When I was about 8 months pregnant with Graham, my oldest child, Randy and I did a Lamaze weekend out of town. Most OB’s recommend you do some kind of class to prepare you for childbirth and the hospital where we ultimately delivered offered a six week course. Randy had just started working at Microsoft and was spending a ridiculous number of hours there trying to get up to speed. The thought of trying to get back across the lake in time for a class stressed him out, so we opted to cram all those classes into one weekend instead.
Sometimes things happen for a reason and I think we ended up going this Lamaze route so we could meet an incredible group of people. There were 12 couples, all due within a few months of each other, and over the course of the weekend and talking about things like contractions and bed-rest and colostrum, we got to know each other. We were all in this incredibly heady time in our lives – about to have our first baby. Scared, excited, scared and um, scared. The weekend ended and we drifted away from each other and back to our lives.
The first couple had their baby just days before we had Graham. The husband emailed their news out to the group and, now that we were connected, all the rest of the couples followed suit. Through this email connection, the women started bonding. Once all of us had our babies, we began to get together with our brand new babies.
At the time I was in a PEPS group (Program for Early Parenthood Support), an organization I believe in and support. I even lead a group myself when Graham was a year old. But my particular group was a little funny. Everyone was nice but there were some big overachievers in there and everyone seemed to have it together. No one cried, everyone’s baby seemed to be sleeping, nursing was going well for all the moms – in short, no one was real. I went to those meetings making sure I had showered, did not cry, bit my lip the whole time, and left feeling like a failure. It was the weekly gathering of Lamaze ladies where I could be myself. It was my lifeline. Being able to walk out of the house unshowered, crying baby in tow, get to a friend’s house who was in a similar mental and emotional space as me, and be able to cry myself – out of exhaustion, frustration, fear, and hormones – is what saved me in those first few months. One in our group gave us this quote: “You make friends for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” It seemed we had made lifelong friends.
Sadly, within a couple of years, 6 of the 12 couples moved away. We all got busy with our lives, husbands, work, second children. I have remained extremely close with two of the women – I consider them two of my closest friends. I wish I saw everyone else more frequently but busy lives and distance makes it difficult. Donna was one of our true gems and she had the nerve to North Carolina before we knew it. Donna and I have been keeping in intermittent touch on Facebook and I will occasionally get a comment from her on this blog. She emailed last week to say that she and the family were heading to town and could we gather? Of course!
6 adults, 10 kids, 2 pizzas, 2 salads, and 1 cake makes for a rocking good time. Graham was in heaven because all the six-year-olds were girls. Spencer was in heaven because there were so many people to play with. It was so nice seeing them all as such big kids and seeing how truly far we have come. In true Lamaze group fashion, we shared some of the joys and some of the frustrations we are experiencing. And we got to sing “Happy Birthday” to one of our group whose birthday is Friday.
I have been wanting to practice my layer cake technique ever since watching this incredibly helpful video. A friend’s birthday is the perfect excuse for practice. This is a Holly B’s recipe and it’s hard for me to believe I have never made it. Holly mentions in her book that this is the standard birthday cake in her family and now I know why. It’s a perfect chocolate cake. The cake itself is moist, the frosting is to die for and the whole thing is incredibly easy and quick to make. Yes, really. My only quibble is that there was not enough frosting. The cake is very crumbly so it needs a crumb coat, but there was not enough for me to do that. No matter, sprinkles cover a lot of error. But next time I will one and a half the frosting recipe to make sure there is enough to really cover the cake and for little fingers to dip into.
One Year Ago: Chile Cheese Gratin Sandwiches
Two Years Ago: Grilled Vegetable Quesadillas
Three Years Ago: Feta and Ricotta Cheese Pie (ignore the bad photo, this is a terrific recipe)
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
With Love & Butter
Makes a 9-inch double layer cake
I‘m giving you the recipe as written in the book. Remember, I would at least one and a half the frosting recipe – even double it and do a crumb coat. To do so, spread a thin layer of frosting all over the cake and place it in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Then frost the rest of the cake. This will keep little crumbs from marring the smooth appearance of your masterpiece.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ cup boiling water
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
2 cups flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
¾ cup sour cream
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
1/3 cup (2/3 stick) unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Make the cake
Preheat the oven to 375ºF with the rack in the center position. Butter and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans.
Melt ¼ of the butter (½ of one stick) and combine with the cocoa powder and boiling water in a small bowl. Stir until smooth and set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the remaining butter with the granulated and brown sugars and vanilla. Add the eggs and beat until smooth. Mix in the sour cream, then the reserved cocoa mixture. Finally, dump in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix just until combined. Divide the batter between the 2 pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake the layers for 10 minutes, rotate the pans and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more or until a toothpick just comes out clean. Don’t overbake – moistness is your goal. Cool the cakes on a rack.
Make the frosting
Put the sour cream, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a mixer. Whip to combine. Stir the melted butter and cocoa together. If the mixture begins to harden, dribble in a little more melted butter and beat until free of lumps. Add to the sour cream mixture and beat until smooth.
Put one cake layer top-side-up on a serving plate and spread frosting generously to within ½-inch of the edge. Place the second layer on top, bottom-side-up. Smooth the remaining frosting over top and sides.
(DT: I made this cake a day ahead frosted and all. I waited until the frosting had hardened slightly and loosely covered the whole thing with foil. I think it improved both the flavor and texture of the cake so don’t hesitate to do the same. You could probably even make it two days ahead, but then I would refrigerate it, covered, and bring it to room temp before serving.)