Thursday, May 22, 2014

moka cake

We were talking about what our biggest fears were. 
His was spitting cobras.  
I racked my brain for mine.  

I'm scared of a lot of irrational things. 

Poking my eye out with an umbrella, eating a spider in my sleep, getting lost in the supermarket. 

But my biggest fear is forgetting things.

“Forget” is such an ugly word.   I think we all have this fear of forgetting.  My dad digs his nose into World War II history books, as to not forget his mother who fled across the German border.  The dishwasher, Jose at the restaurant I work at wears a wooden cross around his neck so he doesn’t forget about his children in Mexico.

I’ve become a compulsive note taker to cope with this fear.  My white bed sheets are strewn with legal pads and deep blue pen marks.   I often wake up with paper cuts on my shins and squiggly ballpoint scribbles on my thighs.  I have weeks and months and years of scraps saved by now. 

Last weekend, I had dance performance at school.  I wrote a note to myself backstage and tucked it into my leotard.  My heart sunk when I undressed and found the note as a soggy, sweat-stained piece of paper, the words lost in an indecipherable blue ink swirl on my ribcage.  I don't remember what it said. 

I write on my hands, I write on the insoles of my shoes.  I scrawled the word "Bunky” on the back of my Metro card.   There is an old man who wears wife beaters and takes drop-in advanced adult ballet with me.  He wears loafers instead of ballet shoes and, thus can't point his feet.  He has a faded tattoo that spells "Bunky" on one of his arms.  I don’t want to forget him because I want to learn how to feel the music like he does, and stay on my feet even when I can’t touch my toes.  

I keep some of these things because I think they might make a good story someday.  But most of them won’t.  I just like to collect them.  First date, they talked about alligator skins and she chewed on ice.  End of story.  It’s still worth remembering though.

Unfortunately, I never wrote down the recipe for this cake.  I'm going to do the best I can to remember what I did.  

With love, 


sponge cake: 
1 stick butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup self-raising flour

2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

coffee icing:
2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, softened
4-4 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1/2 tsp vinegar
First, prepare the sponge cake.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a 11x7 baking pan.  Beat the sugar and butter together in a stand mixer. Add the eggs one at a time.  Add the flour until the mixture is homogenous.  Spread into pan and bake for 25 minutes.  Once done, set aside. 

Next, prepare the vanilla custard.

Have eggs ready in a bowl, and set aside where it will be within reach.

Using a whisk, combine milk, sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium heat on stovetop. Allow milk to scald (heat to the point when tiny bubbles form around edges of pan). Whisk occasionally to prevent cornstarch from clumping on bottom edges of pan.

Remove milk mixture from heat, preferably to a burner that's turned off.

Mix about 2 tablespoons of scalded milk mixture into eggs using whisk, then introduce eggs into milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking milk mixture constantly.

Immediately return pan to heat and whisk gently until custard thickens, another two or three minutes. Do not allow to boil. (If you find that you have egg white strands in custard, feel free to pass it through a fine-mesh sieve into a different bowl now.)

Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla.

Next make the coffee icing.
Place butter in a large mixing bowl and beat on high with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the coffee granules, cocoa powder, milk and vinegar. With the mixer on low, gradually add icing sugar until combined, then increase speed and gradually add coffee mixture. Beat on high until fluffy and well-combined. You may need to add more sifted icing sugar if your icing is too runny. It should be easy to spread but stiff enough to hold its shape.

Assemble the cake. 

Spoon some warm espresso on the cake layers and allow it to sink into the sponge.  Stack the cake layers with the custard between each layer and frost with the coffee buttercream!

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.


  1. i can't tell you how much i loved this post. your fear is real and the way you deal with it is so enchanting and so honest. thank you for sharing it. i used to write on scraps of paper, random quotes, a pleasing string of words etc. i outgrew that habit but when i came upon the box full of scribbles the memories came rushing back.

    PS. this cake is beautiful, i adore the way you decorated it.

    1. Thank you so much! I am glad you can relate -- I hope I stumble upon a big box of my notes someday so I can reminisce.

  2. Sounds like you're prime material for a writer, girl! Writing down scraps and snatches is the best way to find a lead on your next story inspiration; I'm an obsessive note-taker myself, though I tend to consolidate into a few major notebooks (otherwise I'll be the same way, losing loose sheets left and right). Loved this post. And geez, loved this gorgeous cake!

  3. What I love about your blog, Erica, is that it comes across so well how you are a thinker, and how profound your thoughts are, which is so wonderful. Yesterday I revisited my high school for the first time since leaving, and was overwhelmed with emotion at all of the memories I had left behind, and so relieved not to have forgotten them. I completely empathise with your fear.
    P.S. Your photography in this post is sensational!

    1. Thank you so much, this comment made me smile really big :). I can relate to that feeling when I revisit my middle school, it seems so small, and it's a great reminder of how far I've come since then.

  4. This cake looks just lovely, Erica! I really love how whenever I read your blog posts, it's like getting an honest look into the way your mind works :)

    1. Thank you so much! That is so sweet! That is exactly what my goal is when I write to you all, so that makes me really happy! :)

  5. I hate forgetting things too!!

    This cake is soooo stunning, love it!

  6. Writing down memories is the way not to forget. :)
    That looks delicious!!! I love your decorations!

  7. This looks fantastic - and I'm sure my mum would love it as she's obsessed with coffee haha!
    I love you note writing idea - I'm definitely going to be doing that, so when I get older I can look back on memories (cheesy haha)

    1. Thank you so much! I love love love looking through my old diaries from middle school -- instantly entertaining *shudder* haha

  8. That. Looks. Delicious. And can I ask what camera you used? You're photos always turn out looking so professional! xx


    1. Thank you so much Lynde, I use a Canon Rebel

  9. Thank-you for sharing this with us. I have a terrible memory so I have post it notes in various colours with all kinds of information posted up at my desk at work. I send emails to myself almost everyday with things to do or look at or buy. I also have Window's 7 version of post it notes up on my desktop. Normally my bad memory doesn't bother me except when it comes to birthdays or people's names and faces. I am not very good at recognizing people.

    The cake is beautiful!

    1. I am so glad I'm not the only one! Thank you Sandy!

  10. Omg! The icing on this looks incredible (Icing sucker, right here) - I can never resist it and this looks like heaven. I am so jealous of your cake skills. Thank you for sharing these lovely words, you always make me leave the computer thinking...and you have no idea where the influence of your words end! And you have such a comical, genuine, and honest way of getting it out there too...
    Tash xx

  11. Wonderful story! I would read your book!