How I Made $616.46 in February 2021 Blogging From Home

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

February was a good blogging month considering I made a little bit more than January over a fewer number of days. February was a shorter month and I worked more days in dentistry, covering for doctors who were on vacation. I wish I could have spent more time blogging and there were definitely a few goals that I did not reach, but overall, I am still happy with my earnings. In February 2021, I earned $616.46 blogging from home. Before I go into the nitty gritty details of this month’s Extra Income Report, which you are always welcome to scroll down to below, here is a little summary as to how I make money blogging, as well as a few recommended posts if you want to increase your income.

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I started blogging right after graduating from dental school without ever thinking I’d earn money from it. At the time, I turned to this blog as a place to record my daily life. Ever since teenhood, I have kept some sort of journal or diary, which has evolved over time from paper to Xanga to Melodramatic, and now onto WordPress. For almost twenty years, I’ve processed information through writing, but never once did I think I would earn money from it.

It’s been three years since owning this site but I am happy to say that it is now getting a little bit of traction and has started to earn me a little income. If I wasn’t working as a dentist during the day, I could see how this could become a steady day job. Still, even with my day job, it had turned into a fun side-hustle for me. I decided to log my earnings for my own personal tracking but also to share publicly how much one can make blogging from home.

Now that remote work seems to be in the near future for many, I do think that blogging is a good option for people who wish to work from home. Likewise, it is an opportunity to be your own boss and have your own space. Since you are writing your own content, you have the flexibility to work whenever you want to, which I know can be a good or bad thing. Of course, you can always practice habits that will separate work from home. Lastly, this is a great hobby or job for creative people. You have autonomy over how to execute your ideas and thoughts, making this a very freeing experience for those who don’t quite fall neatly into a traditional work environment or big company hierarchy.

But first, how did I start to monetize the blog?

If you are new to blogging, you may not know that you can earn income from owning such a space. I certainly didn’t. But then I took this course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketingand it changed my life.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is working with brands that you love in order to spread the word about their products and in return receiving commissions for any referred patrons. Sometimes these are physical products from almost any company you can think of. Other times, they are intellectual products such as courses or services that help improve other people’s lives. The best part is that you don’t have to “sell out” to do affiliate marketing. You don’t have to scheme or cheat people. For me, it’s really just promoting companies that I believe in. For example, the companies I choose to partner with are those that promote sustainably sourced products using fair trade and ethical factory conditions. I like to promote small name businesses trying to create social or environmental impact. I try to keep it to an exclusive few even though I’ve been approved for over 2,000 different companies (so far).

There are a few nuances to affiliate marketing and I didn’t know much about it prior to the course. But the course helped me to learn A LOT and it’s just another case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” You could learn it all yourself, but it’s hard to without a guide to get you through the basics.

I highly recommend this course if you wish to monetize your blog but don’t know where to start.

Extra Income Report

Now, onto the numbers. In February 2021, I made $616.46 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $73 is from sponsored posts. I count the monetary value of products that I receive as “income”. I do not accept products for review without first learning about the company and product. As a minimalist, I also only look for products that we currently need. I am honest in all my product reviews and list both pros and cons because I want to be as helpful to the consumer and the company, both. Companies that have supported the blog this month include TushyMonk ManualLunettePact, and Everlasting Comfort.
  • The rest of the income ($543.76) was due to affiliate link commissions. These are links that I have posted throughout my blog prior which continually earn me commission for every successful sale.

This is the first income from the blog this year! So far, since March of 2020, I have earned $3,419!!

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but as something I do for fun, I think it’s a nice little additional income. Over time, I hope to continue posting more income reports. Maybe it will help others looking for a side-hustle get a feel for whether blogging could become an alternative for them.

As always, my goal with this blog is to promote intentional living. Writing is a way to create a lifestyle that is in tune with what you want to do. Sure, it may not be the perfect job, but if working from home and having flexibility help allow you to live your dream life (one that includes traveling the world or becoming a stay-at-home parent), then I hope this space brings you that value.

If you are interested in starting a blog, I use WordPress. Feel free to sign up using my affiliate link.

If you already have a blog, I want to refer you to the course that helped me monetize mine. It’s a really great starting point. It’s called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

Monthly Goals: March 2021

February always feels like a month gone by. I ended up working more days in February, covering for doctors who went on vacation, so I did not reach as many blogging goals as I had anticipated. Despite that, the blog saw an increase in income, as well as an increase in traffic. I was able to keep up with my personal goals, focusing on building meaningful relationships with my patients, family and friends.

A lot of things has happened in our life career-wise as well! Mike received three offers for a full-time job and he accepted one! It has been one year since he worked full-time, but we are very happy with the offers he received. This means we will no longer need to pay for our own health insurance, he will get a 401K match, and we have all the other fun benefits that come with steady work.

I also took on a new role as the wholesale director for Rye Goods Co., the same bakery that I used to work midnight shifts at two years ago. We now have a storefront on Lido Island in Newport Beach, so do come say hi when you have the chance! Now, I am a part-time dentist, part-time blogger, and part-time bakery wholesale director. I decide my hours and schedule, and am contracted for all three positions. I am very excited for my new way of working and grateful for all the people I get to interact with. Additionally, with the exception of the two days I work as a dentist, I get to work from home with my husband and enjoy afternoon sunshine in the living room with my cat. My entire life has changed for the better after I saved up enough money to financially independent and quit a job I disliked. I told myself that I will never take this for granted and not waste this opportunity. With that, here are my goals for March.

Personal:

  • Wake up early every morning and utilize the wee hours for my T.I.M.E. ritual: T- Thankfulness Practice by Gratitude Journaling, I- Insight by listening to podcasts, writing, or reading, M- Meditate using the TIDE app, and E – Exercise whether that’s running or hiking.
  • Put phone away one hour before bed and limit Instagram use to 30 minutes per day.
  • Use the Monk Manual every day to guide my intentional living.
  • Create continuation between days by preparing the night before for the next morning’s most important tasks.
  • Meditate with the TIDE app every morning.
  • Stay offline one day per week.

Health:

  • Exercise 5 days a week.
  • Immerse in the outdoors 3 days a week.
  • Use Magnesium Spray to boost energy, lift mood, calm the mind, and relax the muscles.
  • Clean eating with whole foods and regenerative foods.
  • Try food journaling.

Work:

  • Create systems for my new role at Rye Goods Co. in order to improve the organization of all wholesale clients.
  • Familiarize myself with the billing and invoice platform for Rye Goods Co.
  • Begin to onboard new clients by the end of March.
  • Create genuine, meaningful relationships with patients by spending an extra five minutes each appointment learning one new thing about their social life.
  • Publish 20 blog posts.
  • Top last month’s 7.4K Pinterest views.
  • Top last month’s $600 blogging income.

Home:

  • Put away things daily.
  • Do a pantry clean out and organization.
  • Declutter paper and digital files and email.

Finance:

  • Save $7k next month to ramp up for whenever student loan repayment resumes – invest 20% of it and place 80% in our Marcus High Yield Saving’s Account.
  • Close on a second refinance of our home, hopefully sealing the interest rate at 2.875%.
  • Cancel our health insurance now that Mike got a full-time job!
  • Get our taxes filed.

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

How Skillshare Can Grow A Blog

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Skillshare is a platform wherein solopreneurs can learn skills taught by other like-minded folk. Fellow bloggers are teaching courses on the site, as well as learning from each other. I, myself, have a Skillshare account and have written about how it can help one stay productive during times of quarantine. I have been able to grow my blog tremendously since enrolling in their membership program, which gives unlimited access to all the classes available on their platform. As you can see from my monthly income reports, I have made more than a few thousand since we first shut-down for COVID-19 in March! I attribute my blogging income to this course for Affiliate Marketing by Making Sense of Cents and Skillshare. Today, I will be sharing with you guys a few classes that bloggers can take in order to help them grow.

Classes on Skillshare That Will Grow Your Blog

There are many classes you can take on Skillshare that will grow the blog. Skillshare is divided into the categories “Create”, “Build”, and “Thrive”. All three categories have something to offer to solopreneurs, but bloggers especially.

Create

Bloggers are creatives by nature. Our work requires the making of something-out-of-nothing, balanced with making something-worth-reading. For the written aspect of blogging, there is a sub-section for Creative Writing which bloggers may find useful. For example, courses on how to write your own personal story can help one start to find their voice for a blog or book. Speaking of books, there’s a course on how to format eBooks in Adobe, as well as courses on how to self-publish. There are even courses to get one out of writer’s block, wherein prompts and topics are suggested to get the juices flowing. Sometimes, we need that, too.

However, we do more than write. We create imagery for our posts as well. The sub-section Photography will contain tips on Still-Life Photography, How to Get Paid Doing Travel Photography, and even How to Take Photos for Instagram. Capturing visual stories is important if Instagram is your line of work. Likewise, it is important if your blog is photo-driven. And if you’re like me, capturing everyday objects of the mundane nature, such as coffee mugs and nail color, then these courses may help you elevate the imagery from boring to something that draws someone in.

In the Creative section, you will also find courses for Web Development. I personally use WordPress, which allows me to design this blog in a simple way, but if you wish to make a blog from scratch, this section may be for you! There are courses on CSS, Javascript, Python and more.

Build

The Build section, in my opinion, is the most useful for bloggers. This is where I’ve spent a majority of my previous month. Business Analytics is a fairly new concept for me, but I am obsessed with it! I never realized before that all this work I was putting into the blog space was unfocused and gave less return than it can. It is still far from optimized but I am learning. I took courses on Google Analytics and have learned how to use Google Webtools to see if what I was writing was leading to engagement with my audience. I started this space to write for my own sake, but over time, a community of readers has been created through this space and I want to start writing for my audience, too. By using analytics, I am able to better cater to my readers as well as grow my blog.

Another sub-section is Freelance and Entrepreneurship. This area is a more general section where bloggers and non-bloggers can learn how to price their products, make a living as a creative, and start a successful business. This goes hand-in-hand with the Marketing sub-section, where the focus is more on growing an audience rather than improving content, although I have found that the latter can drive the former.

Thrive

Viewed by some as the least useful section, I would consider Thrive to be my favorite one. In here, you will find ways to organize life for increased productivity as well as meaningful work. I have met many entrepreneurs who can’t seem to get anywhere, not because of a lack of creativity but because of a lack of structure and focus. Creating a business requires both. It can be difficult especially after being trained for many years by the school system to follow structure. As you know from this space, I am all about creating an intentional lifestyle. It may not surprise you to find out that I am even more arduous in creating the ideal work life. I utilize a combination of creating monthly goals, planning my day, and maintaining a peaceful WFH environment to drive productivity. Without it, I would be helpless.

Skillshare really is a great platform for new bloggers and beginning entrepreneurs. It also serves as a starting place for those who want to become a creative without having the experience. If you find that your current 9-5 job isn’t giving you meaning, then this is a way to dabble in a side project that could turn into a line of work.

If you are unsure, you can always try Skillshare for FREE for 14 days. If you really like it, receive a 40% OFF discount from an annual membership using my affiliate link and the coupon code ANNUAL40AFF. This code is available until March 31, 2021. I highly recommend signing up if you are serious about growing your own business and don’t know how. There are many avenues to take, and you can learn about the topics that interest you.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

J. Hannah: A Jewelry Line that Rings True

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

J. Hannah is a brand after my own heart, and the founder, Jess Hannah Revesz, is a kindred spirit. She has been described as a minimalist, chic fashionista but when I read her interviews, I see her as more of a muted, sophisticated, ethereal soul practicing restrained maximalism through intentional design choices – and it translates well to her jewelry line.

Growing up, my mother, who was a fashionista in the truest sense of the word, would always describe my style as “old age”. Despite her efforts to mold me into someone who loved diamonds, glitter and glam, my calling remained with materials that portrayed their travels through time – like iron that rusts, silver that dulls, and linens that yellow. So it only makes sense that I fell in love with a jewelry line that mimics vintage styles using 100% recycled materials of the finest quality – the epitome of making something new of old. In fact, 100% of J. Hannah’s cast gold and diamonds are recycled.

When Jess began her company, she was herself making each and every piece. As the company grew, she has maintained that level of sustainability. It goes beyond sourcing truly good materials, although she does that too. Her efforts extend throughout the entire company, from employment to packaging. All employees are guaranteed a fair wage and good working environments. The packaging remains as plastic free as possible. And the products? Well, they remain hand-made.

The collection of jewelry contains styles you would have found in your grandmother’s vanity drawer. Signet rings and hoop earrings dot the online catalog, with modern takes on pendants and lockets mixed in for good measure. Despite the vintage inspiration, the pieces have been updated for the modern woman. This pivot ring, for example, which mimics a fidget spinner, helpful during high anxiety days filled with plenty of work and daily goings-on. Or this Objet Pendant, reminiscent of lockets that used to hold your loved one’s photo or note, but can now be used to hold a back-up hair tie, an Advil, a CBD mint, or a special quartz talisman. My absolute favorite, though, is this niche ring – the perfect be-all, end-all wedding ring for life. Speaking of wedding rings, Hannah recently co-founded a company solely focused on matrimony, called Ceremony.

Far from simply having good, clean, modern design, part of what caught my attention was J. Hannah’s consideration for even the minutest of details. I found it endearing that the company released their own nail polish to fully capture the overall esthetics. In other words, “Why stop at the jewelry itself?” With playful names such as Patina and Eames, the polish collection really pays homage to things of the past, while introducing an application for this generation of young women. They are pleasingly unexpected shades that my mother would never approve of, that which resembles the color of mold and miso soup (Miso, by the way, is my favorite hue). But they are colors that are true to me, each once matching my jewelry. J. Hannah’s big picture mindfulness coupled with extreme scrutiny of the little things that add to the whole is a mirroring of the way I myself approach the world.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with J. Hannah’s words about owning jewelry, in general.

 “Never taken off” is how we want our customers to wear their jewelry, but it’s also a context for their purchase. We do not expect people to be able to afford our jewelry on a whim—it’s a luxury product. We see a lot of language used in our industry that tells women “this product will empower you” or “you need and deserve this,” as though jewelers are providing something necessary or benevolent, which is such a fiction. Jewelry is extra, it’s fun. It’s special and rare and expensive and hopefully something the customer will deeply consider as a special purchase that will last them a lifetime. We envision our customer as someone who saves up for that perfect piece of jewelry they’ve wanted for so long, or to commemorate a major life event. Hopefully they will pass it down one day as an heirloom. This feels closer to reality, which is important when we are continually exposed to entire Instagram feeds that promote excess as the norm. The prevalence of fast fashion works against us in so many ways and everything comes back to sustainability. Trend-based shopping is a wasteful pursuit. If the consumer started thinking about their purchases from a cost per wear perspective, it could change the whole design industry.

-J. Hannah in an interview with Forbes magazine

J. Hannah’s jewelry is far from cheap. It is actually very expensive. But the price reflects quality, as well as a way of living. It accounts for the difficulty in finding sustainable materials, as well as providing well for those who make our stuff. It is meant to change your spending habit, as well as the way you view the fashion industry. Not everyone can go out and buy themselves a J. Hannah ring, just because. Nobody, in my opinion, should. Restraining ourselves from whimsical purchasing of products will rewire our brains to not satisfy our wants so immediately, as well as build a higher sense of value for what we do spend money on. I am all for it.

How to Save for a J. Hannah ring

The Health Benefits of Magnesium

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Magnesium is a very important mineral. It plays a role in multiple processes that affect the function of our brains and our bodies. It is necessary in over 600 reactions, all of which promote our overall health. Yet 80% of Americans are deficient in Magnesium, mostly because historical sources of this vital mineral such as our diets and our soil have been depleted. This is why I recommend adding a form of Magnesium supplement to everyone. I myself have been using this Magnesium spray for months and find that it helps me to reduce stress, relax my muscles, fight fatigue, and get a good night’s rest. To understand why Magnesium is vital to all of those things, here are a few facts to know.

Magnesium may reduce muscle fatigue after exercise.

Magnesium moves blood sugar into muscles and disposes of lactate. Some athletes report improved performance in physical activities, although the evidence remains mixed. However, because it disposes of the lactate by-product from the muscles, it helps reduce fatigue. I like to spray Magnesium after my work-outs to help relax my muscles.

It improves sleep.

Magnesium is involved in transmitting nerve signals and relaxes the muscles and the brain. This has been shown to improve sleep, even for insomniacs or those who experience high-stress, which then helps with improving energy during the day.

Magnesium boosts mood.

Low levels of Magnesium are linked with depression. A study has shown that low levels of the mineral increases risk for depression by 22%. Some trials have shown that increasing daily dose of Magnesium to 450mg results in reduced depression symptoms equivalent to taking anti-depressants.

It helps with PMS.

Magnesium has been shown to help with bloating and fluid retention for menstruating persons. That, coupled with its mood enhancing benefits, is why it is included in this company’s everyday supplement for women 18+.

Magnesium can reduce inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is the cause of many systemic diseases, but Magnesium can help. Low levels have been linked with increased levels of CRP – an inflammatory marker in the blood. Likewise, increasing magnesium intake has shown to decrease CRP. Reducing inflammation can help with alleviating joint pain, reducing cell damage, and preventing disease.

Magnesium helps with insulin resistance.

Type 2 diabetics are usually low in Magnesium mostly because these patients are chronically high in insulin levels, which leads to the loss of Magnesium through the urine. However, increasing the intake of Magnesium has been shown to improve the processing of sugar, thereby lowering the body’s blood sugar levels. It is therefore important for pre-diabetics and diabetics to maintain their magnesium levels.

There you have it! The reasons why we need to add magnesium to our diets or as a supplement are plenty. I should note that the most bioavailable version of magnesium is magnesium citrate, which is the form this company uses. I, myself, only use The Nue Co.’s Magnesium Spray to help alleviate sore muscles after workouts, reduce stress, and aid in sleep. It one hundred percent works for me! I prefer to ingest my magnesium by altering my diet to include magnesium rich foods rather than taking a supplement. Foods high in magnesium include fish (salmon and mackerel), leafy veggies (like spinach), whole grains, beans and nuts.

What To Do With Federal Student Loans Right Now

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

So it has almost been a year since the news first broke out that the US government will be placing all federal student loan repayments on pause with 0% interest. I thought it was only going to last three months, to be honest. But after three (four?) extensions, I thought I should post an update on what you should be doing with your student loans. I hope you’ve been doing these things all along, but if not, that’s okay. We can pivot. Like this post, it’s better to be late than never.

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Hit other debts, hard. It’s no secret that I cannot stomach debt. Part of that is psychological, resulting from trauma regarding debt, but in general, I liken debt to a virus, leeching away at your resources while growing in size. The first thing I did after graduation, even before tackling my student loans, was tackle credit card debt. Most credit cards charge a hefty interest fee. The longer you have credit card debt, the more money you lose. I would also try to pay down any debt you have for your car. Those two are great places to start.

Continue making student loan minimum payments, if you can. I don’t like all this forbearance talk. I didn’t even like the student loan forgiveness program. I think that giving yourself lee-way with paying back debt when you have the ability to pay it makes your financial muscles weak. Even if you want to save money during this unprecedented time for “what-ifs”, I would recommend at least paying the minimum payment. Think of it as a finance work-out routine. It keeps you strong and on top of your game.

Grow your emergency fund. After making minimum payments, feel free to put your extra money in an emergency fund, for now. You want to prioritize emergency savings during this time over aggressive loan payments. With federal loans at 0% interest rates, federal student loans have stopped growing, which gives your money the opportunity to grow. Keep savings in a HYSA like Marcus. My affiliate link will give you an additional 0.20% APY for the first three months. While we wait for student loan repayment to resume, we can increase the amount to put towards it by letting our money grow on the side.

Start saving for retirement. 2020 gave us the breathing room to finally max out our 401-Ks for the first time! Each individual can contribute $19,500 towards their 401-Ks and if you are fortunate, your company will match a portion of that. Additionally, if you have the room, I would also recommend maxing out a ROTH-IRA and contribute to an HSA. These are our personal preferences, but whatever retirement account you have access to or choose to invest in, look at this time as a blessing for retirement planning. We have never had this opportunity to max out our retirement funds, but it’s a habit we will likely hold on to for the future years to come.

Do not refinance. If you have a federal loan, take advantage of the 0% interest rate that it offers. You can invest in stocks, maximize retirement accounts or simply let it grow in a HYSA. Refinancing will increase your interest rate and preclude you from taking advantage of forbearance, which would be useful in times of dire emergency, such as getting ill, let’s say.

Consult with a professional. If all of this seems too much or you feel that the advice does not apply to your particular student loan situation, I would highly recommend talking to a professional. Travis Hornsby at Student Loan Planner has saved us thousands of dollars. Their consultations are well worth the price and you will get more in return than what the consultation costs, which in my opinion is a win! I recommend only Travis and his team, because he knows more than anyone else about this stuff. Schedule your call here and let him know I sent ya using this affiliate link.

Lastly, when all seems lost, know that I am in your corner. You can always reach out to me, too.

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

Valentine’s Day Devil’s Food Chocolate Layer Cake

This post is in partnership with KitchenAid and Le Creuset. Both companies have agreed to partner with the blog as I document my baking adventures. This particular recipe was modified from the book Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt. Instead of homemade caramel, I used store bought La Lechera, and there’s no shame in that. I learned how to bake bread with Tartine and own three Tartine books. This edition goes through different pastries and cakes and I would highly recommend it to bakers who prefer making sweet delicacies over hearty loaves of bread. 

I have been wanting to make this Devil’s Food Chocolate Layer Cake for a while. Something about the elegance and simplicity of this cake really drew my attention to it. It stands alone well with cake crumbs coating the exterior, or for icing lovers out there, perhaps a thicker layer of chocolate ganache would do. It is rich without being overly sweet, romantic without being exaggeratedly extravagant. The definition of delectable!

If you are looking for something to do this COVID Valentine’s Day, why not gather your loved ones and work together on baking this cake? If you’ve got little ones without the patience to sit through the steps of icing and layering a cake, the cake itself tastes like a good batch of brownies and this recipe makes two batches worth when using square 8″ x 8″ pans like these gorgeous ruby red Le Creuset pans. (Right now, if you spend $200, you will receive two free heart ramekins for the Valentine holiday.) You can skip the caramel and whip up the chocolate ganache in minutes, icing the top of your brownies with chocolate. One for you, one for the kids. It’s perfect.

The original recipe calls for homemade caramel but for the sake of time, I simply bought a can of La Lechera. The chocolate ganache was easy to make and I used Ghirardelli Bittersweet chocolate chips and heavy cream. Any bittersweet chocolate works in this recipe. Lastly, I had market flowers that were due to wilt, which I cut and placed into the cake. I like to cover the stems with parchment paper so as not to mar the cake.

This cake is super easy to make. With the help of a Kitchen Aid mixer, I was able to mix the cake within ten minutes. It cooks for forty five minutes, during which I was washing dishes and prepping the chocolate ganache. I would recommend waiting until the cake has cooled completely before assembling the layers. I let it cook in their pans for half an hour prior to removing the cake from their molds. Then I place it in the fridge to help firm up the cake prior to icing. Meanwhile, the cake tops are tossed into the oven to dry out. After I assemble the layers, I throw the cake in the freezer for thirty minutes prior to icing the exterior, just to make sure it is set and the layers don’t move around. The most fun part is getting the cake crumbs on the sides of the cake. I found that the original recommendation to tilt the cake isn’t the best, after all my work nearly sliding off the stand and into the sink. I prefer to take a spoon and chuck the crumbs on the sides of the cake, creating a beautiful mess, but nothing my Dyson can’t handle.

If you are looking to this cake as a romantic gesture, I would pair with a glass of red wine and some roses on the side. Candy heart messages optional. It’s going to be a winner, I promise. Other cake recipes this way.

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Ingredients

  • 1.25 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 0.5 cups Spelt flour
  • 4.5 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.25 cups cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2.25 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1.25 cups buttermilk
  • 20 oz Ghirardelli’s bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 can of La Lechera caramel (about 3/4 cup)

The Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spray two 9″ cake pans with coconut oil spray or butter them and lightly flour so the cakes do not stick. An alternative is to line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper to make removing of the cake rounds easier.
  3. Sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Attach the paddle attachment to your Kitchen Aid stand mixer and beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and creamy.
  5. Add the sugar a little at a time, continuing to beat on the same speed until light in color and fluffy.
  6. Add eggs one at a time, waiting until full incorportaion before adding the next egg. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition with a rubber spatula.
  7. With the Kitchen Aid mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 equal batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches. In other words, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk, followed by 1/3 of the flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk, and finishing with the rest of the flour mixture.
  8. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula, then mix again for another few seconds. This ensures full incorporation.
  9. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two pans and bake until the top springs back (about 45 minutes).
  10. Cool cakes completely in the pans on wire racks.
  11. When the cakes are cool, turn them out by inverting the pans. Turn cakes right side up on the wire pans with the mounds on top. Use a serrated knife to cut off the mounded tops (leaving behind two flat rounds) and stick the tops on a sheet tray back into the oven at 250 degrees F. Let them bake for about 45 minutes to an hour to dry them out. These will turn into your crumb coat.
  12. As for the two cake rounds, I stick them into the fridge sitting on wire racks for 10 minutes to completely cool.
  13. Meanwhile, I make the ganache by placing the chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl. I heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it comes to just under a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate into the bowl. Do not stir right away. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes until the chocolate is partially melted. Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth and shiny. Open the can of La Lechera, as we will assemble the cake layers next.
  14. Remove the cake from the fridge. Use the serrated knife to cut each round in half, resulting in four rounds. Place one round on a plate or cake stand. Spread 3 tablespoons of caramel over the cake, followed by a 1/4 inch thick layer of chocolate ganache. Place the second round on top of the chocolate. Repeat the process until you place the fourth round of cake on top.
  15. Place the newly assembled cake into the freezer for 15 minutes to set the icing. You can also refrigerate the cake until firm for 1-2 hours if you need more time. If you are letting the cake set in the fridge, I would cover the chocolate ganache with plastic wrap to prevent it from air exposure. Keep that out at room temperature.
  16. Meanwhile, the cake tops should be nice and toasty. Remove them from the oven and place in a food processor. Run the food processor until the cake tops are broken up into tiny crumb pieces. Strain the crumbs through a medium-mesh sieve. You don’t want a fine mesh, otherwise your crumbs won’t go through. Set aside the bowl of sifted crumbs for later.
  17. Remove the cake from the freezer (or fridge) and ice the outside with chocolate ganache using an off-set spatula. If decorating with came crumbs, you only need a thin layer. If you prefer to do just the icing, I would double the icing.
  18. After the cake is iced on the top and sides, sprinkle cake crumbs over the top of the cake. The original instruction says to tilt the cake left and right to let the crumbs fall over the edges but that didn’t work too well for me. I had to take a spoon and fling the crumbs at the sides of the cake instead. You can try either, just be careful not to tilt too much lest the cake starts to slip off the plate!
  19. I decorated the top of the cake with flowers from the Farmer’s Market, but this cake is seriously just as beautiful without any decorations at all. If you wish, you can place a dollop of left-over chocolate ganache in a glob at the center of the cake and stick two Sweetheart candy messages on there, calling it a day.

Note: This cake is best served at room temperature. Let it sit on the counter as you prep the rest of dinner. You can also serve this with berries and red wine. To store, keep covered and in a cool place for up to four days. Refrigeration will dry out the cake.

I hope you all have a lovely Valentine’s Day.

Gift Guide: Valentine’s Day

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February 14 is an upcoming excuse for me to celebrate love in all definitions of the word and I’m jumping on said opportunity like a runaway train. This past year has brought to my attention the importance of meaningful relationships and I thank my lucky stars everyday for the makings of my post-COVID world, namely family and a toothless cat. Add to the mix my recent infatuation with signs of self-love and you’ve got Cupid herself. Valentine’s Day presents a solid excuse for me to go BIG- and stay home.

I’m shelling out on June Shine and wine, and staying in to dine. My ideas frolic around remaking a favorite wedge salad and sprawling on cement floors with puzzle pieces between my toes, wearing my Levi’s, a sweatshirt and my finest jewelry. I’m hoping for California gloom, which may be too much to ask for in February, but I am a hopeless romantic after all. I’ll stick tortoiseshell barrettes in my hair, walk with bare-feet, and relentlessly lounge around hoping my candles don’t light my plants on fire. And if that doesn’t paint a picture of modern age glam, muted and minimalist, then perhaps these Valentine’s Day gift ideas will do – a collection of small gestures and grandiose offerings.

Of course, there’ll be kisses and cat cuddles, couches, Netflix, and a sink full of dirty dishes mixed in there too. It’s gonna be purrfect.

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