The Unfuck Yourself Cake

This cake scared the shit out of me.

I intended to bring it to board game night, my first time back after returning to the East Coast. This cake was meant to be a yellow cake from my favorite recipe, filled with chocolate mousse and wrapped in chocolate frosting. It was also the first cake in almost five months made with the blog in mind. I thought that as soon as I started baking again I’d start writing again, and once I started writing I could figure out some smart, funny way to explain my move back to DC.

Here’s how that went.

  • I didn’t start baking until 10 at night
  • I realized I forgot to buy cake flour
  • I stood at the kitchen counter for thirty minutes debating whether to go back to the store or just give up
  • I didn’t have a single clever thing to say

I wish I was returning to DC in triumph. I’m not. I’m creeping in through the back door, trying to reinhabit my old life so quietly that no one will ask any questions. I’m trying to prop up work and friendships and expectations that all got too big for me while I was shrinking on the other coast.

I wish I had a good story about moving back to DC. I don’t. The shitty story is, I got so wrapped up in my own head that I stopped thinking about anything else. Then I stopped doing anything else. I got a little better. I got myself home. But even then, I couldn’t seem to get moving again. Not at work, not with my friends, not with my oven or my words. The thought of failing, again, scared me so badly that I didn’t want to try at all.

Turns out it’s really easy to wind yourself up into an ouroboros of terror and self-loathing. It’s a lot harder to get your head out of your ass. The fact remained: In order to start over, I had to start. Even if my first time sucked. Even if I didn’t want to.

I baked the damn cake. Here’s how.IMG_5331

This cake mix has been following me around for years. My ex boyfriend gave me the cake mix, back when we were still dating. I gave it to my friend Elizabeth, back when I moved to LA. She brought it with her earlier in the month, when we moved into the apartment together.

I’ve always talked a big game about doing what works for you. I wanted twice-sifted flour and whipped egg whites to work for me. I wanted it so badly that I stood at the counter chewing my lip for half an hour, letting the time tick down instead of actually baking. My planned cake would probably have been great, but it scared me so badly that I couldn’t get move. The cake mix got me going again. This is what works.

The Cake

I don’t have a lot to add to the instructions on the back of the box, but. You guys. Betty Crocker has her shit together. I would wear a perfume made out of that cake batter. A+ experience. Would bake again.

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While the cakes were in the oven, I got started on the components that I hadn’t forgotten the ingredients for. The mousse and the frosting are both two-ingredient wonders that came together before the layers were done cooling. I made the mousse first—the frosting firms up fast, and I wanted to have time to apply it before it hardened.

The Mousse

Ingredients:
16 oz chocolate chips
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Equipment:
Electric mixer (I prefer handheld; upper body strength can also be substituted)
Microwave-safe bowl + stirring implement
Mixing bowl

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave—zap for 20 seconds, stir, zap again, stir, repeat until why was I ever a snob about baking with chocolate, look at this

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Whip up your heavy whipping cream until thickens a little. My stupid-fast handheld mixer did this in about thirty seconds. Adjust estimates according to the bargains you’ve struck with your kitchen equipment.

Pour in the melted chocolate and start whipping again until your mousse-ish-stuff will hold stiff peaks.

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Stick the bowl in the fridge and get started on the frosting.

The Frosting

This is Joe Pastry’s Chocolate Bar Frosting, scaled down slightly since I’m not filling the cake. I still had too much at the end—I probably could have gotten away with 2/3 of this recipe.

Ingredients:
16 oz chocolate chips
12 tbsp butter

Equipment:
Electric mixer of some kind, or upper body strength
Microwave-safe bowl + stirring implement
Mixing bowl
Rolling pin, if the butter came straight from the fridge

Melt the chocolate chips, again. Realize that your butter is still in the fridge. Solve this problem by smacking it with a rolling pin until it softens up.

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Just make sure you turn the stick around between whacks so the stick shape reforms and butter doesn’t spill out both ends.

Scrape your melted chocolate into a bigger mixing bowl. Drop the butter in and mix until thoroughly combined. Maybe grab onto the countertop to ground yourself in the meantime.

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there’s no way this is allowed

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is this real

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are you kidding me

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uggggghh

Once your cake layers are cool, do that whole assembly thing—spread the mousse between the layers, and slather on the frosting. Do a crumb coat first if you’re feeling fancy.

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And before the frosting has time to set, pour the entire container of crunchy star sprinkles on top.

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The frosting got darker as it cooled. True to the recipe, it also got a little hard, but the firm texture was a nice counterpoint to the light, crumbly cake and airy mousse.

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I took the cake to board games night, where there was a lot to catch up on. The world hadn’t stopped outside my little circle of self loathing and fear. There were birthdays and dissertations, job changes and so much more laughter than I had expected. Their world hadn’t put itself on hold for me. But when I finally took a step out towards unfucking myself, my friends made room for me at the table.

I don’t know how to quantify this. I can’t say if I’m halfway unfucked, or three-eighths unfucked, or even whether unfucking has a linear model at all.

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All I can say is, hi. I’m back. I’m not quite right yet, in ways I don’t know how to explain or fix. But I’m moving again, and I think I can figure it out from here.

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