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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Super Food Hemp Chocolate Treats (Candy & Mocha Frappuccino)

I have recently been singing the praises of hemp seeds (“the new flax”), and telling everyone about their health benefits. Of course, every time I mention the word “hemp” someone jokingly asks if I get high from eating hemp seeds.  I say, “No, the Getting High part of the plant is not in the Hemp Seed part.  Really, this is just the way I am normally, organically, without any psychotropic help.”

Which is true.  And probably why I’ve never understood the need or desire to smoke pot or even nibble on a THC-laced brownie. Life in my own natural born head is all the “high” I can handle, and certainly Life with “Normal Becky” is challenging enough for my family without any
“special enhancing.”

I spent a few days in a hotel room with my daughter Rachel last week at a food blogging convention. She was trying so hard to be patient but one morning, in exasperation, she said, “Mom, I know you are somehow trying to be organized, but there are six Ziploc bags on the bathroom counter and all of them are filled with miscellaneous stuff that doesn’t go together in any logical way. Here’s a bag with lipstick, a hair clip, a pen, and a bottle of aspirin. And even the aspirin bottle is filled with everything but aspirin!”

My mind is a place you probably would not want to go into alone, but somehow I’ve managed to get by in this world, probably through the kindness of strangers and an overworked, stressed-out team of angels.

So I don’t touch “recreational drugs,” but I am fascinated by Super Foods that may help  boost brain function.  When researchers found that dark chocolate was full of antioxidants and flavonoids — beneficial for the heart and brain –it was a happy day.  When creamy  coconut oil proved beneficial for digestion, healing and possibly even weight loss;  and crunchy almonds were touted for their anti-inflammatory properties, Vitamin E and minerals — things got even happier. And then, hemp seeds were found to be a Super Food. They taste like slightly green sesame seeds and are full of protein (11 grams in 3 Tablespoons) with 10 amino acids, chock full of Omega 3’s and 6’s in perfect balance. A vegan’s dream.

I offer you not just one, but two, recipes that make use of Super Foods and taste irresistibly indulgent.  The mocha hemp  frappuccino  makes mornings worth getting out of bed for.   And the Super Food Dark Chocolate Hemp Candy – let’s just say you are about to meet your new best recipe friend.  A couple of pieces of this sensuous dark chocolate treat  is especially delicious alongside a few fresh berries and a cup of  tea. (For health benefits it is hard to beat white tea.) The additional fiber in the candy makes it surprisingly filling, so as tasty as it is, I don’t find myself over-indulging.

Super Food Dark Chocolate Hemp Candy

Makes about 12 to 15 chocolate drops      

Ingredients

1 3.2 oz bar of 70% chocolate (My favorites are Newman’s Own and Chocolove brands, they are both rich and smooth without bitterness)

2 T. coconut oil

2/3 cup hemp seeds (found in any health store and most large grocery stores on “organic aisle”)

¼ chopped almonds (I love the roasted salted version in this recipe)

2 T. dried cranberries or other chopped dried fruit of your choice (coconut flakes would also be yummy)

Directions:

Slowly and carefully melt chocolate and coconut oil together in a microwave, stopping every 10 seconds to stir and stopping just as soon as chocolate has melted.  Stir in rest of the ingredients until well coated.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on a parchment lined plate or cookie sheet.

Put in fridge (or freezer if you are in a hurry) until firm.  Keep leftover pieces in a tightly covered container in the fridge.

Hemp Mocha Frappuccino

Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

½ frozen banana

3 ice cubes

Instant Coffee granules (amount to your taste – I like an organic version that comes in individual sleeves)

1 T. organic corn-syrup free chocolate syrup (such as Ahlaska brand)

1 – 2 T. Hemp Seeds

Directions:

Blend until smooth, serve in a pretty glass cup and wake up happy!

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