mother’s day and a fair warning

chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting | the merry gourmet

It was weekly card night, and Sam had just headed out to play cards with his friends. These nights used to annoy me, but now I look forward to an evening with the television turned off, when I can read in the silence of my sleeping home and go to bed even earlier than I normally do.  Or, when I can catch up on blog posts or Twitter or New York Times articles, without feeling guilty for not paying attention to The Voice or American Pickers.

I sat on the sofa, with a cat curled up on my legs, honoring me with her presence, and with my laptop open and resting on my lap. I came across this opinion piece in the Times, a short documentary about a woman whose mother died from colon cancer. I realized halfway through watching it, that my cheeks were wet.

In the Times video op-ed piece, author and filmmaker Judith Helfand, includes several pieces of footage of her mother. In one, she’s lying in a hospital bed in her apartment, her feet moving up as her daughter figures out to work the bed’s remote control. In another, she’s being serenaded at Rosh Hashanah. In the most poignant scene of them all, the narrator, struggling to keep it together, asks her mother how a person can live without her mother. There is a long, uncomfortable hesitation. “You just do,” the mother says. It’s clear she really doesn’t want to answer this question.

I would give anything for a video of my father, alive once more, if only on a television screen.

Which got me to thinking. Why do we not video our parents more?  Or at all? My husband is so diligent in pulling out the camcorder on the major holidays, but his lens is always focused on the kids. When he trains it on me, I cringe away, trying to avoid being filmed. We never thought to capture on video our fathers before they died. I don’t think we have a single video of our mothers.

We video our children in order to preserve the memories of our babies: their first Christmas and the ones thereafter, Easter egg hunts, opening birthday presents surrounded by their party-hat-wearing and sugar-drunk school friends. But our parents – if the natural and proper order of life and death is preserved – will leave us long before our children will. And what will we be left with? Sam and I have learned this acutely in the past 10 months. We’ve been left with a just handful of photographs and our own faulty memories, memories that will surely fade and blur around the edges as time goes on.

We took my mother out to lunch on Saturday, an early Mother’s Day lunch. Mom and I each had a mimosa to accompany our meal, and our conversations centered around my children and their activities. We had a lovely time in that restaurant, surrounded by better-dressed customers than ourselves, enjoying Spanish/Cuban cuisine made tastier by the warming influence of champagne. I didn’t pull out the video camera, but the thought hasn’t left my mind.

I know that, one day, my mother will not be here. If my 90 year old maternal grandmother is any indication of longevity on that side of the family, my mother will be with us for quite a long while still. But  I want to preserve every bit of my mother, now, while she’s vibrant and here. I don’t want to miss my chance.

So here’s your fair warning, Mom. Get ready to be on camera. And Happy Mother’s Day.

*   *   *   *   *

So, wow. This post has nothing to do with this cake. Except that it sort of does. It’s been too long since I baked a layer cake, and my son had put in a special request for a chocolate cake. I figured Mother’s Day weekend was the perfect time to bake myself (and the kids) a treat. This chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting was that treat. And it was indeed, the perfect one.

chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting | the merry gourmet

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

When you're in the mood for a slice of decadent chocolate cake, this is the one you want to make. The cake is moist and rich, and it's a breeze to make. The frosting recipe is from Robyn of Add a Pinch, and it makes the cake a true treat for any chocolate lover.


2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
1-3/4 cups ( 210 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (88 grams) unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup (8 ounces) black coffee
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 recipe Perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting


Heat oven to 350°F, with oven rack in middle position. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the parchment-lined pans.

Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, sour cream, coffee, oil, and vanilla. Using a hand mixer, beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes (Batter will be thin). Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove cakes carefully from pans and cool on wire racks until room temperature before frosting.

To frost cakes, place 1 layer on a cake plate. With an offset spatula, spread top with chocolate frosting. Place the second layer on top, and spread frosting evenly over top and sides of cake.

Slightly adapted from the famous Hershey's Black Magic Cake recipe.

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10 Responses to “mother’s day and a fair warning”

  1. 1
    Gail — May 11, 2014 @ 8:38 pm

    You couldn’t be more right about videoing our parents.
    Happy Mothers’ Day to you, my sweet & chocolatey friend.

  2. 2

    SUCH a great idea MJ. My parents are so far away that I often think this. I need to make it happen next time I see them. Wishing you a lovely Mothers’ Day!


  3. 3
    Mary Anne — May 11, 2014 @ 10:45 pm

    Make sure you get some recordings of Ms Alice as well. 🙂

  4. 4
    Paula — May 12, 2014 @ 9:07 am

    Not only do I wish I had taken videos of my parents but I wish I had taken a lot more photographs of them as well.

    Hoping you and your Mom enjoyed a lovely day 🙂

  5. 5
    Di — May 13, 2014 @ 1:50 pm

    My mother’s sister, my Anut Mary Jo, died in 1982. My mom, Lousie, died 5 years later. They were close and naturally so were the two families. Mary Jo had two daughters and in 1980 the eldest gave birth to a son. His first birthday party was at Aunt Mary Jo’s house and her son-in-law brought a fancy new camera, a cam-corder to the little boy’s birthday party. He recorded many vignettes that day, one of which was with Grandma Mary Jo and her grandson. She never lived to see her grandson’s second birthday. I forego attending her wake so that I could babysit for that little boy on his second birthday while the family mourned the loss of his grandmother. We went to the zoo and he wanted to go to McDonald’s for lunch so we did. We all missed Mary Jo terribly. I often asked to see the video of that first birthday party but her daughters said it was too painful for them to view. To this day I have never seen it. I was so envious of that video when my Mom Louise died and so angry I did not have a video of Louise like the one that was kept hidden away of her sister Mary Jo. Surely if I had a video like that I thought it would be so wonderful but perhaps I would miss her more; perhaps I would have a bigger hole in my heart than I do if I had that video that my cousins can never bear to view. I remember my mother Louise (and my dad Lew who passed about a year later) with a fondness and love that is at times heart-breaking. But they come to me in my thoughts and my dreams as well as in the memories which family and friends share. In 1987 I would have given my eye-teeth for a video of Louise; twenty seven years later I am happy with my few pictures, my memories and the thought that I was indeed a lucky girl to have been dropped into their lives. I cherish the time I shared with them and I don’t think a video would make me feel any differently. For what it’s worth, Merry Jennifer, I know your pain. One day it will get better, even without a video.

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  8. 6
    Jaime — May 17, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

    Lovely sentiment; I suppose the same can be said for photographs of our parents.

    This cake looks divine, thank you for sharing the recipe.

  9. 7

    My little sister (I still say that though she’s now married) is celebrating her 24th birthday this weekend. I am definitely digging out the video camera now. I want to remember these days when the memories have faded from my mind. Thank you.

  10. 8
    Sarah | The Sugar Hit — July 10, 2014 @ 5:07 am

    I just had to leave a comment on this cake to let you know – I love it. I wanna marry it. I would make beautiful music with it. It’s gorgeous.

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