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How To Annoy The Zoo And Your Elected Officials Before Breakfast

Remember the time I adopted a bug who lives in a tree stump at the Bronx Zoo?  Yes, well the zoo kept my email address and now they tell me whenever an animal is in trouble.

This morning I got an email that said “THE ORANGUTANS NEED YOU.”

It hit my inbox at the hour I’m most likely to help an orangutan: early in the morning when I haven’t yet showered and I look like this:

This is me in the 6:30 a.m. – 7:45 a.m. range.

So I helped the orangutans.  I sent the zoo’s suggested email to my congressman.  And then I sent it a couple more times, so the orangutans are going to be fine.

I’m not so sure about the pandas, though.  I did some research and I think they’re screwed.

I made you a guide to the panda situation so you can decide for yourself.

Your Guide To The Panda Situation

Number of gallons of biofuel the U.S. government says we’ll need in 2022:     36 million

Number of research programs trying to make biofuels using panda poop:     1

Estimated number of pandas left in the wild:     1,600

Number of pandas who are stressed out by our biofuel plan:     1,600

Number of pandas who were already stressed out because they’re endangered:     1,600

Times the Wuhan Zoo feeds their pandas chicken soup each month to reduce stress:     2

Chance a captive male panda is too stressed to get it on with a lady panda:     3 out of 4

Chance the panda will change his mind after watching an “instructional video”:     1 in 2

Chance that some of these facts are not relevant to the panda situation:    9 out of 10

Number of times I may have sent this list to my elected officials so far today:     27

Chance the Bronx Zoo will now unsubscribe me from their email list without me even asking:     1 in 2


While you form your own opinions on this, I will retire to the coffee table for some minty, chocolatey cake.

My neighbor back in Virginia, Martha, gave this recipe to my mom ages ago.  She is the best neighbor you could ever have, for a lot of reasons.

One of them is this cake.  The secret ingredients are a box of yellow cake mix, a box of pistachio pudding (gasp!) and the minty liqueur, which you make into a glaze and drizzle into the cake while it’s still hot from the oven.

There’s no extra green food coloring in the batter (just some in the liqueur).  When the cake cools, you flip it over and it looks like a normal cake dusted in powdered sugar.

But inside it’s green minty cake with melty chocolate chips and ribbons of moist, minty zing where the glaze seeped in.

No matter how many new cake recipes I try, this one will always be in my top 5.

By the by, if you have a favorite cake recipe, you could bake it, take a picture of it, and submit the photo to movita beaucoup’s Bake My Cake competition.  (I say that because Scott and I thought her gingerbread competition in December was off the hook hilarious.)

Crème de Menthe Cake {Download & Print Recipe}

(A recipe from my lovely neighbor, Martha)


For the cake:

1 box yellow or vanilla cake mix

1 package (3.4 oz.) instant pistachio pudding mix (dry)

1/3 c. vegetable or canola oil

4 eggs

1/4 c. crème de menthe

1 c. (8 oz.) sour cream

1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

For the glaze:

1/2 c. sugar

4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter

1/4 c. crème de menthe + water (I fill it most of the way with crème de menthe)

For serving:

confectioner’s sugar (optional, for dusting)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a bundt pan.

Beat together the first six ingredients for the cake (everything but the chocolate chips) until combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour batter into the bundt pan and bake for 50-55 minutes.

Right before the cake finishes in the oven, place all three ingredients for the glaze into a small saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes, stirring often.

 While the cake is still in the bundt pan and is still hot from the oven, and while the glaze is still warm, poke holes in the cake with a skewer.  It’s best to poke a lot of holes in the green ring on the top of the cake where the batter split while baking.  Spoon the glaze on top of the cake, letting it seep into the holes.  Not all of it will seep in, but continue poking some after you’ve started pouring the glaze, so some of it gets in there.  Use all of the glaze.

Let the cake cool completely.

When the cake is cool, run a butter knife down the outsides and the inside ring of the bundt pan and flip it over (i.e. serve it with the punctured side down.)  Just before serving, dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar if desired.

We don’t refrigerate the cake; we keep it on the counter in a Tupperware container or under plastic wrap.


Thunder had a staring contest with her tennis ball today.

She won, of course.





{5} Thunder wins by picking the tennis ball up and immediately staring at another one a few feet away.

[N.B. The orangutan image above is available on wikipedia under a creative commons license.]

67 Comments Post a comment
  1. Orn #

    Maybe the Pandas would like some Pistachio Pudding Cake?

    March 13, 2012
    • See, this is the kind of outside-the-box thinking that the conservation movement needs, Orn.

      March 13, 2012
  2. Your Mom’s friend Martha from Virginia is a naughty, naughty girl. Holy crud. And also I may be one too for being more interested in the “panda porn” information than any of the other panda facts.

    March 13, 2012
    • I found another article that mentioned they screen the videos two times a day for them!

      March 13, 2012
  3. The cake looks absolutely delicious.

    March 13, 2012
    • Mandy, thank you! It is amazing. My mom makes it every time my brother and I come home, no matter what the season. We also have it on Christmas day. It’s just so delicious. Hope you get an excuse to try it soon.

      March 13, 2012
  4. mallory #

    See, my grandmother used to make what she called “Pistachio Salad” but what was really an electric green sort of ambrosia, and so I know ALL ABOUT that particular color. Also, about the lengths that people in the Midwest will go to call something a “salad” when it deserves no such title. Boxed pistachio pudding mix, Kool Whip, canned crushed pineapple, mini-marshmallows, and crushed black walnuts, that is NOT a salad. Whatever it is.

    Regardless, that cake looks amazing!

    Pic #2 = the look Fred gives ME when I blow dry my hair every morning. Because he knows I’m about to leave. It almost keeps me from leaving the house. Almost.

    March 13, 2012
    • sarah #

      We call that Watergate Salad, and it is one of my favorite things from childhood. But certainly not a salad.

      March 14, 2012
    • Mallory, I found a cookbook at a garage sale once that was called something like “Cooking with Jello.” It was from the 50s or thereabouts, and it was made up entirely of recipes like your grandmother’s “pistachio salad.” It was terrifying, but I couldn’t put it down. I read that thing cover to cover, and my mouth dropped open at the pictures. I remember something with tuna fish at the bottom of a mold of jello with creamy fruit suspended in it. Like your grandmother, they called it a “salad.” Bah! What were they thinking back then?!

      March 14, 2012
  5. poor pandas.

    that chocolate cake looks so yummy!

    March 13, 2012
    • I know, right?! The more I learn about them, the more it becomes clear that they have absolutely nothing going for them and it’s an evolutionary miracle they’ve survived this long. They have NO IDEA how to reproduce. And then the babies are like 1/900th of the size of the parents and can’t see for MONTHS or something. They are just not cut out for survival.

      March 14, 2012
      • Living Life as an Expat Parent #

        I think I read somewhere not that they don’t know how to get it on, but they are too fat to do it. Surely, that makes them responsible for their own demise? Cut down on the bamboo and survive. Keep gorging yourself like a woman who watches too much Extreme Home Makeover and is an emotional eater and you will single-handedly play a part in wiping out your species. I think it’s a pretty simple choice, pandas.

        March 14, 2012
  6. April was in CT now CA #

    Holy leprechauns. I neeeeeed that dad-gum CAKE! Why are you doing this to me? For two days I’ve been trying to avoid making chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeal cookies (I’ve got butter softening on the counter just in case I give in) because I’ll just eat them and now I’ve got to try and talk myself out of making this cake! Ugh.

    Those tennis balls never stood a chance!

    March 13, 2012
    • Ack! Well, you should probably give in and bake SOMETHING, whatever it is. I love oatmeal cookies and was thinking of making some and freezing them (because I can’t really justify having a cake AND cookies on the counter.) I’ve never made oatmeal peanut chocolate chip cookies, though. I bet they’re great. One of my favorite bakeries in Charlottesville, VA makes something like a “combo” cookie, that has all three in it, and maybe other stuff. They’re so delicious!

      March 14, 2012
  7. Since it’s green, it must be healthy. Which is good, because then I can eat it all and not feel guilty, right?

    Also, I think pandas eat green stuff. Which in turn means you may have a solution to some of the panda problems in the world.

    March 13, 2012
    • That’s a good point about maybe feeding the pandas the cake. I will raise this at the next “What Are We Going To Do About The Panda Situation” meeting and see what the committee thinks.

      March 14, 2012
  8. a #

    My friend makes something like that with 5 eggs, but leaves it pistachio – I should dig that recipe out and make it for St. Patrick’s day. I’m not that big a fan of mint, but I do love pistachio! I do appreciate the return of the Bundt cake, though. I have one of those cool cathedral shaped pans!

    I was stuck at the panda porn too. But also, biofuel seems to be my theme for the day:

    March 13, 2012
    • THANK YOU. Because this is my new favorite sentence:

      “But you must admit, being paid thousands of dollars to harvest fat from the vain and indulgent and then using it to power sport utility vehicles is a baroque level of evil genius.”

      Your friend’s pistachio cake sounds awesome (so does the cathedral pan, by the way). I generally hated mint for a while too, but came around to it eventually. Cheers.

      March 14, 2012
  9. Loving your post and your pics are great; some even priceless!

    March 13, 2012
    • Why thank you very much! I was excited about these photos, too– I’m not always, but it was a fun photography day with this post.

      March 14, 2012
  10. Sometimes making cake from a box is immensely satisfying…and what a coincidence! That’s what I look like after I waddle home from work at 9pm-ish!

    You know, if you ever come to London, there’s a local bakery one block from where I live that sells these amazing chocolate cupcakes with a mint liquor glaze that’s to die for!

    March 13, 2012
    • Amrita, I wish worked at that bakery near you. I bet it smells amazing early in the morning.

      I lived near Magnolia Bakery in the West Village in New York, and there was a spot on the sidewalk on the side of the shop that got hit with the air from within. The smell right in that spot will be one of my favorite smells for the rest of my life. It was the smell of a hundred cupcakes and cakes and batter and nuts and icing. Glorious.

      March 14, 2012
  11. BairbreSine (Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn) #

    Thunder is too cute for words and that cake looks and sounds delish. I love creme de mint and St Paddy’s day is just around the corner. My son-in-law is making corned beef and cabbage Saturday night. This cake might be just the ticket to take along. Is 3 minutes long enough to boil the alcohol out of the glaze? I have an almost 12 year old to consider. Grammy shouldn’t be getting the gr-kid drunk 3 days before his 12th birthday.

    March 14, 2012
    • Barbara, that meal sounds perfect! What a fun evening, all around.

      About the alcohol in the batter and the glaze: While I’ve been eating this cake since I was a wee little one, I understand your concern. You know what I might do if I worried about how it could affect a little guy? Honestly, I’d probably ring up my doctor and see what she thinks about eating a slice of cake that uses 1/2 c of mint liqueur. That way I could put my worries to rest (I worry. About pretty much everything.) I did read somewhere that the USDA has said that much of the alcohol in a beverage remains after boiling, even if you boil it for longer than 3 minutes. (I haven’t seen the study).

      If it turns out you want to go the alcohol-free route, what about scooping out a little of the batter once you’ve mixed most of it but before you put the creme de menthe in? Then you could sprinkle some chocolate chips and green food coloring in the reserved batter and make a cupcake at the same time you bake the big creme de menthe cake. It’d cook way faster, so you’d just have to keep your eye on it, I suppose.

      March 14, 2012
      • BairbreSine (Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn) #

        good ideas!

        March 14, 2012
  12. The cake looks amazing. I have to try it sometime, but first I need to go and get myself one of those awesome cake ring thingies. It always makes it look so much more impressive (not that your cake isn’t impressive). Arrgghhh. My words are all coming out wrong. I think I need a nap.

    PS. You Rock!

    March 14, 2012
    • I agree- I feel like I always need pots and pans that I don’t have. I use it as an excuse when something doesn’t turn out right. I usually put the dish on the table and say something like “well, really it’s PERFECT but it looks like CRAP because my artistry was STIFLED by the fact that I don’t have the proper EQUIPMENT.”

      Anyhoo, thanks for the kind words!

      March 14, 2012
      • The worst is that I often go out, buy the equipment and then not use it because of some other excuse!

        March 15, 2012
  13. I’m feeling like a panda rally could raise awareness. Maybe we hold a bake sale… change that liqueur to absinthe (it’s the same color, right?), and you’ll have the EVERYONE donating their own “instructional videos” to the pandas. I bet we could get every last one of those numbers up.

    Side note: I’m loving your second picture. Beautiful!

    March 14, 2012
  14. I love everything about this comment. Yes yes yes. Think about the amazing, and probably obscene, posters we could make for this rally. We could rent some bamboo for the decor. And there must be face-painting, of course.

    Thanks for the note about the photo– when I downloaded it from the camera, I was like “wait. I took that?! Glory hallelujah.”

    March 14, 2012
  15. You have got to be the most hilarious person in the world. And We’re proud to know you. Well, not really “know” you in the Panda sense of the word, but be acquainted with you nonetheless. Ah me. It’s too much for a Wednesday.

    Roo, Stuart

    March 14, 2012
    • Hee hee. I have to tell you that this put a huge smile on my face. Thank you. It’s undeserved, but welcome all the same.

      Does Stuart enjoy going to the vet approximately every 2 weeks? Because I keep taking Thunder for stuff that does not exist. Yesterday we went because she had a lump on her neck, and the vet said that actually it was probably just a bug bite. I was like “oooooooh. Rrrrrright. So, er, nevermind, then.”

      March 16, 2012
      • That Thunder. If you’re the most hilarious, she’s the most cutest. Absolutely the most cutest.

        Usually Our vet trips involve scenarios like “which peep tells the condition best.” Arguments R Us. It goes something like this:

        “And then, he started limping and We started worrying so that’s why We’re here.”

        “No, he didn’t.”

        “Yes, he did.”

        “He didn’t actually limp. He, more like, hobbled. It wasn’t really a limp.”

        “Yes, it was. A definite limp. And I’m worried.”

        “You’d worry about anything.”

        And so it goes.

        So far, We haven’t been fired by the Vet. Yet. Thank doG.

        March 16, 2012
        • Ah yes. We have these conversations at home, or on the phone, when the incident happens. It usually ends with Scott being like “dude, she’s probably FINE.” And me saying “YES BUT WHAT IF SHE’S NOT.” And then I take her there and the vet is like “ah. . . back so soon?”

          March 25, 2012
  16. I will never be able to bake this, since I will drink the alcohol before it gets into the cake.

    March 14, 2012
    • Ah, yes. This is why I drink wine when I cook with liqueurs. It solves the problem of drinking all the booze that should go in the batter.

      You know how chewing gum while you cut onions keeps you from crying? Same thing with drinking wine when you cook with booze. Problem solved, everybody wins.

      March 16, 2012
  17. The cake looks totally scrumptious and such a wonderfully color coordinated treat for St. Patty’s Day!

    Afraid it’s not just the Pandas, we’re all screwed on this planet.

    March 14, 2012
    • I agree. The more I read these Science magazines that come to our house, the more I want to get under the covers with an entire cake. Because, as you say, the planet is totally screwed, so what’s a little sugar intake on my end?

      March 16, 2012
  18. YUM. Both the titillating panda details and the cake pictures and recipe.

    March 14, 2012
    • Gracias! I did not realize exactly how titillating the panda details were until my mom mentioned that the panda sex ed video is actually linked from the article I linked to. I did not know this. It was one of those conversations you just never imagine having with your mom, you know?

      March 16, 2012
  19. I’m making this cake. Soon. I’m telling you, Thunder is a children’s book character in the making.

    March 14, 2012
    • I’m totally on it. Enjoy the cake, my lady!

      March 16, 2012
  20. Oh my goodness, I am making this cake very soon. By the way, ifiwerebraveblog is dead on about thunder! She is too cute not to become a national sensation.

    March 14, 2012
    • Thanks! I love that idea and I’m going to learn more about how to make that happen.

      March 16, 2012
  21. Amy #

    Wow, I’m jealous…I wish I looked that cute in the morning. I mean you look a bit out of it, but Scott probably just caught you off guard with the camera.

    This cake is one of those awesome recipes grandmas have tons of. There’s a similar one my mom has the recipe for that is made with chocolate pudding, so I can only imagine how amazing this minty one is. Yum!

    March 14, 2012
    • Ah, this made me laugh.

      I bet the chocolate pudding version is delicious. I’d just saw some morello cherries in the store, and now that I think of your cake, it makes me want to pour cherries all over it. Yum.

      March 16, 2012
  22. Oh man, that cake looks good. I feel like I might have had something similar when growing up, as the photos are making me feel nostalgic, and I want to get on a bike, ride very fast, and believe that I’m Wonder Woman again. (For a short time, when growing up, I thought there might be a chance that I was Wonder Woman, and that no one had bothered to tell me. I also thought my mother was Snow White until I was about seven.)

    Thanks for the Bake My Cake shout out! (Uh… you know you’re just drumming up extra competition for yourself, right?)

    March 15, 2012
    • (1) I went to the store and they put my SIM card in Scott’s old iphone and now I have one!!! Even though I wiped his data, I still have his bakery–the Thunder Cakes one. So now that’s me.
      (2) When I was a kid, I thought that when I looked at the sky and saw the clouds go by, what I was seeing (with my special powers) was the world turning.
      (3) We still haven’t decided what to do for your cake.

      March 16, 2012
      • So does Scott have a bakery? Or have you taken over both? Does this have anything to do with The Video?

        I can’t wait to see my cake. I’m so excited. In fact, yours is probably the one I’m anticipating the most. No pressure.

        March 17, 2012
  23. Love your posts. The combination of text, photographs, food and animals. Although an off the beaten path combo per se, I still love how all the context, recipes, photos and your pup tie themselves together. Very creative!

    March 15, 2012
    • Thank you. It’s kind of a wacky combo, no? I don’t know how it happened. I worried about the posts being too long, and then I gave into the fun of writing it.

      I’m so happy that you’re reading it. Thanks!

      March 16, 2012
  24. Oh I’ve got to try this recipe! Mint and chocolate is by far my favorite dessert flavor. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend Ben & Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream- I just tried it for the first time and it’s amazing.

    March 15, 2012
    • Woah, that ice cream sounds awesome. We have half a box of thin mints in the freezer, and I keep sticking them on vanilla ice cream. So I bet I’d love the Ben & Jerry’s. I still haven’t tried their cinnamon bun one, but I want to.

      March 16, 2012
  25. MrsH #

    I mentioned this cake in passing to my husband and he stopped dead in his tracks and said “and why aren’t you already making it?” So I’ve added it to the list – it looks amazing.

    March 16, 2012
    • Hi Mrs. H! When Scott left for work this morning, I said “why don’t you take the rest of the cake with you?” And he said “okay.” And then he came back and said “But then it would be. . . totally gone,” with this sad look on his face, like seeing the cake plate empty was going to ruin his happy Friday.
      I hope you love it!

      March 16, 2012
  26. I didn’t quite get the front half of the post today, but Thunder made up for it in balls.

    March 16, 2012
    • Hi there, Sandy Sue! You look great after your surgery–better than I do when I go to the doctor for, like, a regular visit. I hope you heal well and feel better soon.

      Glad Thunder pulled through on this one. 🙂

      March 16, 2012
  27. WillowDaisy #

    omg Thunder is too funny!!! 😀 I’ll have to try out the recipe…..

    March 17, 2012
    • She keeps me laughing (and pulling out my hair), it’s true!

      March 25, 2012
  28. So I recently purchased a star. For myself, no judgement.

    I’ve yet to get an email saying there’s a red giant or a white dwarf that needs my help, but I appreciate the heads up.

    March 17, 2012
    • AHA! Molly, they waited a few weeks before sending me help requests. I think they wanted me to feel good about my purchase so that I was even more likely to help the orangutans when the time came. So I wouldn’t be surprised if you get something soon about a poor little lost meteor or something. Good luck.

      March 25, 2012
  29. Oh, this cake looks so good! Love the color, and the mint-chocolate combo. Definitely need to give this one a try!

    March 18, 2012
    • Sara, it tastes so yummy! I hope you make it sometime and like it as much as I do.

      March 25, 2012
  30. pumpkinpie #

    I can’t decide which looks sweeter– your gorgeous cake or Thunder?

    March 19, 2012
    • I think the only relevant differences if that the cake doesn’t bark at me when it wants attention.

      March 25, 2012

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