The First and Most Recent Cake

April 13, 2010

I think when you are good at something, or at least experienced at something, it can be easy to forget the path you took to get there.  I am a good baker (not great – good) but there was a time when I had never baked a cake.  I was 22 and the very first cake I baked, my first time so to speak, was this one.  I found it intimidating.  I was overwhelmed by the recipe, by the number of bowls, by the swirling technique of the two batters.  Plus there was a glaze to worry about.  But I made it and it turned out.  The people I baked it for oohed and aahed and it gave me confidence to take on another baking project.  After a few successes, I truly fell in love with baking.

Bear with me as I tie this back to yoga.  I have been practicing yoga for twelve years, with a couple of breaks due to pregnancy, children, life, etc.  From 2001 to 2003, I taught a vigorous flow class.  Just as I was always challenging myself in my own practice, I challenged my students.  As my body slowly opened up and became stronger, I encouraged my students that theirs would too.  Along the way, I now realize, I lost the feeling of being a beginner.  I think I was always a sensitive teacher, offering modifications, encouraging people to listen to their body.  “Do only what feels right for you today, don’t think about yesterday, and don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing”, is something I said regularly.  But I think my passion for the practice always moved me forward rather remembering what it was like in the beginning.

This past July, I came back to my yoga practice after a three year hiatus.  I felt as though I had never been on a mat before.  Things that used to be fluid became clunky.  My body was different after two pregnancies and two c-sections had zapped any core strength I once had.  Over time, I had lost most of my flexibility and strength that I had worked so hard for.  The simplest poses felt awkward.  My mind knew what to do, but my body would not obey.  I was thrust into the role of a beginner and it made me so appreciate all the lovely people who came to my class and watched me demonstrate poses that they probably thought they would never master.  I felt the practice as I probably never had.  I had to re-learn.

Fortunately, what they say is true.  The body does have a memory.  After committing to going to yoga three times a week every week, the fluidity slowly came back.  The strength came back.  Some of the flexibility came back.  (I was always more strong than flexible.)  A sun salutation feels like a dance again rather than a chore.  I flow without thinking – finding my body doing things without my mind coming along for the ride.  Yoga is for me, at the best of times, truly a moving meditation.  It is a wonderful place to be and it makes me want to keep going.

Feeling this way also makes me want to teach again.  Because now I think I have a much better appreciation for those who are just starting out.  I want to teach the joy of yoga again.  I always found joy in my teaching but, especially toward the end, I may have focused a little too much on mastering – and teaching – tricky arm balancing postures and other more advanced poses.  I want to teach people to love yoga as I do.

Back to baking.  I made this cake on Saturday for the first time in 17 years.  Between that first cake and this latest one, I have made hundreds of cakes, pies, tarts, mousses, cookies, bars, and other treats.  Actually – 17 years?  Probably thousands.  I have learned a lot about baking and about myself as a baker.  I have learned shortcuts and ways to cut down on dishes, and I have learned that it is important to always have everything out and at the ready.  And, for me at least, to always follow the recipe.

Coming back to this cake made me smile.  It was so easy.  In my 39-year old mind, it’s just a simple batter, some of which gets mixed in to some melted chocolate to make another batter, then the two are layered in a cake pan, swirled and baked.  The glaze is about as simple as it gets.  I now know that, if you are careful, you can melt chocolate in a microwave rather than in a double boiler, and if you melt it in a big enough bowl, you can mix the batter right into the bowl, rather than dirtying another bowl.  When I made this cake the first time, I actually went and bought an angel food cake pan because that is what the recipe said to do.  I now know that a bundt pan will work fine and makes a much more attractive cake.

Usually when I bake, I am not aware of how far I have come.  But because I could compare Saturday’s experience directly with my newbie experience, I did realize how much I have learned.  It has been a long slow and joyful process.  It makes me appreciate people who are new to baking, just as – when I do teach again someday – I will appreciate students new to yoga.  So, if you have never baked a cake, why not follow my lead and try this one?  Don’t be intimidated, don’t be scared.  Go for it.

One Year Ago:  Southwestern Sweet Potato Gratin

Cinnamon-Chocolate Ribbon Cake
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves 12

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 cups cake flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/3 cup whipping cream
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

For Cake
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325ºF.  Grease a 12 cup bundt pan and set aside.  Place chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl.  Heat in 30-second intervals, stirring in between each one, until the chocolate is almost melted.  Allow the residual heat to melt the rest of the chocolate and set aside.  (Alternatively, you can set the bowl over simmer water.  Do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water.)

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat eggs in large bowl until foamy.  Add sugar and beat until thick and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Gradually beat in oil.  Beat in milk and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and beat until just blended.

Transfer 1½ cups batter to bowl with the melted chocolate.  Stir to combine.  Mix cinnamon into remaining (non-chocolate) batter.  Spread half of cinnamon batter in prepared pan.  Spoon chocolate batter over.  Top with the remaining cinnamon batter.  Using small knife, swirl batters together to marbleize slightly.

Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes.  Cool cake in pan on rack 10 minutes.  Using a thin knife, carefully loosen the cake from the pan.  Turn cake out onto rack and allow to cool completely.

For Glaze
Combine cream, butter, and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until mixture simmers.  Remove from heat; add chocolate.  Stir until chocolate melts and glaze is smooth.  Let cool until glaze thickens slightly but is still spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Place cake on platter.  Slide waxed paper strips under edges of cake (this will catch drips).  Spread glaze over cake.  Remove paper.  Chill until glaze sets.  Serve at room temperature.  (Can be made 2 days ahead.  Cover and keep chilled. DT: In my experience, you do not need to chill this cake – it keeps well at room temperature, but be sure to cover it.  Also, cakes like this freeze beautifully – without the glaze.  Just wrap it well in foil and it will keep for about a month.  Give it plenty of time to thaw at room temperature and then glaze it.)


  1. I used to practice yoga regularly in college, but I have gotten out of the habit. I need to get back into it, because I love it. Thanks for the reminder. The cake looks fabulous. Great photos too! And congrats on your “mom blogging” award. Well deserved. You are amazing!

    Comment by Maria — April 13, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  2. Dana I have been thinking about how I want to make a cake, and you seem to have mastered the art. This looks so lovely and that glaze, yum. I hope you find a way to get back in to teaching – that is how I feel about cooking lately… I want to teach people the things I have learned, because it can really be so fufilling.

    Comment by Sara — April 13, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

  3. Beautiful clicks. Very nice presenatation. Yummy..

    Comment by Shriya — April 13, 2010 @ 8:43 pm

  4. absolutely scrumptious! I’ve done recipes again which I have not tried in a long time and I am amazed how easier it is now that I am really into baking and cooking. And I say go for it- teach yoga!

    Comment by veron — April 13, 2010 @ 10:14 pm

  5. I hope i look back on my first cake in a few years in the same way that you look back on yours. Or my first bread. Boy was that scary.

    This looks delicious. You didn’t dip your toes into baking, you dove right in!

    Comment by Joanne — April 13, 2010 @ 11:16 pm

  6. Your cake looks gorgeous, I just want to dig in, but don’t talk to me about yoga, I haven’t done any since October, when my pregnancy made it too uncomfortable. I know it is going to be a killer when I start back again.

    Comment by Jacqueline — April 14, 2010 @ 7:16 am

  7. Absolutely delicious and beautiful!

    Comment by Cherine — April 14, 2010 @ 8:55 am

  8. What a delicious cake it is! Yum!

    Comment by Tracy — April 14, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

  9. Great story! Who knew that baking a cake and teaching yoga could have something in common? :) I am not much of a baker, but you have inspired me to try. Now I just need to find the time…

    This cake looks amazing.

    Comment by GrilledShane — April 14, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

  10. What a pleasant surprise! Find a post that clearly you wrote with me in mind!

    (just kidding, but fits as a glove, so I’ll wear it!)

    Thank you! Beautiful post on many levels…

    Comment by SallyBR — April 14, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

  11. I love coming back to recipes and feeling like they’re easy now! The cinnamon and chocolate batters mixed together sound great. Now, if I could do a better job of making time for yoga every week!

    Comment by lisaiscooking — April 14, 2010 @ 9:55 pm

  12. I think I’m a particularly bad teacher because I find it very hard to remember what it was like to be a beginner – it’s why I hate doing training sessions at work. I get so exasperated with people!

    Because I don’t have the patience, I really appreciate those who do.

    Comment by Hilary — April 15, 2010 @ 11:02 am

  13. I like the way the chocolate was put on top of the cake. Some sprinkles would not be a good idea. Other flavors such as strawberry cake should work as well.

    Comment by Anne — April 15, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

  14. Recently bought my first bundt cake pan so I have to try this. I simply love baking and I’m always looking for simple delicious recipes that will encourage me not to give up the craft. Love how you inserted a personal story into your recipe. So glad I landed on your blog, love it.

    Comment by brenda — April 15, 2010 @ 8:48 pm

  15. Sweet Sweet Success,thank you Dana. Celebrating a birthday with this cake tonight. So many wonderful rewards in making this cake. The first one is the lingering aromas of chocolate and cinnamon. AMAZING!! Off to try your new Quinoa dish.

    Comment by brenda — April 17, 2010 @ 1:05 am

  16. That first photo is so amazingly stunning…

    Comment by The Leftoverist — April 18, 2010 @ 3:34 am

  17. Yummy looking cake! I think to each one of us it’s important to reflect – it only makes us stronger.
    Happy baking to you always!

    Comment by LeeYONG — April 19, 2010 @ 1:53 am

  18. Thank-you so much for sharing this post! I too practice yoga and was recently reminded of how easily we loose what is at one time easy and fluid. The wonderful thing is that it too shall pass and when we are able to return to place we once were, it feels so rewarding, sometimes even more so than it was the first time. I applaud you for revisiting your yoga and your first cake recipe. I think sometimes we need to glance into the past just to remind ourselves how far all the hard work we have performed has progressed us along our path.

    Comment by lisa — April 20, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

  19. I would like to make this one day. It looks so good :)

    Comment by Zara — April 20, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

  20. Thank you for a beautiful post. I love remaking recipes because I feel like every time, I’ve learned something new and it’s easier to make and the result is yummier. I’m making this cake right now, it’s in the oven and it smells amazing!

    Comment by Heather — April 20, 2010 @ 10:21 pm

  21. Yum this looks like a really delicious comforting cake. Love the thick chocolate glaze on top. I remember when I used to be scared of making cakes! And of changing things in recipes, like if I didn’t have red wine vinegar but had 3 other kinds of vinegar there was no way I could make the recipe haha. Reading your thoughts about yoga makes me want to try to get into it again…

    Comment by Ashley — April 21, 2010 @ 4:10 am

  22. […] The original recipe can be found at Dana Treat. […]

    Pingback by Bring on the cinnamon-chocolate swirl cake « Soufflé Days — April 21, 2010 @ 3:42 pm

  23. […] saw this recipe at Treat Yourself and just had to make it. I love the mixture of chocolate and […]

    Pingback by Cinnamon Chocolate Bundt Cake « Carabosse's Bakeshop — July 13, 2011 @ 8:37 pm

  24. These looks fantastic. I can’t wait to bake them for my family. These probably won’t last a couple days at my house :)
    Thanks for the wonderful recipe!

    Comment by Sam Dyer — March 26, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

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