My Dearest Alisha,
There is a secret I have kept from you for almost a year now. I think about it from time to time and my emotions range from slightly embarrassed to completely remorseful. I don’t know why I didn’t say anything then, but like most regrets this one has both haunted me and taught me a lesson or two. It was really a small thing, something I might not have even given a second thought at a different point in my life. But for some reason this regret has stayed with me. It has changed me. You were the first subscriber to my blog, so I thought it somehow fitting to confess to you here:
I had an entire chocolate cake, in my car, the whole time we were at Taproot.
Yes, a whole homemade chocolate cake. And I didn’t tell you or share it or eat any of it myself. Even when you were ranting about the fact that there wasn’t a cookie to be found on the whole 100 acres! (I actually think you were starting to twitch at that point from lack of sugar.) I knew that cake was in my car, but I didn’t say anything. I kept quiet by telling myself different things: “It’s probably stale.” “Vincent made it. It’s a new recipe. It might not even be good.” “It probably got crushed during the trip and is just a mess of crumbs.” But you know what? It wasn’t any of those things. Can I tell you? It was one of the best cakes I have ever eaten – moist, sweet, and oh-so-chocolatey.
In an effort to keep myself awake on the drive home from Ohio to North Carolina, I busted into that cake somewhere in West Virginia. Regret washed over me as soon as I took that first bite. I knew I had missed a chance. I still can’t put my finger on what exactly I think I missed. I felt like we connected almost instantly – as they say, we laughed, we cried . . . and yet, when I picture us sharing that cake, giggling like girls, it is a memory that could have been and because of my reticence never was.
You know some of the story of the months after Taproot: my friend’s cancer diagnosis, another friend’s sudden death. In my mind those events are intertwined with the uncut cake. Missed opportunity, holding back, fear, regret. Yes, it is all of those things mixed together, but if I am being completely honest, it’s also about letting myself be vulnerable. It’s about being known. It’s about being seen. The dark days of December 2011 led me to the light of a new year with one resolution: share the cake. The manifestations of stepping into this place of voluntary vulnerability have been both simple and profound: Writing more. Reading more. Crying more. Laughing more. Sharing so, so much more: flowers, words, time, books and yes, cake. These days, I try to share a lot of cake.
Thank you, my friend, for being who you are and helping me become more of who I want to be. And, the next time we see each other, I promise I’ll share the cake.
Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake (recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, Holiday Baking 2006 issue)
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon cocoa
- 3/4 cup cocoa
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
- 2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs, room temperature
For the pan: Stir together melted butter and cocoa into a paste. Coat interior of a 12 cup bundt pan. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For the cake: Combine cocoa, chocolate and espresso powder in medium heatproof bowl. Add boiling water and whisk until smooth. Cool to room temperature; then whisk in sour cream. Whisk flour, salt and baking soda in a second bowl to combine. In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and vanilla on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs one at a time, mixing about 30 seconds after each addition and scraping down bowl with rubber spatula after first 2 additions. Reduce to medium low speed (batter may appear separated); add about one-third of the flour mixture and half the chocolate/sour cream mixture and mix until just incorporated, about 20 seconds. Scrape bowl and repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining chocolate mixture; add remaining flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 10 seconds. Scrape bowl and mix on medium-low until batter is thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake 45 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees or until wooden skewer inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then cool on wire rack. Serve with powdered sugar.