Alicia Kennedy, Food & Drink Writer

old blog

love & chocolate cake & the appreciation of the effort

My best friend is having the worst time of his life right now. He is eating only bananas, which is the same thing I did when I felt like I was walking around in the rubble of a formerly secure life. There's nothing more scary than that: when your life turns to rubble, and you see the ash and the crumbled bricks, but everything is the same for everyone else. Everyone else sees a table. You see the debris of hundreds of shared meals.

My best friend was there for me when I needed him. I recently reread a journal entry where I wrote about a dream: "Then I went to Doug's, yelled 'I love this song!' and collapsed onto the floor. That's what we give each other: songs and space to fall down." 

How do you give that space? It looks different for everyone. How do you make someone believe they can trust their heart, or another person's heart, after they've experienced this explosion, ever again? All I can say is that you will trust again, and it will be a fight. But it might feel sweeter with the knowledge and acceptance of the fact that you might part. It might feel sweeter knowing how much you can hurt, and letting yourself be open to it. It might feel sweeter knowing you can love many people, that maybe there are many people who could fit with you and make you happy, that no one has to be forever but there's no harm in trying. We should value one great day as much as we value ten or twenty or thirty up and down years. Your heart will break; your heart will mend. You love because you can't help it. You hurt because it was worth it. 

To anyone with a broken heart, please get drunk and find somewhere where you can dance to "All My Friends" with your people. If you're in love, appreciate it. Ask nothing of it. 

To celebrate the full hearts and the broken ones, I made some ugly chocolate cake with almond frosting, shredded coconut, chocolate-covered marzipan hearts. This chocolate cake is too moist to decorate while it's not frozen. Make it in advance, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and let it freeze for at least four hours. If you don't get to make it in advance because you were drinking at trivia trying to take your friend's mind off things, you get a pass. You're allowed some ugly cake.

Marzipan
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
8 ounces of blanched almonds
2 C powdered sugar
6 T  cane or organic corn syrup
2 T almond extract

1. If your almonds have skins, boil some water, drop the almonds in when it's rolling, then take them out after one minute. You'll be able to easily pop them out of the skins now, but it will be prett-y boring. Put on a TV show.

2. Put your naked almonds in the food processor and let it go until they get pretty pasty but way before they turn to nut butter. They should be big chunks. Then add your powdered sugar and let it all combine.

3. Add the corn syrup and almond extract; it should turn into a big, smooth ball. Remove, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you need it.

Almond Buttercream
300 g butter
430 g powdered sugar
1 t almond extract
1/4 t vanilla extract

1. Add all of these ingredients to the food processor and let it go until it's a fluffy buttercream. Firm it up in the fridge until you need it, then either let it come down to room temperature or give it another spin in the processor before you need to decorate with it to soften.

Chocolate Cake (12 cupcakes, 2 6-inch layers, 2 very thick 5-inch layers)
1 ¼ C almond milk
1 t apple cider vinegar
239 g sugar
106 g coconut oil, melted
2 t vanilla extract
222 g flour
41 g cocoa powder
1 t baking powder
1 ½ t baking soda
½ t kosher salt

1. Heat the oven to 350 and line your cake pans.

2. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave or over a double boiler.

3. Add apple cider vinegar to the almond milk and let it sit.

4. Measure out your dry ingredients into one bowl and whisk well to combine. Get all the lumps out!

5. Measure sugar into another bowl, then add the rest of the wet ingredients. Whisk to combine.

6. Pour your wet ingredients into the dry. Whisk, whisk, whisk just until it's smooth. Overmixed chocolate cake is a tragedy.

7. Put your batter in your pans (about 350 g batter per cake layer; 1/3 cup per cupcake) and then bake. About 40 minutes for cake or 20 for cupcakes, but use your judgment! 

For the marzipan hearts (or any shape), just melt some chocolate, form your shape, and then dip. Ideally you let it sit and harden. Enjoy.