about 2 tbsp. of the frosting over its face. Repeat this process with the second layer. Place the third layer, on top, cut side down. Spread a thin layer of the frosting all over the cake to form a crumb coat. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes or until the frosting has firmed. You can leave the bowl of frosting out while the cake chills. Once chilled, spread a thick layer of the remaining frosting evenly around the cake. Decorate with pesticide free lavender flowers if desired.


Koncert for AmeriKarine: A Celebration of 19th Century American Music

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It is kind of strange to think that the very first Koncert took place three years ago! In some ways, it seems like it was 10 years ago. After that initial, and fine evening, I thought there would never be another Koncert again. But, I was proved wrong. Twice. And thankfully so.

The second Koncert, maybe because it took place while I was still constantly nursing a tiny three month-old, seemed like a blur. But this third, and final Koncert (that's the word on the street), was truly special. Not only because the husband brought everyone together for practices during a very busy summer, but also two of the performers were moving across the country, just days later, never to be seen again. (JK, they just moved to Boston, We're seeing them in November!)

A few highlights from this evening:

- The setting. Our friends moved into a great place in Eagle Rock. There's like 2,000 stairs to climb, but once you get up there, the beautiful outdoor patio(s) and great views made for a magical stage.

- Viggo! This kid was confused, attentive and a little scared (trombones are frightening). And it was a blast watching him react, listen and refuse to clap (something he had just learned a few days prior).

- Wine and friends. Friends and wine. It all made for a good time.

- The effort. I mean who else has friends who put on koncerts for them? Anyone? I'd like to meet you.
 The hostess and little guy.
 The captive audience.
 Viggo is enthralled. 
Oh, look. It's the Bostonians.


Road Trip to Boise

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Shortly after having a kid, we started scratching an itch. An itch to get out of LA. We've definitely thought about this for a while and even had a Portland 2020 Campaign, but then Portland got really pricey and life got busy.

Yet, post baby, we had time and desire to find some place better. Some place with more space, better schools, affordable housing, and less traffic. You know all the things that become important as you age and your tolerance for bullshit declines, drastically. 

So we joked about Idaho. Mostly because we knew nothing about Idaho. And then we did some research and went "hey, this sounds like it could work". And in July, we packed up the Subaru, and drove 18 hours to Boise. Straight. With our almost 10 month old. And we survived. Barely. And decided that on the way back, we would definitely stop for the night. 

We have friends in Boise. Who also recently had a baby. A cute little four-month-old chubster. Viggo tried to eat him the entire time we were there. We stayed the weekend in Boise, checking things out, seeing if we wanted to live there. Then we spent a night in a cabin in Hagerman, on a creek. It was lovely.

As for Boise? It was fine. But, not for us. The best way I could think of describing it is that it's too medium for me. Not enough of a small town, and definitely not a big city. So despite having a fun time, we crossed Boise off our list. Smell you later, Idaho! But not to worry, we have found an even better town, one we've been to already and LIKED. We will be making another exploratory trip this fall. But in the meantime, here are a few snapshots from our road trip. 
Baby meet-up.
The capital building is pretty fancy.
Best breakfast in town.
Our cabin in Hagerman, which was along the Billingsley Creek.
Oh look! It's the three of us in one photo.
Viggo lounging in his Vegas suite.