September 18, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Running Dream' by Wendelin Van Draanen (no spoilers)

I didn't make a heritage recipe today. I picked one out, but once I realized who it came from, I decided to give it some more time. The recipe came from the mother of my third grade teacher! There are very few teachers that I remember well, but she was definitely one of them--a favorite for sure. I ended up looking her up on Facebook and I decided to send her a message about the recipe. I don't know if she'll read the message, but it would be great to hear from her. I'll post the recipe either way.

Anyway, I finished my September Friends read-athon book, so I wanted to get my thoughts down about it before I forget.

I committed to a 12-month read-athon, where I choose a book each month based on a prompt inspired by Friends (the TV show). Here is the post with the details.

For September, the prompt was: "The One with the Football" - Read a sports-themed book.

When I hear "sports", I think of the well-known ones: football, basketball, hockey, baseball, soccer... I am not a sports fan in the slightest sense of the word. However, even though running isn't the first thing that pops into my mind as far as sports go, I consider it a sport. And I'm definitely interested in reading about running, so I chose a book called 'The Running Dream'.

Here is the publisher's description of 'The Running Dream' by Wendelin Van Draanen (Amazon affiliate link):

Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She's not comforted by the news that she'll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?

As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don't know what to say, act like she's not there. Which she could handle better if she weren't now keenly aware that she'd done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she's missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.

With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that's not enough for her now. She doesn't just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her.

It's a young adult fiction book, and yes, I thought it sounded corny. Sometimes, though, I like corny. (The description should not have abbreviated cerebral palsy because not everyone knows what "CP" is; the description makes more sense if you know what CP is.)

I knew this was going to be a "feel good" type of book so I read it with that in mind (basically, I didn't want to be cynical about it being predictable and/or corny).

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book! It definitely met my expectations of it being a "feel good" book--no surprise there--but there was more to it than that.

First, reading about what it's like to lose a leg... wow. You think you can imagine how awful it would be, but you don't really think about things like, say, how to get into a bathtub when you only have one leg. You can't just hop over the side of the tub. This was a challenge that Jessica had to figure out.

I learned quite a bit about prosthetics as well--and not in a super nerdy all-the-fine-details way, but more of the basics like how it stays on the residual limb (as well as terms such as "residual limb"). It was stuff I'd never really thought about before, but I found it really interesting.

There were lots of funny parts of the book, too--I literally laughed so hard that I was wheezing at one point, and when I read it to Jerry, he was cracking up, too:

Before she was in the car accident that caused her to have her leg amputated, Jessica ran track for her high school. Her event was the 4x400 meter relay--meaning four members of the team each run a 400-meter leg to complete the race. Anyway, she went out to lunch with her friend--also on the track team--and her friend was filling her in on what was happening with the team. She mentioned another girl on the team doing the relay. Jessica responded, "Oh, did she take my leg?" (meaning the leg of the relay). When she and her friend realized what she'd said, completely unintentionally, they burst out laughing. So did I.

Basically, the book goes through stages: it starts with Jessica in the hospital immediately after her amputation. Then it goes into her adjusting to life without her leg (it's so much more complicated than I imagined!). She REALLY misses running, which is obviously a theme throughout the book. Then the books goes into her life after she's physically recovered and trying to resume some sense of normal.

She becomes friends with a girl named Rosa who has cerebral palsy and feels invisible--Jessica admits that she never paid attention to Rosa before her accident. Meanwhile, she is getting fitted for a prosthesis (a very long process!) and there is hope that she'll run again one day with the help of a prosthetic running leg.

I don't want to get much more into that because I don't want to spoil anything, but I'll just say that the book is expectedly predictable and I'm sure you'll guess what happens before you even read it, haha. However, it gave me ALL the feelings--I can't even tell you how many times I cried while reading! Happy tears. It is absolutely the "feel good" book that I imagined it would be. And I loved it!

It made me think of when I went to the Runner's World Half & Festival in 2014 and I met Sarah Reinertsen--a Paralympic triathlete and former track runner with an above-the-knee amputation. I learned a little about prosthetic running legs from her, but if I'd read this book before meeting her, I would have asked her a million more questions.

I highly recommend this book if you're looking to restore your faith in humanity. If you're a runner, you'll especially love it, but even if you're not, it would still be very enjoyable. I was surprised just how accurate the running stuff was--especially the feelings surrounding running and racing--and I figured that the author probably ran track. (In the "About the Author" section, I learned that she did, in fact, run track.)

Overall, this book was incredibly heartwarming and emotional. It was educational without being boring or nerdy, and it seemed to be well-researched. It was inspiring and uplifting.

I liked this book so much that I'd like to give away a Kindle copy! And actually, I have a paperback copy that I'm never going to read (now that I have my Paperwhite, I can't imagine going back to actual books). I got the paperback from a thrift store, so it isn't in perfect shape--it's clearly a used copy--but I'd be happy to pass it along to someone who would like it!

To enter to win a Kindle copy or the paperback, just fill out the form below. I'll email you if your name is pulled :)  (I'll randomly pick the names on September 25, 2021 at 5:00 PM ET.)

If you would like to check it out on Amazon, you can find it here. (Affiliate link)

September 17, 2021

Friday Night Photos : Recent Weight Loss Comparison

I don't have many photos on my camera roll this week, so I thought I'd post some recent weight loss comparison photos--those are always fun :)

I was feeling kind of bummed that despite losing over 30 pounds in the past few months, I don't feel like it's very noticeable. I can feel a little difference in my clothes, but nothing major. So I started looking through pictures, trying to find one from earlier this year that would be a good "before" photo. Unfortunately, I always avoid the camera when I'm feeling bad about my weight, so I don't have many pictures; and the ones I do have aren't full-body shots.

So, I looked through my photos from 2020 when I did the 75 Hard challenge. For 75 days, I had to take a full-length mirror selfie every single day. The pictures are pretty embarrassing--I never planned to show anyone, so I didn't care what I looked like.

But anyway, I picked out a few photos where I still have the clothing I was wearing so that I could try on the clothes and take a comparison picture. I just wanted to see if the 30-pound weight loss was noticeable!

This photo on the left was taken August 20, 2020. The one on the right was taken Wednesday.

While it's just a sweatshirt, sweatshirts make up about 90% of my tops, haha. I think it hangs so much better now--I used to tug it down all the time because it would cling around my middle. And I love that I can see my jawline again!

There's not a huge difference in these pictures below, but the difference in my weight wasn't huge, either: 178 versus 164. (The left photo was taken January 1, 2020, so it was likely a "new year's resolution photo", haha--not from 75 Hard.) Again, the shirt doesn't cling around the middle anymore.

That's actually Chick photobombing on the right, and not Duck--shocker!

I was really shocked when I saw these pictures below side-by-side! The picture on the left was taken July 23, 2020, a few days after starting 75 Hard (the pic on the right is from today). I really love how comfy the shirt is now--I'm going to start wearing it again.

And of course, I had to try on The Coats again. Remember the story of my coats? (It's kind of long, so here is the recap.)

First up, my orange coat. It was bittersweet to try it on today and find that it's definitely TOO big to wear now. I love roomy coats, but this one is beyond that point. I'm going to look for another on Poshmark, though ;)  (Maybe I'll do a giveaway for this one... trust me, you want it! It's so so so comfy and perfect for cold weather. And, well--it's orange! What's not to love?)

The picture on the left is from February 6, 2021. On the right is from today.

Then there is my tan corduroy/faux fur coat. Again, soooo comfy! And if you read the story, you know that I wound up with THREE of these (BAHAHA!) in three different sizes: medium, large, and extra-large. Shown below is the XL--the pic on the left from February 8 versus today.

I wouldn't call it "too" big, but I definitely have a lot more room in it than I did before! But since the coat is meant to be a little more fitted, I decided to try on the size large, too. And then just for shits and giggles, I tried on the medium.

I feel like the large looks and feels the best. This is my favorite late-fall coat; the length of it keeps my thighs warm and the faux fur is so soft. If I'm feeling confident that I'll keep the weight off, I'll give away this XL coat here, too.

Okay, well that was a fun boost of motivation--it feels good to try on clothes and have them be loose. I was used to feeling my clothes get tighter and tighter until I couldn't wear them anymore. I think I'll try on clothes every 10 pounds I lose; I forgot that I did that when I was losing weight in 2009-2010. I took full-length comparison photos every 10 pounds and it was cool to see the difference.

Well, I'm about to start a new book. Have a great weekend! xo

September 16, 2021

Return to Running Recap : Week 16

This week was kind of a big deal for me--I did all three of my runs outside! Ever since I started running again, I just haven't been comfortable doing it outside. I'm not sure why that is; staying at home on the treadmill just feels "safe".

However, running outside is almost always a little tougher for me. It's not as consistent (harder to control my pace) and I obviously can't control the weather. There was a time when I despised the treadmill and I would avoid it at all costs. Now, though, I rather like it--when I read my book on the treadmill, the time goes by quickly.

Week 16, Day 1 : Run 3 miles (at lowest heart rate possible)

I'm not sure what made me decide to run outside, because it wasn't exactly ideal running weather--80 degrees and sunny. I prefer temps in the 40s! Within a few minutes, my heart rate was already kind of high. I decided that instead of trying to run my typical "treadmill effort", I would just try to get my heart rate as low as possible but still technically be running.

I slowed way down. I couldn't see my pace, but I felt like I was just crawling along. The first couple of miles weren't bad at all and felt almost effortless; the third mile was full sun and I was running on asphalt, so I started pouring sweat. I ran as slowly as I possibly could, but I still couldn't get my heart rate to my MAF zone.

I think it's interesting to note that my steps per minute (on the left, underneath each lap number) is the same for all three miles. Whether I was running at 12:26/mile or 13:17/mile, I had the same number of steps. That just means that to go slower, I shortened my stride rather than taking fewer steps.

I was SO hot when I was done. (The picture above where I'm covered in sweat is from after this particular run.) I took an ice cold shower after that.

Week 16, Day 2 : Run 3 miles (with 1 mile at tempo pace)

Again, I decided to run outside. Since the previous run actually didn't feel bad (running so slowly and with my heart rate that low, it reminded me of my old easy, effortless runs) I thought I'd try to do the same thing again: run at a super slow pace to keep my heart rate low.

It was immediately apparent that I was not going to have the same heart rate result as before. Still, I decided to just run at the easiest effort I could manage. It felt like it was taking forever, and as I approached the two-mile mark, I decided on a whim to run a tempo mile.

Since I ran a 10:29 mile last week, I figured I'd aim for something faster than that--even 10:28 would be good. So I picked up speed, trying not to pick up *too* much speed (so I wouldn't crash halfway through the mile). About half a mile in, my average pace for that mile was 10:15. That made me start thinking, "I wonder if I could run a sub-10:00 mile?"

I just maintained that pace, not sure if I should go for it or not. With a quarter-mile left to go, my average pace was 10:09. I knew that if I pushed myself, I could run a sub-10:00. However, I did something that was even harder than that: I ran slower, even when I knew that I could run a sub-10:00.

How is that harder? Because I naturally wanted to feel that high of reaching a super hard milestone. The reason I chose not to is because I want to have a goal to continue to work toward. If I ran sub-10:00, then each time I run I would feel like I have to constantly push as hard as I can. I like the idea of aiming to run just slightly faster each time I try, rather than aiming for big jumps. I should have aimed for 10:25.

Since I was on pace for 10:09 already, and I was almost on my street, I just tried to slow down. I ended up finishing that mile in 10:10. That's a big improvement from last week! And it still gives me that sub-10:00 to look forward to at some point. I was really happy with this run!

Week 16, Day 3 : Run 3 miles easy

This was a terrible run. I was dehydrated and my stomach was bothering me so badly the entire time (I don't know why). I felt super hot and I just wanted to get it over with. I tried to run slowly to keep my heart rate down and the first mile was pretty good (142 bpm). After that, though, was when I really just wanted to be done with it. My heart rate went up to 152-154 bpm and held steady for the remainder of the run. I was trying to run at a slow pace, but not TOO slow because I was desperate to get back home.

I've been thinking about changing up my training a bit. I may write out a training plan so that I have a real purpose for each run rather than just winging it. And now that it should be getting cooler outside, I'll likely be running outside more--so that will change things up as well.

I feel like it's probably time to add another day of running into the week--the more I run, the easier it will get. I know this from experience! Or possibly just increasing the distance of one run per week. I'll try and figure it out this week!

September 15, 2021

Wednesday Weigh-In : Week 16

What a week! I was really dreading today's weigh-in all week long.

I had a great weigh-in last week (I'd lost 3.6 pounds) and I was excited to go into the new week that much lighter. As I've mentioned before, I weigh myself every morning (I know daily weighing isn't helpful for a lot of people, but I don't let it make or break my day; I just like to see how my food/lifestyle affects my weight). When I got on the scale on Thursday, my weight was up a pound. No big deal.

On Friday, it was up another pound. That was unusual for me--I hadn't overeaten or done anything out of the ordinary. And of course, we celebrated Jerry's birthday on Friday. I didn't let my weight stop me from eating a large slice of the German chocolate cake I'd slaved over! I knew that I hadn't done anything to cause the gain, so I just assumed it would work itself out eventually. And I was pretty sure that after indulging in Jerry's birthday dinner, I was going to see another gain on Saturday.

Sure enough, on Saturday morning, it was up another 2.4 pounds! This was definitely not "normal" for me--I'm used to the ups and downs, but for it to keep going up when I was eating like I always do was very odd.

Interestingly, I was down to 166 on Sunday; then Monday it was back up to 167.4. Yesterday, it was at 165.8. I really didn't want to have a gain for Wednesday Weigh-In... whenever I've gained weight, it's clear what caused it. A binge back in the day would have made me gain five pounds overnight. (It's been a VERY long time since I binged.)

Yesterday, I drank a TON of water. I'd been feeling "puffy" all week--my hands seemed just a little swollen. I didn't feel dehydrated, but I hoped that drinking all the water would help get rid of the puffiness. I ate a normal amount of calories yesterday (a little over 1500) but I ate a small volume of food (when I want to get enough calories but eat a small amount of food and still feel full, I choose calorie-dense things like peanut butter).

And it worked! Barely, but I managed to lose a little this week:

I was at 163.8, which is down from 164.2 last week; a loss of 0.4 pounds, and a total of 33.2 pounds since I started 16 weeks ago.

I'm happy to have had a loss on the scale, especially since I had such a significant loss last week! I'm still clueless as to what caused the four-pound gain. I didn't eat extra sodium, I didn't eat unusual foods, I wasn't noticeably dehydrated... it was just odd. But hopefully I won't have the same issue this week.

I did my Round 3 weigh-in with my 6-month DietBet today--and I won, of course! So I'm halfway through, and I've won each round so far. I'm actually already under the weight that I need to be in December when the DietBet ends! One of the things I like about this 6-month DietBet is that I still have to be at or under my target (I forget what the target is--I think 170?) when the DietBet ends in December; that's to prevent people from losing all the weight quickly, and then gaining it all back before the 6 months is up.

I don't really feel like the DietBet is helpful anymore (it's not harming anything, either). It was a great tool to get me back on track and to start losing the weight, but I really don't even think about the DietBet until it's time to weigh-in each month. So this will be my last one.

Well, this week was a nail-biter (haha) but I'm happy to see a loss on the scale. I feel good going into this week :)

(Since someone is bound to ask, here is a recent post about how I've been losing the weight over the last four months.)

September 14, 2021

Transformation Tuesday #42

Happy Transformation Tuesday! I was thrilled to see several transformations in my inbox--enough for a couple of weeks :)   So I'll post a few today and save the others for next week.

Last week, I took a picture of Estelle on the treadmill--I thought it was funny that she was sleeping there. (The bed of the treadmill stays warm for a while after I'm done using it, so I think that's why she was attracted to it.) I was going to post it for Friday Night Photos, but I was kind of horrified at how dirty it was! I never think to dust it, so there was clearly a build-up of dust there. Anyway, after seeing the picture, I decided to take a few minutes to clean it up. It looks so much better!

This small transformation of the front door does wonders for our entryway - had the inside painted white and outside black. I’m slowly changing out all of our gold door handles to black, too. Next up is the oak stair rail!

- Stephanie, Colorado

Stephanie, what a huge difference! It looks so clean and modern. The yellow wreath really brings out the color of the door, too. (I was so excited when we swapped out our gold door handles! That alone makes a big difference.) The door looks great! Make sure you get a before photo of your stair rail, too ;) 

I didn't grab a great before photo of this. I'm moving and planning to use this big wooden "closet" in my living room, but I despise the color orange (I know you love it, sorry!). I picked up a gallon of paint for $15 and just gave it a quick coat so it is all white/off white rather than such an intense orange. 

I used the same paint on two additional pieces of furniture I'm moving with as well so the paint was money well spent. 

- Crystal

Crystal, isn't it amazing what $15 can do to transform something?! (While I love orange, I know that it's definitely not the favorite for most people, haha.) Something as simple as paint can make you feel like you have all new furniture. You did a great job! -Katie

My 15-year old daughter and I cut our hair and donated it. Hers was donated to Maggie's Wigs 4 Kids of Michigan and mine was donated to Locks of Love since it had been permed within the last 2 years.
She cut off a total of 15 inches and I cut off 12 inches. 

Kandi and Tavia - Central Wyoming

Kandi, I LOVE this transformation--what an amazing thing to do with your daughter! You both have gorgeous hair and I'm sure whoever receives it will be thrilled. I looked up Maggie's Wigs 4 Kids (I hadn't heard of it before) and just wanted to share the info here in case anyone else is interested in donating hair to this non-profit that helps kids with hair loss. Here is the info on how to donate (you can have your hair cut anywhere and then mail it--it looks very simple). It takes 10-12 donated ponytails to make one wig!

Thanks so much for sharing your transformations! (If you sent me one and it's not here, it's just because I'm holding onto it for next week.) To submit a transformation, just send me a before photo and an after photo at: katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. Don't forget to include your name and a description of your transformation!

September 13, 2021

Reader Email

I've had a super busy weekend! I had planned to write a post today about things that I eat (since a lot of people have been asking about it lately) but I haven't had time to look through my food logs and/or photos, so I will work on that this week.

My anxiety is still pretty high (just generalized anxiety; it's not something I can pinpoint) so I'm going to take today off of writing a post and just share some fun news from a blog reader. Check this out!

Hi Katie, 

I had to share our new kittens we adopted from a local rescue a month ago. They are such sweet girls: Chloe Bell (all black) and Evie Binks (black with white).

- Kim


Aren't they SO cute?! (Kim, I'm so glad that you chose to adopt from a rescue! And I love that you adopted them together. Enjoy these little sweeties--they grow so fast, don't they?)

Remember, I would love to post happy news from Runs for Cookies readers once in a while, so if any of you are excited about something and want to share your news, please do! Just email me. I'll never post anything without asking permission first. I just know how excited I get to share news sometimes, but not everybody has a blog to do that--so I'd be happy to share it for you ;)

September 12, 2021

Q&A with Jerry (about getting older!)

Jerry and I have been talking a lot lately about getting older. (By that, I mean that our conversations routinely consist of talking about how tired we are, what hurts, and how fast time goes by.)

Since it's Jerry's birthday weekend (he's turning 41 on Tuesday) I thought it would be fun to "interview" him about getting older. He wanted to write out the answers himself rather than my asking him questions, so I just wrote a list of questions... and he answered them in his own words. Here goes...

Q. What is the biggest difference in your attitude now versus when you were 21 years old?

A. I was always worried about where I was going to end up and I had no real direction. I didn’t have a solid life plan and was living with my parents. Fast forward 11 months and I nailed a job interview that landed me a job with my current employer; the next year, I got the girl; and 11 months after that we started building our family. My worries went from living life paycheck-to-paycheck to saving for the future.

Q. Are you the person you hoped you would be at this age?

A. All I ever knew was that I wanted to be the hardworking provider for my family that my dad was for our family when I was a kid. I would like the think that I’ve come close to that but only time will tell. Life throws you some crazy pitches from time to time, and you just have to catch those and deal with them as they come.

(Katie here. I don't know why Jerry's answer made me think of this video, but I have to share it. It's really dark and hard to see, but the sound is the most important part. When the kids were little and it was time for Jerry to come home from work, I would tell the kids he was on his way and they would get really excited to watch for his car coming down the street. They'd stand at the window and wait. On this day in the video, Jerry was walking to the door and then started throwing snowballs at the window where the kids were standing. They were cracking up, and Noah's little voice is so cute!)

Q. If you could put something symbolic of your life now into a time capsule, what three items would you include?

A. 1. A family picture. Nothing is more important and we have a lot of fun together. 

2. My phone. This is only because of my music. Music is invigorating and a quick go-to if I need a pick-me-up. There’s nothing like having a good song in your head to play as your theme for the day. 

3. Something Star Wars or Marvel. As everyone knows, I’m a huge Star Wars fan. But, did you know that I’m a huge Marvel fan, too? I’ve been so invested in Star Wars that it was easy to just fall into line with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I watch the movies and shows all the time.

Q. What is your most memorable birthday?

A. When I turned 21, I was working with my dad at a local fabrication shop and he and the guys took me out to an Irish pub for my birthday during lunch. Later during the week, Katie and her roommate Sarah held a birthday party for me in their college campus apartment.

Jerry's 21st birthday - so mature! ;)

Q. If you could go back to any age, knowing all you know now, what age would you pick? And what would you do differently?

A. I would go back to high school and not worry about the social ramifications of everything. I would’ve been more outgoing. Also, I would’ve had a better idea of what I wanted to do in life. But, everyone says that…

Q. What is the hardest part about getting older?

A. The hardest part about getting older is letting go of trying to look younger. I need to get some bigger pants and bigger shirts; be more comfortable.

Q. What is the best part about getting older?

A. The best part about being older is having all sorts of life experiences to reference when problems arise. I know everything will work itself out and I can pass some of this optimism on to the kids when they have issues as well.

Well, this is a serious side of Jerry; usually he jokes around about everything! I do have to say that regarding the question about whether he is the person he hoped he'd be at this age, he absolutely is--he is a very hardworking provider and I don't ever take that for granted.

Jerry and I were basically children when we got married (I was 21 and he was 22); neither of us had a real clue about what we were going to do with our lives! Luckily, we figured it out. Getting older is not fun at all, but getting wiser is definitely worth it :)

September 11, 2021

RECIPE: German Chocolate Cake (a labor of love!)

This is more of a (long) story than a recipe, but I'll include the recipe here as well.

As I mentioned yesterday, Jerry's birthday is on Tuesday. Since we celebrated yesterday, I wanted to make him something special: a German chocolate cake, from scratch.

We've been married for 18 years and together for 22 years. And in all that time, I've only made him a German chocolate cake ONCE. It was one of the first years after we got married. Jerry's mom would make him a German chocolate cake for his birthday sometimes and I knew how much he loved it. (Her recipe was amazing, so I asked her for it.)

I had no idea just what I was getting myself into back then. I was in my early 20's, and I'd never baked a cake from scratch, let alone a cake that was on the difficult side. I am not a baker; making that cake was SO much work! I don't remember anything about how it turned out, but I do remember thinking that hell would freeze over before I'd attempt it again.

I do feel bad that I didn't attempt it again (until yesterday). I was so intimidating!

The heritage recipe series that I've been posting on my blog has given me the confidence to try my hand at baking. And I think I'm getting better at it (or at least understanding it more). So, I included a goal on my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old list: Bake Jerry a German chocolate cake from scratch. And of course, his birthday would be the perfect time.

I asked his mom for the recipe again. I was surprised to see that she uses the recipe on the Baker's German chocolate bars. I'm going to post it here, but the cake recipe and the frosting recipe can be found on the baking chocolate box (or on their website). I also discovered that it was the same recipe as the one in my Betty Crocker cookbook. (I've typed out the recipe for the cake and the frosting on one page, which you can get here.)

For experienced bakers, this cake is probably no big deal. But for me, it was intimidating! There are a lot of steps to it (not to mention 10,000 dishes to wash when you're done). Yesterday morning, I started by cleaning my kitchen. Yes--cleaning it. I feel better cooking/baking when my kitchen is clean and clutter-free.

Then I got out all of the ingredients to prep them before I even started mixing the cake. (I'm actually missing another half-stick of butter in this picture. I didn't even bother calculating the calories in this cake!)

The recipe said to line the bottoms of three 9" cake pans with parchment paper and then spray the sides with cooking spray. I immediately started overthinking it and I was sure I was going to mess it up! Hahaha. I traced the bottoms of the pans onto the paper and then cut out three circles that fit perfectly. (Note that the two pans with the blue handles are new; the third is older. This comes into play later.)

After spraying the sides with cooking spray, I was flipping through the Betty Crocker cookbook (I was reading about softening butter and just HOW soft it should be--see? overthinking) and I saw that if you're using dark, non-stick pans for a cake, you may want to decrease the oven temp by 25 degrees. Also, you may not want to spray the sides of the pan because the oil will burn the cake.

Now I was sure I was going to mess it up! I had two new cake pans that were still very non-stick feeling. I wiped off the cooking spray from the sides. The third pan was older, but I wiped it off of that one, too. 

Next, I got to work on the cake. It didn't look like normal cake batter (or at least "from a box" cake batter) and I kept wondering if I was doing something wrong. Was the butter not soft enough? Did I measure the flour correctly? Why doesn't it look fluffy and smooth? Is the chocolate cool enough?

And FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, why aren't these egg whites forming stiff peaks?!

The egg whites have to be beaten separately and then folded in at the end. To avoid having to clean my stand-mixer bowl twice, I used a hand mixer to beat the egg whites in a separate bowl. I was SUPER careful not to get any yolk in the whites. I've beaten egg whites before in my stand mixer and it worked fine. But when using the hand mixer, they just wouldn't form stiff peaks.

I hoped for the best and kept moving along. (I didn't think to take any other pictures until after I baked them)

I was relieved when I finally finished the batter and I poured it into the pans. The texture still wasn't what I expected, but I just hoped the cake would turn out.

I baked it at 325 F instead of 350 because of what I'd read in the Betty Crocker book. After 30 minutes, I checked with a toothpick and it was done! So I'm glad I didn't bake it at 350.

BUT... the cake didn't puff up like cakes I've made before. Usually, they form a dome on top--these were fluffy/spongy, but flat. I had no idea if that was normal for this cake (I still don't).

The older pan that I'd used clearly wasn't very non-stick anymore, because the batter stuck to the sides where I'd removed the cooking spray--doh. Thankfully, the others didn't stick.

When it was time to turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack, I realized how fragile they were. It was hard to keep them from splitting, but the parchment helped. The two from the newer pans came out okay. The one from the old pan looked terrible--it split apart and a chunk came off.

The problem with a German chocolate cake is that you don't frost the sides of it--so you can't count on frosting to hide the mistakes! (Clearly, something I've always relied on, haha.) I just figured I'd use the bad layer on the top where it would be the least noticeable.

While the cake was cooling, I made the frosting. This has to be cooked the correct amount of time for it to cool to the right texture--cook too long and it'll be dry, not enough and it'll be runny. I read in the comments on the recipe that it always works best when you cook until it hits 210 degrees, then remove from heat. It took longer than the recipe stated (it said 12 minutes, but it took mine almost 16 minutes to reach 210 degrees). Thankfully, the frosting was PERFECT. I could eat that with a spoon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

I had to carefully stack the cake layers, hoping it wouldn't fall apart. Thankfully, I didn't have any other problems. I covered the top with frosting and the ugly layer wasn't very noticeable. The cake wasn't exactly pretty, but it did look like it was going to taste delicious.

Jerry was very surprised (and thrilled!) when he saw the cake. I was just dying to eat it because it really did look good--and I already knew the frosting was amazing.

It ended up being every bit as good as I hoped it would be. The cake is SO moist and soft--and the frosting soaked into the cake a little, making it even better. Jerry and I were WAY overstuffed after eating a piece, but we just kept saying how good it was.

I knew Jerry couldn't care less about how the cake really turned out--he was just very touched that I tried it again. I definitely stressed over it too much and overthought all of the details, but it was very, very worth it. Not only because it tasted good, but because it made Jerry feel special on his birthday. And it only took about 15 years! ;)

EDIT: When I finished typing this post, I went to the recipe site and saw this tip that was posted--haha! At least I know that I didn't screw up the batter ;) 

Featured Posts

Blog Archive