An Understated Chocolate Cake

by Laura on June 29, 2012

This cake has been part of our repertoire for more than a decade; I bet I’ve made it more than 20 times now.  It’s from an era when I still cooked and baked from recipes, and one of the rare ones I still pull off the shelf.  I make other chocolate cakes, of course, but I find myself returning to this one when we want something understated and bittersweet.  I made it for a hen’s night with friends most recently and we ate it with earl grey ice cream, but my Sweet Boy and I celebrated the end of an era with the last slices, straight from the refrigerator with a glass of cold milk, when he got his driver’s license.

We’ve spent a lot of time together in the car these past 18 years: in car-related antics, in conversation, braving bad weather together, and learning to drive.  When he and my Honey Girl were little and my Dear Husband’s frequent travel was upsetting to them, we had a set of rituals, for just the three of us, things we would do together only when he was away.  It was a way to offset the pain of his departure just a little, and one of the favorites was that during these weeks I would sing ridiculous songs at the top of my lungs in the car as we drove, as many as they requested.  Oh how they would giggle in the back seat.  We were in a grocery store parking lot one such afternoon and I was singing, in my best Louis Armstrong, “Roll out the Barrel.”  My Honey Girl and my Sweet Boy were cheering, “Louder!  Louder!” and laughing so hard they bucked against the back of the seat and forward until the seat belts caught them; I was surprised they could get the words out.  Then I realized that there were pedestrians in the parking lot looking at me rather strangely as they made their way to cars with carts.  They had rolled down the windows in the back of the car.  Still, at 21 and 18, they’ll roll down the windows in the car and ask if I’ll do it again.  And I’m grateful whenever that happens because it brings us back to that time together, which is ending.

I won’t be driving my Sweet Boy anymore.  Won’t be listening to Wiz Khalifa and Mod Sun and all of his music.  And he won’t be listening to mine anymore—at least together in this way.  I’ll go back only in memory now.  To the car pranks, to barreling towards the brick wall of the middle school the first day we set out to learn to drive together, to listening to his stories and concerns.  He still comes on errands with me sometimes, but our time together in the car is largely over.

Freddy had just turned six when I first made this cake; he had just finished Kindergarten.  Now he’s 18 and has just graduated from high school.   There are other cakes that have become part of the family, but this one feels like his.  I’ve made it with him in mind almost every time it’s gone into our oven, even for the hens’ night, since I knew he would be here for a slice.   This is for you, Freddy.  Make it often on your own now, and I’ll make it whenever you’re home.


*Postscript:  I found Annie, our little terrier, in my desk chair, licking the cake plate on my desk with her paw on my keyboard.   “Mmmmmmmm,” she typed on the recipe.  Indeed.


{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 thyme (sarah) June 29, 2012 at 11:38 am

The cake is just beautiful…as beautiful as the story. My eyes are filled with tears reading this. My daughter is 18 and we are counting the weeks until she leaves for college. I thank goodness every day that she opted to go away only 3 hours. Now, I am at the beginning of the driving lessons with my son (who is 15). He is so panicked in the car which is sort of how he handles life “a bit panicky”. It’s going to be several years of practicing I think before he is truly ready (and willing) to take off on his own. I just loved this article…so many similarities to our family.

2 Laura June 29, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Thank you so much. I’m so touched. My two will be on opposite coasts come the end of the summer; I’m envious of your proximity to your daughter. I hope you have a wonderful summer together.

3 Lizzi June 29, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Beautiful – I see this becoming part of my repertoire, too. Though I’ve gotta say – your understated chocolate cake is a whole lot more.. uhh… STATED than my usual ;)

4 Laura June 30, 2012 at 8:31 am

You’re funny, Lizzi. xo

5 Vicki June 30, 2012 at 11:18 am

Your posts often bring tears to my eyes and watering to my mouth, but this one more than ever. As both our Sweet Boys head off to college this fall and my younger Sweet Boy begins to learn to drive, I will think of this writing and smile through the tears…

Thank you for sharing your gifts with all of us! :)

6 Laura June 30, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Thank you so much. That means so much to me. xo

7 Kaitlin July 2, 2012 at 8:52 am

Aww. What a sweet story :)

I still love riding along in the car with my mom. Especially now that I’m off at school myself. I feel it’s where we have our best conversations.

8 kris July 3, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Oh Man. This cake looks amazing. I love chocolate.
And the story is beautiful.

9 Laura July 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Thank you. It’s so sweet to hear that.

10 Laura July 3, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Thank you. xox

11 Imen December 23, 2012 at 10:21 am

Miss your posts Laura! Hope you are well. Happy Christmas with love from Ireland.

12 Laura January 6, 2013 at 10:38 am

Imen, Thank you. xo

13 Caroline January 16, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Hi Laura,
I have so enjoyed reading your blog over the last week. You photos and recipes are truly inspiring. I wonder, are you blogging on a different site, or just taking an extended break?
Even though I’ve only recently discovered your blog, I can say I already miss you and hope to see some new posts someday in the future.

14 Laura January 19, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Caroline, Thank you so much. That is so kind of you and so touching to me. I haven’t posted in a long time now and the months have flown past. I am working on designing a new blog, to be called A White Apron, which I hope to launch late winter/early spring.

15 Jennifer February 1, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Hi Laura,
I keep coming back to your blog, hoping you have started posting again.
I see from other comments I am not the only one who enjoys your writing style and recipes. I hope you will still be starting the blog you mentioned in your reply to Caroline and if so, will you post a link on this site?

16 Jennifer February 1, 2014 at 9:57 pm

I just realized I listed my email address incorrectly but gave the correct one with this new comment :)

17 Laura February 2, 2014 at 9:44 am

Thank you. I am so touched by your message. I hope to start working on a design for the new domain this month. It’s a slow process for me; working on CSS and HTML coding is the equivalent of a toddler in the kitchen, but I love learning and the process, despite its agonizingly slow pace. I will post a link when it’s up. Thank you for your kindness. I appreciate it more than you can imagine. xx

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