I’m back! And it’s my birthday! This year’s number comes in the form of a palindrome. And no, I’m not 22… I’ll let you connect the dots. Palindromes are so cool, don’t you think? (I’m not being facetious, just a closeted math nerd here). A man, a plan, a canal, Panama! Able was I, ere I saw Elba. Things that are the same forward and backward don’t come around that often. In fact, we sort of bank on the opposite, of ever marching forward without seeing the same thing in front of us that just came behind. Still, growing up I was jealous of Hannah and Aviva who got to use their names as the example for our fourth grade math lesson.
So here I am. Solidly settled into my 30’s. Not messing around anymore. My late 20s are a distant memory. If this were still fourth grade math and we were rounding to the nearest five, I’d end up mid-decade. Perhaps I’m wallowing a bit in this new age. I’ll move on.
It catches me by surprise how much can happen in a year. Which brings me to another birthday.
This blog! Little house pantry turns one this month. We don’t quite share a birthday, but close. The blog gets an entire birthday month because while I technically wrote my first post in early August, it wasn’t until exactly a year ago that I finally got up the guts to send out the URL to anyone and announce to the eagerly-awaiting interwebs that I had arrived.
I’m not sure what I imagined when I launched this puppy. I think mostly - given that I only have two speeds: busy and hyper-busy - I wanted a structure to fill my newly emptied days. And 81 posts later, here I am. For a while there I was posting six times a week! Thankfully for all of us, I’ve slowed down a bit. Even the most dedicated readers can only handle so many kale recipes at once. I played around with story telling, memoirs, recipes that don’t really count as recipes, and some real winners. Thanks for being along for the ride. Without you I’d just be shouting really loudly into the abyss.
My last year was pretty jam-packed with changes, too. I found an interest in writing for public consumption, something I never would have imagined I would actually enjoy. I traveled all over. If you had told me a year ago that I’d become an audio personality with a weekly podcast, I’d have laughed you out right of my kitchen. I learned to program websites, convinced pretty fancy schools to hire me to teach them how to do fancy new things. Learned what an LLC and an EIN are. Broke my hot tub. Fixed my hot tub. Broke my hot tub again. You know. Big life stuff.
Birthdays in my family are sacred events. It’s the one day of the year where you have total permission to do whatever you want, demand attention and fawning from everyone around you, and wallow in your own awesomeness. Which explains how my mom and sister ended up bushwhacking through five acres of forest so we could “explore” the new property we bought across the street. It also explains this cake.
This triple chocolate cake is a family tradition. If there’s one thing I learned this year, it’s there’s not much more important than family. And our traditions are many. This cake tastes like self-indulgence and the anticipation of wrapped presents. My dad usually makes it, but the one he made this year was devoured by the forty house guests we had over for a salmon barbecue birthday bash the weekend before. So I decided to make another mini-version. I spent the day baking, sewing little waxed cotton pouches on my newly rediscovered sewing machine, reading a book about a shipwrecked guy who survived 76 days on the open sea, and asking various family members to bring me things while I lounged on the couch.
As birthdays go, this one was a winner. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good year. And here’s to the next one with the hopes that the view of the future will be more than just a reflection of the past.
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Valerie Edwards
The key to this cake lies in the three (!) different layers of chocolate. It takes a bit of time to let each step cool and set, but man oh man if it isn’t worth it. A local restaurant owner on the island where I grew up took to serving this cake after borrowing the recipe from my dad. We’ve tweaked things slightly, but it’s pretty hard to improve upon perfection. The recipe makes a double layer nine inch cake, which is a lot for a small family to put away without needing to buy new stretchy pants. I halved the recipe for each stage and baked the cakes in 6” pans which produced a proportional but perhaps slightly more reasonable cake.
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted, cooled
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt) for 30 seconds or more (This eliminates the need to sift. Hurrah!)
Lightly whisk eggs, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sour cream in a separate bowl
Add butter and other 1/2 cup sour cream to the dry ingredients. Mix on low until dry ingredients are moistened, then raise speed to medium and beat 90 seconds.
Reduce speed to medium low and add egg mixture in two parts, beating 30 seconds each (stop to scrape sides with a spatula several times).
Add chocolate and beat additional 30 seconds.
Add hot water and beat on low until mixed evenly. Batter will be quite runny/liquidy.
Pour batter into greased and floured 9” cake pans with parchment rounds in the bottom.
Bake 30-40 minutes (until internal temperature reaches 190-205, if you have a fancy thermometer.)
Use moistened cake strips on outside of pans so cake doesn’t overcook. (Only if you have them.)
Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Then turn out onto rack and cool completely.
Frosting #1: Chocolate Butter Cream
1/2 cup butter
3 1/2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted, cooled
3 to 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons light cream
Cream butter until light and fluffy
Gradually add half the sugar and the melted chocolate. Beat well after each addition.
Blend in egg, salt and vanilla
Add remaining sugar alternately with the cream. Beat until smooth after each addition.
Frost and fill cooled layers, making certain that the top and sides are as smooth as possible. Refrigerate until the frosting is hardened.
Frosting #2: Chocolate Espresso Glaze
1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup espresso
Melt chips in espresso and let cool to tepid.
Place chilled frosted cake on rack and pour all chocolate over the top, letting it drip down the sides.
When glaze is set, transfer to plate.
Keep cake refrigerated until ready to serve.