I turned 50 two weeks ago. Yes, I said 50. Yes, it is weird to say. I did not want to make a big deal of it. I wanted to slide into the next half-century quietly, and that is what we did, partly because I was under the weather. Nevertheless, Lenny surprised me with happy hour at one of our favorite little bars in the city, with a few people who mean the world to me. Then we had a low key weekend the two of it. It was perfect. We brunched, shopped a little, took a long drive to the coast, and had an amazing dinner at one of my favorite spots in the city. It was a great way to say HELLO 50! Even though a friend made me an amazing birthday cake, I was still itching to bake a cake and I had the perfect cake in mind, The Best Chocolate Cake which is my absolute favorite basic chocolate cake recipe. Now I am sharing not only a slice with you but the whole darn cake too!
This chocolate cake recipe rocks my world and it will rock yours. It stayed moist and flavorful for a week, yes, it took two of us a week to eat an entire chocolate cake. When I began researching the best chocolate cake recipe, almost every recipe I came across was a version of a Hersey’s chocolate cake, which I think my grandmother may have made once or twice. I played with that recipe, and added my own Chez Us spin! The frosting is inspired by one of my favorite home cooks, Ina!
I have read a few lists where people wrote about what they wanted to do when they turned 50, and I was thrilled that I had done 18 of the fifty. Between sifting flour, and mixing eggs and melting chocolate I thought about what I had accomplished the first fifty years of my life and what I wanted to accomplish the next fifty. Yes, I have officially decided I want to live to 100. As my friend Max said when he was three, you don’t get a ticket to heaven until you are 100.
I am not going to share everything I have done this past fifty years; but, I will say I made a lot of mistakes, I learned from them, and I have traveled the world somewhat but not enough, and I have a successful business. I live a simple life, being able to do the things I want to do and I have compassion for those around me. More importantly, I am wildly in love with the man of my dreams, I have a supporting family, and amazing friends. I feel truly blessed and I do not take that for granted.
I hope you enjoy this list and won’t you eat cake with me too!
What I would like to accomplish, see and do in the next fifty years:
- Take dance lessons
- Go on safari
- Live in Paris
- Volunteer in a soup kitchen
- Visit Niagara Falls
- Road trip across the United States, stopping at as many National Parks as possible
- Give away a piece of my favorite jewelry to my niece Mia, god-daughter Maggie, and Ella
- See all of the Wonders of the World
- Go on a silent retreat
- Visit all continents – have been to 3 a few times so far
- Visit Graceland
- Stay up all night and watch the sun come up
plurge on an expensive pair of shoes as in over $150did in 2019 and had a pair of custom danish shoes made with Bryr Clogs.
- Go skinny dipping
- Hike the El Camino Santiago
- Research my family history
- Visit the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
- Buy an old Porsche- maybe a 67
- Get a dog
- Own a second home in the mountain or the desert
- Stay in one of those overwater resorts
- Swim in all the oceans – have only hit two
- Camel trek in the Sahara desert
- Retire by 55
- See an Orca in the wild
- See the Fall foliage in Vermont
- Take a trip on the train down the PNW Coast or at least LA
- Pay for someone’s coffee anonymously (I have paid for folks bridge tolls when you could pay cash)
Take a solo camping trip somewhere just once– did April 2018
- Mentor someone in my life
- Volunteer for an overseas humanity project
- Create that one signature dish – a sweet and savory one
- Finally, learn French beyond only understanding
- Put our online photos into albums
- Be able to do at least 10 pull-ups – harder than you think
- Go on an Alaska cruise
- Take a hot air balloon ride
- Visit the Pyramids
- Learn to play the guitar
- Take a trip on the Orient Express
- Complete Project 24 Hours
- Enjoy a meal at least one of the Top 50 Restaurants in the world – did June 2017 Lima Peru Central Restaurant
- Travel to all of the 50 states
- Learn to appreciate each day – have learned this thanks to the Pandemic 2020 – I never take a day for granted now
- Bike across the United States
- Visit Marfa Texas – did this 2019 with Lenny and two most wonderful friends Tami and Mike
- Watch more sunsets
- Sail the Greek Islands
- Learn to whip egg whites by hand – did this in 2019 using a beautiful copper bowl Lenny gave me
- See the Northern Lights
- Witness world peace and kindness
- Visit the Faroe Islands – did this in 2019 and want to go back already
Okay there are 52 but I could not decide – this list is even short compared to what it could be.
The Best Chocolate Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups of sugar
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup safflower oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup hot coffee, boiling
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon instant espresso
2 teaspoons hot water
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar – sifted
Preheat the oven to 350.
Line two 9″ baking pans with parchment paper and lightly spray with baking spray or lightly grease and dust with flour.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, bittersweet chocolate, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Pour into the mixing bowl with the flour mixture and mix well on medium for two minutes.
Stir in the boiling coffee for 1 minute. The mixture will be thin.
Pour the batter into the baking pans.
Bake 30 – 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, remove from the pans to wire racks. Cool completely.
While the cake is cooking, make the creamy frosting.
Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over very low heat, stirring the entire time until melted. This will not take very long, but the heat needs to be very low. Set aside to cool
Dissolve the instant espresso with the water. Set aside.
In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle beat the butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy.
Add the egg yolk and beat for 1 minute.
Add the vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat at low speed for 30 seconds.
Ad the powdered sugar and mix at medium-low for 1 minute.
Slowly add the cooled espresso and melted chocolate into the butter mixture. Beat until combined; about 1 minute.
Set a cake layer on a plate with the flat side facing up. Evenly spread 1/3 of the frosting over the cake. Top with the second layer, rounded side up. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.
Refrigerate for an hour before slicing.