My baking process had a rather substantial hole in it this week. It’s because of the fact that, on a typical recipe development day, the first step I take before ever touching any ingredients is to call my mom. Whether it’s from my kitchen at home, on a break from work, or pacing the aisles of the grocery store, I almost never miss our routine brainstorming session. And despite how much she teases me about never actually deciding to use her suggestions (rightfully so, sometimes), she answers and excitedly offers up her ideas every single time. I can always count on our conversations to give me the kick of inspiration I need to solidify my plans.
You all know, however, that today is Mother’s Day. (Don’t worry, I called my mother on Mother’s Day). This is the fourth year now that I’ve had to celebrate the holiday away from the special lady herself, which means it’s the fourth time that I haven’t been able to bake something special for the occasion. Seeing as I’ll be heading home in a month, though, I decided to create a recipe this week entirely dedicated to my mom. Though it took me some time to narrow down my exact concept, the decision itself made a few things immediately clear: it should probably include some sort of fresh berries, it must involve chocolate, frosting is a vital component, and it would need to be created all by my adult self, sans my usual brainstorming phone call.
And that is how this Chocolate Berry Cake came to be. I’m not writing this blog to talk about the cake, though. This post is about the wondrous Karen Durand.
For those of you who don’t know my mom, allow me to give you a little idea of who she is. For starters, she’s beautiful–blue eyes, brown ringlets (you can tell where my hair comes from), a dental poster level smile. I thought I’d get that one out of the way first, though, because anyone can look at her and see that. What makes my mom so darn incredible are all of the things you can’t look at her and know. You might not know, for example, that she created a blessing box in front of the school where she’s principal that she fills each morning with canned goods or homemade sandwiches for anyone in need of food. Or that during some of her only hours off she volunteers at a historic site, cleaning and helping to feed animals. You probably didn’t know that, during this quarantine, she’s been making personal trips to visit every single one of her students, reading books to them from across driveways and doing cartwheels and running alongside their bikes and whatever else will make them smile. You probably don’t know that she’s invested five years worth of of time, sweat, and elbow grease (summers included) into transforming that school into something unrecognizable from what it was when she started working there–we’re talking scrubbing bathrooms, painting the entire building, landscaping, purging the basement, you name it. You wouldn’t know from just a glance that she’s made dinner for our family every night since I was a child, regardless of how late she worked each day. Or that she calls me every day to ask how I’m doing, even if I argued with her or hurt her feelings the day before. You definitely wouldn’t know that before she became a principal, she worked at a college where she became so emotionally invested in those students and coworkers that I’m still meeting new people all the time who’s lives were changed by her kindness. Or that she’s been leaving my sister and me surprise little notes since the days when they were tucked away in our elementary lunch boxes.
You wouldn’t know any of this because my mom is the kind of person who has been writing daily gratitude posts on Facebook during this pandemic highlighting everyone other than herself.
Well, mom, today it’s your turn. I know that I can’t possibly enlighten those reading this blog to a point where they could understand just how amazing you are–that takes about 21 years of firsthand experience. But I hope that I can at least give them a sliver of an idea about the person you are and why I have no explanation for why I am blessed enough to be related to you. One day per year isn’t nearly enough to celebrate the person you are to me, to our family, to your kids and teachers, to this world,–and I’ve failed many a time to do enough on even the one day we get– but I want to make sure I take advantage of it this time to let you know that.
I realize that making you look at a picture of a cake you can’t eat is more borderline torture than a gift, but I thought this was the best way to celebrate for now. I hope you’re proud that I put on my big girl pants and did the whole thing by myself without our signature phone chat, but you’ll be happy to know that I hated it …you can expect a recipe call in a few days. You can also rest assured that this cake (and my face) will be in front of you in a matter of weeks. Until then, take today to relax if you can manage, and keep being your crazy amazing, talented, selfless, goofy, thoughtful, self.
I love you, Merm. Happy Mother’s Day 🙂
I thank my God every time I remember you
Chocolate Berry Cake
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1 2/3 cup sugar
- 100g chocolate (I used very sweet dark chocolate)
- 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 2/3 cup nonfat Greek Yogurt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 TBSP cocoa powder
- 1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup creme de cocoa, for soaking (optional, but highly recommended)
CHOCOLATE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
- one recipe Swiss Meringue Buttercream (without the vanilla) https://waltzoftheflours.com/2018/07/11/my-first-grownup-cake/
- about 80g chocolate
- salt to taste
BERRY CHOCOLATE GANACHE
- 1 cup mixed blackberries and raspberries
- 2 TBSP lemon juice
- pinch salt
- 100g chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 9″ cake pans.
- Melt chocolate and milk in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Allow to cool til room temperature or just warm. Mix in Greek Yogurt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream butter on medium speed until fluffy. Add in sugar gradually and continue mixing until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt.
- Add egg and yolks, one at a time, mixing after each addition.
- Begin adding chocolate mixture and flour mixture, alternating between each and mixing after each addition until fully incorporated.
- Turn mixer speed up to medium high and beat for a few seconds to ensure everything is mixed well.
- Split batter evenly between cake pans, and smooth with a spatula.
- Bake in preheated oven until a knife or toothpick comes out clean, about 28-32 minutes.
- Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes in pans, and then turn out onto a cooling rack. Poke holes in cakes and drizzle creme de cocoa across the top of each. Leave to cool completely.
CHOCOLATE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
- Prepare Swiss meringue buttercream, leaving out the vanilla https://waltzoftheflours.com/2018/07/11/my-first-grownup-cake/
- Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Allow to cool.
- Mix in melted chocolate into buttercream (I used the paddle attachment on my mixer) until fully incorporated.
- Add any additional salt as desired.
BERRY CHOCOLATE GANACHE (prepare when you’re ready to use)
- Heat berries, lemon juice, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until you can mash all the berries.
- Place the chocolate in a bowl.
- Press the berry mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl with the chocolate.
- Mix until the chocolate has melted. Use immediately to avoid it setting before you’re ready.
- Spread a layer of berry ganache and then buttercream over the first cake layer. Top with fresh berries, halved.
- Place the second cake layer on top, and cover the entire cake with a layer of buttercream.
- Decorate the top of the cake as desired with remaining buttercream, ganache, and berries. Enjoy!