marble chocolate crumble cake

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When we were about to board a plane for Dublin, my father asks me, How is your life? It was a deceptively easy question, the sort of query that requires only a perfunctory response. I could have said, Great! Busy! Rich! Frightening! Unsettling! Confusing! I could have delivered the simplest of monosyllabic responses, but instead I said, I don’t know. My pop likes his meat medium rare so instead of explaining myself, I fixate on a pool of blood eddying at the corner of his plate. I wanted to say that while leaving a place that resembled comfort, or at least delivered a terrific illusion of it, was the bravest decision I’ve ever made, I’ve no idea what’s next. I don’t know what it is that I want; I just know what I don’t want, and winnowing up the options seems like an impossible proposition. So I chicken out and I don’t say any of these things, I just say, I don’t know. Dissatisfied, my pop says, That’s a load of bullshit, right there. You always know. You’ve always known. You,, he says, pointing his fork at me, always know.

But nothing is ever one thing is it? We are never one thing, are we? Just as we think we know what we are, we elude ourselves. We form our own chrysalis and a new self takes shape, and all the things that we’ve loved before have lost its luster. Are we then only what we what pursue?

Last week two people I admire offer me extraordinary full-time opportunities. I get a green pass to hop the line and one lunch can clinch the proverbial deal, and instead of leaping at the thought of not having to hustle and finally, finally, I could have normal health benefits, I pause. I retreat. I tell my pop about my hesitation and he says, Aren’t you going to get a job at some point? To which I quietly reply, I don’t know.

Fuck if I know.

This is what I do know: I love baking cakes during the day. I love waking early and working on a novel already a year in the making. I love staying up late and working on marketing plans and taking meetings with people I respect and admire in hopes that I can help them find their way. I love the rhythm of all this but it feels like stasis. It feels as if I’m in a purgatory of sorts, and nothing yet has emerged.

A few weeks ago someone told me that I intimidated them because it seems as if I’ve got it all figured out, to which I respond, Define it. Age doesn’t neatly tidy up the world, it only gives you the time to make sense of it. Age gives you the gift of perspective and need and want. But there is no pattern that knits it all together.

Today I read a blog post where the author writes: So, what’s stopping you from doing your best work and not that crappy stuff that’s filling up so many hours of your day? And I think that I’m not doing “crap” and I’m not doing my “best,” I’m rather somewhere in the betweens.

Always in the betweens, it seems.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Rachel Allen’s magnificent Cake
For the crumble topping
125g {1 cup} plain flour, sifted
75g {1/2 cup} caster {or cane} sugar
75g {3oz or 3/4 stick} unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
75g {3 oz} dark or milk chocolate, in chips or roughly chopped into pieces

For the cake
225g {2 sticks} butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
225g {1 cup} caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g (1 1/2 cups} plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
50 ml {1/3 cup} milk
25g {1/4 cup} cocoa powder
icing sugar, for dusting

DIRECTIONS
For the crumble topping: Using your fingertips, rub together the flour, sugar and butter in a large bowl until it resembles thick breadcrumbs, then mix in the chocolate pieces. Set aside in the fridge while you make the sponge.

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 180C/160 fan/gas 4. Butter the sides and the base of a 23cm cake tin – if you’re using a springform tin, make sure the base is upside down so there’s no lip and the cake can slide off easily when cooked.

Cream the butter until soft in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Whisk the eggs and vanilla extract together in a small bowl for a few seconds or just until combined, then gradually add the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar mixture, beating all the time.

Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in carefully, then add the milk and mix gently to combine. Tip half the cake mixture into another large bowl, then sift the cocoa powder into this bowl and fold it in.

Place the two different cake mixtures in the prepared tin by alternating heaped tablespoons of the vanilla batter with the chocolate one. Using a skewer or the handle of a spoon, gently draw swirls through the cake mixture to create the marble effect – try not to overmix or you won’t get that wonderful marbled effect.

Scatter the crumble mixture evenly over the top of the cake mixture and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the crumble is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then loosen around the edges using a small, sharp knife and remove the sides of the tin. Place the cake (sitting on the base of the tin) on a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Use a palette knife or metal fish slice to loosen the bottom of the cake from the base of the tin, then slide the palette knife or fish slice under the cake and carefully ease it onto a plate. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

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3 thoughts on “marble chocolate crumble cake

  1. I just love your writing, so so much! And then, to top it off with something always delicious- an even better delight.
    The more I read (and I read a lot, always looking for answers), the more I understand that age doesn’t tie up all those loose ends for us- something that I thought was explicitly part of the deal when it came to growing older. BS, I say. I totally feel shafted! haha
    Realizing that the in between is a very, very long stage (the rest of my forever) is a daunting thing. Some days I’m ready and willing to take that on. Others have me wanting to crawl back into bed. The next time I have one of those bed days, maybe I’ll just make this instead. :)

    Like

    1. Emily,

      Thank you! Your words mean the world to me. Interesting that we talk of getting lost, as I found this post this morning, and much of what Jess offers really registered with me: http://jesslively.com/feelinglost/

      I tend to think too far ahead as opposed to right now, this day, and I’ve never sat down and had this practical conversation with myself. Perhaps it’ll shed some light for both of us :)

      Warmly, Felicia

      Like

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