When the Answer is Chocolate Cake

Being a Mom is an adventure. Especially when you aren’t a “traditional” mom, with the Dad at home and the fence and the siblings. My daughter has no Dad in the home, and no brothers or sisters. We do have a dog. He’s a rescue from the A.N.N.A. Shelter, a mix of American bulldog and golden retriever who can neither retrieve nor bully. So he fits in perfectly with us in our uncategorized life.

So when Mother’s Day rolls around and there’s all this hype about breakfast in bed, that’s not what we’ll be doing. I’d much rather spend the time in the kitchen with my daughter talking and teaching. Not spending time in bed – although if we’re snuggling together that’s great. Just not with a cup of coffee.

I grew up in a “traditional” family – Mom, Dad, two brothers and a sister. We had the occasional odd pet, like ducks and rabbits. My Dad is allergic, so most of our “pets” lived in the basement or outdoors.

That’s not what I have to offer my daughter. We are forging this Mother-Daughter thing ourselves. We have help from my parents and siblings, but they aren’t in Erie (siblings, at all; parents are in Florida during the winter).

Sometimes we share our great successes and laugh, like our whirlwind trip to London together. Sometimes it’s not so successful, but we can laugh about it later. We were sharing some funny Mom moments this weekend about my lack of direction and impatience in the car on our girls’ trip to Toronto. She was telling the story to Ian, another uncategorized part of my life. I can’t call him a boyfriend. That seems a trite way to describe our relationship. We’re both over 50. We’re not planning to get married. Yet there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground – neither married nor single. Divorced, yes; dating, beyond that.

So as we negotiate these years as Mother and Daughter, we find that neither one of us fits into the traditional model. When we started this journey, my daughter would sometimes get angry at this. Why, she would ask, did she not have a brother or sister? Why didn’t we live with a Mom, Dad, Daughter and dogs in the same house? Why couldn’t we be like everyone else?

The answers are complicated, my Darling Daughter. As she gets older, I share bits and pieces, careful not to point blame. Most of these conversations take place at the kitchen counter. I’m cooking. She’s on her iPad. These topics come up. She asks. I answer. She swipes. I mix. When we’re done, we move to the couch. We find a compromise on Netflix. Or, if the conversation continues, the TV is off.

I may not have all the answers at this time. But I do have chocolate cake, which may not be the solution to everything, but sometimes it’s the only one I have.

fallen chocolate cake

Fallen Chocolate Cake


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature,

10 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate pieces

2 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 teaspoons espresso powder

6 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt



1 cup chilled heavy cream

1/2 cup mascarpone, room temperature

4 tablespoon powdered sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa powder


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter 9-inch springform pan.

Combine butter, chocolate and oil and in a large heatproof bowl. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and heat, stirring often, until melted. Remove bowl from saucepan. Or heat in the microwave in a glass bowl for 30 second. Stir and heat for another 30 seconds, or until chocolate is melted. Do not over cook. Stir in espresso powder. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Separate 4 of the eggs, placing whites and yolks in separate medium bowls. Add remaining 2 eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt and whisk until mixture is smooth. Whisk 2 to 3 tablespoons of chocolate mixture into yolks mixture to temper them. Then add entire yolk mixture into chocolate and combine well

Beat egg whites until frothy. With hand or stand mixer running, beat in ½ cup sugar. Beat until peaks form (somewhere between soft and stiff). Fold egg whites into chocolate mixture in 2 additions, folding just until incorporated between additions. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Bake until top is puffed, appears to have a dull surface on it and is pulling away from edge of pan, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cake cool completely in pan; cake will collapse in center, leaving edges higher. Remove from pan once totally cool.

To make topping: Beat cream, mascarpone and powdered sugar with an electric mixer in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Spread into center of cake. Place cocoa powder into a sifter or strainer and shake over top of cake. Serve.

Adapted from BonAppetit.com