Thursday, May 5, 2011

The allegory of the chocolate moat

We have a favorite chocolate cake recipe and I make it so often I have it memorized. It's great for cooperative kitchen work because it calls for two cups of flour, two cups of sugar. Two teaspoons of baking soda, two teaspoons of baking powder. Each girl gets to scoop each thing one time. We work together.

It's also just a delicious cake, though, and I made it last night to take in to school this morning for Teacher Appreciation Week. This offended the girls, who felt the double sting of injustice in not having helped to bake, and in not being able to partake.

The solution? This evening we made another chocolate cake.
Truth in advertising: this is the chocolate cake, but not tonight's iteration. This is a March iteration that I made for a dear friend's birthday.

The magic of this cake is in the ganache. I pour it warm over the cake and let it solidify as it cools. I pour it generously, puddling in the middle when I've baked in a tube pan and encircling the cake every time in a thick, chocolate embrace.

The cake is a good traveler, now, because the chocolate straitjacket holds it in place without shifting. It's moist, because it's suffocated in chocolate. It's a showstopper, because it's just so delicious.

E asked the lovely husband if he could pick them up from school tomorrow instead of me so that they can keep hidden from me whatever Mother's Day projects they'll be bringing home that they've worked on all week in school. I baked this cake first to show appreciation to their teachers - who've spent the week helping my kids show appreciation to me. I baked this cake second this week to show appreciation to my kids themselves. My love is like that chocolate moat, I hope, I think every time I pour it over the thirsty cake. I want it to feel warm to them, and encompassing. I want them to know that I support them, but I'm yielding. I want them to think of me with a smile in their hearts, like a warm slice of perfect cake will conjure.

It's just cake, I know. But it's something we make together, and it's a way we sustain each other. I dream of tinkering with the recipe: I want to replace the cocoa with malt powder, one time; sub out the oil for condensed milk steeped with cardamom. I can taste it on my tongue, how fresh its aroma the day I leave out the orange juice for a more neutral liquid but fill the batter with clementine zest, like my favorite bread. But for now, we make it the same way every time, ritualistically, because they rely on its sturdiness and predictability and constancy. It's why when they say, our teachers get chocolate cake? We want some! I don't hesitate to rearrange our evening plans and gather us in the middle of the kitchen floor around the largest glass bowl, cracking eggs, whisking batter, learning to measure and level and count and take turns and transmit love via sugar.

Today they take stock that they each cracked their egg without dropping any shell pieces. One day they'll remember that as they cook omelets in college or bake in their own kitchens.

It's why there are always good chocolate chips in the cabinet. Pin It