Sunday, April 8, 2012


   Mayonnaise replaces the oil that's typically used in chocolate cakes. It gives this cake—which would make the ideal birthday cake—an incredibly moist and tender texture. Serve with glasses of ice-cold milk.

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake



  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups mayonnaise (do not use reduced-fat or fat-free)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

special equipment

  • Three 8-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides



  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 8-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Combine chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in medium metal bowl. Add 13/4 cups boiling water and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
  • Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder into another medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat both sugars and mayonnaise in large bowl until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with chocolate mixture in 3 additions, beating until blended after each addition and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Divide batter among prepared cake pans (about 2 1/3 cups for each).
  • Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 32 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 20 minutes.
  • Run small knife around sides of cakes to loosen. Carefully invert cakes onto racks and let cool completely.


  • Place chopped chocolate in medium metal bowl; set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Carefully remove bowl from over water; let melted chocolate cool until lukewarm, stirring occasionally.
  • Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth and creamy. Sift powdered sugar over butter and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add melted chocolate and beat until well blended and smooth, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.
  • Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over top of cake layer to edges. Top with second cake layer; spread 3/4 cup frosting over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining frosting decoratively over top and sides of cake. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and let stand at room temperature.
  • Cut cake into wedges and serve.


   Keeping with Easter coming up this Sunday, I thought about the most elegant eggs people can make themselves.  Not many people can own or even get near Faberge eggs.  This are the next best, with their  intricate patterns on such a small canvas. I hope you enjoy this post.

by Jennifer Sartell

Once a month I head a women's group of Farm Girls. It's a group of brilliant women, kindred spirits and pioneering ladies who are trying to revisit the joys of living a simple life. We've canned together, made cheeses, knitted, spun, and wove baskets to name just a few activities.

Recently, I've met a like soul in Kathy McMinn, owner and operator of The Basket Sampler, where I get my weaving supplies. Kathy mentioned that among her many talents, she could teach our group how to create Ukrainian Eggs. I thought this would be a fantastic April theme with Easter coming.

The traditional Ukrainian Egg is actually called a Pysanka. It is a highly detailed way of decorating an egg using wax and dyes. This form of art dates back to ancient times, with each element of decoration having a symbolic meaning relating to earth and the sun. The egg itself, having been linked with birth, renewal of life, and of course spring time, has held meaning in both ancient beliefs and over history, and has translated into modern Christian traditions.

While our eggs are not traditional Pysanka, this wax relief method is a great way to create beautiful Easter decorations.

All of your supplies can be found at online specialty stores like www.learnpysanky.com/supplies.html.

You will need:
  • raw eggs
  • rubber bands
  • pencil
  • kistka (or wax applicator)
  • egg dyes
  • lit candle for heating the kistka and melting the wax
  • beeswax
  • egg blower
  • polyurethane spray
  • lots of paper towels
  • patience (wink)
  • steady hand (wink)

We started with a raw egg. You can use any color egg. White, brown or even green Araucana eggs would be beautiful. For an excellent read on dyeing home-grown brown eggs, check out A Very Colorful Celebration by Jennifer Burcke for additional dying tips.

We divided the egg into quadrants using rubber bands as guides. This helps to center the design. Then with light pencil lines we drew on our decorations. There are many sources online that give different patterns and ideas to get you started. I found the site LearnPysanky.com to be very helpful. Once you have your design drawn on, the wax process begins.

The kistka is a tiny metal cup fastened to a stick-like handle with a drawing tip underneath for the wax to run through. This is your "pen," which will trace your design on between dye steps.

The tricky thing about understanding the wax relief method is that anything you trace in wax will stay the color that's underneath. For example, if you start with a white egg, any wax that you apply to the white egg will stay white. Once you have all the parts you want white covered in wax, you can dip in the dye bath. Say your next color is yellow, you would dip the whole egg in yellow, dry and apply more wax. All of those wax applications will stay yellow, and so on. So it's a process of layering color and controlling where it stays with the wax application. Work from light to dark dyes.

We heated our kistka cup over the flame of our candles, scooped up a tiny amount of wax and allowed it to melt. And then we began tracing our design. You can practice drawing on a scrap of paper before you go to the egg. We would trace certain elements, then dip in the dyes. Then trace a bit more, and then back into the dyes, each time layering the next color.

When our design was complete, the traditional color to finish with is black. I love the way it looks. It makes all the other colors pop.

Once the egg is done being dyed, it's time to unveil the finished design by melting the layers of wax off and reveal all those beautiful colors. We held our eggs over a flame and wiped the dripping wax off.

Then we gave them a coat of polyurethane spray. (Work in a ventilated area.)

Now the scary part. Blowing the egg out.

Unfortunately, you have to blow the egg out after it's been dyed because the hole will fill with liquid and the hollow egg won't sink in the dye bath.

You run the risk of cracking your egg after all that work, but that's just the name of the game.

Kathy provided us with this great tool (above) that hand drilled a small hole in the shell and then we used this nifty suction blower (right) to get out the egg whites and yolk. We also squirted a bit of water inside, shook it around and emptied it again to clean it.

When we were all through we each had a beautiful egg that will last for years.


    Queen's Day in Amsterdam is a unique night and day carnival like event on the 30th of April each year and during the night before...so called Queen's Night. What is special about the Queen's Day? How about having elements of a huge party across the whole city, it is combined with the market in the streets in the whole entire city.
    Queen's Day in Amsterdam attracts 700,000 visitors, which makes the city crowded beyond any acceptable norm. Despite overcrowding, the atmosphere on Queen's Day is traditionally relax and joyful. The usually mild weather makes the Queen's Day the day to be in Amsterdam.

The Tradition of Queen's Day

    Queen's Day is celebrated in the whole country of the Netherlands for more than 50 years. Amsterdam celebrations are the most raucous. Over the years, the popularity of the event grows bigger and bigger, as crowds of people from all over Europe come to attend.

Free Market (Vrijmarkt)

    The Dutch love to trade, they have it in their blood. Queen's Day is an occasion to trade all things that are unnecessary at home. They come to trade with neighbors and visitors in town. More a social occasion that a real commercial opportunity, the free market is a unique family event with children actively participating also, it's not just an event for adults. Prices are symbolic and the most important thing isn't the trading but enjoying the day and having fun.

Transportation During Queen's Day

    As a large part of the Amsterdam center is filled with such a large crowd, no transportation is possible in the city itself, you will have to walk to wherever that you want to go. No cars are allowed on Queen's Day in the Amsterdam center. All public transportation, including trains are on a special schedule for this day and night.

Queen's Night (Koninginnenacht)

    The celebrating of Queen's Day begins on the evening of the day before, usually at 7 p.m., and goes on until the early hours of Queen's Day. It is called Queen's Night, when all clubs across the Netherlands organize special festivities. Especially for the younger adult crowds, this is the night to be in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is bustling all through the night, as many young adults move across the city hopping from one party to the next, while others prepare for the market, the following day.
    The quarter of Jordan is one of the most crowded places to be on Queen's Day. Not only with traders, food concessions and beer stands, but also with large groups of people singing traditional Dutch songs. These are simple, rhythmic songs, mostly describing the beauty of Amsterdam. While you might not be able to follow the words, the whole atmosphere is always unique, friendly, and relaxed.

Some Dutch Pastries

    There are rock concerts that usually begin about 11 a.m. and go on until late in the afternoon attracting thousands of people.
    All clubs in Amsterdam organize special parties on this day. In many parts of the city, you can hear the music blaring out of speakers around many corners of the city. Many of these turn into improvised parties. There are boats full of dancing people circulating up and down the canals in Amsterdam.

The Queen of Holland

Accommodations for Queen's Day

    If you plan to visit Amsterdam during the next Queen's Day, make your hotel reservations many months in advance. There is absolutely no chance to find a good hotel or even a hostel at the last minute, any private apartment or bed and breakfast's are usually taken years in advance.

Tips if you decide to go for Queen's Day

  • As you are going to spend most of your day around big crowds, leave your valuables in your hotel.
  • You're going to be walking alot, so comfortable shoe are an essential.
  • Take a lot of change. You may want to buy something in the market, plus you may want to buy food or beverages while you are out during the day.
  • All the main grocery stores are open on Queen's Day. You may get food and drink at a better price than at a booth.
  • While you may drink alcohol in the streets on Queen's Day, it is not allowed to carry more than one drink at a time.
  • Consider leaving your camera at the hotel. Take part in the event, there are many offering to take pictures, which you can always download later from the web.