Life lately in photos from the past month. Uncle James brought home a puppy. Kids got fresh hair cuts (from my nervous hand). We visited a new coffee shop in a friend where espresso was a much need treat while doing whole30.  Whole30 meant no candy on Valentine's -- but kissing up Mary Rose was the perfect sweetness.  We drove out to the farm and feel like we have finally started.  The land is excavated and foundations will be poured soon (we are doing concrete slab floors).  The biggest news... we named our land!  WILDERNESS.  You can follow along more process details on instagram @wildernesshomestead!  Will be sure to write more on how we chose this name soon.

Back in NOVEMBER we had the fun privilege of hanging out with our friend Kelsey of Halcyon Studios.  We first met Kelsey when she was a camper at the summer camp where David and I were working as counselors (where we first met & fell in love).  She has since been around to snap lots of important life moments for us -- an engagement shoot (even though we were already married, we wanted some!), our first maternity shoot when pregnant with Magnolia, Magnolia's newborn photos,... even my sister's wedding.  I love her work, and just really love being around her!!

Find Kelsey on INSTAGRAM or check out her PORTFOLIO / WEBSITE.

A couple weeks ago I wanted to make a chocolate torte.  When I googled, "easy chocolate torte recipe," this cake recipe from Sophisticated Gourmet is wha popped up first and I dived right in. 

Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake
For the Cake:
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cups unsweetened cocoa powder (natural)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk (can use light)
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1 cup strawberry jam 
For the Frosting:
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons or ¾ cup), melted
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural)
⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
4 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
I'm not going to copy down the directions here.  Sophisticated Gourmet did an excellent job of going step by step & I feel like I actually learned a good bit about baking and preparing a cake from start to finish.  I especially loved a tip they included about how to avoid having to shave your layers to make them level!  See full instructions here.
My cake didn't look exactly like theirs.  I didn't use homemade jam like they did.  My first go at this cake I followed all directions and used Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves (its a yummy french jam that comes in a cute jar with red & white checkered tin top at public).  I didn't love the icing.  It was delicious, but made the cake too sweet for my taste.  I made this cake again a week later and switched to the Bonne Maman Fig Preserves with some added salt between layers, I used a bit less sugar, and tried a ganache topping (though my ganache was super ugly because I used the wrong chocolate).  
Anywhoo, I thought trying to perfect the "no reason" chocolate cake was as good a cause as any to put some thought, time, and practice into & this recipe gave me a super great place to start.


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