1.12.15 Resolve

Bite 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

My resolve to not eat chocolate and sweets has stemmed largely from an awareness that my body seems to be showing signs of irritation and inflammation. Since I started on a protocol of Chinese herbs about 5 months ago, prescribed for my diagnosis of "damp-heat in the liver," my chronic herpes and gallbladder issues have happily been steadily resolving. But a couple of months ago, I began to get persistent outbreaks—small red pimples and a few deeper cysts—around my mouth, chin and jawline. This is extremely rare for me as I take painstaking care of my skin, so I found it puzzling and upsetting. I still do. I cannot seem to pinpoint the cause or solution, but I have begun eliminating things from my diet—chocolate, nuts, sugar, alcohol, dairy and now citrus—and I'm treating the area with my homemade calendula oil, which does seem to calm things down. I'm sipping bone broth every morning, trying to increase my water intake, getting plenty of sleep and exercising more. But what about that chocolate cake? you ask politely. Yes, well, read on...

Cookbook 790 xxx
literary inspiration

Once a year, a person's husband has a birthday. On that day, he may request whatever strikes his fancy, from a custom cocktail to chicken with crispy skin to chocolate cake. And who could deny him any of that? When I saw that Minnesota Fudge Cake cake, pictured above, in the Mast Brothers cookbook, I thought it could be the one. When I read the description, "A heartwarming cake for a cold winter's night," I knew I was right.

Chocolate 790 xxx
straight from the source

I was lucky to have lots of Mast Brothers chocolate on hand. (Remember my visit there in October?) Their Brooklyn Blend is a triumph of complex flavor—"notes of plum, tobacco and earth"—with an appealing tang. It contains nothing besides cacao and sugar, avoiding the common practice of adding cocoa butter or lecithin but still managing to achieve the requisite smoothness. 

Chocolate2 790 xxx
wrap star

Beneath the Wonkaesque golden wrapper lies a glossy scored bar that comes in at 74% cacao. This recipe calls for "dark chocolate" but does not specify a percentage. I know from listening to a recent episode of Splendid Table, featuring baking authority Alice Medrich, that this can affect texture, but the Mast Brothers recipes tend to be a bit minimalist and open to interpretation.

Batter 790 xxx
batter up

Though my baking skills are admittedly rather limited, it would seem more usual to cream together butter, sugar and eggs before adding the dry ingredients that make a cake batter. However, here you just "whisk together" everything in a large bowl. How you are supposed to "whisk together" a cup of butter—even softened to room temp, as specified—with a bunch of flour, sugar, eggs and buttermilk seemed a little confounding. 

Batter2 790 xxx
lick it

I decided to use my Mixmaster, which worked fine, though the batter was decidedly not smooth. As you can see, it came out pebbled with flecks of butter. I wasn't quite sure what this would mean for the cake but I plowed ahead, an approach I'm learning to take more often in many circumstances.

Glaze 790 xxx
glazed and diffused

Melted dark chocolate is stirred into the batter and then you pour it all into a Bundt pan and stick it in the oven. As it bakes, you whisk up a sauce—more of a glaze, really—with additional melted chocolate, butter and confectioners' sugar.

Cake 790 xxx
slice of heaven

The glaze is poured over the cooled, unmolded cake, where it soaks in a bit. It was wonderfully dense and fudgy, although I think my use of gluten-free flour (King Arthur's, in this instance) created a more fragile crumb. Regardless, it hit the spot for the birthday boy and we also gave a big chunk away to friends.


As for me, dear reader, I ate just two small bites—probably the last two I will eat for a good long while. I plan to listen closely to my body and to respond accordingly. This is my resolve.


Minnesota Fudge Cake

from The Mast Brothers Cookbook
serves 10
  • — 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free is OK)
  • — 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • — 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • — 1 cup cocoa powder
  • — 2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • — 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • — 2 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • — 10 ounces chopped dark chocolate, divided
  • — 2 eggs
  • — 10 ounces chopped dark chocolate, divided
  • — 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • — 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • — 1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 350º.

Mix flour, both sugars, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, butter and eggs in a large bowl. Whisk until incorporated.

Melt 6 ounces chocolate in a double boiler. Add to mixture.

Pour batter into lightly greased Bundt pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Make the fudge sauce by melting remaining 4 ounces chocolate and ½ stick butter in a double boiler.

Add confectioners' sugar and water and whisk until smooth.

Pour evenly over cooled cake.

Download recipe  Download Recipe


Mmmmmmmmm. I am not a big cake person but I might have to revise that understanding.
Pritha on January 10, 2015 at 4:31 pm —
Looks irresistible...we just made a gooey cacao brownie in our nest so why not try this as well!
thefolia on January 10, 2015 at 5:10 pm —
I AM a big cake person, and you're KILLING me!!!!!!!!!
Chris Gordon on January 10, 2015 at 6:31 pm —
I've just discovered your blog! I'm a bit of a chocoalcoholic so the picture of the cake pulled me in. I discovered you from an article on Gardenista. Your home and gardens are divine. I quite covet your lifestyle. Can't wait to sit and read your postings, receipts and enjoy your photos.
Lisa on January 12, 2015 at 4:05 pm —
Welcome, Lisa! So glad you stopped by.
laura on January 12, 2015 at 4:24 pm —
That looks like the yummiest GF chocolate cake I have ever seen!
Tanya on January 12, 2015 at 4:47 pm —
So happy you made this... It's a fantastic cake well deserved by the Birthday boy
Matthew on January 12, 2015 at 5:53 pm —
Thank you for the wonderful chocolate cake recipe. Wishing you all the strength of your resolve in 2015. FYI, the "Download Recipe' link isn't working.
Lynn on January 12, 2015 at 8:08 pm —
Thanks for the heads-up, Lynn. We recently upgraded the platform and it messed with a bunch of features. I'll get that seen to asap!
laura on January 12, 2015 at 9:46 pm —
I've also just discovered your lovely blog via Gardenista. But when I saw mention of herpes, I just had to tell you my story! I started getting cold sores around the mouth as a teenager (typical!) and found two remedies only decades later: 1. A vitamin retailer advised that outbreaks occur when the balance of two amino acids in the body is upset. They are arginine and lysine, and they advised taking lysine tablets, which worked only a bit and quite slowly. But they also said to avoid four foods containing arginine: peanuts, chocolate, eggs and almonds. I have found that I can eat chocolate, eggs and almonds until I'm sick of them, which is a huge amount in the case of chocolate, but the merest breath of a fragment of peanut is enough to cause an outbreak. I even avoid packaged foods with the warning "Made on equipment which also processes peanuts." Tree nuts are fine, but peanuts are nasty, evil little things that grow in the ground... and it's often used as a filler in packages foods, so read your labels! 2. Someone told me that lavender oil is anti-viral and works on cold sores. I found that difficult to believe, because I had had so many really severe outbreaks, sometimes with huge sores that last for weeks, and even prescription medicines were only partly effective. But LAVENDER OIL works! The combination of not eating peanuts and using lavender oil is so effective that I rarely get outbreaks now. Be careful to use full strength pure oil, and use a cotton bud dipped in the oil then throw it away so that you don't contaminate the oil. I hope this helps. Oh, and thanks for the great chocolate cake recipe. It looks similar to one I used to make and adored for its puddingy texture and richness, but have lost the recipe. G has great taste in cake! And I hope you can indulge in the near future!
Jane on January 13, 2015 at 4:24 am —
Jane, thank you so much for sharing this information! I suffer from Simplex II, not the oral kind, and have done a ton of research, so I know about arginine vs lysine but have never entirely eliminated all those foods from my diet. I'll give it a shot and also the lavender oil. xo
laura on January 13, 2015 at 7:35 am —
Sunflower oil does that to my skin. I can seem to tolerate most other oils ok. It's worth checking out. Good luck with it all. Your gardens are lovely, I found my way to this post via a Gardenista link.
Jen on January 15, 2015 at 9:15 am —
Sunflower oil - really? I will bear that in mind. Thanks!
laura on January 15, 2015 at 11:24 am —
My dear Laura, I haven't been spending enough time here, busying myself with FB. I was forgetting the fulfilling to & fro of comments about your stories, food, etc. Keeping in mind your brilliant, enquiring mind, I just want to touch on menopausal symptoms you may be starting to experience. As you may know, pimples, acne (hateful word) often appear. Hormones are totally topsy-turvy. Also, checking your body pH. I have been drinking mineralized alkaline water using a water pitcher by Santevia. Tastes wonderful! Please know as well, that you have been under stress with disappointment regarding publication of your book. As you know, our minds & bodies interact intimately. Just some thoughts, you know? We know how to heal ourselves. This I believe.
Susan on January 18, 2015 at 11:43 am —
Thank you, dear friend, I will bear all that in mind. I have a new fire under me, pursuing new avenues for the book and staying positive by focusing on all the things that bring me joy and a sense of achievement. xo
laura on January 18, 2015 at 2:36 pm —
Love you!
Susan on January 18, 2015 at 3:03 pm —
Hi there, I just read your blog for the first time and the choco cake enticed me into reading the recipe, and then your personal bit about inflammation and such. I can no longer eat chocolate cakes but this looks delicious. 3 things I have incorporated into my daily routine to reduce inflammation and skin irritations are apple cider vinagre directly on skin irritations (pimples, cold sores, rosacea) and drinking 1 tsp of it in a glass of water, once per day. Another remedy that cured my stomach of ulcers, and keeps inflammation under control, is drinking a small glass of sauerkraut juice first thing in the morning. I live in southern Germany so they sell saurerkraut juice like orange juice. Common beverage. The third for inflammation is turmeric. I take it as a pill supplement. Perhaps read up on it. Keeping Inflammation down is so critical to overall health, and stress can easily cause problems. Good luck.
Michelle on January 26, 2015 at 2:25 pm —
Welcome, Michelle, and thanks for sharing this information! I actually make my own sauerkraut, so I will try drinking the juice. xo
laura on January 26, 2015 at 2:49 pm —
hello, happy new year and happy birthday g! this might be too simple but i know that each time i have started with herbs or supplements, my face (and chest, which is really rare for me) is the first thing to react. i'm wondering if it is a balancing of sorts or detox symptom? you are beautiful no matter and i'm sending love and luck to you in your pursuit of a new level of happiness and healthfullness. much love g
g on January 29, 2015 at 10:32 pm —
Thanks, G, but I've been taking the herbs for months now, so I think the balancing/detox period is behind me. As per my herbalism teacher, I have wiped the slate clean and am starting over! Fingers crossed. xoxo
laura on January 30, 2015 at 8:26 am —
Two words. Yeast overgrowth (maybe). Something to look into as I suffered something similar. Look into Humaworm. They have a Candida cleanse that might be beneficial. Best of luck.
Syl on February 5, 2015 at 3:39 pm —
It had occurred to me, though I don't really have many of the symptoms said to appear with candida, but I will definitely look into it. Thanks, Syl!
laura on February 5, 2015 at 9:03 pm —