July 24, 2011

oh baby, this is a good cake

One chilly day in December 2010, I waddled to the mailbox, eight-almost-nine-months pregnant, and there it was.  The cake. The. Cake.  THECAKE.  Spiced Chocolate Torte Wrapped in Chocolate RibbonsOne of the most beautiful desserts I have ever seen graced the cover of Bon Appetit, and I knew I had to make it.  This cake has been a Bon Appetit standard – an instant classic – since it was introduced in 1984.  It is impossibly technical, strikingly beautiful, complexly delicious, and quite possibly the most fattening thing I’ve ever eaten. 

I figured this cake would be something I’d tackle once little Pistachio was here: a challenging recipe for cold winter months spent at home during maternity leave.  I’d be the picture of a perfect wife and mother, holding the babe in one arm while I expertly whisked chocolate with the other, greeting my husband at the end of the day with both a kiss and a cake to end all others. 
The BA editors say it’s the most requested recipe they’ve ever had.  The popularity of this cake is going to multiply once people learn of its secret power, one I learned firsthand through totally scientific measures.  It makes babies come out of cranky pregnant women. 
I stumbled upon this discovery out of desperation, and know it’s my mission to share this knowledge with pregnant women everywhere.  Forget the castor oil, the spicy food, the long walks, and (sorry, baby daddies) the sex.  This cake is going to spark the birthin’ of your baby.  Here’s my story.
December ticked on.  Days passed.  My belly, and my impatience, grew.  I waddled to work, to holiday parties, to the mall.  I tried every single labor inducing old wives’ tale imaginable.  My due date was December 27.  (note: due dates mean almost nothing, but try to tell that to a pregnant lady.)  The holidays produced much joy, laughter, love and some stretch marks, but no baby.  All the sudden it was 2011.  Still no little bundle. 
Almost a full week past the insignificantly torturous due date and I was desperate.   Every moment was spent waiting for contractions to start.  Do you know what kind of a ridiculous mindset that is?  Waiting, wishing, hoping every second that the pain – horrible, excruciating pain – will begin.  I had to find something to get my mind off the waiting.  Something that would take all concentration.  Then I remembered THE CAKE.  With its eight thousand ingredients and hours of manual labor, I knew this cake would take all my senses, brainpower and physical energy. 

Off I waddled to the grocery store to buy ingredients, clutching my (really long) list in hand.  The sheer cost of the ingredients was, I believe, the first step towards my impending labor.  Sorry Bon Appetit, but blowing half my week’s full grocery budget on one cake?  Y’all must have some big ole salaries.  STEP ONE to having a baby: sticker shock. 
Once home, I sorted out the ingredients and really started to think about them.  Seven and a half sticks of butter.  Forty-two ounces of chocolate.  A entire dozen eggs.  And so on.  This was going to be one indulgent cake.  I started to figure that if I was going to eat any of this cake, which, just so you know, ends up being 1200+ calories and 90+ fat grams per serving, I was going to need to drop some pounds fast.  I knew of roughly 7-8 lbs. that were due (SIX DAYS PAST DUE, BUT WHO’s COUNTING?) to leave my body, so this revelation became STEP TWO of The Miracle of the Bon Appetit Cake.
The only thing that might outnumber the number of ingredients is the number of steps needed to make this cake.  I melted. I stirred. I whisked. I folded…at least I think I did.  Folding is hard and ends up being stirring.  I spread.  I blended.  I cracked eggs.  I cracked up.  I taste tested each segment of the recipe.  Individually the cake, the buttercream, the glaze – they all were pretty amazing.  It took hours.  Multiple hours.  Many, many hours.  Those hours equal STEP THREE: a pregnant lady doing manual labor (pun intended) on her feet for that long is going to bring a baby. 
What comes next leads me to sharing a moment that’s not my proudest.  You see, I’m horrible at decorating desserts.  Just plain awful.  But this stunning dessert deserved that I at least try.  And the editor’s notes say the chocolate ribbons are ‘easy.’  I’ll spare you the details, but the tedious process ended up with me flinging 14 ounces of gorgeous (ruined) chocolate into the garbage.  There were many, many tears and more than one phone call to my husband.  It was all his fault, really.  And that makes STEP FOUR.  A good temper tantrum is all baby needs to want to get the heck out of your body. 

So the cake was finished, sans ribbons.  All the same, it was a beauty.  I had family visiting from out of town, and we planned to eat it the following day.  But!  Around 10:30 p.m. that night the sweet pangs of labor began.  No matter – we’d just eat the cake together in the hospital instead.  Little did I know that Pistachio planned to have me endure 27 hours of labor, which is maybe how long it took to make that cake, now that I think about it. It was several days later before I finally got to eat it.  All joking aside - it was special.  Truly worth the effort and the cost and fat.  The spiced chocolate cake is subtle, and I have used this buttercream recipe for other cakes since. 
As for the ribbons? $%#@*!  I feel better now. 
So there you have it.  Just four easy (read: expensive, frustrating, time consuming and really, really fattening) steps to having a baby and a cake, both miracles in their own rite. 
You might wonder why I’m writing about a decidedly wintery cake in July.  It’s probably going to take you a few months to save up for the ingredients, so consider it an early present.   

July 22, 2011

apparently blogs are hard work

This blogging stuff is hard.  Finding the time is hard.  Finding inspiration is hard.  Finding my voice is hard.  Remembering to take pictures of food before I devour it?  Really hard.  Self-editing? Impossibly hard. 

I've realized that perfecting recipes and taking gorgeous photos is just not going to happen.  It's not me, and I don't have time to do things that aren't me.  I barely have time to breathe these days.  That doesn't mean I'm giving up.  It just means there may be some ridiculous posts between now and me finding my voice.  My real voice, which is I think not too different than others like me, whose life includes work, kids and trying to keep a head above water.  I hope that's the voice you'd like to hear. And really, what could be more ridiculous than someone blogging about preparing jarred spaghetti sauce?  I hope that means the worst has already happened.  I also hope you'll come back.  Tell me when I'm clever.  Even more, tell me when I'm not.  Like it or not, if you're reading this you're part of my process.  Ha!  Caught you. 

I had ice cream at lunch today.  Probably going to do it again at dinner.  Hope you do something equally frivolous this weekend.