Cinderella the Cow Skull

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In 1991, when I was a mere 3-year-old little girl who was just knee-high to a grasshopper, my Daddy gave me my first cow, Cinderella. Cinderella was the sweetest cow with these huge horns! You could walk out into the pasture and she would just stand there while you petted her. Cinderella was a registered gray Brahman cow. She was very prolific having a calf every year until she passed away in 2008 at the age of 17. Today, I still have cows that can be traced back to Cinderella. Cinderella earned her place on the ranch and passed away peacefully at home. I kept her skull because it’s sentimental to me, and I knew it make a really cool piece to hang up in my house one day.

A couple Christmas’s ago, my sister painted the skull red with my three schools icons. There was an Arkansas Razorback, Georgia G, and a Texas Tech Double T. She also painted and glittered the horns black. She did a great job, but it wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned for Cinderella. This past Christmas break, my sister was really sweet and stripped the paint to start over. But, once again, she tried several different things and none of them just won me over. I left the base turquoise paint coat on and brought Cinderella back to Lubbock. After several months of thinking about what I wanted I finally figured out that I wanted Cinderella to have a simple tribal design that was feminine yet appropriate. So, here’s what I ended up with.

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I love how she turned out and can’t wait to hang her up! Cinderella will forever be with me.

Snooze, an a.m. Eatery — Denver

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Sunday morning, before we left Denver and headed back to Garden City, we wanted to find a breakfast spot. Our requirements any time we go out-of-town are to eat somewhere local. Crystal had this awesome app called Ness. It’s a restaurant app similar to Yelp but way cooler! (If you don’t already have the Ness app go download it now…right now!) When looking for restaurants, one of the recommendations was Snooze. Now, Crystal also made the requirement of hollandaise sauce. We are truly sisters. ūüôā Low and behold, Snooze has an entire section on the menu called The Art of Hollandaise. Needless to say, we were heading to Snooze.

We got there at around 8:30 a.m. and there was already a 20-30 minute wait. We knew it was going to be good. The ambiance was so fun! A very modern, chic place. After we were seated and drooling over the menu, we decided to start off with a hot chocolate and chia latte. Both were amazing! 20140123-114604.jpg

We decided we both were going to order from The Art of Hollandaise section of the menu. We are always careful to never order the same thing so we get to try as many things as possible. When Crystal was ordering, she asked the waitress what she recommended, and then she informed us that we get two eggs so we could choose two different things from that section of the menu. My mouth dropped…literally. I was soooo excited! Crystal ordered the Chilaquiles Benedict and the Havana Benny. Out of the two, I personally preferred the Chilaquiles Benedict.

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I went with the Upstream Benny and the Bella! Bella! Benny. Crystal really liked the Upstream Benny, but I preferred the Bella! Bella! Benny.

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Finally, we couldn’t pass up the pancake flight. You get your choice of three pancakes. We went with the Pineapple Upside Down pancake, Sweet Potato pancake, and the Caramel Apple Pie pancake. Hands down, we both agreed the Pineapple Upside Down pancake was our favorite!

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If there was a Snooze closer to me, I would make a special trip every Sunday morning. It was that good! If you ever see a Snooze, be sure to stop and experience the yumminess! Trust me, you won’t regret it! Crystal and I finished everything with no shame.

The Yards — Denver 2014

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My sister had a rough week last week. She needed some sister time and needed to get away. What better place to get away to than the National Western Stock Show in Denver? So, I made a nice 5.5 hour road trip to Garden City, Kan., to pick up Crystal, and then we hit the road for another 4 hours to Denver. It was really late by the time we got to Denver so we found a hotel and crashed. We got up the next morning, showered, and off to the stock show we went. This was Crystal’s first time to experience Denver so she was excited, and I was just excited to be there! One of my best friends, Brett Ausley, asked me to scout all the new bulls, especially the Lautner bulls, when he found out I was going. I was happy to oblige. Below is a slideshow of all the bulls I decided to picture. I apologize for the poor quality on some of the photos. I took them on my iPhone and the sun wasn’t cooperating.

 

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Personally, of all the bulls in the yards, my favorite is Daddy’s Money. He’s a total, solid package bull. Tons of muscle, rib shape, capacity, and stands on good bone. After him, my favorite Lautner bull is Silver Lining. He too has a solid foundation and is very clean and smooth made. I’m also a sucker for that coloring. Some other Lautner bulls that stood out to me were Ready to Roll and War Eagle. Another non-Lautner bull that caught my eye is Armada.

Needless to say, we really enjoyed our trip. It’s always really neat to see what the new, upcoming bulls for the year are going to be and see the progeny of the older bulls.

Until next time Denver,

Holiday Chex Mix

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When I was in high school, my Momma handed me a recipe she found and asked if I would make it. It was around this time of year, and I honestly don’t remember where the recipe came from. I only make it during the holiday season and it’s always a big hit! Just go ahead and call it Holiday Crack. Once you start eating this, you won’t stop! This is one recipe you won’t throw away and will make over and over to take to parties and to just have around the house. The nice thing about this recipe is you can add or take away mix-in ingredients as you like.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 box Corn Chex
  • ~4 c. Popped, Popcorn (I usually just buy the kernels and pop it myself. Just follow the directions on the bag. It’s real easy.)
  • ~2 c. Peanuts (I usually just sprinkle them over the mix until it looks good. Sometimes I don’t even include them.)
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) Butter
  • 2 c. Light Brown Sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 c. Light Corn Syrup
  • 1 teas. Baking Soda
  • 2 teas. Vanilla
  • ~4 c. Chocolate Covered Pretzels (I never measure. I just use what looks good.)
  • 1 bag Holiday M&M’s

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 250F.
  2. In a large, aluminum roasting pan, mix corn chex, popcorn and peanuts.
  3. In a heavy, medium sauce pan over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar and corn syrup. Stir continuously until it starts to boil. Once it boils, leave it be and let it boil about 5 minutes. (Sometimes the caramel mixture will look funky (cloudy colored, thick or weird consistency, don’t worry it’ll be fine. It turns out like this because it boiled longer than need be.)
  4. Remove caramel mixture from heat and add baking soda and vanilla. Be careful because the vanilla will have a weird reaction with the mixture and cause it to rapidly boil where the vanilla was poured. Stir to combine.
  5. Pour caramel mixture over chex mix. Stir. (If you feel like you don’t have enough caramel, have no fear you do! As it bakes, it will spread out.)
  6. Bake in oven for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and stir continuously to break up pieces until you think they won’t stick together anymore. If you don’t stir, it will harden into one piece in the pan. It’s OK if this happens, just break it up. Cool completely.
  8. Once the chex mix is completely cooled, add the chocolate covered pretzels and M&M’s. Stir.
  9. Store in an airtight container. This mix will be good for several weeks, but trust me it won’t last that long!

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cake

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I’m designating October as Pumpkin Month. I know it’s not October yet, but it’s close enough for me! I saw this amazing looking pumpkin cake on Pinterest and just had to try it out. Now, I’ll admit, I’m a weirdo. I don’t like pumpkin pie, but when it comes to pumpkin cake or bread, I’m all about some! I’ve adapted this recipe from Jessica at The Novice Chef. Let me tell ya – this is good stuff! I took one bite and said, “oh, my, goodness,” and I’m pretty sure my eyes rolled into the back of my head. I am almost tempted not to take it to work tomorrow. But, I will because the good Lord knows I don’t need to eat all of it! P.S. I really need to work on my food styling. Everyone seems to have way better pictures of their food than me!

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Ingredients:

Cake

  • 3 c.¬† Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 3/4 c.¬†Butter, softened
  • 2 c. Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 tbls. Vanilla
  • 1 (15 oz) can Pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4. Vegetable Oil
  • 1 c. Milk

Icing

  • 12 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 3/4¬†c. Butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla
  • 2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 4¬†c. Powdered Sugar

Directions:

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 300¬įF.¬†Butter, flour, and put a piece of parchment paper in¬†3, 8-inch round cake pans. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large, stand mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  5. Stir in vanilla, pumpkin and vegetable oil.
  6. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk. Start with the flour.
  7. Divide batter evenly into prepared pans.
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
  9. Remove pans from oven and let cool on cooling racks for 10 minutes.
  10. Take cake out of pans and cool completely on cooling racks.

Frosting

  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Beat in vanilla and cinnamon.
  3. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high until frosting is smooth.

Assembling the Cake

  1. Place a small amount of frosting on the bottom of the cake stand or platter. Place the first layer on top.
  2. Put a thick layer of frosting in between each layer.
  3. Once all layers are assembled, place a layer of frosting around the outside of the cake.
  4. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Salted Chocolate Toffee

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Last week was a bit hectic so this week I’m going to make up for it with a few posts. I was thinking of my friend, Courtney, when I made this. She loves toffee so she’ll be my biggest critic tomorrow when I take this to work. I hope she likes it! I looked through several recipes before I finally decided on this one. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily adapted from anyone in particular, I just combined several recipes, noticed what was consistent with all of them, and did what I thought was easiest. Let’s face it; we all need a little simplicity in our lives when it comes to baking!

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Now, I will warn you, this can count as your arm workout for the day because you’ll need to stir constantly!

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips
  • Kosher Salt

Yep, that’s it! Five simple ingredients!

Directions:

  1. Line an 11×17 pan with foil and generously butter the foil. You won’t end up using the entire pan so be prepared to bring up the edges. Refer to #4.
  2. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, over medium-high heat, combine butter and sugar and stir constantly. Keep stirring until it reaches 300F or hard crack stage. It probably takes 10-15 minutes. It’ll turn a beautiful dark caramel color when it’s ready.

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3. Take off heat and stir in vanilla. I don’t know why, but the vanilla has some kind of reaction with the toffee mixture and will boil so be careful!

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4. Pour mixture on buttered aluminum foil. After it spreads out and settles, bring up the edges of the foil so it can’t spread out any thinner.

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5. Let cool about 10-15 minutes.

6. Melt chocolate chips and pour over toffee. Spread the chocolate out into a thin even layer.

7. Sprinkle kosher salt on top while it’s still hot.

8. After it’s completely cooled, cut or break into pieces. Store in an air tight container.

Enjoy!

Apricot Bars

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This one is a special request¬†from Dr. Irlbeck. I made these once and she fell in love! I’ve adapted this recipe from Betty Crocker’s Almond, Apricot, White Chocolate Decadence Bars.¬†There’s a few steps involved to create it and an ingredient I didn’t even know existed until I made this, but no worries it’s not too complicated!

Apricot Bars

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg. Sugar Cookie mix (I just buy the cheap stuff)
  • 1 pkg. (7 or 8 oz.) almond paste
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 pkg. (6-8 oz. apricots), chopped
  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 bag (12 oz.) white¬†chocolate chips
  • Sliced or chopped almonds, for topping

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375 F.
  2. Mix sugar cookie mix¬†according to package. Spread in one layer in a 9×13 pan. Bake 10 minutes.
  3. While the cookie base is baking, chop apricots.
  4. Cool cookie base for 10 minutes.
  5. In an electric mixer, mix almond paste and sugar until crumbly and blended.

The first time I made this, I had no idea what almond paste was or even where to find it in the store. Almond paste comes in a long, skinny box, and in my grocery store, is by the marzipan near the chocolate chips. Here’s what my mixture looked like.

6.   Add apricots and beat on low speed until combined.
7.   Add cream cheese, eggs and lemon juice and beat on medium speed until well blended.

If it looks like a chunky, soupy consistency, you did it right.

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8.   Pour over warm cookie base.
9.   Bake 20 minutes.
10.   Cool for 30 minutes.
11.   Melt white chocolate chips in microwave on 70% power for 1 minute. Mix, and, if needed, microwave for another
20 seconds on 70% power.
12.   Pour on top.
13.   Sprinkle sliced or chopped almonds on top.
14.   Refrigerate for 2 hours and then slice into bars and serve.

Enjoy!

Reflection of Australia Internship

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First, I’d like to apologize for these last three posts about Australia being so late. When I got back to America I had a lot to catch up on and school started so I’m just now getting to sit down and update. This will also be my last post about Australia.

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I had the best summer of my¬†life¬†this year. I still can’t believe I was in Australia for 10 weeks. It went by too fast! My intership in the media and communications department at AgForce Queensland couldn’t have been any better. It’s hard to land a good internship here in America, and I fully believe my internship could compete with some of those good internships. The first week I was there I was doing telephone interviews (which scared the crap out of me, I was just praying I’d be able to understand everyone) and writing articles for Envoy – the member magazine produced at AgForce. I learned so much from Stacey and Nadine. I’m thankful for all their help and encouragement while I was there and for hauling me here, there and yonder.

Not only was my trip to Australia a great professional experience, but a wonderful personal growth experience for myself. While I was in Australia, I had a lot of time to think. To think about what I wanted to do the rest of my life, what I want out of the rest of my life, and how I want to live the rest of my life. One big difference in Australia and America is the way of thinking. In America, we live to work. Meaning, everything we do revolves around work. In Australia, they work to live. Meaning, as soon as they leave work they try not to think about it until they arrive back at work. For American’s, it’s very hard to flip the work switch off. We also aren’t afforded the opportunities like they are. Typically, American’s get a two-week vacation time off from work. Australia gets a three-week vacation time off. They’re also a much more laid back society. They drink, a lot. It’s not uncommon to have a drink at lunch and on a Friday afternoon around 4 p.m. for the CEO and whoever wants to join in have a few drinks at work before going home. That would never happen in America!

Being in Australia helped me to realize that I need to change my way of thinking. I believe that having a Momma who worked two sometimes three jobs at a time and growing up on a ranch with my Daddy, who has a full-time job in conjunction with the responsbilities of the ranch, and having a paying job since I was 15, it’s just engrained in me to work. Now, I’m working toward the “work to live” mentality and really trying to turn work off after I leave. Leaving the time I’m not at work for myself so I can do what I want. I’ve started doing this, and I already feel like a new person. I’m not constantly checking my emails. I’m more productive at work so I don’t have to bring my work laptop home to do things. I feel like a small weight has been lifted off my shoulders and that I have more time to do things that I want to do.

Many of the things I observed and noticed while there are hard to explain because sometimes it was the little things that really stood out to me. For example, at lunch most took their full hour break and¬†took¬†their break¬†in the kitchen area (which was the biggest kitchen area I’ve ever seen in a work place). They weren’t taking their lunch to their desks unless they absolutely had to. It’s small things like taking your full lunch break and getting out of your office that make a difference for your mental state.

I really enjoyed getting to know everyone while I was there. Our lunch conversations were always so fun because there was an American, Australians, and a Pom (someone from England). Who knew all the different ways people say things?! For example: cilantro = coriandor, peppers = capsicums, arugala = rocket, butternut squash = pumpkin, and the list goes on and on. I loved listening to all the traveling adventures everyone has. They’ve been all over! Most people in American don’t get outside of the American borders!¬†Everyone I worked with¬†probably doesn’t even¬†know or realize¬†just how much they helped me grow just by sitting down and having a conversation with me.

I loved my experience and wouldn’t trade it for anything! I mean, I held two koalas and snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef twice! Australia is an amazing country I’d love to visit again someday and would highly recommend to anyone looking to vacation somewhere. It really was a great professional and personal growth opportunity that came at just the right time! Right before my last year of my Ph.D. program, and I get a big girl job and try to figure out the rest of my life. But, honestly, I don’t have nor need to figure it out right now. That’s in God’s hands and he has a plan. I just figure out bits and pieces along the journey.

The word cloud of Australia is what was created after I uploaded my reflection to a word cloud generator. I used Tagxedo. The larger the word, the more it occurred through the text.

I appreciate everyone who’s kept up with my blog while I was in Australia and now. I’m glad I decided to blog! Not just for me, but to also share what I’ve learned and hopefully to spark an interest or curosity in those who have read this. Thank you!

EKKA 2013

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The last big event I went to before I left Australia was EKKA. EKKA¬†can be compared to a state fair in America. They have a midway, livestock shows, and food. The only disappointing part is they don’t have the crazy fair food America does. In America, we fry and put everything on a stick. They most definitely don’t do that in Australia. Regardless, I was like a little kid in a candy store as soon as I walked through the gate. I was sooooo excited to be there! I was basically raised in barns traveling from fair to fair showing cattle, sheep and¬†hogs. I was anxious to see the differences, if any.

I took a leisurely stroll through the carnival. Surprising, they have a lot of rides that we also have here in America. They also have this place where you can just buy bags of candy and random stuff. Below is a slideshow of the carnival.

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My mission while I was at EKKA¬†was to watch the Brahman show. They didn’t have many entries, but they had some good quality cattle. Below are some pictures. The bull that’s in the bigger picture, notice his hump. I’ve seen a lot of humps in my life, but never one as big as his. It was huge! The picture of the two bulls in the bottom right is the grand champion drive and the older bull won. The cow/calf pair in the top right corner won¬†grand champion female. Yes, those showing the cattle are wearing frocks. I’m not sure the reason behind it. One thing that came as a surprise to me was the quality of reasons the judge gave when placing the class. I’m used to a judge going over the good and bad things and there’s usually several for each calf. They also speak in a conversational style. Not in Australia. The reasons were very straight and to the point and I felt they would only talk about one or two specific things. It was a bit weird to listen to, for me.

After the Brahman show, I walked through the barns. It was somewhat of a surreal experience. I’ve grown up judging livestock and in some contests they make you do breed identification. So, ever since I was knee-high¬†to a grasshopper I’ve been identifying breeds of cattle, of which some I’ve never seen before. Well, at EKKA¬†that changed! I saw breeds of cattle in person I’d only ever seen in pictures. Plus a breed I’d never heard of before – Square Meaters. This breed is basically a Murray Grey but shorter and meater. In Australia, they have a breed called Droughtmaster¬†which is similar to America’s Beefmaster. Simmentals¬†are also their original red and white color, not solid black. Below is a¬†slideshow. My apologies for the quality of the photos. Like an idiot, I forgot to charge my camera before I went and it died on me at the beginning of the Brahman show. So these photos were taken on my iPod.

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One thing I found interesting was about the barn set up. There’s these storage rafters above the stalls for breeders to keep feed, hay and tack. In the dairy barn, there¬†were also storage rooms at each end of the aisle. Here’s also a picture of a typical truck and trailer.

Like I mentioned earlier, Australia doesn’t have the crazy fair food like America does, which was very disappointing because the food is one of my favorite parts about the fair! Especially to see what new concoctions concessionaires have whipped up.

The two food items I was told to get while at EKKA¬†was a dagwood¬†dog and a strawberry sundae. The dagwood¬†dog is very similar to a corn dog. I’m not a fan of strawberries, so I only ate the strawberry ice cream and it was the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten in my life!!!!!!!!!

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself while at EKKA. I was there for 6 hours and never had a dull moment!

Wasted Chocolate Cake

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I’ve made this cake twice now and every time I post a picture there’s tons¬†of responses! It definitely turns some heads. My friend, Courtney, says it’ll rot your face off there’s so much chocolate! ūüôā This recipe I found on Pinterest. The original recipe is from Rianne at Art of Dessert. The picture of her cake is way more impressive than mine! I followed her recipe the first time, but decided I wasn’t the biggest fan of the chocolate cake. I am a big fan of Natalie Lewis’s from the Daily Crave though! So, the second time I used her chocolate cake recipe and the rest came from Art of Dessert. My recommendation is to have fun when making this. Be as creative as you want and put your own twist on it!

Wasted Chocolate Cake

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Ingredients:

Cake

  • 1 c. cocoa powder
  • 2 c. boiling hot water
  • 2 2/3 c. all purpose flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. butter, room temp
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Liqueur (optional) I used an orange muscat from Caprock Winery in Lubbock, Texas.

**Note – if you want a “tall” cake repeat making the cake steps. For me, this makes 2, 9 in. cakes. I have to double the recipe in order to get a “tall” cake, so I have four layers.

Frosting

  • 4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/3-1/2 c. whole milk (start out with 1/3 cup of milk and add more milk to your desired consistency)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Toppings

  • 1 pkg. dark chocolate chips
  • 1 pkg. milk chocolate chips
  • Assorted chocolate candies for the top of the cake (I used Kit-Kat, Twix, Milky Way, Symphony bar, 3 Musketeers, and a Heath Bar.)

Directions:

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease and dust two to three 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans with flour. To prevent the cake from sticking to the pan, line the bottom with a parchment paper circle. Set aside. (I turn one pan upside down and cut the circle around it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Then I just use it to cut the others.)
  3. In a small bowl stir until smooth the boiling hot water and the cocoa powder. Let cool to room temperature.
  4. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Then in the bowl of your electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth.
  7. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  8. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated.
  9. Add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.
  10. Before pouring into the pans, scrape down the sides and bottom to make sure the mixture is thoroughly mixed.
  11. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  12. Remove from oven and place on cooling racks.
  13. Poke holes with your toothpick or something small and drizzle liqueur while still hot so it can absorb into the cake. (optional)
  14. Wait for about 10 minutes to remove from cake pans and finish cooling on the cooling racks.  Allow to cool completely before decorating.

Frosting

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sift together powdered sugar and cocoa powder.
  2. Add butter, milk and vanilla extract and using an electric mixer, slowly mix together at a low speed. Once all the ingredients are combined, increase the speed and beat till fluffy.

Assembling the Cake

  1. Place a small smear of frosting on the bottom of the platter or where ever you’re putting your cake then place the first cake layer on top.
  2. Spread an even layer of frosting and place the second cake layer on top of the frosting. (Repeat for each layer.)
  3. Cover the sides and top of the cake with frosting.
  4. In a bowl, mix the dark and milk chocolate chips. Cover the sides of the cake with the chocolate chips.
  5. Chop up the candy bars and cover the top.
  6. With the remaining chocolate chips from covering the sides, melt with some heavy cream, milk or oil, and then drizzle the melted chocolate all over the top of the cake and let it drip down the sides of the cake.
  7. Enjoy! It’s probably a good idea to have a big glass of milk handy when eating this cake!