Our magnificent chocolate cake

The newspaper photograph inspired my husband Jerry.

After we both had admired the photo of the tall buttermilk chocolate cake, covered with a thick coating of rich chocolate frosting, we decided to make it for our daughter’s birthday.

I am happy to report that the cake came out of the oven looking perfect.

The icing was different story.

We boiled the sugar and evaporated milk for exactly seven minutes. We melted the squares of unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler, and we made sure that the butter was at room temperature.

Unfortunately, our frosting never thickened. Even after it had cooled the required five minutes, it remained the consistency of a thin chocolate sauce. We waited 10 minutes. Then, 15 minutes.

That was when I started dumping in powdered sugar.

I’m happy to report that, even though the frosting ended up a little runny and the cake would never have won any beauty contests, we decided that it tasted very good.

It was mostly a happy ending—even though I did spend about an hour ranting and raving about how I am a lousy cook and it would have been much easier to buy a cake from the bakery.

I thought of our cake when I read what Kristin Neff says about our tendency to be critical of ourselves and demand constant perfection.

In her book Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind—Self-Compassion, Dr. Neff writes that, in our incredibly competitive society, “the goalposts for what counts as ‘good enough’ seem always to remain frustratingly out of reach. We must be smart and fit and fashionable and interesting and successful and sexy.”

And excellent cooks, of course.

–Joy

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