Sunday, August 25, 2013

Chocolate Strawberry Nutella Cake

I turned 30 on Thursday.  When people found out it was my birthday and asked “Is it a big one?” I did the polite thing and said “Yes! 30!” even though, in my opinion, every birthday of mine is a big one.   After all, it is a celebration of the moment when I graced the earth but I did not want to sound more self-conceited than I already looked with my tiara and birthday sash on.   

In all seriousness though, 30 is a bit of a mind-bender for me.  Here I am, no longer living an age that begins with a 2 which, when I entered that period (now a full decade ago), I was in college and felt like I didn’t have much to worry about until post-education.  Now, having lived those 20-something years, I’m not in the middle of anything really except . . . living.  There isn’t any graduation or other indicator to tell me that this is the moment I should have my act together.  Apparently, I already should have that.

If you had asked my 20-year-old self what I expected my 30-year-old self to have accomplished by the time she enters a new decade, I shudder at the things she would have said because, in all likelihood, I have not done/bought/born any of them.   

But this is no time for regrets.  Because I can guarantee that my 20-year-old homebody-self would never have seen her 30-year-old self successfully living in a city that she has found intimidating-ly awesome since she first visited at the age of 11.  Or that she would have found a relatively normal existence in such an abnormal living arrangement that all folks living in New York seem to understand.  Or that she would have managed to keep a diabetic cat alive for 8 years (Just barely though, we did have to go to the vet on my birthday – he is his mother’s child, always trying to steal the spotlight). 

So, I must say, my 20-year-old self might be surprised but I’m confident she would be proud.   And probably a little in awe of her 30-something-self.  And I can’t blame her, I’m often in awe of these things too.  We all should feel this way because, in all honesty, what do our 20-something-selves really know?  Not nearly as much as I do now and I can’t wait to see what my 40-year-old self knows (just kidding, I can wait for that). 

Even so, I imagine all these women representing these stages in my life will have the same fundamental Mary Jordan-ness.  We’ll have the same self-deprecating humor, an extreme sense of protectiveness to those whom she loves, a dedication to all things Duke, the tendency to over-analyze things (see previous six paragraphs) and an utter adoration for anything with sugar in it. 

Chocolate Strawberry Nutella Cake
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Note: The original recipe linked above is for a two-layer cake, but I halved everything and just made a one-layer cake.  I am anticipating my metabolism slowing down now that I'm 30.

For the Cake
1 stick butter
2 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
½ cup boiling water
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup buttermilk
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup Nutella (or more, depending upon if you want a good smearing or a thin layer on top)

For the Strawberries
1 pint of strawberries
1/8 cup of sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla

For the Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar

Slice and hull your strawberries.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line one round baking pan with some parchment paper and spray with baking spray.  Melt the butter in the microwave.  Add the cocoa, stirring until smooth.  Add the boiling water and let sit while you prepare the other ingredients.  Mix buttermilk, baking soda, eggs and vanilla together in a bowl.  Set this aside as well.  In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, flour and salt.  Add the hot chocolate mixture, stirring very gently until it is halfway combined.  Pour in the buttermilk mixture and stir very gently until the batter is completely combined.  Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan and bake for 17-20 minutes until just set.  Let the cake cool completely in the pan before doing anything with it  (I was impatient and that’s why my cake has a ‘rustic-edged’ look to it). 

Prepare the strawberries by stirring them with the sugar and the vanilla, letting them sit for 15 minutes.

Using a mixer, whip the cream with the powdered sugar. 

Assemble the cake by turning out your cake from its pan once it has cooled.  Spread the Nutella on top of the cake’s surface.  Spread the whipped cream on top of the Nutella and garnish with your strawberries.  (The juice left over from the macerated strawberries is delicious.  I recommend just drinking it straight from the bowl with a straw.)  Keep chilled until serving.  My cake lasted a few hours before we served it and it held up quite nicely.