Category Archives: Wandering Kitchen


Chocolate Soggy Devil’s Food Cake with Brown Sugar Candy Icing

February is birthday month for both my brother and I. Which meant that Mom made two birthday cakes. And they were always the same. So was Dad’s, but she waited until June to make that one. Not only did Grandma Endres provide the recipe for our favorite cookies (both the sugar and the double chocolate drop), she also passed down the recipe for the best cake ever. I vaguely remember having a DQ cake at a party or two, but inside the family, it was always the chocolate cake with the caramel icing.

I’m not sure what culture this cake would trace back to, other than the Endres household. But, as far as we know, there is a piece of it that may still be wandering the world. Daddy was eating a piece of birthday cake as he signed the card he and Mom sent the year I was in Spain. A crumb fell on the card and left a nice smudge, but I never saw it. That is the only piece of mail that didn’t make it to the house on calle Octavio Paz.

As I was recently reminded, the cake does not require a mixer, just a whisk. It also does not require any perishable ingredients. Because of this, you could make the cake on a camping trip, but I don’t think we ever did. The icing, on the other hand, boils milk and butter with the brown sugar. Add in the vanilla and the baking powder, and you have the same ingredients as caramel, just in different proportions. This caramel-like quality is what made our cake the ugliest one at the Girl Scout bake sale every year. After taking it home year after year, we let other people sample it one year. It was one of the highest priced cakes after that.

Attempt #2

Why’s it so hard? Too little patience, and it runs off the cake onto the plate, or into the edges of the pan. Too much time sitting in the cold windowsill, and wherever the glop falls onto the cake, that’s where it’ll stay, because you won’t be able to spread it. And, if you don’t remember that ‘bring it to a boil’ means a roiling, almost-out-of-the-pan boil, then, well, the icing will never thicken, and it will just soak right into the cake. That’s the lesson I learned the first time I tried to make my cake up here in Alaska, without Mom. But, other than the sticky mess, no one who ate it complained about the taste of a caramel infused chocolate cake.

My third attempt up here was better. Other than my oops doubling the measure for the baking soda when measuring the salt, thus causing me to quadruple the whole recipe. I used the snow and cold air outside to cool my pan as I stirred the icing, and it may have actually been thick enough. But I’d forgotten to cool my cakes. So, the icing melted again when it hit the hot chocolate, and while it didn’t soak in completely like the first time, it definitely slipped in around the edges of each pan. The cakes barely looked iced.

Attempt #3

And, yes, last week I flipped a decade and put a zero in my age.

Chocolate Soggy Devils Food Cake

1 ½ c flour
1 c sugar
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
3 Tbl cocoa
5 Tbl melted shortening or veg. oil
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c cold water

Mix the dry ingredients
Whisk in the liquid ingredients
Bake in an 8” round pan at 350° for 20-25 mins

Brown Sugar Icing

1 c brown sugar
4 Tbl cream or milk (1/4 cup)
1 tsp butter

Bring to a roiling-out-of-the-pan boil, turn off heat
Add 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Beat/cool until thick enough to spread over cooled cake(s)

Double both recipes for a 9×13 pan



Filed under Wandering Kitchen

Spanish Chorizo & Chicken Chili

In my saga of changing jobs, I’ve had a few instances of unemployment. Or, at least, minimal employment, with a tutoring student or two. And, when under-employed, one tends to have time on her hands, often wasted by browsing the internet and watching TV.

January 2008 was such a time. I’d been unexpectedly dismissed from one school, and by the last week of the month, had not yet heard back from any other schools. Monday the 28th, my TV landed on the Rachael Ray show, and the recipe sounded interesting, so I stuck around for it. I’m not much of a chili fan, but next Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday, and the young adults group at church had a chili cook-off planned. Also, anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for Spanish food. (For those who don’t know me, Spanish means from Spain, not Mexico or South America. Especially when it comes to food.)

I had an interesting recipe, and a place to take it. Now I just needed to get the ingredients, and a pot to make/take it in. A quick trip to my parents’ house to borrow the cumin and Mom’s crock-pot, and a stop at Byerly’s on the way home. The only hard part in that, really, was the price of the more specialty ingredients.

Spanish chorizo is not the same as Mexican chorizo. The paprika makes it red, and it’s often imported. One loop would not be enough, but two was too much. Ok, I’ll just one-and-a-half the recipe. Easy enough. Now to the other side of the meat cases for the ground chicken. Good thing I’m at Byerly’s. I think the peppers and the hot sauce were in the same aisle. Pretty sure I found some true piquillos. Again, not a hot sauce fan. Two dollars for the huge jar that will go unused, or five dollars for the small jar whose flavor I trust, and will get completely used up? Cholula. The rest were easy. Quick stop next door for the Rioja, and I’m on my way home. (I wasn’t ‘serving’ it, and I didn’t have any Manchego at the time, so I skipped the garnishes.)

Note to other infrequent cooks: a crock-pot keeps things warm, but chili needs to boil if it’s going to cook down and get thicker. Borrow Mom’s stew pot, too. I plugged in the crock before service on Sunday morning, but at game time it was still more a soup than a chili. Oh well. It disappeared, and I got a Target gift card in addition to the certificates for spiciest and best.

This just goes to show that even those of us who don’t cook, still can if we so choose.

On the unemployment side of things… That week I worked a few days in the nursery during morning Bible study and MOPS, and had an interview with Minneapolis Public Schools. After a weekend of cooking and being social, Monday morning I started my new job as an Associate Educator in the math classrooms at Andersen Open MS. With 70-80% of the population Hispanic, my language abilities were an extra asset as we went into the testing season. Not to mention my ability to troubleshoot the online testing programs. Pity, the position was only through the end of the school year, and those tests resulted in the school being ‘reorganized’ the next year. But, God found other ways to take care of me.

Let me know if you enjoy the recipe!

Spanish Chorizo & Chicken Chili


  • 2 jars piquillo peppers
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 pounds ground chicken breast
  • 3/4 pound chorizo, cut into medium dice
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, chopped or grated
  • 2 rounded tablespoons (about 2 palmfuls) smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin (about a palmful)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sherry or 1/2 cup dry Spanish wine such as Rioja
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 2 cups vegetable juice, such as V8 brand
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • Grated Manchego cheese
  • Tortilla chips
  • 1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • Spanish olives with pimentos, halved
Serves 6


Pre-heat a large skillet over medium high heat with 1 turn of the pan of EVOO. Once the oil is hot, add the ground chicken and cook about 7-8 minutes, until it is light golden brown.

Once the chicken is brown add the chorizo and cook about 5 minutes. Add in the onion and garlic, and cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Pour in the sherry or wine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the hot sauce, vegetable juice and chicken stock. Add the smoked paprika, cumin, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Grind up the peppers in a food processor. Add the puree to the pot and stir to combine. Let simmer 10-15 minutes to let the flavors combine.

Serve chili in a shallow bowl topped with Manchego cheese, tortilla chips, parsley and Spanish olives

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Filed under Wandering Kitchen