All In a Year’s Time (and Sugar High Chocolate Cake)


My third child was very much unplanned. How’s THAT for getting personal on my blog? But it is relevant to my point, so it needs to be said. I would love to tell you that we were filled with unadulterated joy at finding ourselves unexpectedly expecting again, but that wouldn’t be the truth. It wasn’t easy to imagine going back to some of the things we thought we were leaving behind…midnight (and 2am, 3am, 4am, 5am) feedings, dirty diapers, helpless infants who need you for everything. We were already feeling pushed to capacity with full time jobs, a house and two wonderful, but high-energy, children. Adding another to the mix was not a part of the “plan”.

A year ago today, I was pacing the house, desperate to restart a stalling labour. I wanted what had been a less-than-enjoyable pregnancy over with and I was anxious to meet the little critter who was forcing herself into our lives. I look back on this and it seems like a lifetime ago, so much has changed in the past year. Her birth was truly a game-changer. In the middle of the chaos of family life, it isn’t always easy to see it, but when I take time to reflect, I know that all of our lives were changed for the better.

1. For the first time, I became a stay-at-home parent. I worked through the early years of my older two children, which is not something I regret. But I’d always wondered what it would be like to stay at home with them. The prohibitively high cost of having three children in full-time daycare meant that I needed to quit my job when this little one was born. I didn’t mind leaving the working world behind, but I certainly didn’t exchange it for days spent eating bon bons and watching soap operas. Being home with three little ones is exhausting, it can be very unrewarding, and sometimes I hate it. But sometimes I love it too. Those moments when we’ve had a fun day or when I see one of them take a developmental step forward make it all worthwhile. Most of the time.

2. I became a long-distance runner. If you knew me in my past life, you might find this the most surprising development of all. I was never an inactive person, but I didn’t exactly make room in my life for regular exercise. Gestational diabetes made me change my tune. I saw how much exercise made a difference to my blood sugar levels, even if it was just a ten minute walk, and I vowed to continue even after the pregnancy was over. I joined our local Y as a way to keep both myself and the kids moving, and on a whim, I went out with the Run Club. Shockingly, I found that I truly enjoy it. Even more shockingly, I found that I am pretty good at it. Now here I am, less than a year later, training for my second half-marathon.

3. I faced reality. Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes came as a bit of a shock. Having always been slim and eaten relatively healthfully, I didn’t fit the typical pattern. So we all expected it to go away after the baby was born. And it did…for a few months. I was extremely careful about what I ate and cut back on sugar dramatically, but I still noticed that my blood glucose levels weren’t quite where they should be. I didn’t want to acknowledge it, especially since I was eating better and getting more exercise than I ever had in my life. But I couldn’t ignore it any longer and I admitted to myself, my family and my doctor that there was a problem. At first, I felt a good deal of shame, since diabetes is a disease we typically associate with couch potatoes and terrible eating habits. After a little time to reflect, however, I realized that I did not bring this disease on myself. Besides having a sweet tooth like almost everyone else on the planet, I’d always eaten lots of healthy foods and steered clear of junk. And although I wasn’t the most active person, I walked and hiked a lot and stayed pretty fit. So why do I have diabetes while others with worse habits do not? I don’t know. It’s a mystery. But now that I’ve faced facts, I can tackle it head on.

4. I started this blog. This really just started on a whim. Because I was home during the day, I was cooking and baking a lot more and I found myself looking up recipes all the time. I was reading a lot of food blogs and I suddenly thought “Hey, I could do this!”. I tweak or change recipes all the time to make them my own, and I hope I don’t flatter myself when I say that I can write well, so putting the two things together into a creative outlet seemed like a fun thing to do. But the blog took on a lot more purpose when I faced the fact that I was likely becoming a diabetic. I now tweak recipes not only for my tastes but for my health. I’ve learned a lot by experimenting with alternative ingredients and I know that others can benefit from this. There are many people out there who want or need to avoid certain foods like flour and sugar but who don’t want to give up the baked goods and treats that they love. And I am so pleased to discover that they (and I) don’t have to!

5. I met a girl with big blue eyes and I fell in love. I started off this post telling you that my third child was a less-than-pleasant surprise. But words fail me when I try to tell you how much I love having her in my life. She is THE most beautiful baby in the world, even though my other two were pretty darn beautiful. People stop us everywhere we go to tell us how beautiful she is. Some of it has to do with the huge blue eyes framed by long, thick lashes. But much of it also has to do with her personality. She will bestow a smile on anyone who glances in her direction. She loves life and she loves people, and men, women and children alike can’t help but respond to that joie de vivre. She is funny and sweet, but she can also hold her own against her two older siblings when she has to.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Maggie!

Sugar High Chocolate Cake

This recipe is an amalgamation of my favourite parts of other chocolate cakes. Two moist layers of cake with a layer of buttercream in the middle, topped by an incredible chocolate ganache. It’s a sugar high waiting to happen!

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp instant coffee granules
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole milk, room temp

Chocolate Buttercream:
3 tbsp unslated butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla

Chocolate Ganache:
3/4 cup whipping cream
8 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate

For the cake, preheat oven to 350F and grease 2 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment on the bottom and then grease the parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, coffee, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

With an electric mixer on medium, beat buter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated.

Reduce speed to low and beat in one third of flour mixture. Beat in half of milk. Repeat with another third of flour mixture and then the remaining milk. Finally beat in last third of flour mixture. Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is incorporated.

Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out with only a few crumbs attached.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

For the buttercream, beat butter and icing sugar together in a bowl until crumbly. Add cocoa powder, whipping cream and vanilla and beat until smooth. If the consistency is too thick, add just a little more cream until you achieve a spreadable consistency.

For the ganache, bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Let stand until it begins to thicken but is still pourable, about 10 minutes.

To assemble the cake, place on layer of cake on a large plate or platter. Spread buttercream over the top with a knife or offset spatula. Place second layer of cake onto the buttercream. Pour about half of the ganache on top of cake just to the edges of the top. Using a knife, spread it gently and allow it to drip down the sides of the cake. Let that layer cool and set slightly and the pour the rest of the ganache on the top of the cake and spread over the top. Alternatively, you can allow the ganache to thicken further and spread it over the sides of the cake as well as just the top.

Serves 12-16. This is a VERY rich cake with all the ganache so a little goes a long way!

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  1. Stella says

    Awe, Carolyn, Maggie is so precious! I love her (smile). Can you tell I want a baby?
    Anyway, your cake for her looks wonderful! And I hope you guys have a great week together;)

  2. Sommer J says

    Happy birthday to your beautiful daughter!!! Wow she IS absolutely stunning. Our story is sort of the same! My third was a complete surprise and life changer, too! That cake? OMG. I can not wait until my husband is done with his PT test so I can make it. YUM. The photo looks so nice, too! Great post, Carolyn!

  3. Amanda says

    Happy birthday to the Magster from her Auntie Manda. Her present is probably still on its way. Lilah says, "MMMMMMWAH!"

  4. Culinarian says

    What a sweet post…not just on the baking front! You really remind us to savour all life's surprises because you never know what you're going to get.

  5. Belinda @zomppa says

    What a cutie pie!! That face. Thanks for being so honest – love learning about you and how you have adjusted to such a surprise!

  6. BakingWithoutABox says

    Such a happy surprise! And you're right, she is a beautiful baby girl. Happy Birthday Maggie. Glad you enjoyed/smashed momma's chocolate cake.

  7. Sugar Free Low Carb says

    Carolyn – Thanks for sharing your story with us and also your recipes. You do have one beautiful baby!

  8. Lisa says

    What a great recipe for satisfying even the largest of chocolate cravings. I love the look of the ganache dripping down the sides.

  9. Lauren Zabaneh says

    I really, really, really loved this post. Thank you for letting us into your personal life! It's an honor.

    I hear you on being a stay at home mommy. It can be soooo hard and my favorite line is "unrewarding". Not many people say that, but it can be very true. Definitely no bon-bons and soap operas around here. More like, shove a piece of whatever they are eating in your mouth, while singing absent-mindedly to Barney. UGH!

    But your right, with all the difficulties of staying at home, you get to see all the milestones and just be there for them. I do love that part. I love seeing them learn and teaching them. I love their hugs and kisses. I do not however like that my three year olds refuse to poop in the toilet!

    I can't imagine (sorry, I'm writing a book here) facing the diabetes thing. But what you are doing with the challenge is AMAZING! So that's what matters.

    So enjoyed this, Carolyn!

  10. Camala - CC Recipe says

    I am also a SAHM and feel very blessed to be one, I am so lucky to be here with the children, they will prayerfully have wonderful memories about that when they are older…lol. Happy Birthday to your absolutely gorgeous daughter, her eyes are amazing! This cake sounds awesome, I am all about a Sugar High Chocolate Cake!

  11. Memória says

    I gasped when I saw your daughter's photo. She is absolutely stunning!! I love her clear, innocent blue eyes. Why oh why do they have to grow up? haha

    This cake looks fantastic. I love to use buttermilk in my cakes to make them even more moist. I love that you used espresso granules.

  12. BigFATcook says

    hey! nice one! I'd probably end up looking like that baby after I got the cake in my hands.:)))

    Greets from Big FAT cook

  13. A Little Yumminess says

    I need to become a long distance runner….all this blogging is not good! Neither is this decadent cake! If I showed it to my daughter she would be thrilled!!

  14. Shelly Borrell (Nibbles of Tidbits) says

    First, I can completely relate to the title of your blog. I love it! And I enjoyed reading this honest and interesting post. And the photos… OMGosh — The cake, the baby, the cake 😉 Both are show stopping. Lots of blessings with endless food is a great combination.

    Shelly :)

  15. Dawn says

    OK, Carolyn, I didn't know that my life-changing, total-surprise third child's birthday was only a week from yours (our special 1st birthday is Oct. 13). So I wasn't expecting your blog to bring tears to my eyes today, but it did. We all adore our little sunshine and truly, life would be so much poorer without her. (Here I must admit – but in a whisper – that I'm even toying with the idea of a fourth child now, although now that I, too, have diabetes and am already in my *ahem* early 40s I really should have my head examined and my tubes tied!)

    Thank you for sharing your lovely daughter and wonderful recipes.

  16. Debbi Does Dinner Healthy says

    The cake is gorgeous and the baby is even better looking! I love these kind of pictures! Thanks!

  17. Lena @ Miss Lucky Piggy says

    laughed looking at your sweet Maggie :-) happy belated birthday, gorgeous girl :)

    will try your recipe and let you know the result

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