Monday, November 29, 2010

Gone Fishin...

I have a confession to make: I’m tired. Really, really tired. The kind of tired that reminds me of trans-Atlantic flights to someplace super awesome—only minus the super awesome part. And if I’m honest, my brain has turned to mush. Not zombie, night of the living dead mush, but more like the ‘wait, did I shampoo my hair or not?’ moment in the shower kind of mush. I’ve been staring at the screen for an hour now, trying to think of something terribly clever/fun/moving/ and/or witty, and I gotta say, I got nothing.

A little over two weeks ago, I started a seasonal job in retail to make a little something extra for the holidays, and I had nooo idea how exhausting it is to stand on my feet for eight hours a day—not to mention the stress of trying to learn a new computer system and remembering all those pesky details that seem to want to run away from me like spooked bison. Add to that the early mornings this night owl is unaccustomed to and my 45 minute commute—each way—and I am running on fumes. So I am copping out this week and giving myself a bit of a break.

As a thank you for stopping by, I am offering not one, but TWO lucky commenters a four pack of cupcakes shipped to your house by yours truly. In order to be eligible, just tell me what your favorite part of the Christmas season is. The shopping? The gifts? The smell of snow in the air? The day after Christmas? I'll post the winners on next week's blog, so be sure to check back then.

You guys are awesome for bearing with me, and I PROMISE to be back in the saddle for next week- *with* a new, kick-butt recipe. In the meantime, have an awesome week, and good luck in the drawing!! Oh, and here’s a pretty picture to tide you over till next week:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Car Trips of Thanksgivings Past

Ahh, Thanksgiving. Probably my very favorite holiday of the year. Remarkably, it has managed to stay commercial-free over the years, which is more than I can say for just about every other holiday out there. I love the very idea of a day dedicated to giving thanks for all the blessings in our lives. Without the pressure of buying the perfect gift, we can gather with our families and celebrate good food, good company, and another year of not killing each other.

Alas, this year I am sorry to say that Kirk and I will not be able to be with our families as we chow down on the single greatest turkey recipe known to man (thank you Alton Brown!). And while I am grateful that we have the opportunity to join forces with our friends and next-door neighbors for dinner, I can’t help but reminisce about Thanksgivings past.

In my earliest memories, my family would pile into the old station wagon and head north for Turkey day. As many of you may know by now, my Nana and Papa lived in an Indiana suburb of the vast city of Chicago. When I was very young, we lived in Georgia, and then later Kentucky. Though spending time with family for the holidays is a good idea in theory, the drive to see them was inevitably more than my siblings and I could handle. The trip always seemed to unfold in exactly the same way.

“Okay, I have a roll of nickels for each of you.” My mom twisted around in her seat as my dad stared straight ahead at the swiftly moving road.

A cheer erupted among the three of us, stuffed unceremoniously in the back seat. Our greedy hands thrust forward, we waited impatiently for what amounted to a month of allowance to drop into our palms.

My mother held up her hands. “Now wait a minute. There is a catch. Each time you act up, you are going to have to pay me a nickel. When we get to Nana and Papa’s, you can spend the remaining amount on anything you want.”

“Even candy?” My brother asked incredulously. We were never allowed to eat candy. (Or white bread, junk cereals, or the mysterious foodlike substance known as Little Debbies)

“That’s right, son. Anything at all, even candy.”

We three looked among ourselves with wide eyes and open mouths. Candy!

My mother looked us each in the eye, as best she could with the restrictive seat belt and high headrest. “Now remember, you will have to give up a nickel each time you act up, so the better you behave the richer you will be.”

We nodded as solemnly as we could manage until the heavy, papered cylinders were dropped in our hands, then we squealed with delight and squirmed in our own seatbelts in a quasi victory dance.

My brother is older than me by 2 years, and my sister is 3 years older than him. As the youngest and smallest I was always the one strapped into the middle seat, feet resting on the mysteriously raised hump that usually made the position undesirable for big people.

For those first few miles we would giggle with each other, point out the window at randomly entertaining objects, and blurt out annoying lyrics to the kid-friendly songs that we were allowed to listen to. Oh the adventure! The freedom of the open road! The ability to use travel toothbrushes (yes, the obsession started early). It was all rainbows, and sunshine, and dreams of salami sandwiches that would await us when we reached Nana and Papa’s house.

And then my brother would poke me.

To this day, I swear to you that he started every fight. His clever hands shot out the moment my mom and sister were not paying attention, his finger jabbing sharply into my side. I angrily protested and poked him back. Of course it was only fair that the retaliatory strike be of greater force and better aim. He howled in protest and smacked me on a bare leg.

The resounding sound of flesh colliding with flesh instantly grabbed my mother’s attention and she whipped around to glare at us. Instinctively she knew my sister was not involved, and she zeroed in on my brother and I. Her large mommy hand appeared in front of us as if conjured from thin air. “A nickel each. Now.”

“But Mom!” we wined together, before arguing with the ferocity rivaling any high-powered New York defense attorney about how the other one started it.

“I don’t care who started it. I am finishing it. Now give me 2 nickels for arguing.” She stared us down with the infamous and completely unreplicatable I-am-your-mother-do-as-I-say look.

Mournfully, we tore open the once perfect and pristine brown wrappers and extract 2 nickels. We looked up at her with puppy dog eyes that silently begged for a reprieve, and she simple folded the fingers of her outstretched hand in a maneuver universally known to mean cough it up, buddy.

Ten cents. Gone, just like that. Holding back tears I stared at the depleted roll of coins. There was no way that I was going to lose one more cent. When we got to Nana and Papa’s, I would still $1.90 to buy anything I wanted.

Even candy.

It was only a half hour later that my brother flicked my ear. I frogged his shoulder. And my mother put her hand out.

By the time we arrived, my brother and I would have not but the empty paper wrappers to show for our efforts at being good. Our sorrow was quickly assuaged, however, when we remembered that Nana always had candy jars aplenty. With mouthfuls of M&Ms and gumdrops to spike our spirits—as well as our blood sugars—we soon forgot our losses and threw ourselves into the business of gorging ourselves.

For the big day, we headed over to my aunt and uncle’s house, where long card tables nearly circled the house, and cousins, and second cousins, and aunts and uncles and grandparents aplenty filled the house with noise, and laughter, and the overriding sound of football on the TV. When we sat down, the rolls would be passed, we chose between white and dark meat, jello moulds, sweet potato casseroles, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, gravy, and just about everything else you can possibly think of. The meal lasted for ages as we ate, and talked, and ate some more.

After the last dessert was eaten and darkness blanketed the cold suburban landscape, we returned to Nana and Papa’s, sated, happy, and tired.

At the end of the weekend, we piled once more into the car, waving enthusiastically at my grandparents as they stood on the stoop. As my father backed into the street and put the car in gear, my mother would turn in her seat once more. “Okay, I have a roll of nickels for each of you…”

In all trips that we took to see my mother’s parents, in all the years that we three crowded into the backseat and set off across the great mid-west, I don’t think I ever once arrived at our destination with a single cent to my name. The only consolation that I have is that my brother didn’t either ;)

So, what were your Thanksgiving Day traditions? Did you travel over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house? And more importantly, do you eat turkey or ham?

Last year's turkey

For me, I always preferred ham until the one Good Eats episode that forever changed my holiday menu. All I have to say it, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for Alton Brown and his magically recipe that truly is Romancing The Bird. The single most magnificently moist, perfectly delicious - not to mention foolproof - roast turkey recipe ever, if I do say so myself. I have made this bird five or six times now, and my only changes are that I leave out the candied ginger and have forgotten the allspice berries a time or two. If you are having turkey, perhaps you will give it a whirl!

Happy Thanksgiving, Cake Readers!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Forget Me Not

I’m getting the silent treatment.

I know, that's awful, isn't it? The worst of it is, I don’t even know what I did. Everything was going along swimmingly, and then bam, Richard and Jane—two of the most important people in my life right now— suddenly clammed up tighter than old Scrooge’s wallet.

Was it something I said? Probably not, since when we are together—which was almost all the time until this past week—I usually don’t talk, only listen. Now see? I’m a good listener, I care about them, I want to showcase them in their light, and what do I get for my trouble?

Nothing. Nada, zip, zero.

The hero and heroine of my second manuscript seem to have left the building. And with perfectly awful timing, thank you very much, seeing as I have to send my contest entry for the Golden Heart—only the biggest contest of them all—in by Friday. In order to do so, I have to finish the blasted book. I’m so close, it’s killing me—one flippin’ chapter!

So since they won’t talk to me, I thought I would write them an open letter. [cracking knuckles]

Dear Richard and Jane,

What happened to us? In the beginning, you chattered like finches in my ear, keeping me up at night and my fingers busy typing away all day. We laughed, we cried, we stayed up til two in the morning braiding each other’s hair. Oh, wait—scratch that last one. We did share a lot of late nights together, though.

And now . . . nothing. I don’t understand. Don’t you want a happily ever after? Aren’t you tired of the witty banter and the smoldering looks—surely you are ready to move on to the next level? Richard, did I not give you all the best lines? Did I not mold a heroine from scratch just for you? One who is smart, and sweet, and knows how to whip you into shape?

Jane, what other Regency heroine has ever been given a bakery? All those delicious treats you made—I gave you those recipes! And did I not plop the most handsome, charming (if somewhat bedeviling) hero ever right into your shop? All along, the two of you have leapt off the page, taking up 90 percent of my waking brain power. Eating breakfast I plotted, in the shower I crafted scathing come-backs, making dinner I mulled ways to grind you into the dirt so you could spring back, better and happier than ever.

What do I get in return? Complete and total silence. For shame, you two. For shame. Do you think you can just forget me? Turn your backs and disappear from view? Clamming up just before things get really good—real mature, guys. Honestly, I have half a mind to kick you to the curb and start over with sweeter, more cooperative characters. That’s right, I said it. [nodding decisively] How do you like them apples?

[Collapsing to knees] No, wait! I take it back! I didn’t mean it, I swear [dramatic crying]. I need you. Please don’t leave me. I’ll do anything. When I asked how you like the apples, Jane, I only meant wouldn’t you like them for some of you famous apple tarts. Yes, that’s it! See, I was trying to be nice. Richard, you love her tarts, don’t you? DON’T YOU??


So, in conclusion, I would really appreciate it if you would pop in and tell me the details of your happily-ever-after. I promise to put my heart and soul into crafting it into the perfect ending. And if you are really nice, I will even let you pop in to say hello in the next book.

There now, all better.

Hugs and kisses,


So, am I the only writer to have her character’s suddenly clam up? What have you done to get your characters talking again? For all you readers, have you ever been frustrated by the ending of a good book, because you think the author let things go off course?

Today’s recipe is a direct plea to Richard and Jane: Forget-Me-Not Meringue Cookies. Since Jane always changes things up a bit in her recipes, I decided to change the standard chocolate chip variety to peppermint white chocolate. This one is super duper easy—though it is beyond difficult to walk away and leave them in the oven over night. . . .

Peppermint White Chocolate Forget-Me-Not Cookies

2 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp mint extract

1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

(If you have a stand mixer, it makes this process a LOT easier)

Beat eggs until foamy, then slowly add the sugar in. Beat until mixture forms stiff, creamy peaks (should be several minutes). Fold in vanilla, mint, and white chocolate.

Place parchment paper over a cookie sheet, and drop mixture by tablespoons onto the sheet. Place into preheated oven, then immediately turn oven off.

Walk away from the oven, people. Let sit 8 hours or overnight in the oven . . . just don’t forget them!

Enjoy :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

When at First You Don't Succeed

Picture it: Columbia, SC 1997

When I was young, and idealistic, and thought the job I wanted would be there waiting for me the moment I graduated (complete with welcome banner and funfetti), I decided I wanted to be a Marine Scientist. I couldn’t have been more thrilled when I received a scholarship to attend the University of South Carolina.

All fresh-faced and shiny, I showed up on my first day of college ready to take on the world. I was young, idealistic, and thought that a degree in Marine Science would take me places. Literally. Me, a research ship, a wetsuit and a pod of frisky dolphins—you get the picture. Just call me Erin Cousteau.

With my shiny new backpack and a sturdy pair of new shoes, I huffed it to the quad to attend my very first class on my very first day of my very first semester of college ever. It began at 8am, but despite the trouble I had getting to sleep the night before (excitement, you know) I was all chipper and ready to begin the next chapter of my life.

Unfortunately, the next chapter began with Calculus. Calculus! What that heck kind of a way is that to welcome a newbie? As I slipped into the huge auditorium, I chose a middle distance seat and slid in, pencil sharpened (that’s right kids – no laptops!), notebook open, and the $150 calculator I had to purchase in high school perched on the corner of the desk. The class began, and within moments I had a bit of a sinking feeling. Now, I don’t know a lot about math, but I was prreeettty sure it involved numbers. Not x’s, y’s, z’s, and quirky, oversized, angry-looking backward 3’s (You know—this guy: ∑. What the heck is that thing, anyway?).

The biggest shock of all, however, was that we were not allowed to use our calculators. Gulp. Didn’t she know that my precal class in high school required calculators?? This is the fun part: that wasn’t a university wide edict. Oh no, my friend in the other calculus 101 class happily tapped away on his calculator.

As I navigated my way through the week, I was relieved to see that I had saved the worst for first. That was the good news. The bad news was that I had that stupid calculus three days a week – all at the crack of dawn in the eyes of a college student . . . ok, who am I kidding? 8am is still the crack of dawn for me ;)

What was even worse than the content of the class was the professor herself. She sounded like Barbara Streisand, looked like John Lennon – slap a pair of round glasses on her and she’d be set—and had all the charisma of Ben Stein (Bueller? Bueller?). A couple of weeks into the semester, I was walking to class with some friends and was letting them in on my observations. I got a good laugh out of everyone, and when the giggling subsided, I realized that there was a sound coming from behind us. Click clap click clap . . . Someone was walking directly behind us. With heels. On a college campus. Holding my breath, I peeked behind us. Oh schnikies – it was the White Album all over again.

Talk about egg on the face.

Nothing like openly mocking the professor of your weakest subject. By halfway through the first semester, I had come to the conclusion that I had mistakenly placed into Calculus, while some Mensa member languished in precal. There was no way around it: I needed help. Swallowing my pride, I went to professor Barbara S. Lennonstein, tail tucked between my legs, and asked for help. She sat behind her desk, steepling her fingers and smiling blandly. Have no fears, she said, you’ll do fine.

I muddled through the rest of the semester, all the while terrified I’d end up with a grade I had never even seen before. Would it be a C-? Dear lord, a D? Or, horror of horrors, D-??? The mere thought made me break out in a cold sweat. It couldn’t be. It would be okay. I would get a (cringe) C, and somehow life would go on.

At the end of the semester, I headed home for the holidays, finished with classes and anxiously awaiting the grades that were due to be released within the week. Come Christmas, I was wrapped in the bosom of my family, the tree glittering merrily as the smell of baking cookies filled the air. With Christmas music tinkling in the background and a fire crackling beside the desk, I sat down to call for my grades. (Yes kids, in the old days, you had to call an automated phone center to receive your grades. The computer system wouldn’t come into use for that particular task for another two years.)

As if sensing my anxiety, the system was busy the first time I called. And the second. And the third. By the tenth redial, I was a jittery mess. It was suddenly the most important thing in the world that I know my grades, and the phone lines were conspiring against me. When at long last the stupid system picked up, I pressed each button with utmost care, terrified I would do something wrong and be disconnected.

First my social, then my password, and finally the mechanical voice began to read. Each word is slow and precise, and it seems to take years to read through the list. With pencil in hand, I copy the words on paper:

Chemistry . . . B+.

English . . . A.

Marine Science . . .A.

Marine Science Lab. . . B+.

Mathematics . . . yes??

(still waiting)

(longest pause in the history of mankind)

(Dear God, what is my grade????)

. . . and then it said it.

I sat in shock, staring blankly at the foreign symbol I had written on the page. What was this tall vertical line adorned by two, short, horizontal ones? Had someone deconstructed a B? Alas, they did not. No, my dear cake readers, it was indeed my very first—and only—


That, my friends, was the most monumental failure of my entire academic career. It haunted me for the whole of my four years in college, since my school did not have freshman forgiveness despite the fact I earned a B when I retook the class under a different professor. I was shocked, embarrassed, humbled, and disappointed.


This, my friend, is not a story of failure, but rather the motivation failure offers if we choose to view it that way. I worked with single-minded purpose after that, determined to never repeat such a disaster. After that semester, I enjoyed four semesters on the Dean’s list (all A’s and B’s), and my final two semesters even made the President’s list, despite including such classes as Physics, Organic Chemistry, and Master’s level classes. In the end, I graduated with honors, in spite of the fact I had a four-credit F hanging like a 50 lb weight from my GPA. It was a triumph, and a lesson that I have always carried with me.

In writing, it is difficult to ride the roller coaster of the business. Agents rejections, contest wins, contest losses, scathing feedback, sweet praises, long silences from agents and editors . . . the list goes on. But guess what? I plan to keep pushing. I want to learn from every rejection, to absorb the good advice while repelling the bad. I want to soldier on, and in the end, I want to be a success. I can visualize it, I can work towards it, and I can believe in it.

What have been some failures that led to your own successes? Has there been a recent setback in your life? A triumph? Did you suffer through calculus with me and get an F too but also went on to overcome it? (I’m talking to you, Jacob!)

Me and Kirk on Graduation Day! Notice the yellow ropes for graduating Cum Laude!

All this month, I will be ending my blog with something I am thankful for. This month, I am grateful that my dog is too cute to kill, especially when she decides to do a little redecorating . . .

No matter how great the success your failure may eventually lead to, you are always entitled to a little chocolate wallowing initially :)

I found these cookies on, a recipe submitted by Nigella Lawson, and try as I may, I can’t seem to improve on them :) If you are looking for all the best things combined in one cookie—shortbread, chocolate, icing, and sprinkles!—then I recommend giving them a whirl!

Click Here For Buttery, Chocolate Goodness!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Low Riders

With the leaves swirling colorfully around our property this weekend, I watched my husband on the riding lawn mower as I stood sipping hot tea on the back porch. The fresh, chilly air combined with the unmistakable smell of fuel, and before I knew it I was laughing at a long buried memory.

When I was 14, I, like every other red-blooded American teenager, heartily wished that I could drive. I wanted it so bad, I could clearly picture myself behind the wheel, hands gripping the hard leather steering wheel as the countryside galloped by. Of course, said driving privileges were still a year and a half away, so I had to take what I could get. For a semi-country girl on a large grassy lot, that meant the riding lawn mower.

I can still see it, its dull silver paint glinting dully in the sunlight, that handsome orange pinstripe adding panache to the hood, and the hard-earned rust spots adding character to its motorized allure. Ahh, that deafening roar of the engine, the complete lack of shocks on the seat . . . really, what more could a girl want?

Now, my parents were more than happy to allow me that particular chore, and I would spend hours driving in long, straight rows, achieving an evenly mowed lawn by 2 foot intervals. If I mowed the front, the back, and the back-back, I would finally pull into the garage three hours later, my whole body vibrating even after the mower was turned off. And I loved it. After all, does not a riding mower have a steering wheel, a key in the ignition, an engine, and 4 wheels? It felt like freedom.

So, you can see how this marvelously legal-for-a-14-year-old-driver machine would be too much to keep to myself. I distinctly remember a lazy Saturday in autumn, not too long after school had started back up. My friends Carly* and Jane* were over at my house for the day, and we were bored and looking to get into a bit of fun. The air was cool and clean, the autumn leaves had begun to blanket the countryside, and, with my parents gone, the world was our oyster.

It is lost to the annals of time how it came to be, but that day I decided I wanted to take my friends on a joy ride. <cue Low Rider music>

So out came the mower, in all of its 14 horsepower glory. With me in the driver seat, Carly on the left fender and Jane on the right, I popped that baby into first gear and we took off with a jolt. Soon we were cruising at top speed, 4, maybe 5 miles an hour, laughing with the abandon that only a group of teenage girls can muster as we zipped around the back-back.

I expertly maneuvered around the gopher holes, deftly avoided the tree (yes, a full acre lot with only one tree), and rode hell-bent for leather down to the property line and back. Straight lines be damned (but only because the blade was disengaged), I looped into figure eights, threw in a few jaunty z’s, and even wrote out my initials.

Our hair windblown—well, lightly feathered, anyhow—at last we had exhausted the fun, and I dropped my giggling girlfriends at the back deck before parking my silver steed in the garage, no one the wiser. We floated through the rest of the day on the exhilaration of the ride and the secrecy of it all. Oh yes, we were wild, we were young, and we were rebels.

Come Monday, it was back to school as usual, and we three plodded through our day. After 6th period, Jane came skidding around the corner and ran towards my locker. “Oh my God!” she exclaimed, breathing hard with the effort to make it to my locker and back in the 4 minute break. “You won’t believe what Mr. Simpson said during class!”

Mr. Simpson was the Health teacher, and was known for his sometimes racy stories and videos. He was also a neighbor of ours.

“What?!” I exclaimed, thinking that there might be some juicy sex-ed trivia involved.

“He told the class that he had seen the absolutely most bizarre thing over the weekend. He said that he had looked out the back window when he sat down to lunch on Saturday, and couldn't believe his eyes when he saw three girls piled onto a riding lawn mover on the neighbor’s property, inching along while screaming and howling with laughter. He said it was the damndest thing he ever saw! The whole class laughed and laughed!” Jane looked like she couldn’t decide whether she should be horrified or laughing.

“He didn’t say anything in 4th period!” I exclaimed, having no trouble choosing horrified.

“Duh! That’s because he knows that you were one of the girls, stupid! He didn’t know about me!” She decided to go with laughter, and bent over at the waist to indulge.

Thank goodness no one else realized that the story was about me, but I couldn’t look Mr. Simpson in the eye for a good two weeks after that. From that day on I only pulled the mower out for serious work, and the back-back, visible to Mr. Simpson, went unmowed more often than not. But the memories of the laughter, hair flying in the breeze and the intoxicating feeling of freedom will stick with me forever.

*Names have been changed to protect the ridiculous ;) Bonus points if either of said friends out themselves!

Were you ever busted for doing something silly with your friends? Embarrassed by a neighbor? Does the crisp, cool air of autumn always remind you of a particular memory?

Today’s recipe was perfected, well, today! For those of you looking for something sweet, rich, and with a bit of a pick-me-up, I give you:

Irish Cream Cupcakes!

Makes 24 cupcakes

- 4 ounces (4 squares) BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate

- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

- 1 cup sugar

- 2 eggs

- 1 tsp. vanilla

- 1 and 3/4 cups cake flour (or sifted all-purpose flour)

- 3/4 tsp. baking soda

- slightly less than 1/4 tsp salt

- 1 cup water

- 2 Tbsp sour cream

- Irish Cream Liquor (for use after cupcakes are baked)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating with electric mixer on low speed after each addition until well blended.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. If you are using all-purpose flour, it is best to simply sift it all together.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the sour cream and ½ the water, then another 1/3 of the flour, the last half of the water, and finally the last 1/3 of the flour.

Distribute evenly into 24 paper-lined medium muffin cups. (I always add the batter to gallon sized Ziplock bags and cut a small hole in one corner for easy distribution. This batter will be very thin)

Bake 13 to 15 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Be careful not to overcook! Cool in pan 10 min.; remove to wire racks. Let cool for about 2 minutes, then poke holes in each cupcake using a toothpick. Pour about a half a capful of Irish Cream liquor over the holes, and let sit until absorbed. After about 5 minutes, remove cupcakes from pan and allow to cool.

Irish Cream Frosting:

- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

- 1/3 cup shortening

- 4 cups powdered sugar (1 lb)

- 3 Tbsp natural Cocoa powder

- 3 or more Tbsp Irish Cream, or amount needed to bring icing to creamy, fluffy consistency.

Combine butter and shortening, beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add a few tablespoons of the Irish Cream as the mixture gets dry. Add cocoa, mix thoroughly. Add the remaining Irish Cream until icing reaches desired consistency.

Garnish with white chocolate, and enjoy!

Update - Just wanted to say that I am sure you could use a box mix of the chocolate cake as well. Just be sure to soak with the liquor when you pull it from the oven :)