Monthly Archives: August 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake


This is one of my favorite cakes; it’s simple and easy and delicious.  It’s the best all-around chocolate cake recipe I’ve found.  I made it for a friend and was going to take new pictures instead of using the ones I had on file, but I forgot that you have to use parchment with this cake or it’s difficult to get it out of the pan.  Plus, I took it out a little too soon, so it stuck to the pan.  Needless to say, the cake was delicious, but ugly, so I’m using the pretty picture I already had.

I’ve combined the cake with a couple of frosting recipes that I like.  The whipped ganache is about the best thing ever, with a subtle peanut butter flavor in the chocolate.  The peanut butter buttercream is really rich and really sweet, so I recommend only using it in between the layers.  Using it on the whole cake makes it too sweet.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

1 cup boiling water

2 teaspoons espresso powder

63g or ¾ cup Dutch processed cocoa powder, sifted

160g or 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

400g or 2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

226g or 1 cup buttermilk

112g or ½ cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine water and espresso powder in a measuring cup. Combine with cocoa in a small bowl. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.   Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray two 9 inch round cake pans with nonstick spray and line with parchment.   Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet to combine. Slowly add the chocolate just until combined.

Pour batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.   Let cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then unmold and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Peanut Butter Whipped Ganache

Adapted from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes

114g or 4 oz dark chocolate chopped

64g or ¼ cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup heavy cream, cold

¼ teaspoon vanilla

Heat chocolate in a bowl over gently simmering water until almost melted. Remove from heat and stir until completely melted. Whisk in peanut butter. Stirring with whisk add cream and vanilla until smooth. It should be about 60 degrees. If it’s warmer, refrigerate until it cools enough. Whisk for a few seconds until soft peaks.

Peanut Butter Buttercream

From Martha Stewart

171g or 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

90g or ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

Fine salt (optional)

Cream peanut butter and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed. On low speed, mix in sugar until combined, then beat mixture on high speed until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add salt to taste, if desired. Use immediately.

To assemble the cake:

Spread the peanut butter buttercream on the top of one layer. Place the other layer on top. Frost with the ganache.


Getty Museum

The Getty Museum is almost as well known for the architecture of its buildings and its views of Los Angeles as it is for being an art museum.  The gardens and views alone are worth a trip, but the collections and exhibits make this an incredibly enjoyable day.  The Getty always has such a wide range of exhibits.  In addition to their permanent collections, there’s always a photography exhibit going on, as well as other special art exhibits or traveling shows.  Right now, there is a phenomenal Herb Ritts photography exhibit.  I’ve always loved his photography, both his fashion work and his nudes, and I’d forgotten what a genius he was with light and contrast.  There’s also a Klimt exhibit now and other times I’ve seen statues from Angkor Cambodia and an exhibit showcasing  18th Century French life through fashion and the decorative arts.  They also tend to have a lot of Medieval Art exhibits, which are in addition to their own extensive collection of stunning illuminated manuscripts, my favorite Medieval art.

The Getty has a great collection of French paintings and decorative arts, which I always thought was an extensive collection.  After living in Paris, though, it’s seems so much smaller than I remember.  It’s still a good collection, but it pales in comparison to the Louvre or the D’Orsay.  I’m not saying anything against the Getty; it’s just a reflection on how much my perspective has expanded.  I will always return to the Getty to revisit my favorite Monets and say hello to Bouguereau’s A Young Girl Defending Herself against Eros or Alma Tadema’s Spring.


S Factor Stripping & Pole Dancing

A number of years ago, a friend came to me all excited about a local news story about an actress who had opened up a new exercise studio giving stripper and pole dancing lessons.  My friend thought it would be fun to try it.  It was one of the best gifts I ever gave myself.


Sheila Kelley opened the S Factor studio after discovering how empowered she felt while taking stripping lessons for a role in a film.  Not only were the changes to her body fantastic, but she felt more powerful as a woman after learning the moves.  She started teaching friends in her pool house and very quickly needed to find space for all the people who wanted in.   The studio has expanded greatly since then and now has locations in a number of cities, as well as a series of DVDs.  You can even buy a pole to install in your home.  I miss my pole; it’s stuck in storage right now, but I’m hoping to have a place to put it up again soon.


I took classes at the studio for six months in 2002 and then more recently returned to take pole classes last year.  Ten years ago, I had an active dislike for my body.  I was not comfortable in my skin, with my sexuality or my sensuality.  Being a woman was uncomfortable for me.  I have to say that stripping classes made me more at ease in my body and with myself than any amount of therapy.  As women, we’re taught to suppress our sexuality and any part of our bodies that appears sexual for fear of being called a slut and a whore.  Every move in class is about embracing the curves and shapes that makes us women.  Since the classes are in very low light, there’s no one to see you; you’re in your own little world, exploring you.  People think that stripping is about pleasing a man, but for me, it’s about moving like a woman and feeling empowered in my body.  Sheila’s belief was always you’re doing it for you first, and then if you’re dancing for a man, you’re doing it to tease him.  You’re in control the whole time.


The classes are a mix of stripper moves, yoga and Pilates.  Classes are almost dark with music pulsing.  Only women are allowed in the classes so that everyone feels comfortable with the moves.  Men aren’t even allowed in the front door.  It’s a very safe and supportive environment.  It’s funny when they have the open houses and women bring their boyfriends and husbands to watch the show put on by the instructors.  All the women are yelling and clapping encouragement to the instructors, and the men are looking at each other wondering if this is a dream or a nightmare.  On the one hand, you’ve got a bunch of gorgeous women with unbelievable bodies doing stripper moves right in front of you.  On the other hand, your wife is sitting next to you cheering them on.  Hmmm, do I cheer them on too and risk looking like a pig?  Maybe I’ll just stay silent with a shell-shocked look on my face.


The first half of the class is all about strengthening and toning.  The second half is the dancing, stripping, lap dancing and pole tricks part of the class.  Pole tricks are so much fun.  Crawling up the pole, flipping upside down and then sliding down the pole is such a rush.  Plus, it builds such great muscle tone.  The classes have changed some since I took them.   I’m not sure what exactly the curriculum is now, as I only take pole classes when I go back, but I recommend S Factor to anyone.  Sometimes, I’ll be randomly talking to someone and it comes out that we’ve both taken S Factor.  It’s like an instant secret to bond over.  We know the power and confidence that comes from these amazing classes.