I'm constantly waffling—wait, pause, mmmmm....waffles— between the person I am and the person I want to be. You know, the classic battle of the shoulds and ought-tos against the want-tos and gonnas?
Like how I should order a salad with grilled chicken, but the burger is screaming my name. Or how I ought to go to yoga to help with my anxiety/posture/flexibility, but Hulu just put up all the seasons of Beverly Hills 90210. Truth be told, I'm rarely in the mood for salad and I hate yoga. I can appreciate why some people like yoga and what it brings them—and I appreciate its spiritual roots. But for me the room smells like sweat and rubber and, well, it's just not for me.
But you know what is for me? Leaving work on a rough day, driving about six miles on a backcountry road, and ending up at the flower farm between my town and the next. And coffee. And chocolate. (But we'll get to that in a minute.) The flower farm is several acres of annuals and perennials and each month between April and October brings new color and new growth. It's by far my favorite place in the area—but, shhhhhhhhhh—don't tell anyone about it.
I like to spend an hour or two wandering up and down the rows of blooms, listening to the bees, not listening to the Journey and Bon Jovi (no offense, guys) that incessantly plays at work, and snip flowers until my bucket doth runeth over.
Then I come home, shew my cat away a hundred times from eating all the flowers, and put together as many arrangements as I can. We have to get our kicks where we can, right?
Two of life's other joys? Coffee and chocolate. My parents drank coffee everyday while I was growing up—they still do. So, I was used to the house being filled with the scent of a fresh brew each morning. I still get warm and fuzzy feelings when I smell coffee. Every day. And a raging headache when I don't get my fix. I often feel un-human until I've had my first sip.
And chocolate? My mom isn't a chocolate person (and I really want to say something snarky about how "those" people should be shipped off to an island somewhere to live a meaningless, chocolateless existence together, but she reads this thing). But my dad? Chocolate is his kryptonite. Want to bring this man to his knees? Give him a piece of really good dark chocolate—or even better, a piece of really good dark chocolate cake, baked by his daughter.
I baked this cake for a friend's birthday and it was a big hit. It's my go-to chocolate cake recipe, which happens to be vegan and is then made extremely un-vegan with big swoops of tangy chocolate sour cream frosting. In between the layers are chopped chocolate covered espresso beans. Chopping them is kind of a pain in the ass, so only make this cake for someone you really like.
Let's get our chocolate on.
TO MAKE THIS CAKE YOU WILL NEED:
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 ¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup safflower oil
3/4 cup strong coffee
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 cup chocolate covered espresso beans, chopped
FOR THE FROSTING:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Get prepped. I made a six-inch three-layer cake, but you can make a two-lay 9-inch cake if you'd like. This recipe has enough batter for either. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line cake pans with parchment and grease lightly with oil.
Dries and wets; wets and dries. In a medium mixing bowl add all dry ingredients and whisk until well combined. In a large mixing bowl add wet ingredients and whisk until combined. In several additions, add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, making sure not to over mix.
Bake, bake, bake. Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling rack.
Make your frosting. In a small sauce pan over low heat, slowly melt the chocolate and butter, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend in sour cream, vanilla, and salt until smooth and well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add in powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Gradually increase speed to medium and blend until smooth. Reward yourself by licking the beaters. You worked hard!
Assembly time. Build your cake with a thin layer of frosting on each layer of cake. Then top with the chopped espresso beans. Cover the whole cake in more frosting.