It’s a birthday cake. baked in our own, newly-fixed oven. Yes. newly-fixed, not new.

We started talking last night and by this morning we had decided that we just couldn’t justify all new stainless steel appliances. The clincher really was the refrigerator. It works. It works really well. And it wouldn’t fit downstairs. We couldn’t just throw it away and trying to sell it was more hassle than we wanted to deal with.  I was even channeling my inner-hillbilly and trying to figure out how it would fit on the back deck, the shed, the powder room…  It wasn’t going to work.

I went online at 8:00am and in two hours time we had a very nice guy come out and replace the $96.00 element. We then went online and ordered a new upper dishwasher basket to replace the broken and rusted one that is currently there.I broke out some soap and water  and for less money than we were going to spend in DC this weekend – a lot less, in fact – we have fixed, clean, and looking-new appliances.

It was fun dreaming about brand-spankin’-new kitchen stuff, but even we have to put a foot into reality once in a while. Besides… we’re awaiting a bid on new doors, storm doors, insulation, and a new front window from our friends at Sharpe Builders. The money press downstairs just hasn’t been producing and when ya borrow money, the bastards want it back. With interest.

So… we’re happy with our decision and happy we have a working oven, again – a perfectly-calibrated oven, I might add.

The Birthday cake is a recipe Victor came up with for my birthday. It’s based on Tyler Florence’s Chocolate Cracked Earth Cake.

Victor’s Flourless Chocolate Raspberry Cake


  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 stick butter
  • 9 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 pt raspberries, mashed with a fork
  • 1/4 cup strong espresso coffee


Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

Melt chocolate and butter together.

Beat egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl until light yellow in color. Stir in a little of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs then mix in the rest of the chocolate mixture.  Stir in coffee and raspberries and mix well.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold into the chocolate mixture.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is set, the top starts to crack and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes, then remove sides of pan.

But that’s dessert. Dinner was really good, too!

It included a really good Brussels Sprouts and Rice Casserole that Victor got from his friend, Jenni.


There were actually several steps involved – several things needed to be cooked before being combined and cooked – but it really was a good dish and I know I’ll be making it, again.

Brussels Sprouts and Rice Casserole

  • 1 pkg (10 oz) frozen brussels sprouts
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • cooking spray
  • 1 cup cooked long-grain rice (or any rice you have – must be cooked)
  • 1 oz thinly-sliced prosciutto or ham, cut into strips
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (or other hard cheese)

Preheat oven to 375°.

In pan, combine brussels sprouts and water, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook another minute, then drain.

In saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour and whisk until incorporated, gradually adding the milk. Bring to a boil and cook about 3 minutes until thick. Add salt and pepper (add any other seasonings as you like) and set aside.

Spray a medium-sized baking dish with cooking spray, pat the rice into the bottom of the dish, arrange the sprouts on top of the rice, sprinkle the ham/prosciutto over the sprouts, and pour the sauce over the ham. Combine the breadcrumbs and the cheese and sprinkle over the sauce and then bake and enjoy.

Bake and enjoy, I did! This was a bit of a surprise hit. I knew it would be good because Jenni always sends good recipes. But it was really good.


The brochettes were filet tip roasts from the grocery store that had a bbq sauce on them. I cut them into chunks and then skewered them with onions, peppers, and mushrooms. Since the meat was already sauced, I didn’t add anything else.

A great birthday dinner – and cake is coming up!