TWD: Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake
My mom always said that the difference between guilt and shame is that guilt is an important tool in effecting positive change while shame halts positive growth. She has a PhD in psychology so we got to hear a ton of smart little tidbits like this as we grew up. I'll be honest with you, I didn't really understand or believe the guilt/shame thing until pretty recently. You see I'm one of those people who feels guilty about pretty much everything- I have to conciously force myself to not feel guilty all the time. It actually used to be much worse when I was little. I think I owe most of my early guilt to Catholic grammar school (thank God, yes really God, that my parents pulled me out in fourth grade and switched me into a far more relaxed and forgiving learning environment). When I was little I used to sit around wondering if I may have had an unkind thought about someone without really realizing it and if I'd better do some penance just in case. Yeah, that kind of guilt. Then when I got older I started feeling guilt about things like not being the smartest, the thinest, the most outgoing, etc. It wasn't a "I want to be the best" thing, seriously, it wasn't and it still isn't, it is seriously a guilt bordering on shame thing.
Anyway, I grew up and out of a lot of these feelings. So I never really saw how guilt could be a good thing- all it had ever done for me was hinder my ability to accept myself. But the other day a parenting moment changed all of that. I'll set the scene for you: I'm doing dishes in the kitchen with Eloise sitting patiently in her bouncy seat, Derrick is grading papers in the living room, and Helen is running back and forth evidentily trying to get either one of our attentions. Somehow Helen decided that the only way I would stop cleaning the kitchen and play with her was if she hit Eloise in the face with The Cat in the Hat. Poor Eloise was inconsolable- screaming at the top of her lungs and unable to catch her breath. In reality, she wasn't hurt badly, but she's only ever been coddled and Helen's violence took her by surprise. At that moment, all I wanted was for Helen to feel guilt- I wanted her to see what she had done and to never, ever do it again. She actually did feel bad- she looked frightened and sorry and asked me to give Eloise some medicine. Guilt. Who'd of thought?
Ok so now cake- an earlier version of myself would have felt horribly guilty, perhaps even ashamed about the way that I mauled the extremely simple chocolate glaze that covers this lucious cake. But guess what? I don't feel guilty at all because the rest of the cake came out perfectly! The ganache sandwiched between the two layers and coating the outside of the cake is made from hot caramel poured over semi sweet chocolate...ummm how have I never thought of doing this before? Divine. The cake has sweetened chestnut puree in the batter. This was my first experience with chestnuts (besides hearing Johnny Mathis sing about them roasting on an open fire). Let me just say this- I thought the chestnut flavor was perfect in this cake, but I tried incorperating the leftover, unsweetened puree into a pumpkin soup and it was a perfect disaster. I actually did feel guilty about the soup because boy did I waste a bunch of pumpkin and cream in creating that pot o garbage. Anyway, I skipped the syrup and the chopped chestnuts (too expensive) that Dorie called for and I don't think the cake suffered from it at all. This is a wonderful cake with thoughtful, complex flavors that would be perfect for any holiday party. The cake calls for over a pound of butter and two cups of cream so if you are proned to feeling guilty about rich desserts, you might want to skip this one...
This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe was chosen by Katya of Second Dinner recipe can be found on her blog and in Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.