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.
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup self-raising flour
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
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!
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