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the other side of the world

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a dreamer. A big one, in fact. I dream of places that I’ve never been to, and imagine what life would like if I lived there. I have a running list of those must-visit spots tacked up on my fridge. Every morning, as I stumble to the coffeepot, I glance at that growing list, and think to myself, “Yes, one day. One day…”

 I tell my friends all the time about the far-off destinations I dream to visit. India, Greece, Turkey, you name it, and I probably have that place pegged. Some of my friends smile politely and nod, knowing that eventually I will shut up. Others just roll their eyes, thinking, “Oh here we go again.” No matter their reactions, they couldn’t stop me even if they wanted to. I might sound ridiculous or a tad overenthusiastic when I talk about living abroad for a year or picking my shit up and just hauling ass to another state, but I mean every word. In fact, their nonchalant responses probably egg me on.

You see, my mind can’t help but drift to foreign lands on the other side of the world. When the real world starts to get a little overbearing, a little tedious, I escape, dreaming about all the possibilities for the future. (I blame my incessant wanderlust on my father, as he seems to suffer from the same ailment). Maybe I’ll spend on summer soaking up the sun in Greece. Or maybe I will spend a year eating pasta in Florence. I find myself scouring job classifieds and apartment listings in other countries just because. Ignore the obstacles because ignorance is bliss, right?

With graduating coming up in a couple of months, I keep daydreaming about all the places I want to go, all the people I’m destined to meet. All these endless possibilities keep me up at night, wishing for these next couple of months to pass by as painlessly as possible.  But my daydreaming has hit me hard this summer, probably because my anxiety levels have been at a higher threshold than normal. A couple of weeks ago, after a fight with one of my friends, I had a full on panic attack. Now, I haven’t had one of those in a while, so to have a full force panic attack that left me sobbing in my work’s bathroom stall caught me off guard. I rushed home, unsuccessfully trying to focus on breathing.

Once I got home, I couldn’t find any kind of relief though. I curled up in my bed, with my mom on the phone, trying to calm me down to no avail. Eventually, my shaky nerves forced me in to the kitchen. I had to do something with my hands to stop them from shaking. My mind needed a distraction so out came the cookbooks and without even thinking I hunkered down, reading Dorie’s recipe for this sour cream chocolate cake. Melt the chocolate, fold in the sour cream, stir but not too much. These directions filled my mind and slowly the panic attack rescinded. A messy kitchen, dirty dishes, and an overflowing garbage was all that was left.

Honestly, I don’t know how I even finished that recipe, but the cake came out beautifully. Firm but with a moist crumb, the cake was everything that I wasn’t: strong, sweet, and lush. Sour cream is a great ingredient when baking with chocolate because it balances out the flavors and textures. Exhausted and drained, I collapsed on my couch, with a small chunk of cake waiting for me. I never knew the kind of power chocolate had over me until that instant because the minute I sank my teeth in to that slice, I was in heaven. I didn’t care about any of life’s petty drama; all I knew was that at this very instant, I was happy.

Instead of focusing on the bad, I whipped out my vacation list and reminded myself of all the fun and promising adventures that lie ahead for me. You can’t change the past, but you can make your future, I told myself. I turned on my favorite movie, Amelia, and watched as the shy and well-intentioned girl scurried about Paris, and after the movie was through, I felt happy again. Things didn’t look so shitty anymore. Amazing what chocolate and Paris can do for you, eh?

My point is that when the tough gets going, you gotta find a way to pick ourself up. The future is endless and it’s important to keep your dreams and inspirations close to you in hard times. Because life will constantly throw you curve-balls. Arguments will always be raised. You are bound to fuck up every now and then. But that doesn’t mean you should forget about all the good that is out there. In times like that, keep your dreams and simple pleasures close to your heart. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible or that you aren’t worth a damn because that’s for you to decide and find out.    

Sorry for the long post. I just had to come clean about how this cake got made. It’s one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. There is something about the way chocolate and sour cream work together in cakes that make me swoon. Plus, the frosting isn’t sugary sweet but more deeply rich and chocolatey. Right up my alley. I personally enjoy loaf cakes like this one because it feels more rustic, and simple. No one could pass up on a slice of this chocolate loaf cake with raspberry filling.

Now go bake yourself this damn cake. Okay?

Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake
from Baking: from my home to yours

Ingredients:

for the cake:
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 cup ( 2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (8 fl oz) sour cream
1/3 cup raspberry jam (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Raspberry)
1 teaspoon water

sour cream chocolate frosting:
5 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup sour cream at room temperature

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 10 x 5″ loaf pan and dust the inside with flour, tapping out the excess.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda onto a large sheet of waxed paper.

In an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on a medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the sour cream, then the sifted dry ingredients. Give the batter a last stir with a rubber spatula.

Scrape into the prepared pan, push down the middle a bit so that the edges nearest the pan are higher and bake for 60 to 75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. If after 45 minutes, the cake looks as if it’s browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake rest for about 5 minutes before turning it out on to a wire rack. Cool to room temperature.

To fill the cake:
Bring the jam and water to a boil over low heat or in a microwave oven. Stir to smooth it and keep at hand. The top of the cake will become the bottom layer, so if it is uneven and your cake rocks a bit on the counter, turn it right side up and use a long serrated knife to level it. Using a serrated knife, cut the cake into 3 even layers. Put the first layer (originally the top of the cake) cut side up on a long serving plate and spread half of the jam over it. Cover it with the middle layer and spread that layer with the remaining jam. Lift the top layer into place, cut side down. Use a small pastry brush to chase away any crumbs on the stop or sides of the cake.

To make the frosting:
Fit a heatproof bowl into a pan of gently simmer water, add the chocolate and warm, stirring occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Still working over the hot water, stir in the sour cream. Don’t be concerned if the cream tightens- just keep stirring gently and the frosting will become smooth and glossy.

Remove from the heat and cover the sides and top of the cake with the still warm frosting.

Frosted cake can be lightly covered and kept at room temperature overnight or refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. It can also be frozen. Freeze unwrapped until firm then wrap airtight and keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw, fully wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

Yields about 12 servings.

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July 3, 2008 - 9:14 am

Susan - Hang in there. It is not stupid to dream. I had that list when I was in college, too, which seems like just yesterday. If you can (or even if you can’t) afford to do it, DO IT. Just go before a marriage, a baby, a mortgage or a job holds you back. i have been lucky enough to see many of the places you dream of going, and though I am in debt so far I will never find my out I wouldn’t takebak a single minute of my travels. If you have any questions about great places to go (Thailand is amazing, BTW, so is Italy) I have lots of info and pix. I was a travel agent before baker, and I still know a few tricks. I’m not THAT old. Yet.
Good luck…you are NOT crazy. That will come later.

July 3, 2008 - 6:32 pm

Jaime - mmmm pass me a slice!

July 4, 2008 - 12:07 pm

laura @ the shorehouse - I loved your honesty and the story of how this cake came to be! I agree with Susan…just do it! You have an amazing blog, by the way. I’m very glad to have found it.

July 4, 2008 - 7:51 pm

eliza - hey, i’m constantly dreaming of visiting far away places, as if here in the US there are ever enough places to visit too! :) are you able to finish that cake by yourself?

July 5, 2008 - 6:21 am

Robin - I’m always day dreaming too… it’s a good thing. I can’t wait to visit all the places I dream of. And in the meantime, if you need a vacation, I’ve got an extra bed and we could explore the food in nyc!

July 5, 2008 - 7:33 am

Cake « FP Daily - [...] just make this cake, [...]

July 5, 2008 - 1:26 pm

cindy - aw…i am glad this cake made you feel better and amelie is one of my faves as well. i hope you get to go to some (or all!) of the places you daydream about. i must admit that i search for apartments in other cities and countries as well, it never hurts to scope things out just in case.

July 5, 2008 - 6:13 pm

Rebecca - Dream on! Someday you’ll look back and see that you still have dreams, but you have accomplished lots, too. You are at a wonderul time in your life, the world is your oyster! So happy for your upcoming graduation! Just do it, I say!

July 6, 2008 - 4:03 pm

Amanda - Thank you for all the kind words :)

July 7, 2008 - 10:46 am

Katie - This looks so good. Baking always calms me down. It centers me because I can only focus on that one thing.

July 7, 2008 - 12:02 pm

Joy the Baker - This is exactly the post i needed to read today. I’ve been having a mess of a time with my life lately. It’s not that it makes me feel better to hear about you panic attack, but it’s just really good to hear that you got through it. Thanks for sharing. And the Frosting looks just amazing! So rich and smooth! Lovely!

July 7, 2008 - 2:37 pm

steph (whisk/spoon) - sometimes heading to the other side of the world is just what you need to get away from your problems (trust me, i know). and if you are graduating and can do it, you should definitely take a little travel time. there’s so much to see! (malta is my number one need to go spot.)

July 7, 2008 - 9:18 pm

Amanda - joy- I hear ya! I read your post today and it made my heart hurt. All I can say is that sometimes day of pj’s, sappy movies, and an unlimited supply of kleenex heals all wounds. Hang in their girlie :)

July 13, 2008 - 2:11 pm

Bonbon Oiseau - your blog is great and this is a really amazing entry–true true and so true–me too some days…glad you found a diversion in the way of baking a delicious chocolate cake and making a beautiful “to-go” list.
book some tickets!!

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