Chocolate cake with espresso buttercream

Monday, December 4, 2017

In August we became a family of four but it didn’t start out that way. For the longest time, I was very happy with just ONE child. Working in the ICU, I had witnessed first hand mothers dying from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. FEAR has a way of paralyzing you. It’s a powerful force that cemented my decision. Why risk it when we were already blessed with a healthy child! I felt like we had won the lottery with our first born. He is a sweet and easy going boy that brings us so much joy.

I was happy with our family set-up. Traveling was a breeze. We could fit neatly in one row on an airplane. It was easy to wrangle one rambunctious toddler with two parents. The past few years were challenging but we had finally found our rhythm so why upset the balance.

Everything was chugging along just the way I imagined until last June when we went out to celebrate Father’s Day. There was an elderly couple and their son sitting next to our table. The couple must have been in their 70s and their son in his 30s. They started dinner at about the same time as we did. For the duration of dinner their son was on his cell phone while his parents quietly conversed with each other. My husband noticed me tearing up and badgered me until I caved in and told him how upset I was seeing his parents neglected. His cell phone was the object of his affection instead of his father.  A part of me panicked thinking what if that was us and our son in the future!

Since that night, my thoughts drifted frequently back to that scene. Then I remembered how alone I felt when my mother was battling uterine cancer and breast cancer. I had no one to confide in or share my burden with. I pretended to be strong for my mom but inside I was terrified of losing one of the greatest loves of my life. A friend could lend me her ears but it’s not the same as having a sibling to lean on.  While there's no guarantee that siblings would get along or become close, we are optimistic that we can raise our kids to love one another and take care of each other.

Thanksgiving came around and I thought about the holidays being more fun if there were two kids running around. Double the noise.  Double the mess.  But double the joy.  For the first time in a long time, a little voice started whispering the idea of a second child. I began opening up to Vu. We went back and forth about the pros and cons of having another addition to our family. Let’s just say the list of cons was a lot longer than pros. Both of us are older and working on our careers. We have no help and the cost of childcare in this country is abhorrent. Whatever amount of free time and sleep that we enjoy now would become non-existent. And of course the cost of raising another child, an additional $250,000, not including college! 

I had never imagined that the decision to have a second child would be one of the hardest decisions of my life. Against all odds, we decided to go ahead because life decision can’t really be based on a table of pros and cons. Ultimately our heart tugging won and we didn’t want to be in our 50s thinking about what could have been. I had a small window of time to get pregnant and we both agreed to be at peace with whatever the outcome was.

As luck would have it or fate as some believe, we got pregnant in that small window of time and welcomed our second boy, Dillon, in August. From the moment we heard Dillon's heart beating on the ultrasound to his first cry when he made his debut in the OR, we fell in love again. Things have been really hard but we’re taking it one day at a time. For those parents out there who are struggling, we feel your pain.  
In retrospect, we would have been happy with one child, two, or none at all but now that we’re a family of four, we can’t imagine our life any other way. 

To celebrate us all making it to three months, I made a chocolate cake. I reserve cakes for special occasions and this is definitely one of them.

When I was pregnant, I had the worst heartburn and couldn’t have chocolate or coffee. Now that my body has somewhat recovered, I’m enjoying chocolate in all forms. This simple cake totally hits the spot but leaves you wanting more because of the espresso frosting. I don’t know about you but chocolate and coffee are a match made in foodie heaven. Our friends and coworkers really enjoyed this cake when we made it for birthdays and potlucks.  We couldn’t be more excited to share this special occasion and recipe with you.

Chocolate Celebration Cake

⅔ cup of semi sweet chocolate chips
1 stick of butter
½ cup of sugar
2 medium organic eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup organic milk
¾ cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

Espresso buttercream

¾ cup of semi sweet chocolate chips
1 stick of butter
¾ cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp espresso
Chocolate shavings (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line two 6 inch cake pans with baking paper.

2. Place the butter, sugar, and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a small pan of simmering water and make sure not to let the bowl touch the water. Stir the mixture until everything is  melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. In a mixing bowl, sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

4. Transfer the chocolate mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.

5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

6. Add the vanilla and whisk to combine.

7. Fold in the flour mixture and whisk in the milk.

8. Divide the batter between two 6 inch cake pans, place them on the middle rack, and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

9. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

10. While the cake is cooling, make the buttercream. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over gently simmering water and don’t let the bowl touch the water. Stir the chocolate until melted and smooth. Stir in the espresso powder and vanilla extract. Remove from heat and set aside.

11. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and icing sugar for 8-10 minutes until very thick and pale. Fold in the espresso chocolate mixture and whisk until well combined.

12. When ready to frost the cakes, use a serrated knife to level the cakes.  Place one layer on a cake pedestal. With an offset spatula, spread about ¼ cup of buttercream over the top.

13. Place the second layer on top of the buttercream, then spread the remaining frosting evenly on top and sides of the cake.

14. To make the chocolate shaving, use a vegetable peeler, scrape the blade lengthwise across the a block of room temperature chocolate. Top the cake and bottom of the cake with chocolate shavings.

1. For baking use good quality chocolate.
2. Make sure the cakes are cooled completely before you frost them or the frosting will melt.
3. The cake will keep in the refrigerator covered in plastic wrap for up to two days.

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