MOIST Chocolate Layer Cake with Buttery Mocha Frosting (& Story of My Daughter’s Unforgettable Birth)

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Today is my daughter’s 30th birthday!  Sadly, Rachel lives too far away to celebrate with in person  today (she is in Texas,  and I am in Colorado). So I’ve had to make do with texts, Facebook posts, emails,  phone calls, Twitter and now, a blog in her honor!

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I have great stories about each of my children’s entrances into the world, but Rachel’s birth story wins the Most Exciting Award, hands down.

She was born three days after Christmas.  From December 23 to December 28, I  was the proverbial pot waiting to boil, only in my case my visiting family  was waiting for me to give birth.  It was the coldest winter on record in Texas and ice had frozen inside the windows.  After enjoying my two sons who were age 3 and 5, I could not help dreaming of a baby girl.  Ultrasound pictures were rare in those days, so we did not know the sex ahead of time.

Because my previous home births had involved long painful labors, when I woke up with contractions this third time around, they weren’t terribly painful.  So I decided to just lie still, on my side,  in the peaceful darkness and labor quietly by the light of the Christmas tree.  I didn’t want to wake my husband, parents or sister who were visiting us over the holidays, until I was sure I needed help.  This plan went surprisingly well, until I felt something like the urge to push.

I decided to wake up my husband with this news.  His eyes grew large as he announced, “Becky, I see the baby’s head!”  This set off a Three Ring Circus with my Dad manning the wall phone in the kitchen talking to the midwife, then shouting directions to my mother who was standing in the living room, who relayed them to my then-husband standing at the end of my bed, like a baseball catcher. My college-aged, organized little sister, who is not fond of feeling out of control was, I believe, hiding in the guestroom taking notes in her journal under“Things I Must Never Ever Do.”

The ice on the highways was so thick, and I’d waited so long to sound the “Baby is Coming!” alarm, that the midwife could not possibly get there before the baby’s entrance.  Rachel slipped into the world and soon, into my arms, fairly easily.  However, she was not breathing on her own, so I reached into our “Home Birth Kit”,  grabbed a suctioning bulb and went to work.  It wasn’t long before she took her first beautiful breath. We looked in each other’s eyes and made friends immediately. I named her Rachel Praise, after my sister Rachel.  Interestingly, the two Rachels in our family both prefer less-crazy, less-messy lives than I’ve lived. Lives where they keep schedules, know what day it is, give birth in hospitals and don’t mind “bothering” other people when they go into labor.  However, all three of us love to laugh and ended up writing books of family humor.  (My sister’s latest is The Well-Lived Laugh –ebook download is just $1.00 this week,  and ours is We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.)

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As soon as I could stand and walk, I scooped up my new daughter and headed to a store, with her big brothers dressed in cowboy boots and hats trailing behind. I walked in and bought 3 lacy bonnets. Before the days of hair bows on stretch lace, it was a frilly bonnet that would say to the world, “Baby GIRL here!” and I wanted the world to know my beautiful newborn was a SHE.

Besides remembering the story of Rachel’s birth (as I do every year on this day in some way),  I decided to have a piece of this incredibly moist and buttery, made-from-scratch homemade chocolate cake in her honor.  In fact, I had it for breakfast… because these are the kinds of sacrifices mothers make for their birthday girls.

This cake is a variation of the famous recipe on the back of Hershey’s Cocoa.  The frosting is extra rich, soft and fluffy – made with lots butter and melted chocolate.

 You are most welcome to join us in celebrating Rachel’s birthday today by whipping up this cake.  Then stand back and watch people swoon.  Seriously it is the kind of chocolate cake that provokes moans not unlike those of Meg Ryan’s in the movie,”When Harry Met Sally”.

Happy Birthday, Dear Rachel!  I am so glad you were born.  So proud of you as a wife and mother.  So thrilled that we got to write a blog and book together this year.  So many good things have happened in the world, because you were born.

 Now, let’s eat cake!

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MOIST, Chocolate Layer Cake with Buttery Mocha Frosting

Ingredients (Adjusted for High Altitude,  See “Normal Altitude*” measurement adjustments below)

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons sugar*

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa

1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder*

1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda*

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk*

1/2 cup light oil such as sunflower, canola or light olive oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water mixed with 1 T. instant coffee (or 1 cup strong hot coffee, brewed)

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F.

Grease two 9-inch round cake pans.  I use Pam spray.  Then cut a circle of wax or parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the pan.  Re-spray the top of parchment with Pam lightly.

Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Carefully, stir in hot coffee, with the mixer on low, or use a hand whisk.  The batter will be very thin. Pour batter evenly  into prepared cake pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with fluffy mocha frosting.

  • Normal Altitude Measurements:  2 cups sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 cup milk
  • Vegans: substitute milk with soy or almond milk; use Earth Balance Butter Sticks in place of dairy butter, and Ener-G Egg replacer for eggs.

Buttery Mocha Frosting

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or morsels  (Vegans use dairy-free chocolate chips)
1 cup  (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature (really important this be at room temp)  (Vegans use Earth balance butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 – 5  Tablespoons Strong coffee, cooled

Carefully melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or use the microwave but watch carefully, only nuking 10 seconds at a time, just until you can stir it smoothly.

Beat the butter until it is light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, the melted chocolate,  and then add one tablespoon of coffee at a time until the frosting is smooth and creamy and will spread easily, but don’t whip it.  Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

This cake is best served at room temperature.    If I make it a day ahead, I put it in the fridge and then let the cake sit at room temperature for several hours so the frosting will soften up to serve the next day. My favorite way to handle leftovers (if there are any) is to cut slices and wrap them individually, very well,  in plastic wrap.  Then when I want a piece, I unwrap it and put it on a place, and microwave it about 15 seconds to soften.

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Raspberry Mocha Pudding

Rasberry Mocha Pudding, a seriously energizing snack.

Rachel, the daughter

I used to be organized. My house used to be clean. I used to be prompt. I loved those things about me. I was that girl, that girl that appeared to have her life together.

Motherhood is humbling. I’ll leave it at that, without describing the current condition of my home.

This morning was Jackson’s first day of Mother’s Day Out. Last week at Meet the Teacher the teachers gave me a big cut out construction fish with, I’m sure, instructions on what to do with it.

At 11:00pm last night, just as my head finally hit the pillow, I remembered something about family photos for the fish. I think he needs pictures so they can decorate the fish, I thought. Of course, I’ve yet to print a single one of the 2,000 (I wish I was exaggerating) photos I’ve taken since Jackson was born. So I crawled out of bed and ordered some from a 24 hour Walgreens and set my alarm 20 minutes earlier so I could pick them up in the morning. I was so proud of myself for remembering the instructions and for pulling it off, even if I by the skin of my teeth. And though slightly late, we weren’t the last ones to arrive. I’ll take it.

I walked in and bumped into a friend whose daughter is in Jackson’s class. She was holding her daughter’s fish and it was the most beautifully decorated construction paper fish I’d ever seen. It had her daughter’s name in cute little die cut patterned letters, glitter, and a perfectly placed collage of their family’s recent professional photos.

We were supposed to decorate the fish?, I sighed. I thought the kids were going to decorate them! 

I didn’t pull it off. I wasn’t the mom who had it all together. On the first day of “school,” Jackson had a sad blank fish.

Fortunately, he’s one and had no idea he was that kid with that mom.

Later, I got a text from his teacher that said “Good eater! He has done sooo well this morning! Perfect child. :)”  And when I picked him up the teachers commented at how delicious his lunch looked. I may not be the craftiest mom or the most prompt mom, but I’m raising a good eater! He ate up most of his spinach, bean, and avocado rice pilaf and all of his grapes, and most of his coconut yogurt sprinkled with hemp seeds. He was happy and played well and didn’t cry when I left. He even took a nap on his big boy mat.

Maybe I’m not failing, maybe my priorities have just shifted with motherhood.

But you better believe he’ll have a pimped out fish to bring to school on Thursday morning.

After Mother’s Day Out, Jackson stood at the counter in his FunPod stool and munched on Super Green puffs, while I whipped up this deceptively healthy afternoon pick-me-up for myself. If I still worked at an office, I would totally pack this as my afternoon snack for that slump when you just need a little something to nibble on and a gentle jolt of energy to get through the rest of the day.

When you don’t have time for coffee and breakfast (or a snack)…

Raspberry Mocha Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 container of So Delicious Chocolate Cultured Coconut Milk (or chocolate pudding)
  • Slightly less than 1 T. of instant coffee
  • 3/4 cup organic raspberries (divided)
  • Coconut milk (I used canned coconut milk, but I think any creamer would work — half and half, whipping cream, regular coconut or almond milk)
  • Chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts)

Chocolate Coconut Yogurt, Nuvia Instant Coffee, Organic Raspberries

Directions

Blend the chocolate yogurt or pudding and instant coffee. Add 1/2 c. rasberries, pulse for a few seconds. With a spoon, stir in remaining raspberries, cream to taste, and top with  chopped nuts (not pictured.)

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The Title: Rasberry Mocha Pudding
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