Somehow, I’ve already finished two weeks of the new semester and even collected the first assignment from my students. I have a calendar full of meetings and reminders and plenty to keep me busy. Being on an academic calendar is weird because it means adjusting your schedule every few months, but I think I’ve finally made it through this adjustment period. The biggest change this semester is that I’m no longer taking classes. After 20+ years of class after class after class, I’m done (unless I have a temporary lapse in sanity and decide to take another).
Not being in class anymore is incredible. Incredible. I’ve suddenly gained a lot more control over my schedule and routine and I’m not generating to-do lists from cross-listing several syllabi. My work is more focused since I’ve now just got a couple of big projects on the horizon. I’m getting 7 or 8 hours of sleep every night. I’m not too tired to make dinner. My stress-related jaw pain has disappeared. I get to look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas time because I’m not haunted by the terror of finals week. I feel more even and balanced. I feel like a real person.
The most exciting part is that I get the chance to break a lot of the bad work habits that I developed while taking classes. Like pulling all nighters. Or writing papers in one exhausting slog 2-3 day slog. Or expecting myself to be working all the time, feeling demoralized by the thought, and then getting little to nothing done as a result. Also, drinking too much caffeine and not eating often enough and then developing massive headaches. I made a fancy little work schedule for myself where I’ve blocked out spaces of time for discreet tasks like writing, reading, and teaching prep. I’ve tried to realistically appraise my life and made my schedule keeping in mind that I am unlikely to continue doing the same thing for more than two hours at a time, that I won’t get anything done past 8:00 (which sounds late, but is more like my version of 5:00p since I am a night owl), and that I won’t get up any earlier than 9:00a. So far, the schedule seems to be working. I’m writing in the mornings five days a week–I started with 30 minute sessions and am slowly working myself up to 2 hours. I haven’t had the stress of trying to whip up last-minute class plans. I’m continually surprising myself with how much I can get done when I set a finite work time. I’m actually enjoying work.
And the best part is that I have plenty of time for baking and knitting and Netflix watching and novel reading and blog writing. Not that I wasn’t doing those things before, but now I’m not weighed down by the guilt of feeling like I should be doing something else. I much prefer it this way.
I made this cake for a beginning-of-the-semester department potluck. At one point in it’s life, it was an entire bundt cake but this is the only piece that made it back home with me. I take that as a sign that it was well-received. Oh, and someone told me it may have been the best chocolate cake they’d had. So I’m definitely marking this recipe a success.
As the name of the recipe suggests, this cake is made with a stout–I used Guinness–and I figured any cake made with beer would be a big hit with academics. The cake isn’t overly sweet but instead has a rich and nutty chocolately flavor. It’s also has a ridiculously moist crumb and the ganache on top is flavored with instant espresso, sending the whole thing over the top on deliciousness. The only tricky part is getting the cake out of the bundt pan. Grease that pan like you’ve never greased a pan before. And if the top of the cake still gets stuck to the bottom of the pan, scoop out the stuck cake bits, mound them up on the top of the cake, and then artfully drizzle your ganache to cover the imperfection. That’s what I did.
Chocolate Stout Cake (from Smitten Kitchen)
- 1 c stout (I used Guinness)
- 1 c unsalted butter
- 3/4 c Dutch-process cocoa powder (I’ve been using Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder in place of Dutch-process)
- 2 c all purpose flour
- 2 c sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 c sour cream
- 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 6 tbsp heavy cream
- 3/4 tsp instant coffee (I substituted 1/2 tsp instant espresso because it was what I had on hand)
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a bundt pan really, really well.
- Bring the stout and butter to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Allow the mixture to cool while you prepare the rest of the cake batter.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
- Beat the eggs and sour cream together in another bowl. Slowly beat in the stout/butter/chocolate mixture and beat until just combined. Add the flour mixture and beat briefly on low speed, using a spatula to fold in the rest of the flour mixture if necessary.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack before inverting the cake onto a plate to remove it from the pan.
- For the ganache, melt the chocolate chips, heavy cream, and instant coffee or espresso granules together over low heat, whisking until smooth. Drizzle over the top of the cake.