It is remarkable the difference between a one month old, a two month old, and a (almost) three moth old. From the very first moment I saw him I felt attached to Espen by a bond that seemed as deep and old as time itself. I still do of course. But now I also really like him! In fact, he’s well on his way to being my favorite person ever. He’s winsome, and sweet, and smiles easily. Sure, we still don’t get what anyone in their right mind would call a good night’s sleep, but when I turn on the lights and say, “it’s morning!” I’m greeted by a big grin and a barrage of coos and burbles. He thinks it’s hilarious if you blow raspberries at him. We spent the last few days teaching him to stick his tongue out, and when he does and you say, “yay!!!!” he looks just terribly pleased with himself.
Whenever I find something new that makes him smile, I feel like I’ve stumbled upon a cache of buried treasure. When I was several months pregnant, I suddenly went on this crazy crafting kick and in a moment of Etsy-inspired madness spent a weekend sewing small felt animals to make a mobile. Well, Espen loves his mobile! I start it spinning and he lights up like a Christmas tree and waves at it (he especially likes the goldenrod colored fox), and I feel like it was the best use of a weekend. Ever.
I wonder if babies are so challenging and exhausting at first because it makes us love them all the more when they come into their own and start interacting with us. We look at them and we know that in their helplessness and vulnerability they have brought us to the brink of what we had to give, and then showed us that we actually can give even more, more than we ever could have imagined. We can work harder, care more, and love more deeply than we ever knew was possible. I think you’d never find those depths in yourself if the first couple months of being a parent were a total breeze.
We had a baby shower for a dear friend a couple weekends ago, and I wish I had figured this out by then to tell her (though it’s not like it’s too late to tell her!). I had only slept a couple hours the night before, so I may have focused my advice mostly on survival strategies. And those are important too. Surviving and then the amazing payoff you get from surviving are both equally important. But, whether or not I did a good job with my advice, I know I did a good job with the cake I brought because this, in my opinion, is one of the most perfect cakes there is.
If you have read Molly Wizenberg’s charming memoir A Homemade Life, you may already be familiar with this cake. She calls it Winning Hearts and Minds cake, and I can attest to the fact that it really does. I first made it for a dinner party last year. Then for a baby shower a week or two later. And since then the requests for it have been frequent and adamant. It’s practically the only cake the rest of my extended family wants to eat anymore. They have taken to calling it “the almost flourless chocolate cake” because it calls for only one tablespoon of flour, and this is easily replaced by a spoonful of gluten free flour so my gf dad can have his cake and eat it too. I’m sure we’ll be eating it with Christmas dinner.
This cake is intensely, richly, decadently chocolate through and through. It is midnight dark and not too sweet. It is fudgy but not dense – unlike most flourless chocolate cakes it is neither like a heavy ganache nor a spongey souffle. It’s silky, that’s what it is. It is also one of the most perfect vehicles for whipped cream that I’ve ever encountered.
I could practically eat an entire one of these cakes myself. And for so much chocolate perfection, you barely have to put in any effort. I volunteered to make the cake for my friend’s baby shower because I claimed that it was so easy I could practically make it with one hand. Turns out, this is literally true! I made it with one hand, while balancing the baby with the other. All it takes is melting together chocolate and butter, then stirring in sugar and eggs until the batter looks like swaths of gorgeous chocolate colored silk. Stir in that single spoonful of flour to pull it all together, then scrape it into a pan and into the oven it goes. 25 minutes later you’re in for a treat -almost as good as a baby’s gleeful smile.
- 7 ounces (200 grams) best-quality dark chocolate (I like 70% cacao), finely chopped
- 7 ounces (200 grams) unsalted European-style butter (the high-butterfat kind, such as Lurpak or Beurre d’Isigny), cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1⅓ cup (250 grams) granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 1 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour (or gluten free flour blend)
- Heat your oven to 375F. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan, then line it with parchment and butter the parchment as well.
- Melt together the chocolate and butter over a double boiler or in the microwave. Stir until smooth.
- Stir in the sugar. The batter will look grainy, this is fine. Set it aside to cool about 5 minutes. Then, stir in the eggs one at a time until each is incorporated. Stir in the flour. By this time the batter will be velvety and smooth.
- Scrape the batter into the cake pan. Bake in the center of the oven until the edges are set but the center is still slightly jiggly, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool 10 minutes in the pan (it will deflate as it cools). Then, carefully invert the cake onto a plate, then turn it back rightside up onto a platter. Allow to cool completely, then serve with plenty of whipped cream.