Chocolate Diva Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting, or, an Ode to the Moms

When I was a toddler, our house was broken into in the middle of the night, while my mom was home alone with my brother and me. (My dad was doing his residency at the time, and was on call at the hospital a few miles away). The only phone we had (it was the 80s) was on the other side of the house, and my mom, who was awoken by the sound of the burglar cutting through the screen of our back porch, had to make the decision of whether to stay with my infant brother and me, whose room was basically next to the porch, or to cross the entire house and call the police from the kitchen, which also overlooked the porch.

She chose, wisely but I'm sure with great difficulty, to sneak across the entire house, crouch behind the kitchen table, and call the police from the corded phone on the wall. At some point after cutting through the screen and getting onto the porch, the burglar got scared and ran off, and, as far as I know, was never caught.

I woke up to the sound of police in our living room, interviewing my mom while sitting at my dad's desk. I remember everything about that night-- how I immediately knew which police office was the boss, and how he had short grey hair and was so nice to me. I remember how when I asked what was wrong and why they were in our house in the middle of the night, before my mom had a chance to answer, he cut her off with 'there was just a turkey who scared your mom, so she did the right thing and called us to take care of it.' And I remember looking over at my mom and thinking she was silly for being so scared of a dumb bird that she called the police.

Years later when I asked her about that night, the only thing she said was 'I was always so grateful to them for not cursing in front of you.'

THAT is the only thing she took away from that night (well, that and the fact that she has never since lived in a house without a phone in the master bedroom). I often go years without thinking about this story, because my brother slept through the whole thing, my dad wasn't even home, and my mom never talks about it. But every time I remember it, I'm literally boggled at how totally fierce my mom is.

Seriously, she's the bravest person I've ever met, in big situations and small ones, and I've met a lot of people.* If everyone had a mom like mine, the world would surely be a better place, and while it would be a disservice to my mom to credit all of her awesome to Eleanor, I think it couldn't have hurt to be raised by a woman who embodied bravery in the way Eleanor did. My mom got all of Eleanor's good qualities and none of her bad ones... except for a complete inability to pronounce the word 'syrup' without making it sound like 'seer-up.' Maybe the same thing will happen to me someday.

So here's a cake for you to make this weekend. Make it for your mom, if she's lives nearby, and thank her for all the times she's been brave for you and fought on your behalf, all the times you don't even know about because she was too busy getting things done to stop and tell you about what a badass she is. If your mom, like mine, is on the other side of the world, then have a piece of cake for breakfast, call her this week and tell her how awesome she is. Chances are, she deserves to hear it. And if your mom is not around, then please accept the virtual hug I'm sending your way, and know that you are loved.

*Incidentally, she's also the single person most capable of embarrassing me, like the time she burst into tears upon meeting my college RA for the first time, or the time she offered to do my best friend's laundry when she came to visit me as a freshman at college, promising that she 'wouldn't even look at the undies!' Oh, mom. I love you.

the verdict:

This cake is astoundingly delicious, and it somehow gets even better as it ages... kind of like most moms. It's called Diva Cake, but it's actually simple to make and the results are fab (the frosting is a little more of a pain to put together, but the results are still worth it. If you don't believe me, then just use your favourite chocolate or cream cheese frosting in place of the below). Plus, it combines two of my favourite things: chocolate and brown sugar. The recipe boasts that it is 'tender, rich, and buttery,' and if that's not the most mom-like description I've ever heard, then I don't know what.

The recipe:

Diva Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting


Preheat oven to 176C/350F.
Line the bottom of two 9-inch round pans with parchment.
Beat egg whites until stiff, then scrape them out of your mixing bowl into a separate container and refrigerate until needed.
Wipe out mixing bowl, then cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla.
Blend in chocolate, then add the beaten egg yolks and mix well.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then add to wet mixture with sour cream.
Beat until smooth, then add coffee.
Fold in egg whites gently.
Pour into prepared pans and bake about 25 minutes until fork inserted in centre comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely before frosting.


Put all ingredients except vanilla into a pot over very low heat (use a double boiler if you have one).
Stir constantly, then turn up heat slightly and beat with a whisk.
After mixture has thickened, pour into a mixing bowl and beat until mixture will hold a peak.
tir in vanilla, then frost cake.

the ingredients:
the cake:

2 egg whites (yolks reserved)
1 c butter, softened
1 ½ c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
5 egg yolks, beaten well (save your extra whites for the frosting)
1 ½ c sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ c sour cream
2 tbsp strong coffee

the frosting:

1 c sugar
½ c brown sugar
3 tbsp dark corn syrup (if you're in the UK, you can fudge this by using 2 ½ tbsp golden syrup and the tiniest little drop of treacle. DO NOT go overboard on the treacle, or your frosting will be molasses-flavoured, which takes away from the delicacy of this cake)
¼ c water
2 egg whites
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cream of tartar (optional, as I forgot this and my frosting was fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract