Seriously, the cooking and baking bug has hit us harder than usual lately. We’ve always enjoyed trying new recipes, but I blame our recent dietary need to cook from fresh ingredients to cut the sodium for Lucas, but all of the Food Network we’ve been watching has also been part of the inspiration. This weekend we decided to take it easy and relax. The rule was: if it’s not playing video games, knitting for the geekling, or napping… it’s not happening. While lying around and watching DVR’d episodes of Chopped (Lucas and I’s new favorite show) on Food Network earlier, we started talking about throwing together some shrimp and beef stir fry style with bell peppers and teriyaki sauce over rice.  It turned out amazing, and was really simple. I’ve fallen in love with bell peppers (yellow ones the most!) lately, as we’ve turned to adding peppers to a lot of our recent meals. The beef went in first with a little oil, then the peppers, and then the shrimp. We stir fried with a hawaiian teriyaki sauce with sesame seeds, and served it over whole grain brown rice. It was absolutely delicious!

Ok so the title is Heavenly Chocolate Orange Cake, and you’re probably wondering where the chocolate orange cake comes in while I’m babbling away about colorful bell peppers and stir fry. When we decided to make a fresh new meal, my stipulation was that we also crafted some dessert to go with it. One of my favorite flavor combinations of all time is orange and chocolate together. We decided upon cake, so I started scouring the internet for recipes. Believe it or not, I had a hard time deciding on one. While reading reviews of the various renditions on, I picked up a lot of feedback on each recipe and decided to just throw together techniques, ingredients, and suggestions from approximately 5 different recipes (including suggestions from Twitter!) to create our own version of the chocolate orange cake. We crossed our fingers and began mixing the batter.

Heavenly Chocolate Orange Cake

Preheat your oven to 350F and grease a large bundt cake pan. I also lightly floured it.

1 package yellow cake mix
2 2oz packages of chocolate pudding mix. We used Jell-O brand sugar free cook & serve
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp orange extract
1 cup orange juice, no pulp

Combine ingredients in your mixing bowl and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Scrape the sides of the bowl and make sure everything got mixed well. Pour into the greased and floured bundt cake pan, and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Orange Glaze
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter

Mix the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan until boiling, then boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and stir frequently until ready to use.

When the cake is finished, pull the pan from the oven and let it rest for around 5 minutes, then dump it onto a large plate. While still warm, poke holes in the top of the cake and pour the orange glaze evenly over top so that it can soak into the cake. You may or may not use it all; use as much of it or as little as you want to saturate the cake to your liking. Let cool. Serve. Enjoy.

This being a test recipe, I decided not to make the glaze this first time around so I could see how well the texture and flavor of the cake came out on its own. I thought it was lovely. The flavor was delicious, and the glaze would add a little extra moisture and orange zing. The house smelled so divine while making this, and since we opted not to go with the glaze this time, we served the cake up with a scoop of orange sherbet instead. That was heaven on a plate. Or in a bowl, as we served it.

Would we change anything? Initially I thought of using instant chocolate pudding mix instead of the cook & serve, but in the end I’m not sure it would make much difference either way, but we may try using instant next time just to see. We will definitely make the orange glaze next time, and/or maybe toss just a dusting of powdered sugar on top to finish it off. But no matter how we garnish, we’ll definitely be keeping the scoop of orange sherbet to accompany the slice!

So while cooking and baking was not on our initial rule list that included only video games, knitting, or napping for this relaxing weekend… we really love cooking together. It truly makes us happy and puts us in such a good mood. And then we talk about the food as we eat and plan what we’ll do next time to make it even better. It was the perfect ending to our day, and now we’ll snuggle while we digest another delicious meal that we made together.

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