how to like your face {and madame's chocolate cake with bittersweet ganache}

"Oh yes! I remember you, I helped you like your face!" 

I laughed, "Yes that's me." 

Last Saturday John and I stopped by a beautiful glasses store on our way home from date night. Lately we're doing this thing called, "why are we waiting to get this thing when you've always wanted it?" aka I have been dying for new frames for years, and never buckled down to just try some on and get some. 

Other than cost, I think it's because I've always felt my face was just too big and too round. My cheeks, it's my cheeks, they're like chipmunk cheeks.

So I kept pulling all of the biggest frames I could find down from the shelves to over compensate my cheeks and laughing and trying them on. 

After a half hour or so of this, a lady with a pixie cut and funky frames came up to us. 

"Okay you guys are just having too much fun, I have to see what this is about."

She had a kind face, a face free from make up with short strawberry hair and a small mouth that curled up when she smiled - like she was just about to get into some mischief. She was tall, and her tallness gave her a presence that required no effort, but made us listen. I immediately liked her. 

She looked at my face, nodded when I told her my worries and pulled frame after frame, pulling styles I thought would be way too small for my round head and not my style. 

She and my husband would analyze, applaud and tell me to try on this next one. 

I ended up liking some of the funkiest frames I never imagined would look good on my face. We ordered one pair in a different finish, and I was calling to see if the frame had come in yet.  

Hence, my follow up phone call from above. 

As we were leaving the store and ordering the prescription frame in the tortoise finish, I decided on a pair of 1960's inspired sunglasses. (I'd been dying for a new pair of sunglasses forever too, the ones I had currently were really made for men, scratched, found and old.) 

Handing the pair of sun glasses to her she said, "Oh, and well look at that, you ended up picking a frame that is very round and not too oversized. Hmmm, look at that."  

I smiled and said, "Well that's the power of selling." 

And she quickly said back, "Hey, that's the power of believing in yourself," she paused, "and liking your face," she said with a wink. 

I've thought about this line over and over.

Often I self demote or comment on how round my face is, (I did it again, sorry!!). I don't know when it started. I don't know where I learned to be self depreciating...but it feels good to be "okay with your face". To take what God gave you and own it. Yes, I have a very round head and big cheeks, and I love them, so I got round frames to match. 

This cake is round too. Round and full of goodness. The same goodness that you feel when you get a new pair of glasses that match your round face. ;) More on the cake below. 

 

Madame's Chocolate Cake 

adapted from Marta Sgubin's "Cooking for Madame" 

This is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' birthday cake. (Thought it was an appropriate nod to my 1960's sunglasses to make her cake, also it's her late husband's - President Kennedys-  birthday, today too).  

A long time ago my mom purchased a cookbook compiled of all of Jackie's favorite recipes made by their beloved cook, Marta Sgubin. Marta loving called Jackie, Madame.

 Intrigued at the thought of what the beautiful, famous Jackie ate, I flipped to find the this cake recipe first.  Years later, I've made this cake the most, and it's a cake I make specifically for my mom. It's light, but the lightness is quickly balanced with the rich ganache. (No one can get enough of that stuff). The ganache (instead of frosting) is my spin on the original recipe - I wanted something simple to counter balance the complicated method of the actual making of the cake batter. The ingredients for the cake are simple, but the method is a bit tricky. That being said, don't shy away from this one because I said that. This is one to keep in your recipe file, whenever you want to give someone some love or remind them of how great they are... remind them that folding egg whites and then melted chocolate into a batter to make just one stinking cake otta prove that. ;) 

 

CAKE

1 cup / 200ml milk (divided)
4 oz / 114g semisweet chocolate (grated)
8 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups / 274g sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups / 270g flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350° F / 180° C. Butter and flour two 9 inch / 23cm round pans or two small bunt pants, or one large bunt pan. (For this recipe, I made two small bunt cakes.) Keep in mind that cooking time will vary for a small bunt pan.

Pour ½ cup / 100ml of the milk into separate bowl, heat in the microwave or over the stove top until it barely simmers. Add the chopped chocolate, mix together until melted and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, then add the sugar and beat thoroughly.  

Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a separate mixing bowl and beating the yolks, one at a time, into the butter/sugar mixture. Add the remaining ½ cup / 100ml of milk into the butter/sugar/egg mixture.  

Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda together. Add to the butter/sugar/egg yolk mixture and beat until combined. 

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Then fold the egg whites, alternatively with the batter. Don't overmix but make sure each addition is completely folded in before adding the next addition of egg white fluff.  When everything is completely folded in stir the vanilla into the chocolate ganache mixture and then fold that into the batter. I know, it's a bit complicated, but you've got this. 

Pour half the batter into each of the 2 prepared pans. (In my case two small bunt pans) Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the tops, look cracked, but slightly wet inside. Or if making in two 9 inch / 23cm pans, the cakes should spring back slightly when touched.

GANACHE FROSTING

7 oz / 200g unsweetened chocolate
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup / 130g confectioners' sugar
⅔ cup / 197ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon espresso powder

Melt the chocolate is a saucepan over super low heat.  Add the butter and let it melt.  Add the milk and let it barely reach a simmer before adding all of the other ingredients, saving the chocolate for last. As soon as the milk reaches a simmer, take the saucepan off the heat and then add the ingredients, whisking as you add. Next sift in the confectioners' sugar into the saucepan and you have the best ganache ever you've ever tasted. 

Pour ganache over cooled cake, taking care to let the chocolate pool and drip all over the cake as you deem fit. Also, save some ganache for serving with each slice of cake. You will be praised.