Say it with cake

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"If you want it badly enough, and are willing to make some changes in your life to cause it to happen, you too can take over the world... or do anything else you really want to do. Yes, you really can have it all. The only things you’ll need to give up are assumptions, expectations, and the comfort zone that holds you back from greatness." Chris Guillebeau
Last week I brought a chocolate cake into work. Not so unusual in my world since I'm always bringing a chocolate something-or-other to the office, but this one was special—two round 10-inch layers of moist, dark chocolate cake filled with chocolate raspberry cream all encased within a thick layer of wavy cocoa frosting. I set it on top of the work station near my desk and sent a message out to everyone in our department letting them know there was cake available. In the email, I noted that the name of the cake was my "special announcement cake."

That got them alright.

Within a few seconds, nearly everyone had come by to find out the news. I pointed to the cake, on which earlier that morning I'd used my pastry bag to pipe out a buttercream message.

“I’m Leaving HMI,” the message said. HMI being short for Hearst Magazines International, where for the past four years I’ve worked as a magazine editor.

My coworkers were surprised—some laughed, some were sad that I was leaving, some took photos with their iPhones. All were excited about the announcement and (naturally) the “paper” on which it was printed. As we sliced the cake, I told them about my plans. I summed them up easily. I simply said, "I'm going to focus on my food thing."

No explanation needed. Everyone seemed to know. And of course! For they've stood by for the past four years, eating my cakes, reading my blog posts, granting me days off so that I could moderate panels at food blogger conferences, attend special tapings of the Martha Stewart show, and get my photo taken for magazine articles about me. They've sent me links to Food Network casting calls, and asked me for help with meatloaf recipes. And when I told my bosses (a couple days earlier with a proper meeting and computer-typed letter, not just cake frosting), they guessed before I said it and were supportive, understanding, and not the least bit surprised.

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So now you're the only ones left to tell. (And, I have to say, the ones I've been most excited to share this with.) Starting around 5:01PM on April 1st, I will officially make the move to self-employment, exchanging the security of a steady paycheck and fancy job title for the opportunity to pursue the dream that’s been slowly growing and forming and crystallizing in my head for the past several years.  I'm leaving the comfort zone (which, less face it, has grown increasingly less comfortable the more I realized what I really wanted out of life) and am going for greatness.

When I started this blog a little over three years ago, I had an inkling. I knew my passion and I knew that there was something else, something more, that I was meant to be doing.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but starting this blog was the thing that ultimately helped me figure this out. Through this blog I’ve found my voice, I’ve developed my skills, and I’ve met people and received opportunities that have now made this next step possible.


My plan for now is this: As of April 4th I’ll be blogging 5 days a week, Monday through Friday, here on Always Order Dessert. The focus will continue to be original recipes, but with added content—entertaining ideas, inspiration boards, bagged lunch ideas, cookbook reviews, and video tutorials (and lots of other things I dream up along the way).  Instead of a part-time hobby, I'll be treating this blog like a full-time job; I'll be spending my days developing and testing recipes, improving my photography skills, writing, editing, and constantly bringing you new and inspiring content. A few months ago, I was talking about my blog with someone who had asked me about my traffic. I responded with my not-so-shabby numbers and added, “imagine what they would be if I could do this full-time!” With this move, I plan to find out.

Along with the blogging, I’ll be freelancing for both print and web with a focus on food and lifestyle article. I have a few things already in the works, but am of course open to more. (If you have any opportunities or ideas, please send them my way!)

I'm also going to finally (!!!) finish that book proposal that I have started and thrown out and restarted at least half a dozen times over the past two years. I sometimes kick myself that this has taken so long, but I’m also a very big believer in timing and I know that the only reason why I haven’t felt completely satisfied with what I’ve written yet is because the time has not been right. Each time I go back and revise or start totally from scratch, I get a little closer to finding my book--the one I'm meant to share with you.

And (as if that weren't enough), I'm also working on a couple special projects that I'll be sharing with you all in the coming weeks.

It's a lot, and I know I'm going to be working longer and harder than I ever have before in my life, but it's the work that I want to do, and I know that it will ultimately pay off.

I have so much more to say about this change. So much to say about the people who inspired me to just go for it, the ideas that I've been working on, and the people who have made this possible, but I think that all deserves its own post.

Stay tuned, and for now, have some cake.


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Dark Chocolate Layer Cake w/ Chocolate Raspberry Filling
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, March 1999 (via Epicurious)

Ingredients
For the Cake:
4 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate
1.5 cups hot brewed espresso
2 cups granulated white sugar
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup grapeseed oil
1.5 cups light buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the chocolate raspberry filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners sugar
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup seedless raspberry preserves

For the frosting:
3 cups confectioner's sugar
2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
6 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Directions:

First make the cake:
Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease and flour two 10" round pans
  
Finely chop the chocolate and place in bowl. Pour hot espresso over the chocolate and stir until completely melted and smooth. Set aside.
  
Into a large bowl sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thick and pale yellow. Add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide the batter between pans and bake about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  
Invert cakes onto racks and cool completely.

Make the filling:
In the base of a mixer, cream together the butter, milk, salt, vanilla extract and confectioners sugar until fluffy. Beat in the melted semisweet chocolate. Fold in the raspberry preserves until evenly distributed. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill until ready to use (rewhip if necessary before filling cake).

Make the frosting:
In the base of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together about half of the confectioner's sugar, the 2/3 cups cocoa powder, 1/2 cup butter, half of the milk, the salt, and the vanilla extract until fully combined and creamy (about 5 minutes). Slowly beat in the remaining confectioner's sugar and milk, and continue to beat for about 5 more minutes until smooth and fluffy. Use immediately to frost cooled cake, or cover tightly with plastic wrap

To Assemble:
Place one layer of the cake on a serving dish. Use a pastry bag or zip-loc with the end cut off to pipe a one-inch ring of frosting around the cake. Fill the center with the filling (you may have extra). Top with the second layer of cake. Frost the cake entirely. Keep cake chilled before serving and store leftovers in the refrigerator.

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