Victory Lap: An Ode to the Final Year of My 20s

I won't lie to you and say the past nine years were always amazing.  Sure, there were lots of memorable moments, but I'm not perfect.  There were days when I would stop to wonder how I got to that place--you know, the place where you feel like if you plan a vacation it will rain the whole time or if you saved up a little money the car would inevitably break down.  It was tough.  Calling them my "roaring twenties" would be an accurate description.

Truth be told, I think most of my friends would say the same thing.  Our twenties were a time when we rose to adulthood, without the comfort of our parents home and bank account to protect us.  We made mistakes.  Sometimes it was lonely.  We indulged in too much wine.  Most of us hated our first "real" jobs.  We missed having a safety net.  We mourned the end of childhood.

But we did laugh.  A lot.  My friend K.C. always said that if someone wasn't funny, she couldn't be bothered to get to know them.  Laughter pulled us through while we invested ourselves in building a life.  Many of my friends went on to graduate, law or medical school.  Some married and started families.  Others defiantly sought adventures around the world.  It's not easy to find the right path to follow.  Our twenties gave us a chance to weave in and out and see how the direction felt.  If it didn't end where we expected, we still had time to go a different route.  And we still have time, but it's starting to feel different.  We are older, maybe not as daring.  We have a lot to lose.  So we push on and try to find our way, laughing as often as we need.  I'm lucky that I have found a man who laughs with me.  And he makes me laugh when I most need to.

I had a birthday yesterday.  I'm 29 years old.  Not thirty--I will not let you age me a year. But not because I'm afraid of 30 or apprehensive about aging; I'm going to spend the next year to savoring my twenties.  The latter half of them have been very good to me:  I fell in love, I gained a daughter, I created a home for our family, I'm the happiest I've ever been.  I want to honor my twenties with a victory lap.   I'm going to spend the last year of my twenties celebrating the fact that I'm thriving--I'm still here, still loving, still laughing, still bettering myself.

Tim and Melissa baked me a cake.  I picked it out--dark chocolate cake with chocolate frosting--and they did all of the work.   I don't think the simple name it was given appropriately describes this cake--it was rich and moist and intensely flavorful.  It only seems appropriate to call it Victory Lap Cake, because it represents to me the things I love most about where my 20s have led me:  to family, to love, to happiness.  And they aren't over yet. 

Double Chocolate Layer Cake aka Victory Lap Cake
recipe slightly adapted from Gourmet via epicurious
serves 12 to 14 (or more)

Tim decided put his own twist to the cake by adding orange zest.  While not overpowering, I do think it gave the cake a little zing that chocolate cakes can lack.  I would recommend it, but you could omit it if you don't have an orange handy.

Ingredients for the cake
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups fresh brewed coffee, hot
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken
3/4 tsp vanilla
zest of one medium orange (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Grease two 10 in x 2 in round cake pans.  Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and then grease the paper.

Finely chop 3 oz of chocolate and combine in a bowl with hot coffee.  Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  Allow to cool slightly. 

Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.  In another large bowl with an electric mixer, beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer and slightly longer with a hand mixer).  Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well.  Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.  If using, stir in orange zest with a spoon or spatula.  Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks.  Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto rack, carefully removing the wax paper.  If not completely cool on the bottom, allow to sit until completely cool.  Can be made 1 day ahead and kept at room temperature wrapped well in plastic wrap.

Ingredients for the frosting
1 pound semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

Finely chop chocolate.  In a medium saucepan, bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved.  Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted.  Cut butter into pieces and add to saucepan, whisking until smooth. 

Transfer to a medium bowl and cool, stirring occassionally, until spreadable.  You may need to chill frosting to achieve a spreadable consistency.

Spread frosting between cake layers and over top and sides.  Serve cake at room temperature.  Cake can be kept for up to 3 days covered and chilled. 


  1. My FAVORITE post to date! I love the reflection and your writing voice just pulls me in. Thanks for making me smile (and shed a happy tear).

  2. Thank you Amy. That was my goal and I'm glad it is working.

  3. This was a beautiful post; a very accurate look at what our twenties involve - the highs and the lows. Happy birthday, dear! I hope you soak of every single moment of your last 20's year with laughter and love.


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