Sometimes time can be the best healer.
A year ago, I tried making the famous Sacher torte for my mother’s birthday. It’s a dense chocolate cake with apricot filling that hails from Vienna. I did tons of research and worked much harder than usual to get the cake just right.
Epic fail, everyone. The glaze was clumpy and the cake was just way too dry. It was so not worth all that time and effort. Luckily, time passed and I decided I wanted to try again, but this time I did it on my terms. That means the cake became a brownie and the glaze was a much simpler version of the process that did me in a year ago.
It’s cliché to say that time heals, but clichés are often quite true. I’ve had friendships end, important ones, without really understanding what happened. It’s hurtful, but stepping back and getting both time and perspective can really help.
One of my favorite short stories is by my favorite author, Edith Wharton. She wrote a story called “Roman Fever” that I’ve read more times than I can possibly say. It starts a little slow, but if you make it through to the end, I promise it will be rewarding. Anyway, it’s about two older women who have all these friendship issues even though they should be well past it. One of the best lines from the story is, “So these two ladies visualized each other, each through the wrong end of her little telescope.”
We’re always looking at other people that way, through the wrong end of whatever telescope we happen to be peering through. That’s how friendships end, why people hurt other people, and why it’s so hard for everyone to get along. Very few people can see inside the real version of ourselves to get who we really are. When we find those people, we should hold on to them, because they’re rare.
One of the people who gets me, and who always will, is my mother. We’re not alike in a lot of ways, but in the important ways, we are. On the surface, we look and behave differently, but we have the same fundamental views on the things that matter. So the least my mother deserves is a cake on her birthday.
My mom is a pianist (and a darn good one), so that’s why I piped some music flair on her cake. My children call her “Baba,” the Russian word for “grandmother,” so that’s the B you see. She likes Sacher torte, so I gave her my best version of it at this point. Maybe someday I’ll do it the traditional way, but this year, she got the brownie-fied version.
A year ago, I couldn’t have thought of even trying something close to this cake again, but hey, time helps. All we need is the space to think and read amazing short stories and everything is healed. So happy birthday to my mom, who is the best. I love her more than I love brownies!
- Preheat the oven to 350. Line three 9-inch round pans with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix the cocoa into the melted butter until it dissolves. Add the sugar and stir again. When the sugar is incorporated, mix in the vanilla and eggs. Add the salt and flour, mixing until just combined.
- Evenly distribute the batter among the three pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes until set. Cool completely.
- When the cakes are cool, make the glaze. Melt the chocolate in a saucepan with the butter and 2 tablespoons of water. When it's melted, take the pot off the heat and stir in the powdered sugar. Add the remaining tablespoons of water and stir until smooth.
- Allow the glaze to thicken for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want it to be able to pour it, but not have it be too thin.
- When the glaze is thick enough, stack the brownie layers carefully, spreading a thin layer of apricot jam in between each layer.
- Pour the glaze onto the center of the cake. Using a knife or offset spatula, carefully spread the glaze to the edges, letting some drip over the sides.
- Let the glaze harden. Decorate if desired.