One month ago, I was having a baby. But before there was a baby, there was supposed to be chocolate cake.
Our little munchkin wasn’t due until September 16th, but starting around the 37.5 week mark I was ready to have this baby. Even though I had an easy-peasy pregnancy, the discomfort of wearing a watermelon-sized heater 24/7 during the hottest part of the year was getting old, fast. I had a feeling he’d show up a little early; but as the due date drew closer with no signs of baby, I was preparing myself for a fashionably late arrival (as both David and I had been).
At my 39-week checkup, my doctor performed a sweep and stretch, which can help encourage labor naturally (I think it’s something like a 30% success rate). That night I had some spotting and a sudden onset of chills. We called the public health hotline, and the nurse recommended I go into labor and delivery (even though I wasn’t having any contractions). I was pretty sure it wasn’t the real thing, but just to be on the safe side we went in. Sure enough, I was checked out and sent home — the chills chalked up to the changing weather and/or hormones released by the sweep and stretch.
The next day was one of our busier Saturday mornings in awhile. David had a funeral to attend, and my Mom and I met some old friends for brunch. On our way home, we stopped by a new coffee place we’d been meaning to try, and then went in search of ingredients for dinner. David wanted to BBQ, and we also had planned to make a good-bye chocolate cake for a church friend who was moving back to Taiwan. Once we got home, David went to start the BBQ while my mom and I started mixing up the chocolate cake. Around 5pm, I stuck the cake layers in the oven, stood up, and my water broke. I’d secretly hoped my water breaking would be how I knew it was time to head to the hospital, but I didn’t think it would actually happen that way. I remember feeling startled and calling over to my mom, “Um, I think my water just broke…” while standing in an ever increasing pool of water.
From that point, everything happened relatively fast. We checked into L & D half an hour later, and within the next hour I went from no contractions to full on 60-90 second contractions a few minutes apart. People say “you’ll just know” when you get real contractions, and I know what they mean now. I asked for an epidural, but was told it would be an extra hour before I could get one because the anesthesiologist on call was in surgery. That hour was definitely the most pain I’ve experienced. Poor David had nail marks all over his arm to prove it. When the epidural finally came, it was such a relief (seriously, thank God for drugs). The nurse checked me shortly afterwards, and told me the happy news that I was fully dilated. She had me rest for an hour, and then we started pushing.
Pushing lasted two hours. As we neared the end of the second hour, my contractions started weakening and I was exhausted. The nurses decided to give me a shot of Picotin to help things along — and 12 minutes later, at 12:47am on Sunday, September 13th, little Marcus burst into the world. Hearing him scream a few moments later was one of the most relieving and beautiful sounds I’ve heard. It’s been a fascinating, sometimes frustrating, exciting, exhausting, and extraordinary month getting to know our little man. We thank God that he’s healthy and generally good-natured (except when he’s hungry) and has a ton of people around him who love him. It is also a blessing having family near and far come help; otherwise I’d be a total zombie surviving on instant noodles and coffee.
Anyways, back to that chocolate cake — my mom finished baking it, but we were too late to make it into a goodbye cake for our friend. So, when we got home from the hospital, we made some buttercream and transformed it into a “Welcome Marcus” cake. I sure hope Marcus becomes a chocolate lover, because like it or not I’m probably going to make this chocolate-raspberry cake every year around his birthday just for kicks. The recipe is adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, my Christmas present to myself last year. My main change was to make the buttercream with all dark chocolate instead of a mixture of milk and dark. I think it’s the perfect amount of sweetness paired with the raspberry sauce. (This is 2/3 of the original recipe, which was just enough to lightly frost the entire cake.) We also only made half the amount of raspberry sauce, but next time I’ll make the full amount because I wish I’d had more to slather on when serving — it’s soooooo good.
Marcus’ Chocolate-Raspberry Cake
Makes 1 4-layer, 8-inch cake | Adapted from The Cake Bible
- 85 g / 3/4 c + 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-processed)
- 1 1/2 c boiling water
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 t vanilla
- 300 grams / 3 c sifted cake flour
- 434 g / 2 c firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 227 g / 1 c unsalted butter, softened
- Handful of fresh raspberries, for garnish (optional)
- Grease and line two 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper, then grease again and flour. Preheat the oven to 350F.
- In a medium bowl whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
- In another bowl lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture, and vanilla.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake 30-40 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.
- Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto greased wire racks. To prevent splitting reinvert so that tops are up and cool completely. (Layers can be wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for a couple of days, or frozen until needed.)
Dark Chocolate Buttercream Ingredients:
- 454 g / 1 lb good quality dark chocolate
- 227 g / 1/2 lb unsalted butter, softened
- Break the chocolate into squares and melt in a double boiler or in the microwave (stirred every 15 seconds). Stir until smooth, and cool until no longer warm to the touch.
- In a bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixture at medium speed and beat in the cooled chocolate until uniform in color.
Raspberry Sauce Ingredients:
- 680 g / 24 ounces frozen unsweetened raspberries
- 2 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 132 g / 2/3 c sugar, optional
- In a strainer suspended over a deep bowl thaw the raspberries completely. This will take several hours. Press the berries to force out all the juice. There should be 1 cup.
- In a saucepan boil the juice until reduced to 1/4 c. Pour into a lightly oiled heatproof cup.
- Puree the raspberries and use a find strainer to remove all the seeds. You should have 1 liquid cup puree. Stir in the raspberry syrup and lemon juice. To make a lightly sweetened sauce, measure again. There should be 1 1/3 liquid cups. If you have less, add less sugar. The correct amount of sugar is 1/2 the volume of the puree. (To 1 cup puree, add 1/2 c sugar.) Stir until sugar dissolves.
Assemble the cake:
- Level and divide each cake into 2 layers (for 4 layers total). Spread a thin layer of buttercream between each layer, followed by a layer of raspberry puree.
- Frost the entire cake with remaining buttercream. Garnish with fresh raspberries if desired, and serve with remaining raspberry sauce.