Sunday, January 20, 2013

Making Decisions and Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake

For those of you that haven't heard from me in a while, I've been having a really tough time lately.  I've been faced with the decision of whether or not I want to continue graduate school.  There are a lot of factors coming into play in this situation, but I'll try to give you a boiled-down version.

Why Hannah Wants to Drop Out of Graduate School:
1.  I feel like I am drowning all the time.  The workload is close to impossible.
2.  I am working 3 part-time jobs to support myself, and really don't ever exercise or sleep.
3.  I don't like my classes.
4.  I hate Boston and city-living and Masshole drivers.
5.  I spend all of my free time or commuting time crying or having anxiety attacks.
6.  I am just not sure I like therapy anymore.
7.  All I want in life is a bakery and a baby, and this is not getting me there.

As you see, the pull to leave is fairly strong.  But I don't want to be the girl that drops out of grad school and then regrets it the rest of her life.  I'm also not sure that I wouldn't love psychology in different contexts, like working with kids.  The question is how much time, money, and energy do I spend before I make up my mind?

I still don't have an answer, but I know that somehow, I'm going to have to survive this semester.  Baking is always my go-to stress-reliever, but as you've seen, grad school takes away a lot of the time and money that baking requires.  Luckily, my friends here have a lot of birthdays coming up, so I have an excuse to do the one thing that makes me happy.

First up is my good friend, Tegan, from MSPP.  She was a valuable support in getting me through last semester, and in convincing me to stay this one.  Her birthday was last week, and when thinking of what to make her, it was incredibly cold in Boston and I was PMSing, therefore craving hot chocolate.  Ding ding ding!  The idea for a hot chocolate cake was born.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake
Recipe adapted from my brain, but cake adapted from Heather's cake
Yield: 1 double-layer 8" cake

 Cake Ingredients
2 cups All-Purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 1/2 tsps baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs chili powder
1 cup milk
1 cup strong brewed coffee
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients until there are no lumps.
In a separate bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients
Slowly stir wet ingredients into the dry until smooth
Line the bottom of two 8" cake pans with parchment paper, and grease the sides and dust with cocoa powder.
Evenly divide the batter between both pans.  Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes
Cool in pans on wire racks for 20 minutes, then gently invert cakes out of pans and finish cooling completely on wire racks

Filling ingredients:
4 1oz squares semisweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 Tbs unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter together over a double boiler until smooth.  Remove from heat.

Shave tops of cakes with a large, serrated knife so that they are even
Gently spread melted chocolate over center of cake, leaving 1" of space from the edges.  Then place second cake on top and press gently, using the chocolate as glue
Chocolate Cinnamon Chili Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups confectioners' sugar
2 Tbs cocoa powder
2 tsps chili powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Beat together shortening and butter on high until smooth.  Beat in cocoa, cinnamon, chili powder, and vanilla until incorporated.  Gradually stir in confectioners' sugar to avoid mess, and then beat on high until smooth.

Carefully spread buttercream across cake and make it as smooth as possible.
Decorate as desired.  I made a second, half-batch of regular vanilla buttercream to decorate using a pastry bag and Wilton decorator's tips

Clearly concentrating too hard on a cake.  Photo credit: my awesome boyfriend
I did stars around the base
And scalloped the top to look like a ring of whipped cream
Then I attached mini marshmallows, using leftover buttercream as glue
Final product

Friends and family, thank you for all the support you've given me the past few weeks.  Keep the love and birthdays coming, and I might just make it through this!

Love and cookies,

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