Chocolate Cake

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake

I am, quite possibly, the world’s worst daughter. See, it’s my dad’s birthday on Saturday, and I said I’d make him a chocolate cake with caramel frosting like his mom used to make. Well, I got sick yesterday, and I’m still feeling rather awful. And to make matters worse, I don’t actually have that caramel frosting recipe. My dad and all his brothers received a homemade recipe book from my grandmother one year for Christmas. It’s full of typed up family recipes. Sadly, I don’t have one. I wish I did. I’d make everything in it. I think this might be a tragedy.

So, I didn’t make a chocolate cake with caramel frosting, but I do have something just as good to share with you that actually reminds me a lot of the kind of cake my dad would make. It’s super simple, ridiculously chocolaty, and blow your mind delicious. My dad would have a big slice of it with some melting vanilla ice cream and call it breakfast.

In addition to all the other awesome stuff my dad taught me, I also learned to appreciate good, simple, down home food. I remember my dad coming home from work and sitting on the couch with a block of Tillamook cheddar and a paring knife. He’d pass ’round slices of cheese to everybody for half an hour. That was how we snacked in my house.

Chocolate cake2

There are actually two secret ingredients in this chocolate cake which starts with a box mix, but you don’t have to tell anybody about that either. The first is mayonnaise. Mayo is basically eggs and oil anyway, so it’s not that big of a stretch. It doesn’t make your cake taste like a ham sandwich. On the contrary, it makes it incredibly moist.

The second secret ingredient is a bit of cinnamon. I love the warmth it adds to the chocolate. I’m not sure I’d be able to identify it as cinnamon if I didn’t know it was there. It just makes everything richer and more interesting. 

And obviously you have to cover the whole thing in chocolate frosting. This one reminds me of the chocolate frosting my dad used to make using Nestle’s Quik. It was awesome! Who cares? I’ve been doing this no money thing my whole life. 

Chocolate cake3

Happy birthday, dad! I owe you a cake.

Photos by Monica Szczupider

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake
Serves 10
A moist chocolate cake with a hint of cinnamon, covered in chocolate frosting to make it extra awesome
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
For the cake
  1. 1 box chocolate cake mix
  2. 1 cup mayonnaise
  3. 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  4. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  5. 1 cup water
For the frosting
  1. 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  2. 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  3. 2 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  4. 1/2 cup milk
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly butter two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together all the cake ingredients until a smooth batter forms.
  3. Evenly pour batter into your two pans and bake according to time on the box. If you hoard the cake batter left behind in the bowl, I won't judge you.
  4. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for about five minutes, then turn out to cool on a wire rack. Allow the layers to cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until it's smooth and creamy.
  2. Sift in the cocoa powder and powdered sugar and beat on medium speed.
  3. Slowly add the milk and vanilla extract and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add more milk if needed to reach a spreadable consistency.
  4. Place your first cake layer on it's final destination and spread about a third of the frosting on top.
  5. Carefully place the second layer on top. Frost the side and top of the cake. You can swirl it, stripe it, spike it. Whatever you like. Just don't skimp.
  6. Don't wait for someone's birthday to put this in your face.
  1. This can also be made in a 13x9 inch pan, which is what my dad would do.
Adapted from 1001 Fast Easy Recipes
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lilikoi curd

Fitness Should Be Free

urban hiking uk style

Last week, I shared one of our favorite ways to save money and get some exercise. Urban hiking may be a great mode of transportation, but it’s pretty one dimensional in terms of a workout. I guess one would occasionally need to add a bit of variety to one’s exercise regime. I mean, if you have to. What you definitely shouldn’t do is spend money to work out.

I don’t get gyms. Unless you want to lift heavy weights, I can’t think of any other reason to set foot in one. It’s definitely not worth the money, as far as I’m concerned. Pretty much any kind of workout I would want to do can be done in my living room or at the park for free.

Jillian Michaels Yoga

YouTube is your new best friend when it comes to working out for free. They’ve recently started allowing much longer videos on their site so you can get tons of 30-minute workout videos without leaving your house. I use the YouTube app on our PS3 to play yoga, pilates, and Zumba videos on my TV while my husband laughs at what a total loser I am. Or you can piece together shorter clips to break the monotony.

Harry Potter Workout

Pinterest also has a health and fitness category with tons of links to workouts you can do at home. They can get pretty ridiculous, but there are also fun surprises like this Harry Potter workout. How awesome is that? 


If you want to add a little resistance to your life, I recommend thera-bands. They’re basically long strips of stretchy latex. They’re great because they can be lengthened or shortened to vary the resistance, they can be tied or looped around just about anything to get the right angle, and they fold up nice and small and take up practically no space in your already tiny and crowded home. I grew up using these as a dancer, and I promise they’re so much better than those silly tubes or bulky weights.


I know I need to get in better shape, but I’d much rather spend my money on cheese and chocolate. I am not a health expert, and you should definitely not quote me as an authority on anything. Except I do have that dance degree in an envelope somewhere, so I guess I do know a couple of things about how the body works. The most important thing to remember is to listen to your body and know the difference between good pain and bad pain. Bad pain isn’t worth it.


Working out is not the awesomest, but if you have to do it, have as much fun as possible. Laugh at yourself as much as you can. Then go have a cookie.

Sky High Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza by Awesome

I first ate this breakfast pizza at our epic Star Wars marathon party. A friend brought it over to cook at my house and promptly spilled eggs in my oven. I did the exact same thing when I made this. It’s a hazard, but it’s so worth the risk. I decided it was unbelievably awesome.

The first time I made this breakfast pizza by myself was when we had that same friend over to watch a basketball game. You see, since we live in the middle of the ocean, we have to get out of bed at unreasonable hours to watch live sporting events. I remember my husband dragging me to a bar/restaurant in Waikiki at 7 am on a Saturday so he could watch England’s football team play in some big European tournament. It’s hard enough for me to care about sports as it is, but at these hours? Luckily, there was French toast involved.

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast pizza is a great way to feed a crowd. It’s easily adaptable, and can even be made vegetarian. We like ours piled as high as possible with spicy sausage, hash browns, a ton of cheese, and eggs, potentially overflowing. It’s more assembly than cooking really, which is nice because I’m pretty much useless in the morning. And if you’re really organized you could even assemble everything, minus the eggs, the night before. Then all you have to do is beat a few eggs and pour them over the top before popping it into the oven.

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast is probably my favorite meal. The possibilities are limitless, and all four awesome food groups are potentially involved. Every time we’ve had this, it’s led to greedy overindulgence. It’s that good. You just can’t stop.It calls to you. Siren song. Jump in.

Sky High Breakfast Pizza
Serves 6
All your favorite breakfast items piled high and served in a triangle
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Prep Time
20 hr
Cook Time
20 hr
Prep Time
20 hr
Cook Time
20 hr
  1. 2 cans crescent rolls (you may not need them all, but buy two just in case)
  2. 1 pound sausage meat (I like Jimmy Dean hot)
  3. Half a bag of frozen hash browns (the square kind)
  4. salt
  5. pepper
  6. chili powder
  7. 1 cup shredded cheese (whatever's in your fridge)
  8. 4 eggs
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Start cooking your sausage in a skillet over medium high heat. Break it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks.
  3. In the meantime, spread a layer of crescent rolls over the bottom of a pizza pan. Rectangular breakfast pizza is also completely acceptable. Pop this in the oven for five minutes to get a head start on cooking. This will prevent soggy crust.
  4. When the sausage is cooked through, carefully remove it from the pan to a paper towel-lined plate.
  5. In the same pan with the fat from the sausage, brown your hash browns. You may even need to add a bit more oil to prevent sticking. Season with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Toss the potatoes from time to time to brown them on all sides. This should take five to ten minutes depending on how brown you like them.
  6. Assemble your pizza by spreading the sausage around your parcooked crust. Next pile on the hash browns. Scatter the whole thing with cheese.
  7. In a small mixing bowl, beat four eggs. Ever so carefully, pour the eggs over your pizza, allowing it to seep through all the crevices.
  8. Bake your pizza in the oven for 20 minutes until golden. It will smell like sausage heaven when it's ready.
  9. Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving. I like mine dotted with hot sauce. Condiments aren't necessary, but completely acceptable. Go wild
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