I don’t know about you, but the last few years I’ve been battling a persistent case of wanderlust. Every year I lose more and more friends to schools and jobs that relocate them to other cities. For a while, I thought a new town would sooth my itch for change too. Instead, I decided to move to a new virtual home. And here we are.
Steph is one of my friends who packed up and dove into a new life. Two years ago she decided to move to Madrid with her boyfriend (now husband!), Rodrigo, to get her masters in Spanish. I remember feeling jealous at the time – of all the new people they’d meet and the new friends they’d make who would somehow eclipse the relationship we’d built together in New York.
Fast-forward two years: Steph and Rodrigo are living in Palo Alto, where Rodrigo is a first year business school student. This past October I attended their intimate 40-person wedding in Santa Barbara. It was an epic weekend, full of good Mexican tequila and even better friends. It made me realize how much I had missed these two, and how much our relationship hadn’t skipped a beat (if the dance floor picture above is any indication). It also made me realize how hard it must have been for them to start over in Madrid and then California. Sitting in my apartment, where my mind is the only thing that is actually wandering, it’s easy to forget how tough it is to make new friends – the kind that last, at least.
Last month, Steph and Rodrigo came to New York for a short weekend visit, a weekend that just so happened to include Rodrigo’s birthday. It was also the first weekend in my new studio. So even though I hadn’t yet found a home for all of my pots and pans, I decided to have a small dinner party, complete with spicy chicken meatballs, creamy polenta, and a slightly Mexican-spiced cake for Rodrigo, who was born in Tijuana 28 years ago.
Being together again was a throw back to three years ago when we celebrated Rodrigo’s birthday at my last apartment, with sombreros and chipotle chili peppers. And writing about it now feels just as it did in the early days of BGSK, late at night after the last few pans were put in the sink to soak. Even though we’ve all moved onto new homes, virtual and real, when we’re sitting around my coffee table, savoring a slice of Cinnamon Chocolate Torte, and each other, it’s like nothing has really changed.
The cake itself was so good, I ended up making it the following week for a meeting to impress the powers that be. It seemed to have done the trick in that room too, and though I am unable to give any details, I can say that I will soon have some aspects of my wanderlust fulfilled as I say goodbye to my good friends for a little while, pack up, and dive into a new media adventure.
7 ounces good quality dark chocolate
7 ounces unsalted butter (the nice French kind if you can afford it, such as Lurpak or Beurre d’Isigny), cut into ½-inch cubes
1 1/3 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground clove
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the base of the pan with parchment, and butter the parchment too.
2. Finely chop the chocolate and melt it gently with the butter in the microwave, stirring regularly until fully melted. Add the sugar to the chocolate-butter mixture, stirring well, and set aside to cool for a few moments. Then add the eggs one by one, stirring well after each addition. Add the cocoa, cinnamon, and cloves, and stir until incorporated.
3. Pour batter into the buttered cake pan and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the center of the cake looks set and the top is a bit crackly-looking and it only jiggles slightly, if at all. Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then carefully turn the cake out of the pan onto a place. Then invert it again, so that the crackly side is facing upward. Allow to cool completely. The cake will deflate slightly as it cools.
4. Serve in wedges at room temperature, dusted with confectioners sugar if you like, or topped with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla creme fraiche.
Vanilla Creme Fraiche
Makes 1 cup
8 ounces creme fraiche
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Stir until fully incorporated. Taste and add more sugar, if desired. Serve over chocolate cake or as a decadent topping for an ice cream sundae.