over-thinking love

“You don’t have to think about love; you either feel it or you don’t.”

~ from Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

If only it were so simple. If only we didn’t have to think about it. If only we all just felt love and then acted on it and then somehow magically managed to mutually sustain love for all time. And that was all there was to it. It’s wonderful how the movies make love so beautiful, so simple, so logical, so lasting.

Love must be the most fabulous and complicated and greatest emotion of all time. A potent, illogical neurological condition that chemists, biologists, physicists, medical doctors, philosophers, writers and countless others throughout history have struggled to define and explain.

There is no rational explanation for love. No real definition for love. No formula. It just is. Still, unlike the handsome Pedro who uses the line above — “You don’t have to think about love…” — on beautiful Tita. I do think love might just be worth thinking about. I guess the trick is not to OVER-think it.

If you haven’t seen Like Water for Chocolate – it’s a 1992 Mexican film about thwarted love and the power of food. Love and food and the connection between them feature big time in this movie. A visual feast, it’s based on the book of the same title by Mexican writer, Laura Esquivel. At the time of its release, it was the highest grossing Spanish-language film ever released in North America.

The film made me hungry – in all kinds of ways. It made me think of a trip I took to the beautiful, historic city of Oaxaca in South-western Mexico last year. For the incredible 16th-century Spanish architecture. About the exquisite and carefully prepared food in elegant upmarket restaurants. I hadn’t expected that. My vision of Mexico was almost embarrassingly stereotypical. I had visions of towns like those in movies of the old wild west. What I found was a place rich in culture and art and history. And a cuisine both fragrant and fabulous – sometimes complex and sometimes surprisingly delicate. A little like love. No formula.

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In the pretty little hotel I stayed in off the Pino Suarez in Oaxaca, the two middle-aged, somewhat formidable Mexican sisters who ran the place, offered a light breakfast each morning of coffee ladled from a large earthenware jug, and bread or cake – sometimes chocolate cake. It made me happy – sitting amongst the flowers in the morning sunshine on the terrace – drinking coffee and eating chocolate cake.

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Until I went to Mexico I thought of this chocolate and raspberry cake only as a rich dessert. After Mexico and after watching Like Water for Chocolate, I’m reminded that I don’t eat nearly enough cake for breakfast.

If love has a flavour, for me it would be this – a weekend morning and a mug of good, strong coffee with a thin slice of this dense, moist chocolate cake covered in raspberries – if not served in the sunshine on the terrace, then preferably served in bed.

Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Cake

(Recipe adapted from one that made the rounds in my neighbourhood a few years ago.)

1     cup boiling water
3    oz or 90 grams of really good quality bittersweet chocolate
½   cup butter
½   cup sour cream
1     teaspoon baking soda
1     teaspoon vanilla
2     eggs, separated
2     cups sugar
2     cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1     teaspoon baking powder
1     pint of raspberries

Preheat oven to 350º F. Generously butter a Bundt cake pan.

Place the chocolate and butter in a large Pyrex bowl and pour in the boiling water. Let stand, stirring occasionally until the butter and chocolate have melted. Meanwhile, mix together the sour cream and baking soda and set aside. Beat the eggs white until stiff, and also set aside.

Add the vanilla, egg yolks and sugar to the chocolate mix and beat well. Next add the sour cream and baking soda mixture. Stir in the flour and baking powder. Finally, gently fold in the egg whites.

Spoon or pour the mixture into the Bundt cake pan and bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let the cake rest 10 minutes before unmolding.

Chocolate Frosting

2     tablespoons butter
⅔ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
5     tablespoons heavy cream
1     cup icing sugar
1     teaspoon vanilla

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over gentle heat until the chocolate is melted and the icing is smooth. Pour over the cooled cake. Sprinkle with raspberries.


31 thoughts on “over-thinking love

    1. Isn’t that film wonderful Tracey. I just loved it. Also loved Frida if you haven’t seen that. My trip to Mexico was eye-opening. Of course, I only saw Oaxaca but what an unbelievable place… art and music in the streets, galleries, and shops, and restaurants that would have been at home in New York City (only the food was better and quarter the price). I fell in love with Mexico. But then – I also love France and Tasmania and the Yorkshire Dales….and very very likely – the Hebrides!

      1. Have not seen Frida, must look it up! I must admit, there are very few places I have visited I don’t love, South America is my favourite, but I love so many European countries too. The Hebrides are fine, but I would like it more if the wind would subside enough for me to plant some seeds, after 3 weeks of gales 🙂

    1. I haven’t done the cake justice in either the photograph or the description. Obviously I need to make a new one and take a better photograph (and then eat it it…. for breakfast). It’s dark and moist and very rich.
      Thank you Mimi.

    1. So kind Kenley – thank you. It’s a lousy photograph but truly a great cake. I first made it for a party a couple of years ago along with my neighbour Ena. The recipe came from somebody’s mother and it had crazy instructions – such as – “separate the eggs” then never ever referred to the eggs again. At first we put the eggs in separate parts of the kitchen and this made us laugh out loud. Then we ad-libbed and then when we tried the cake – we knew at first bite – as corny as it sounds -it was a cake that had love and laughter baked right into it. And that reminded me so much of the movie Like Water for Chocolate.
      Hope the sun is shining on you. Lindy

  1. Back in the ‘dark ages’ The Times would have a cookery page in their Saturday edition. There were no photographs – just a painting of the subject. We the reader had to conjure up our own pictures. Your description did just that. I didn’t have to read the ingredients to decide whether I wanted to bake it. I just wanted to sit in the sun with a coffee and a slice of cake. I will be trying your recipe, as we are having little sun perhaps it will have to be the bed option!

  2. That is one of my all time favorite films. Beautifully written, filmed and acted it’s a veritable sensory explosion. I have never been to Mexico but do want to visit there one day. That chocolate cake is beautiufl, I could totally have it for breakfast (lunch, dinner or dessert) saving that recipe it sounds amazing.

      1. No I’m not home. Doing 2 summer courses for the month of May 😦 I’ll be home in June

  3. Have to admit I’ve never really liked chocolate cake! Ouch, maybe I shouldn’t admit that. Now that I’m getting over the fear of baking I’ll have to try this. As for the film, it was incredibly popular here as well. Loved it. Beautifully written and constructed post.

    1. Thanks Johnny! So nice of you. Imagine not liking chocolate cake – that might be a blessing in disguise! I LOVE chocolate. I’m so glad you loved the film – it was definitely a film for those who love and appreciate food.

  4. I’ve heard about that film a few times…still trying to get hold of it…your photos are gorgeous and raspberry chocolate sounds like a perfect combination..and I love what you wrote about ‘love’…am also trying to figure out should i just feel it or think about it…lovely post.

    1. Hi Karen – yes – seemed so natural in Mexico but it feels SO decadent here – when I have a cupboard full of granola and healthy cereal and rice milk. However apparently we only live the once and I feel like we make the most of it…
      Enjoy the sunshine – it’s glorious here.

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