Go For Gold

I love food stories.

I think I tell stories through food, because it’s how I live my life. Food is how I measure the hours in my day. My favorite thing to think about when I wake up in the morning is what I get to make for dinner that night. It’s easier for me to plan a menu than an outfit, and I enjoy it more.

So I think this blog is not what I expected it to be at first – a more scholarly, theological approach to the bridges between faith and food – but it is instead a way of narrating my everyday journey through my favorite lens: food!

Tonight, we lived memories in food. Tomorrow is graduation, and two of my favorite people will walk across Belmont’s stage, and this undergraduate chapter of our collective friend group’s journey will be more or less over. There is a sadness and a sweetness to it, but most of all there is joy in being able to celebrate these moments with lifelong friends.

So we went to Pizza Perfect, the site of many a meal during the glory days of 409 (my junior year of college, when Price and Dale and Rob lived together and for all intents and purposes, the rest of us lived there too. It was kind of like Rachel and Monica’s apartment on Friends … we were all just always there). The pizza really isn’t perfect, but the company was. These boys make my heart swell … I couldn’t stop smiling:

Dinner was lovely and lively, but I left the crew at this point to finish The Graduation Cake for lunch tomorrow.

Tonight’s post is entitled “Go for Gold,” a favorite saying of my confident brother-in-law Wesley, who lives by that motto in everything he does, but particularly when searching for the best possible parking spot. Wesley is awesome, and truly one of my very best friends, and in him I finally have the brother that I’ve always wanted. He’s more than I could have wanted, actually, because I never expected a brother-and-best-friend combo, and I’m the luckiest girl in the world in that I can describe my sister-in-law the same way. I love being a part of this family.

So when I asked Wes a couple of weeks ago what kind of cake he wanted for graduation, he said “cheesecake.” I’ve never made cheesecake from scratch before, but I trust Epicurious enough that I wasn’t worried. What threw a wrench in the cheesecake plans, however, was the combining of the post-graduation lunch with Hank and his family, bringing the total to 18. (But why would we not celebrate with the Carters? They are the closest thing to Rainers.)

1 Cheesecake will not 18 people feed. So my creative little culinary mind went to work and I thought, why not do cheesecake inside of cake? Like with layers?

I’ve been obsessed with layer cakes lately, but a cheesecake layer? Totally different story.

But what would Wesley say? GO FOR GOLD. Despite Price’s concerns that this unbelievably rich cake would be the cake equivalent of the Double Down, I decided to go for it. I have a chocolate stout cake recipe that I swear by, and I combined it with this cheesecake recipe from Paula Deen (always know you’re headed for calorie town when she’s involved).

Let’s talk about the fact that this cake recipe started with a pound of butter. A POUND. That’s a lot.

Eventually, after a lot of baking and an incredibly un-Melanie like display of coordination when I assembled the cake while on the phone for an hour with my awesome friend Andrew …  I may be proudest of this part, actually:

Yes, that cooling rack is buckling. This is one heavy mother of a cake. Chocolate stout cake + Cheesecake + Chocolate stout cake. And then why not make it really special with ganache instead of buttercream? If it’s not fake sugar, it won’t give us diabetes right?

Ganaching a cake is actually really fun, because it hardens and gets all shiny and clean looking. I love it! Plus, ganache (at least my version) is just whipping cream and chocolate, so it’s truly decadent to taste.

Into the fridge it went while we went to dinner, and then I came home and whipped up some buttercream to do a little decorating. The final result:

I went for gold. I assured myself of failure … I mean, really? Who puts an entire cheesecake between two layers of sheet cake? But it worked. It doesn’t look awful, and the crumbs I tasted were pretty good. Maybe it’s Wesley’s super-self-confidence rubbing off on me a bit, or maybe it’s just sisterly love motivating me, but I accomplished something I didn’t think would work at all. Visions of collapsing layers and chunky ganache have melted away, and now I can fall asleep peacefully before the early alarm for pomp and circumstance wakes me up.

Congratulations, Class of 2010! My advice? Go for Gold!


One thought on “Go For Gold

  1. Mel, that is AMAZING. Mark would probably cut off his right arm (and maybe his left, too) to have a piece of that deliciousness – he LOVES any cheesecake/chocolate combo 🙂 Good for you for going for gold.

    Oh, how I wish we could move to Nashville RIGHT NOW. I want to be a full-time part of the Rainer et. al. clan… (and only partly because I want to partake of your delicious cakes!)

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