I open the window on my blog dashboard to type in my words and sometimes the words fail me. They seem tiny, insignificant in a world of revered proficiency and untold chaos. I’ve opened and closed this window several times in the past few days, and weeks, and months. Sometimes, the exhaustion takes over, sometimes there is no inspiration, but many a time it is a feeling that these words don’t matter. I’m not changing the world, or shaping a life. How does it matter? And I’m sure that there are others out there who have the same feeling. I’m not talking of just bloggers, I’m talking about people – the fear of being insignificant, it grips us all at one time or the other.
This post was not supposed to turn out this way, but sometimes when you’re alone during the holidays, the cheer can seem a bit forced. It’s possible to feel lonely in a crowd. If you’re out there, that one solitary person hanging back from the party, the one with the bruised heart and broken smile, assailed with doubts or fear, looking for someone to be genuinely kind without a reason, I don’t know if my words will find their way to you, they probably won’t, but know that you matter. You matter because you are who you are, and you do what you do, and nobody else out there is quite like you.
No man is an island, and it is our connections to the ones we love that bring us hope and comfort. But also have the strength to have faith in yourself. Find the hope and comfort in who you are, and what you do. And this holiday season, take the time out from all the holiday entertaining and shopping and gifting, not to change the world, but to really look. And listen. Are you missing the things around you? A kind gesture, a child’s glee, a lonely smile?
Be kind. To others, but also to yourself. Find the pleasure in the simple things.
Like coming home to a mysterious package that turns out to be a surprise gift of books from my cousin. Or finding out that I’m an aunt, and there is now one more person in the world who is irrevocably linked to me and who I have never seen but already love. Or opening the kitchen door to the lingering aroma of chocolate and taking pride in knowing that this is something I created with my own hands. Today, I did not change the world. But I made chocolate cake. And made the people who I shared it with smile. And sometimes that is enough.
Raspberry-Laced Chocolate Cake
This cake is really moist and delicate and enough to satisfy a chocolate craving without any glaze or icing. But the true genius of this recipe from Alice Medrich is that the raspberry is laced through the cake, the puree mixed in the batter itself. The balance between the two flavors is perfect, without one overpowering the other. Serve with creme fraiche and fresh raspberries for a dainty plate or enjoy a slice plain with your coffee and favorite book for the ultimate simple pleasure in holiday comfort.
Recipe adapted from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup seedless raspberry puree, at room temperature (from frozen unsweetened or fresh raspberries)
3 tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter a 6-cup tube pan (alternatively, you can use 2 loaf pans, or a muffin tin with paper liners).
2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda and set aside.
3. Combine the raspberry puree, rum and vanilla extract in a small bowl and set aside.
4. Break the eggs in another small bowl and mix together just until the whites and yolks are combined.
5. In a medium bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until it is creamy. Add the sugar in a steady stream, and continue beating, at medium speed with a heavy-duty mixer or at high speed with a hand-held mixer until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes.
6. Add the eggs gradually in a slow stream and continue beating for 2-3 minutes.
7. Stop the mixer and add one-third of the flour mixture beating at low speed only until the flour is incorporated. Follow with half the raspberry mixture again beating only until it is incorporated. Continue with half the remaining flour, followed by all the remaining raspberry puree and ending with the remaining flour. Each time, beat at low speed only until incorporated.
8. Scrape the batter into your preferred pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry, 40-45 minutes for the tube pan, 30-35 minutes for the loaf pans, 20 minutes for the muffin tin.
9. Let the cake cool on a rack for 10 minutes.
10. The cake can be wrapped well and kept at room-temperature for 4-5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Serve with creme fraiche and fresh raspberries if desired. You can also sift icing sugar with a fine-mesh sieve over the cake before serving.