a few days of quiet and a chocolate bundt cake

The house has been strangely silent since Sunday afternoon. There has been no kids’ television on, which means no canned laughter or lilting children’s songs adding to our home’s background noise. There has not been any whining or crying or yelling…and definitely no laughing or giggling. No doors slamming or feet stomping up the stairs or the musical electronic sounds of the iPad games that Oliver likes to play so much.

My mother has kept our children for the last three nights, providing us with very cheap childcare until I can be off work for the holidays. With school out for Christmas, we usually struggle a bit with where the kids should go during the day. This time — like many other times — Nana came to the rescue. And the kids were thrilled to go to Nana’s for a three night “sleepover” in the country. Sam and I have had a delightful break from parenting, but we miss the kids and all the chaos that they bring to our lives.

It’s just been too quiet with them gone.

Usually, I do my best writing at my home office desk, while managing to (mostly) tune out the cacophony of noises that arise from having a 5 year old, an 8 year old, two cats, and a husband in the house. I’ve struggled with writing for the last three nights, and I’m just realizing that perhaps it is because I’m missing that noise and those distractions that, ironically, manage to keep my brain focused.

That doesn’t make sense at all, does it?

I can’t explain the writing process that I use, but when the words come, they come, and when they don’t come, well…you end up with silence here on the blog for several days. And I end up with a building sense of frustration.

The kids come home Wednesday night, so life as we know it will be restored. I’ll be off work and home for a nice holiday break starting on Thursday. I’m gearing up for Christmas meal planning, wrapping the last of the presents, and baking up some holiday cookies for the first time this season.

I’m pretty sure this is cause for celebration – with cake!

If you, like me, are a fan of chocolate, you will want to bake this cake. The kids have already requested that I bake it again for Christmas, and Madeline has taken to calling it the “Brownie Cake” because of its brownie-like texture and density. I’ve caught my husband slicing off little bits when he thinks I’m not looking – and even when he knows I am. It’s very rich and heavy, and I recommend serving it with lightly-sweetened whipped cream (homemade, of course) or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Even better, warm a slice of cake up a little bit in the microwave and then plop a scoop of vanilla ice cream next to it.  Go ahead and put a cherry on top while you’re at it. I didn’t, but hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

Yield: 12-14 servings

Chocolate Bundt Cake

Feel free to sprinkle confectioners sugar over the top of the cake when you’re ready to serve it, or just serve it with a dollop of lightly-sweetened whipped cream.

Use a 10-inch bundt pan (3-quart) for this cake.


1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process), plus extra for dusting pan
1-1/2 cups brewed coffee
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups granulated white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place oven rack in the middle position. Spray the bundt pan well with baking spray with flour, or butter the pan well and dust with cocoa powder (about 3 tablespoons), knocking out the excess.

Over medium heat, heat coffee, Grand Marnier, butter, and cocoa powder together in a 3-quart saucepan, whisking until the butter is melted. Remove from heat, add sugar, and stir well until dissolved, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool for at least 5 minutes.

While the chocolate mixture cools, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In a second, smaller bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla, then whisk into the cooled chocolate mixture until well incorporated. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Batter will be thin and bubbly at this point. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool cake completely in pan on a rack, approximately 2 hours, then loosen cake from pan using the tip of a sharp knife. Carefully invert pan over a cake plate and turn cake out onto plate.

Adapted from a recipe for Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake from Gourmet, September 2005.

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14 Responses to “home finally, and a recipe for chocolate banana bread”

  1. 1
    Macaroni Mama — December 11, 2012 @ 11:25 pm

    Oh, my word! What a powerful post! I love you, daughter!

  2. 2
    Kathryn — December 12, 2012 @ 5:34 am

    This was such a lovely and moving post – I hope you’re home for a while now and can enjoy some precious family time.

  3. 3
    Rachel Cooks — December 12, 2012 @ 8:08 am

    What a sweet post 🙂 Hopefully you have some amazing plans for the holidays.

    I was going to make banana bread today…thinking I better throw in some chocolate now!

  4. 4
    Di — December 12, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

    Loved reading your post for very selfish reasons. There are days when I feel like I’m living on a roller coaster from H*** with little time left over for being home and spending time with my husband. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one! I know a Julia who is an oncologist in your neck of the woods. She’s married to my god-daughter’s brother-in-law, Peter Gallogly. Could it be the same Julia who is your friend and colleague?

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — December 12th, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

      It is the same Julia! 🙂

  5. 5
    Di — December 12, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

    What a small world! My god-daughter and Julia’s sister-in-law, Sara, suggested I might enjoy your blog and I have been a follower for about three years now. Julia would know me as Colin’s and Mimi’s “Auntie Di”. Enjoy being home for the holidays and please tell Julia I said hello.

  6. 6
    Jennifer Hess — December 12, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

    I can’t imagine being away from your kids for that long, but then again, I’m a freak who hasn’t even left my 14 month old with a sitter at all yet! One thing I want to do in 2013 is get a bunch of good quickbread recipes in my wheelhouse, and this one is on the list.

  7. 7
    Lana @ Never Enough Thyme — December 12, 2012 @ 7:56 pm

    There’s no place like home. Truly.

    Here’s hoping you have loads and loads of down time with your family over the coming weeks.

  8. 8
    Paula — December 13, 2012 @ 10:53 pm

    Banana bread is a warm cozy comfort food. My mom made it all the time and whenever I bake it I can’t help but think of her. She never made a chocolate one though and yours looks beautiful. As beautiful as this post.

  9. 9
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — December 19, 2012 @ 8:30 am

    Banana bread reminds me of home too… the smell always reminds me of the safety of being around my family. How lovely that feeling is.

    Sending you warm thoughts this time of year! Mwah!

  10. 10
    Katie — January 1, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

    Awesome recipe 🙂
    I love a good Banana Bread… Here’s another one you might like to try
    Banana Bread Recipe
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. 11
    cheryl — April 30, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    what can i use as substitute for sour cream? can i use yoghurt?

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — April 30th, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

      Yes, you could certainly use yogurt. You could use greek yogurt or the regular kind.

  12. 12
    Sofia — June 10, 2013 @ 11:10 am

    Thank you for this great recipe! I made it yesterday and it was delicious! 🙂

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