My best writing comes to me at night. It arrives within warning. Sometimes it steps politely, almost tentatively, out of the dusky recesses of my mind as I’m falling asleep. My regular thoughts file out obediently as the writing pokes its head in, as if it’s the last straggling coworker in the office, as if to say: “Excuse me? Just a few things quickly before I head home.”
Sometimes it rushes in loudly in the middle of the night if I wake up momentarily. I fumble for the water on the nightstand, confused, while the writing flashes like a floodlight in my brain—illuminating it, the words as clear as a neon sign, writing themselves in a long, rapid scrawl against my closed eyes.
Sign that I should keep a notebook and pen handy? Likely. I sometimes jot down ideas if they’re quick and simple and dead brilliant. Otherwise I just sigh, knowing the clarity with which paragraphs are parading around my head will be gone in the morning. Alas! Others will take their place. Sometimes I write the ideas and wake up to find they are, in fact, not brilliant at all but truly lame and a bit weird.
I’ve considered the Gilmore Girls approach. Remember that episode? Lorelai is in full stress-mode opening an inn. She calls and leaves herself messages on the answering machine in the middle of the night to remind herself of to-dos. In the morning, she plays them back: a bleary voice mumbling about curtain rods and scone recipes and firewood deliveries.
[Editor’s note: If you don’t love Gilmore Girls, now is probably the time to confess that I consider it the ultimate comfort and I’m sorry if you don’t, but don’t hold it against me. I promise I won’t talk about it too much. And I definitely won’t buy the Team Jess pin I saw today in a paper goods shop. Mostly because I’m not sure if I am Team Jess. And I don’t like pins.]
My midnight voicemails would sound like this: chiropractor appointment. miso in chocolate cake? miso in white chocolate scones? scone cake? buy more sprouts. try tart form of breakfast sandwich: bacon and egg tart with tomato jam. mail homemade valentines. shit, shit, make homemade valentines.
One night this week before bed, I was reading a few messages from some of you who had baked the cream cheese pound cake recipe. There was chatter about good flavor variations. Chocolate was mentioned. As I fell asleep, I had the idea to create an entirely separate pound cake recipe—not one where chocolate was an afterthought, but one all about chocolate. Enter this beauty: deep and dark and rich thanks to black cocoa. (You can buy it here, and if you can’t find it, just be sure to use Dutch-processed cocoa. Black cocoa just gives it that extra-dark color.) Lots of chocolate chips stud the loaf—I use semisweet or dark chocolate chips, but chopped chocolate would work nicely too.
Double Dark Chocolate Pound Cake
Makes one 9” x 5” loaf
1/2 cup (50g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder (use black cocoa for a darker color)
1/4 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups (180g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (198g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (53g) brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 cup dark or semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the vanilla, espresso powder (if using), and eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each. Be sure to beat each egg until well-mixed before adding the next.
Add the dry ingredients, cocoa mixture, and milk and mix until the batter just comes together.
Stir in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into a greased 9” x 5” loaf pan (or one lined with parchment). Smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for about 60 minutes — this baking time can vary a lot depending on your oven, I’ve found, so start checking after 55 minutes but know that it could take closer to 70. Take it out when a tester inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
Let the cake cool fully before serving (I usually let it cool for about 15 minutes in the pan, then tip it out to finish cooling).