Sunday, February 28, 2010

In Death Challenge Post: February 2010

Interested in joining the In Death Series Reading Challenge?
Visit THIS POST to read the rules and sign up.

This is the round up post for the second month of the In Death Reading Challenge. If you read at least one In Death book in the month of February, congratulations on meeting the challenge this month! If you're new to the challenge this month... welcome to the fun! :)

If you made a post on your blog, whether it be a review or commentary, please grab the link to your post and enter in the Mr. Linky below along with your name so we can find each other's posts easily.

If you're just going to keep a running list of the books as you read them, grab the link to your post where you'll be keeping track of your list and enter in the Mr. Linky so we can recognize your success this month.

If you don't have a blog, leave a comment below with your name and what book you read this month and feel free to join in on the In Death chatter here or on the other participants' blogs.

This will also help me keep track of who's eligible for my challenge giveaway in April.
Thanks for participating!

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Vengeance In Death by J.D. Robb
Book 6

I just finished reading Vengeance In Death this morning, and to tell the truth, if it wasn't for being the hostess of this challenge, I probably would have fallen off track already because there are so many books calling me this month! However, I'm glad I felt compelled to read it, because once I started, I couldn't put it down.

Vengeance In Death starts with an anonymous phone call to Lieutenant Eve Dallas from a man claiming to be on a mission from God to murder in the name of divine retribution. He confesses to the murder of his first intended victim and ends his transmission with cryptic clues as to where the victim can be found. This begins the games this elusive, techno-savvy murderer has in store for Eve in which he sends her riddles about his victims, leaving her barely enough time to figure out the victims' locations as she and her crew race to save a life and catch the murderer.

Eve figures out rather quickly that the victims are linked to Roarke's past in Ireland and his carefully buried criminal activities. No sooner does Eve begin to explore some leads in the investigation that Roarke's long time friend, father figure and butler, Summerset is implicated as the prime suspect. Eve's moral compass is tested like never before as she tries to protect Roarke from becoming a future victim and Summerset from being framed as the murderer.

Vengeance In Death is another fantastic installment in this series. The murder mystery was suspenseful and because the murderer and the victims were so intimately tied to Roarke's past, the story was extremely personal for Eve and Roarke. As a result of the links to Roarke's past, more details about Roarke were revealed in this story. Eve and Roarke worked together on this case more so than ever before. They had a few heated and emotional arguments because of the case, which was actually good to read because it made them refreshingly normal. Of course, it was also nice that they made up each time. Eve also verbalized her love for Roarke quite a few times, which we know is rare. Not only that, but she admitted to herself and to him that she needs him, too. I loved this. Even needs to need him, and admit it to him, too. He really needed to hear it from her.

The end of Vengeance In Death was really intense. Not only was I on the edge of my seat over how the killer was going to get apprehended, but I actually choked up a little on the emotional impact of this last scene. As always, the emotions between Eve and Roarke run high as they sigh in relief over not losing each other, but in this case, there was also a small--very small, sigh of relief for Summerset. Never thought I'd see the day.

Which In Death book(s) did you read this month?

What's your take on the Eve & Summerset relationship?

I happen to love it. It adds extra fire to the home life of Eve & Roarke. Like they need more, right? Most times I find Eve and Summerset's constant sparring and jarring very entertaining. This was the case for Vengeance In Death, but in addition, I also loved how this particular story was so personal for Summerset and how it forced him and Eve to get to know and understand each other better. Even if just a smidgen. They're both so stubborn!

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Challenge Participants:

Enter the url to your February 2010 In Death Challenge blog post with Mr. Linky below


Enter the url to your blog post that contains the list of In Death Challenge books you have read so far with Mr. Linky below.

Thanks for playing!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

REVIEW: A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

A Matter of Class is a delightful little historical romance. Prior to reading this novella, the only other work I had read by this author was the short story "A Handful of Gold" in the Heart of Christmas anthology last December. I enjoyed Balogh's story in the anthology, and when I read Hilcia's and Phyl's enthusiastic reviews for A Matter of Class, it was an easy decision to read this book. Even easier when I noted that my library had it on the shelf and I didn't have to spend hardcover price on a novella.

A Matter of Class is a story about two families who live on adjacent properties and have lived with a great deal of tension and even animosity towards each other because of simple matters of class.

Mr. Bernard Mason was born to the working class and therefore has no title. As a result of great financial success as a coal merchant along with great efforts to advance himself socially, he and his wife and his son Reginald Mason now live nearly accepted among the genteel class. Their neighbor, the arrogant Earl of Havercroft looks down upon the Masons and treats them with snobbish disdain. So much so that he even forbids his wife and only daughter, Lady Annabelle to speak with the Masons or even look at them in church. Needless to say, there is long standing petty antagonism between the families, or at least between the patriarchs.

The Earl of Ashcroft is looking at dire times. Not only is he near financial ruin as a result of a poor financial investment, but now his only daughter, Lady Annabelle Ashcroft has been disgraced by a scandal and likely facing life as a ruined woman. At this point her father would marry her to anyone who would have her.

On the other side of the fence, Bernard Mason has had enough of his son Reginald's wild, extravagant living and demands that he settle down and marry or have all his funds cut off. When Mason learns of Lady Annabelle's ruin, he sees the perfect opportunity to finally secure a title for his family and simultaneously put his arch enemy in his place.

Bernard Mason all but demands that his son Reginald propose marriage to Lady Annabelle and for once, the Earl of Havercroft agrees with this arrangement so as to spare his daughter complete ruin and save his family from financial ruin.

Marriage appears inevitable but would it really be enough to overcome matters of class between these families? And is there any hope for love between Reginald and Annabelle?

A Matter of Class is a cleverly written, engaging novella that was truly a joy to read. Within the first few chapters of the book, the reader is introduced to the Mason and Ashcroft families, the basis of their antagonism and their current state of affairs. Then the author begins to skillfully intersperse the current progress of the story with flashbacks to the past, slowly revealing more details about the characters and the challenges that differences of class posed on Regency England society. It is also through these glimpses of the past that the reader can't help but develop a fondness for both Reginald and Annabelle and desperately want to see them fall in love.

Eventually the chapters about the past catch up to those of the present in a clever denouement and of course, a happily ever after.

A Matter of Class is a fun and sweet romance. I enjoyed every minute reading this cleverly written little romantic tale.

Friday, February 26, 2010

REVIEW: Steamed by Katie MacAlister

Steamed is the first novel in a new steampunk fantasy romance series penned by romance author Katie MacAlister. Jack Fletcher is a nanoelectrical engineer. When his sister Hallie pays him a visit in his lab and nonchalantly fiddles with some equipment as she chats away, the two get accidentally zapped to an alternate reality onto a steam driven airship. Jack and Hallie are disoriented and bewildered as they come to in the cargo hold of the airship Tesla. The captain of the ship, Octavia Pye with startling red hair and her cast of strange and colorful crew members are equally confused over the discovery of these two uninvited guests in their ship's cargo hold.

The airship Tesla is en route to deliver cargo to the emperor during a turbulent political time, so the captain and crew are very weary of Jack and Hallie's unexpected presence aboard the ship, suspecting them to be spies on some nefarious mission. As this is Octavia's maiden voyage, she's determined for her trip to go smoothly without a hitch, and Jack and his sister certainly throw things off course for her in more ways than one. The sparks fly between Jack and Octavia from the get go, and Jack is seemingly having the time of his life in this new world attempting to seduce Octavia while trying to learn more about this woman and her world.

When I first got wind of Steamed, I knew I wanted to read it. I've been wanting to read a steampunk novel for a while, so I thought this book, a steampunk romance would be the perfect place to start. Unfortunately, I don't think it was the right steampunk novel for me.

I haven't read any of Katie MacAlister's work before, but I was vaguely aware that her stories tend to be light hearted and humorous. So in fairness, I should have expected a similar style with Steamed, yet it still took me a few chapters to get into the story and not expect something serious and romantic, which I think is what I was looking for. Nevertheless, I made a quick adjustment of my expectations and was set my mind to just have fun with the story. And it was fun to read at times. Steamed is a fun story with some funny dialogue, some slapstick-type action scenes and quite a few colorful and quirky characters. The characters and the world were interesting, but neither were developed or explored nearly enough to meet their potential.

The relationship between Octavia and Jack was entertaining at times because of their differences in shall we say, their 'dating' customs, but really, I never felt convinced that there was ever a true romance between them. What they had was merely physical attraction and perhaps a curiosity about someone so different.

The steampunk world had a lot of political struggles going on in the background, and I had been left wanting for more explanations of each faction's strifes and goals. Again, there was potential there, but the conflicts were never quite explained thoroughly enough and too many questions were left unaddressed. Hopefully the author will reveal more about the world and the motives of the various political leaders in future installments of this series.

Steamed may appeal to fans of Katie MacAlister's stories and others who are looking for a humorous, lighthearted adventure in an airship, but for me, I'm going to start over in my quest for the perfect steampunk romance. Right now I've got my sights on the following steampunk novels.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

The Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook
"Here There Be Monsters" in the Burning Up anthology due out August 2010
The Iron Duke full length novel due out October 2010

I've seen the first two at my library, and the third comes highly recommended from several book blogging friends. The Iron Seas series? Well, it's Meljean Brook. I can predict with confidence that she's going to deliver the depth, seriousness and romance that I'm looking for.

What are your steampunk recommendations?

I prefer the books to have a romance or at least romantic elements, but I'm open to any book suggestion, really, so suggest away!

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Want to know more about what "steampunk" is? There's a great article at Wikipedia that discusses steampunk, its origins and influences at

You can also read author Meljean Brook's approach to "steampunk" at .

Monday, February 22, 2010

REMINDER: In Death Reading Challenge this week

Just a reminder that if you're participating in the In Death Reading Challenge, we're in the last week of February already, so if you haven't already started, now would be a great time to pick up that next In Death book.

I'll be making a post over the weekend with another Mr. Linky so you can report your latest read.

Remember that you don't have to write a book review for the challenge. You can write up any kind of commentary about the book you read or about the series in general, or you can simply link to your list of books on your blog.

Don't forget that I'll be doing a drawing in April for the participants who have read or listened to an audio book version of an In Death book each month from January through April, so you'll need to link up this weekend to be eligible for the prize. If you fell behind or are starting late, go ahead and read what you need to in order to catch up.

I'm determined to finish my current read in the next day or so, so I can hurry up and get to Vengeance In Death, which is book six in the series. I understand that Vengeance In Death is a favorite among many readers of the series, so I'm looking forward to it with a little more anticipation than usual. And look! It's another one of my 'Blue Lady' covers!

Want to know more about the 'Blue Lady' covers? Visit the January 2010 In Death Challenge post.

Have a great week reading!

For more details about the challenge, visit the challenge sign up post HERE.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Library Loot XII

Library Loot is a weekly blog event that encourages bloggers to share what books they borrowed from the library that week. To participate, simply make your Library Loot post on your blog and link it using the Mr. Linky link at Marg's blog Reading Adventures or Eva's blog A Striped Armchair. This week's link up is at Eva's.

I have an interesting mix of library loot this week. Not just fiction! I always browse the new release section at the library and it recently dawned on me that the entire section always featured fiction titles. I knew the library had to be getting some new non fiction, too, so I walked around the corner and lo and behold! There was a whole other shelf of new nonfiction. I saw several books there that interested me, one of which was a very big and very heavy book, so I only had room in my arms for a few of them. I'll save the others for another day. So without further ado, I present this week's library loot.

Shakespeare's Christmas by Charlaine Harris
Shakespeare's Trollop by Charlaine Harris
Shakespeare's Counselor by Charlaine Harris

These are the last three books in the Lily Bard Mystery series by Charlaine Harris. After reading and absolutely loving the first two books in the series earlier in the month, I couldn't wait to get the rest of the books. I'm just going to be so disappointed when my Lily Bard reading experience is over. I will miss Lily terribly, I think.

Ironically, I will have picked up and read the entire Lily Bard Mystery series from my local library, all the while I have the first SEVEN Sookie Stackhouse books untouched on my personal bookshelves. I most definitely plan on reading the Sookie books, and hope that I like Sookie as much as I like Lily. For those of you who have read both the Sookie and Lily books, how do they compare in writing style and tone?

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

This is young adult novel by author Catherine Fisher, recently released for the first time in the US. I only learned of this book recently and was actually under the misimpression that it is a brand new book, but it is actually only a new release in the US, having been published in the UK in 2007. Incarceron is a fantasy novel about haunting and fascinating prison. There's a boy on the inside of the prison and there's a girl on the outside who are able to communicate via a key that the boy has found.

Here is the book trailer for the novel that I first saw on Carolyn Crane's blog, The Thrillionth Page, a while ago.

It doesn't quite tell you a whole lot about the book and it's premise, but the graphics and sound effects are definitely riveting enough to make you want to find out more, don't you think?

The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech
Children's fiction, Gr. 4-6

I was actually all checked out and heading out the door when this little book caught my attention on the "What's New In Children's Books" shelf by the entrance. I've read two young reader books by Sharon Creech in the past-- Walk Two Moons which was awarded the Newberry Medal in 1995 and Bloomability, both really great books. Plus she has written several other books that have received various awards and honors. So I picked up Unfinished Angel and read the inside flap and knew I had to read this seemingly charming tale. The story takes place in a village in the Swiss Alps, in which a young angel with no mission meets American girl and together they save a group of homeless orphans. Sounds sweet with a great message for kids. My fifth grader is reading this one, too.

Now for my nonfiction loot!

The Steamy Kitchen by Jaden Hair

So I'm browsing the new nonfiction shelves, and this title pops out at me. Turns out Jaden Hair had just started following me on Twitter last week. I swear, she followed me first! Well, I mean, she follows about 10,000 other people, too, but hey, a girl can feel flattered that a cool, professional, published recipe developer, food columnist and food photographer decided to follow her, right? Right. Of course, I didn't hesitate to grab the cookbook and check it out. Well, I brought it home and have been checking out and man oh man are there some really yummy recipes in this book that look easy to prepare, too. The desserts? Really creative and really... I want to try each and every one. I just may have to purchase this cookbook for my own library.

You can visit Jaden Hair at her website and blog at Steamy Kitchen. .

Sew Darn Cute by Jenny Ryan

How could I not pull this book off the shelf with a title like that? I have a sewing machine and do plug it in and sew something very easy now and then. Err... definitely more then than now, but I gotta say this little book is inspiring me to send my machine in for a tune up. It's chock full of projects that are, well... sew darn cute! You can take a look at what's inside at and it's even on at a bargain sale price of $7.97 right now. Sew awesome!

Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts by The Martha Stewart Living Magazine.

While I am not a huge fan of the woman herself, I do love some of her publications. I try to think of all the people she has on staff who are smart, creative, hard working and hopefully law abiding people who are trying to make a living doing something that they love and that's why I support them by buying some of the Martha Stewart Organization media. Okay then. So I saw this clunker of a book on the new release shelf and did a quick flip through and had to borrow it straight away. It is what it says it is. An encyclopedia of many, if not most, of the really awesome crafts from A-Z that have graced the pages of the Martha Stewart Living Magazine over the years. I recognize many of them from magazines I have browsed at the library and bookstores over the years, as well as those issues I've bought just for the instructions of the said crafts that have caught my eye. I haven't gone through every page yet, but I plan to. As usual, there are plenty of gorgeous glossy photos of the supplies, the tools, the step by step instructions and the beautiful finished products. Hopefully I'll get inspired to try some of the crafts, if not, I'm going to at least make a little list of the ones I want to try someday and then at least I'll know where to find the instructions when I'm ready.

And that's my sort of eclectic mix of library loot for this week.

Is there anything in this week's loot that you want to hear more about?

Let me know and I'll try to do a future post on it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Slush Run

Sounds like a post about an impulsive run to the local quickmart to get a slushy drink, doesn't it? ;)

It's actually in reference to a really great run I had the other day at the park after we had that snowstorm last week. Since we can't leave my father-in-law home alone anymore, I had asked my husband to come home two hours early the other day to watch over his dad so I could get the girls to a 5 pm appointment, and he surprised me by coming home even earlier than I asked so I had a few extra hours to myself. Awesome! So what did I do with that time? Go running, of course!

I headed to my favorite running spot to check out the trails, not sure what condition they'd be in only a short day or two after the snowstorm. This is what I found:

A lot of the paved trail is covered with soft packed snow or slush and a few patches of ice.

Sounds crazy to run on, I know, but wow was that fun!

I started out walking cautiously on the hard packed or icy spots, but found that it was actually really fun to run on the soft packed stuff. Almost like running on sand, which is more work than running on pavement, that's for sure.

My pace turned out to be pretty slow. I ran 4 miles in 51 minutes. Ugh. I probably shouldn't even admit that in a public place!

I'm sure I was so slow because of the extra caution I was taking on the mixed conditions, but it was almost like interval training, in a way, as I frequently changed my pace depending on the conditions underfoot. Either way, fast or slow, it felt so good to be out there. The temperature was in the mid 30s (around 0 C), the sun was shining, the sky was so blue, and I was loving it! The run was both exhilarating and relaxing. And what pretty views, too.

Speaking of pretty views, here are a few photos I took of the yard during last week's snowstorm.

This is the side yard where my feathered friends dine on berries and hide from the mean hawks. This was taken a few hours into last Wednesday's snowstorm. Six inches down, eleven more to go.

This photo was taken maybe two hours after having just shoveled the first 6 inches off the cars, driveway and sidewalks and it was still coming down strong.

The next morning, my husband took this photo of yours truly, finishing up the third shoveling in under 24 hours. I love the smell of the air and the clear blue, sunny skies the day after a snow storm.

It was snowing again last night into this morning. I took this is a photo the backyard this morning when I ventured out to the compost pile with an overflowing bucket of a week's worth of kitchen scraps. You'll see and read more about my compost pile in the coming weeks and months because I started an experiment this morning. I'm sure you're all dying to know more about it. ;p

The house looks a lot different now compared to back then, huh? Or even then? Or wow... way back then!?

I mentioned the other day in my Snow Day Chili post how much I love snowstorms and snow days. How magical it is to watch the landscape outside turn into a glittering winter wonderland. Well, just so you know, that prettiness lasts about two days, if you're lucky. Soon all those piles of snow along the streets and sidewalks become so dirty from mud, pebbles, street grime, piddled yellow from dog pee and children's snow sculptures start to keel over, and it all looks like such a big ugly mess. Lucky for us, though, it snowed another 2 inches last night to cover all that ugliness with a fresh, clean white coating. The beauty of it is that this snow isn't sticking to the pavement. Except by some cruel intervention by mother nature, because our driveway is the only one in the whole neighborhood on which the snow stuck! As I drove my youngest to school... NOT ONE other driveway or sidewalk in our neighborhood had snow stuck to it! What the heck is up with that? Even my neighbor called out to me as I was shoveling and said, "Hey, looks like it only snowed over your house last night." Followed by a laugh! What the HECK? I know I said I actually enjoyed shoveling the snow, but COME ON!

Anyway, while I'm on the subject of fun in the snow.... are you watching the Olympics? I love watching the Olympics, both summer and winter, but I think the winter games are my favorite. Maybe because my husband and I were big time skiers back in the day B.C. (before children). Now we are lucky if we go once or twice a season. Or at all. :(

My husband and I vacationed at Whistler Blackcomb ski area back in 1993. I know that sounds like a long time ago, but it feels like just yesterday for me. Anyway, such a beautiful place with some really great skiing.

So we've been watching the games every day and night. When I was a little girl, I absolutely loved the figure skating. Now I enjoy watching it, but it's not my favorite. My favorite events are all of the ski and snowboard events. The freestyle ski and snowboard events are so fun to watch, as are the cross country events, the combined events, and the races. Oh, and I like to watch the speed skating. Curling is an interesting event, too. I'm going to try to catch some of those events on t.v., too.

What's your favorite event?

One more thing. If you have an iPhone and you're into following the Olympic games, you need to download the free NBC Olympics app. It gives you access to just about anything you want to know about the games including the daily schedule of events, what's going to be broad casted on television or online and when, the medal counts, stats about the athletes and countries, news stories, and so much more.

I think that's all the snow talk I have for now. I hope you're enjoying whatever kind of weather is in your corner of the world. :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wishing you a day of love, laughter,

and happily ever after.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day Chili

I love snow days. I loved them when I was a kid and I love them now. There's something so exciting about anticipating being snowed in and watching the landscape transform into a winter wonderland right before your eyes. I don't even mind shoveling. Honest.

So today was a snow day in my corner of the world as we got about 17" of snow in the last 24 hours. My girls and my husband were home today for the snow day and while the girls will be home for another snow day tomorrow, unfortunately my husband will be trekking in to his job tomorrow.

In anticipation of the snow storm, I made a big pot of chili that we had for dinner last night and then again for lunch today, which was very satisfying after that first round of snow shoveling. This recipe is really easy to make and very tasty, too!

Snow Day Chili

1 tblsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef sirloin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tblsp. tomato paste
3 tblsp. chili powder
1 tblsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tblsp. blackstrap molasses
1 35 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained.
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large dutch oven or sauce pot.

Add onion and garlic and saute until onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes.

Add ground beef and cook until browned, stirring often.

Add salt, pepper, tomato paste, chili powder, cocoa powder and molasses. Cook for 1-3 minutes, stirring often.

Add tomatoes and beans, stir to combine.

When chili begins to boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season with additional salt to taste, if needed.

Serve in bowls with rice, tortilla chips or my favorite, corn bread and your favorite toppings such as sour cream, shredded cheese, and sliced jalapeno chilies.

Enjoy! :)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

German Chocolate Ganache Cake

Remember the iCake I made for my husband for his birthday last year? If you missed it, click over ... it was one of a kind. It was a lot fun to make, but what a labor of love rolling and cutting all that fondant to make the Apps!

This year, I made him his favorite cake-- a German Chocolate Cake, but with a twist. Normally, German Chocolate Cake is made with layers of chocolate cake that are filled and coated with coconut pecan frosting. This sophisticated version that I made today still has two layers of chocolate cake with a coconut pecan filling, but instead of having the coconut pecan frosting coating the outside of the cake ... the cake is drenched in chocolate ganache. Ooo la la.

The cake, coconut pecan filling and the chocolate ganache are all made from scratch, so this cake turned out to be more labor intensive than the iCake! But he's so worth it. ;)

Happy Birthday to my sexy, smart and fun husband.
I love you.

Recipe adapted from the Martha Stewart Living recipe for Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake.

German Chocolate Ganache Cake
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Coconut-Pecan Filling
1 fourteen ounce can sweetened condensed milk
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 cups shredded coconut

Chocolate Ganache
12 oz. package semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups heavy cream

To prepare the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place butter, chocolate chips and cocoa powder in a heatproof bowl and set bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water.

Stir the ingredients frequently as mixture melts.

Stir until smooth and remove from heat.

At this point, you may want to dip a spoon into the chocolate and butter mixture to taste. You know... a girl's gotta make sure her ingredients are top quality and oooh mmmmm so good, right?

Cut parchment to fit two 9" round baking pans.

Butter the bottom of the baking pans, insert the parchment circle and butter the top of the parchment paper as well.

Sift flour and salt in a small bowl.

Combine sugar and egg in a large bowl.

Beat until smooth.

Add vanilla extract and melted chocolate mixture to the sugar mixture.

Isn't that pretty? It looks like splattered paint. That you can eat.

Mix on low speed of your electric mixer.
I love this part!
Look at the pretty swirls...

mmmm doesn't that look yummy?

This is the part at which you ask yourself how I managed to hold the mixer in one hand and focus and shoot the camera in the other hand.

Add the flour mixture to the batter.

Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 20 minutes or until the cake tests done.

Let cakes cool completely before removing cakes from pans.

Set cakes on wire racks until filling is prepared.

To prepare filling:

Chop pecans and measure 1 1/2 cups.

Combine condensed milk, vanilla extract and butter in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently until butter is melted.

While milk mixture cooks, place egg yolks in a small bowl and beat with a whisk until smooth.

Continuously whisk the egg yolks as you slowly add a small amount of the milk mixture (about 1 cup). If you don't whisk constantly, the hot milk mixture will cook the egg yolks, solidifying them, which you do not want. Eww.

Now add the egg yolk and milk mixture into the pan with the remaining milk mixture and continue to cook for 5 more minutes, stirring constantly

Remove mixture from heat and gently stir in the chopped pecans and coconut.

You may want to taste the filling at this point. You know... for quality control. You need to make sure it tastes perfect.

Let filling stand to cool. Store in refrigerator if not assembling cake right away.

Place one cake layer on a piece of 9" cake cardboard. If you don't have one, make one from a cut up cardboard box covered with parchment paper like so:

Spread filling evenly over top of the cake.

Carefully transfer second cake layer on top of filling and press gently.

Set aside until ganache is ready. Store in refrigerator if you're not preparing the ganache right away.

To prepare the ganache:

Place chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl.

Note: Do you see how the chocolate in the photo has that dull, white or chalky looking hue to it? This just means that the chocolate has been exposed to a shift in temperatures. For example, if you store your chocolate in a cabinet along an outside wall of your house, believe it or not, the seasonal shift in the temperatures outside your house are enough to make the chocolate develop this change in color. Be assured that the taste of the chocolate is not affected and it is perfectly fine for eating, baking and candy making. When heated or melted, the chocolate will regain a smooth, dark hue.

Heat 2 cups of heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium hight heat until it boils. Watch it carefully so it doesn't boil over.

Pour cream over chocolate chips and let stand for 10 minutes.

Gently fold and stir the chocolate and cream to fully melt the chocolate chips.

The cream may curdle a bit when combined with the cold or room temperature chocolate and look like this:
See the white lumps?

If that happens, simply use a whisk to whisk mixture until smooth.
Voila! Smooth chocolate ganache!

More taste testing would not be frowned upon at this stage.

Place cake on a wire rack over a rimmed cookie sheet.

Slowly pour some of the ganache over the cake, allowing the excess to drip over the sides, coating the cake completely.

Let the ganache set for several minutes and then repeat with more of the ganache to fully coat the cake.

Transfer the cake to a large serving plate.

The cake is dense and rich, so can serve up 12-15 people a 1 inch slice.

We've been eating the cake since Saturday evening and everyone loves it. It is rich, but not sickeningly sweet. The cake layers are a similar density of brownies, but are not fudgey like brownies, but have the more subtle chocolate flavor of German chocolate cake.

The ganache is amazing.

Ooo la la.

The end.
Enjoy! :)

I have about 1 cup of ganache left over, maybe more, that I've been storing in my refrigerator. I'm thinking of using it for a special Valentine's Day dessert, but I'm not sure how just yet. So help me out...

What would you do with a cup of leftover, decadent ganache?