Food For Thought Later this month I have a birthday. It seems every year when birthday time comes around, I get a little depressed. It’s not one of my best traits, but I’m being honest. These verses from the fourth chapter in the book of James seem to run around in my mind a lot these days, particularly the part about being mist that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Really, that’s how it works, and as the number of candles on my cake creep upward, I am more and more reminded of this fact.
When I think about my life being, in all likelihood, half over, I get a little sad. So often I feel I’m not making the most of my time I have here on planet earth. There is so much I want to see and do and it’s just not happening. First, it was because I worked and invested all of my time in a job. Now I don’t work outside the home, but there’s not enough money to spread across necessities and adventures. You know what I mean? It seems impossible for the average person to find a balance between work for earning a living and actually living life.
Then, there’s all the time I’ve wasted. I’ve wasted a lot of time, years really, being sad, angry, upset, anxious, or depressed. Some of it is beyond my control, but that’s not always true. I think this is where I hope to see the biggest change for the next half of my life. I want to spend as much time as possible feeling joy, calm, and peace.
Knowing I’m just a “mist” has helped me set better priorities in my life. One of my favorite quotes I’ve seen floating around social media is, “You weren’t just meant to work, pay bills, and die.” So now I try much harder to spend each day doing things that make me happy, while still completing my responsibilities. Every day may not be a grand adventure, but there is something to be thankful for each day and there are ways we can use our time to bring us more joy. I am so blessed to have a family that also believes this and encourages these activities. My husband always says, “If it’s something that brings you happiness, then it’s not a waste of time.” Awwww…isn’t he great? Whether I’m working a jigsaw puzzle of a beautiful setting, reading a book on my deck while sitting in the sun, or painting in my sketch book, I know my soul is being uplifted and I can get a refresh on my day.
In my next year on the planet, I want to seek joy. I want to spend more time with the people I love, making the most of every minute we have together. I want to see someplace new this year. I want to take a stab at my bucket list. I want to persevere through the fears of writing my book. I want to find another way to volunteer my time for others. I want to create something, in some way, every day. I certainly want to continue to grow in my faith and study of God’s word. I want to have more days with no tears than days I spend crying. I want to think before I speak and, more importantly, know when to stay silent. I want to rejoice in all circumstances. I want to pray continually.
If I’m honest, and I should be, I have had an amazing life. God has blessed me with so much good and spared me from tragedy. So why should I complain when my life is truly great? And I can make the second half of my life even better, knowing He is with me every step of the way!
Today’s Recipe Ah, I’m not the only one with a birthday this month. My daughter also celebrates a birthday this month. This kid loves wildlife, especially wolves. She even did a wolf painting that was entered into a local art show. Her birthday cake this year was inspired from her painting, with a few touches of my own. I’ve mentioned before that piping is not my strength, so I like to use other resources for decorating cakes, like you see here in this Wildlife Mountain Birthday Cake.
Today, I’m going to share the recipe for the Dark Chocolate Cake and Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. I made a double batch of both because this cake is the equivalent of 2 two-layer cakes. If you don’t need that much cake and frosting, you can always half the recipe.
Dark Chocolate Cake
- Butter and flour for greasing and dusting pans
- 3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup water
- 2 pkgs. Devil’s Food cake mix
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 6 whole eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Butter desired pans (or use shortening) and flour well. For this cake, I used 1 12-inch round pan for the base and 2 8-inch round pans for the second tier. Turn oven to 350 degrees.
- In small saucepan, place dark chocolate and water. Melt over medium heat. Set aside.
- In large mixing bowl, place cake mixes, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, beat on low for one minute, scrape down sides of bowl. Add in melted chocolate. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and stir to be sure all ingredients are fully incorporated. The batter will be thick.
- Pour cake batter into desired pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, depending on your oven and pan sizes.
- Remove pans from oven and place on wire racks. Cool for 15 minutes. Invert onto wire racks to finish cooling thoroughly before frosting and assembling.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 8-oz pkgs cream cheeses, softened
- 2 sticks butter, softened
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tsps. vanilla
- 1 2-lb pkg powdered sugar
- Beat butter and cream cheese with electric mixer until combined.
- Add cocoa powder, vanilla, and half of the powdered sugar. Mix on low speed until combined.
- Add remaining powdered sugar, beating on low until incorporated.
- Turn up mixer to medium speed and beat until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Frost cooled cakes. Store any remaining frosting in air-tight container in refrigerator.
Cake Assembly for Wildlife Mountain Birthday Cake
You Will Need:
- 1 large rectangle cake board, covered (I covered mine with parchment paper)
- 1 large bag of chocolate rocks (available in bakery or craft stores)
- 1 container of Cookies and Cream Sprinkles (available in craft stores and some grocery stores)
- 1 cup of yellow-tint candy melts, plus a jar ring to use as a mold
- 1 batch of buttercream decorator icing, half tinted blue and half tinted green
- 1 tube of edible blue shimmer gel (available in bakery or craft stores)
- 1 pkg of display model evergreen trees (available in craft and hobby stores; these are NOT edible)
- assorted mountain wildlife figures, like wolves and bears (available at craft, hobby, and toy stores)
Place bottom cake layer on prepared cake board and frost. Add each additional layer to the cake, slightly offset from center. Frost these layers and edges of cake. The beauty of doing an outdoorsy, rustic-style cake is the frosting doesn’t have to be super clean and smooth because it’s the ground!
Place candy melts in microwave-safe container and melt according to package directions. Place a jar ring on top of some parchment paper. Fill ring with melted yellow candy and let it set up for 10-15 minutes. This will be the full moon on the cake.
Gently place a toothpick in the bottom of the moon and stick the other end of the toothpick in the cake, approximately centered in the top layer.
I placed the howling wolf in front of the moon and added a couple of the model trees to the top layer. I started with these so I could see how much space that left to work with on the top tier.
Without using a tip, I squeezed my blue buttercream out of the decorator bag to form a stream and waterfall over the side of the cake. Using a frosting spatula, I added some lift to the water to indicated motion. I added drops of blue shimmer gel to the water and swirled with a toothpick to add highlights to the water. I placed the wolf pup by the stream.
Now it’s time to go in and add the details–candy rocks around the borders of the cake and along the stream, trees on the bottom cake, placing rocks in various locations, scattering some of the cookies and cream sprinkles to look like a mix of dirt and gravel. Wherever I used the sprinkles, I pushed down slightly with a clean frosting spatula to help them stick rather than blow off the cake.
I also used a star tip with my green buttercream to indicated shrubs and bushes. I would have been able to get a darker shade of green had I used paste food coloring instead of gel.
I decided to extend the wildlife scene out on to the cake board, so I added my chocolate frosting and sprinkled with more cookies and cream and candy rocks. This is where I decided to place my bear family.
To finish the cake, I added the remaining trees and rocks, along with any bushes I wanted. Using the blue shimmer gel I added some splash marks on some of the rocks.
And, yes, my daughter LOVES the cake! Plus she has some new critter toys to play with, too.