leave me with some kind of proof it’s not a dream

I’m not a particularly good sleeper, but I am very, very good at dreaming. Sometimes too good – waking up and realising oh, Lea Seydoux definitely didn’t txt me, oh, I don’t actually get to go to a private dress rehearsal of Wicked, oh, I didn’t find masses of two dollar coins in the grass and clawingly scoop them up into my handbag, oh, I wasn’t in an episode of Bob’s Burgers where we hung out with people who hadn’t quiiiiite realised their 1960s heyday was over and drove a Kombi van to go shooting paint at trees in rapidly changing layers of colour. (Am not too fussed about that last one not being true: experiencing it in my mind once was quite enough.)

Anyway, dreams are generally only of interest to the person whose subconscious they materialise from, but in this case I woke up and was like, woohoo! I’m a sugary prophet! Because I dreamed I was making a cake without checking if I had all the necessary ingredients (so far, so realistic) and upon realising I was out of cocoa, I used chocolate milk instead. I didn’t get so far as baking it, but the dream-mixture definitely tasted good.

Dreams can come true, ya know. But when I first tried making a cake like the one in my dream, it failed completely – brickishly solid, without having the good grace to turn into a giant cookie, dry and sandy, a miserable waste of ingredients, to be honest. (And then I was like: hey, could make cake pops with this in the future! Not wasteful after all! And then I neglectfully left it on the bench for a week before guiltily binning it.)

Not one to be deterred by my dreams not coming true immediately, I decided to try again and to be a bit more thoughtful – I had a look around at cake recipes that had a larger proportion of liquid in them, I added some baking soda, and so on. And it worked! As if a chocolate milk cake wasn’t cute enough on its own I decided that adding a milk chocolate ganache on top would both amplify the flavour and more importantly, make the cake’s name reeeeally adorable.

chocolate milk milk chocolate cake

recipe by myself

170g soft butter
one cup sugar
two eggs
one and a half cups flour
half a teaspoon baking soda
one teaspoon baking powder
three quarters of a cup of chocolate milk

150g milk chocolate
quarter of a cup of cream

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F. Line a 21cm springform caketin with baking paper and grease the sides. This is a simple cake –  beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl till all creamy and delicious, beat in the eggs, sift in the flour and baking soda/baking powder (if you’re not going to be bothered sifting, which I totally get by the way, at least make sure there are no baking soda lumps. They will taste disgusting.) Mix altogether, stir in the chocolate milk, spatula it all into the caketin and bake for around 40 minutes, or until the top feels firm and springy. 

Allow the cake to cool. Break the chocolate into squares and gently melt it together with the cream, stirring plenty so it doesn’t catch and burn. Tip the lot onto the cake, spread it around with the flat side of a knife, and festoon with sprinkles or in whichever manner you find pleasing-est. I used rainbow sugar that I bought in San Francisco. 

Dreamy as this cake undeniably is, I’d have to describe the actual chocolate flavour as…aggressively mild. It’s like the slightest, barest hint of cocoa warmth against the comfortingly plain, buttery cake. It’s really good though, and seriously, potential cuteness is a good reason to do something, okay? But if you don’t have chocolate milk in your fridge or the energy to obtain some, regular milk is fine, especially with the soft sweet flavour of the cream-rich milk chocolate ganache tying it all together. It’s delicious. Oh, I really did make a good cake. 

Is it worse to never have a particular dream come true, or to have it come true and then thoroughly un-materialise itself? As I’ve said before, I’m more of a do-it-then-worry-about-regretting-it type than a don’t-do-it-and-wonder-forevermore type, but. Look. Okay. May was a difficult month for a ton of reasons, some within my control and some of them dizzyingly, confusingly, out of my control. This one thing though, I really can’t tell whether or not I could’ve changed it: once the last copy of my cookbook is sold from the last bookstore…it will be out of print. And my publishers, Penguin, won’t be publishing another one with me.

I’m not telling you this to garner sympathy (note, I love attention but hate pity, there is a difference – pity is mortifying, attention is wonderful) and I’m not telling you so I can vent unprofessionally about Penguin, because that would be really stupid of me, and I’m so grateful for the start they gave me. I’m just telling you because I really can’t hide much and it’s my nature to be all “hello there perfect stranger, let me tell you about my childhood triumphs, tragedies, and grass-related rashes” and because my cookbook sprang from this food blog, it would feel fake and strange to be carrying on writing to you as if nothing had happened. This is a big deal. This cookbook has been my life, years before Penguin even approached me to write it. I just knew it had to happen.

Whenever anything else was getting me down, I had this cookbook to comfort me: I’m a real published author, like Nigella Lawson and Ann M Martin and Virginia Woolf, my words can be bought, my recipes are on paper in peoples’ homes, becoming part of their lives, my name is on a cover page, I’m real. And so when I received this news, I felt like an utter, embarrassed failure. Like the fabled Emperor upon having his lack of New Clothes pointed out. Like maybe if my book had sold better, if I’d done more, if I’d quit my job sooner, if I’d not been so honest on here, if I’d been in Auckland, if I’d been richer with more resources, if I’d been better…then things might be different.

So uh, luckily for you all I held off from writing this blog post while I was entrenched in that particular swamp of miserable self-pity (I’m the only one allowed to pity me, thank you very much.)

This is where I’m at now: still really very unhappy, which I think is quite understandable, yeah? But pragmatic. Dignified. I’m not actually a failure. A major publishing house approached me, I wrote a book, a team of wonderful talented friends helped give it life, it was published, I can still go into bookstores and find myself immortalised alongside authors who have had a massive impact on my life (okay, alongside Nigella) and it’s still a really, really brilliant book. I mean, it has references to Homer Simpson and Ron Swanson and The Big Chill, but also to classic French sauce techniques and traditional hand-made ice cream and what I imagined to be Americana. It has a chapter of recipes you can make when you might be kinda tipsy. It has halloumi cheesecake and apple crumble for breakfast and a cake with sachet juice powder in it and a vegan chocolate cake that I’ve been making since I was about eight years old. It’s so excellent and I’m still so proud of it and of myself. It was not an overnight success (okay, some might say it was not at all a success, but some can go stand on a piece of Lego) and I will not be an overnight success, but I’m gonna get there.

At times like this I like to think of one of my idols, Broadway star Idina Menzel. She got a record deal off the back of her being in the cult-hit/actual-hit Broadway show RENT. She made the most amazing, confessional stream-of-consciousness overproduced album, the record company didn’t know what to do with her, and after a vaguely successful lead single, they dropped her. Now she’s got a Tony award for being Elphaba in Wicked, she’s the voice of a lead character in Frozen, one of the most successful Disney movies yet, and she’s performing in Radio City Hall in New York this month. Original copies of her debut album now sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay. And look at another idol of mine, TV character Leslie Knope. In the face of adversity, budget cuts, uncooperative gatekeepers and incompetency, she Did A Lot Of Stuff (I’m getting tired here and don’t want this blog post to go on forever, so just watch Parks and Recreation, okay? Start from season 2.)

Also – I mean – at least I had my dream come true at all, for a little bit. It’s not like everyone who did buy my book has to throw it in the bin by law now. The recipes are still great. And to be fair, this is ultimately something that just affects me. It’s not like I have a failed charity or…other failed good thing. It’s just one person’s cookbook. You don’t even need to care that this has happened to me. It’s one of those “You are Lisa Simpson” moments and there will be other publishers and other opportunities and other huge, spectacular things. I’m so unsure and yet so sure of that at the same time.

My ambition to be a Lorde-Kanye-One-Direction level famous cookbook author has not wavered in the slightest, in fact it still hasn’t occurred to me that I might have any other path in life. (There’s an upside to studiously ignoring logic! Strident self-belief!) But if nothing else, it’s good to know I can still make small, chocolate cake-sized dreams come true, all by myself.

And I am now what you might call “professionally single”. Which is my spin doctor way of saying “deeply unemployed and set adrift upon a cruel river of uncertainty”. But yeah, I am still full of words and ideas and recipes and ice cold brilliance and if anyone important is reading this and wants to make something of it, you know who to call. (Call me. Just in case you’re so important that you’ve forgotten how to pick up on subtle hints.)
And uh, speaking of framing things so they suit you, I guess I could call my book a cult hit now? An underground sensation? A huge, important point on my timeline, but not the last one. With that in mind, there’s no better time to rush into shops or online to buy this book, if you haven’t already. It’s so good, and nothing will ever change that.
PS: a terrific radiant humble thing that happened to me lately is that I had writing published on The Toast! Which I correctly believe is one of the very best websites on the whole internet. 
title from: Paramore, The Only Exception. I love song, with its mix of learned doubt yet unwavering hope. 
music lately: 
Ida Maria, Oh My God. Her voice is all husky and aggressive and gorgeous and so is this song. 
Spice Girls, Too Much. Viva forever! 
Frank Ocean, Bad Religion. His Channel Orange album remains perfect and this song remains burningly, achingly, hurts-to-listen-to-it good. 
next time: hopefully some really cool news or even slightly cool news. Or just news that is neutral but not sad and involving a long drawn-out blog post about my many feelings regarding it. Also: I made halloumi and hash brown burgers AND jam so it will likely be a recipe for one of those cool things. 

14 thoughts on “leave me with some kind of proof it’s not a dream

  1. Felicity says:

    I love your writing and your photos look amazing of the choc milk cake, moody. I keep coming back and reading your blog – I like that your personality comes through 🙂 I don't yet have a copy of your book as I live in San Francisco (and since I spent $100 on amazon prime I buy everything from there so I feel like I'm winning ) but I'm sure its just as great if not better (coz its in real print on real paper mmm tactile) as your blog. You're pretty great.


  2. Anonymous says:

    I love your confidence and determination to be huge. I was like that more when I was younger but have grown into the sweet, sweet acceptance that despite knowing that I have a talent, I'm not going to be Idina, and there are just too many damn people trying to do what I do. Keep going, though. You have the chutzpah to make anything happen.


  3. Sophie says:

    Oh no! I am so sad that your book is going out of print! I still think it is such an incredible achievement though! (Pretty prodigious really, coming from someone who is pretty much the same age as you, and the closest I've come to seeing my name in print is as the co-author on a lame, super-dry psychological research paper.) Also, I feel awful now because I still haven't bought your book because I'm still living in London and really wanted to be cool and come home and walk into Unity and see it and buy it in person… but now I'm just going to buy it online because I don't want to miss out. Even if that means I won't get to read it until I get home in six months time (unless my Dad is feeling unusually generous with his postage allowance). Still so worth it though! That is my story for you.
    And also, kia kaha girl. You have such a strong, entertaining voice that I know good things are coming for you. Can I go out on a limb here and suggest a return to your YouTube career? I really liked your videos – in fact, they were what made me get into your blog true and proper! No lies!


  4. Kate Anwen says:

    So like your book is a collectors item now? Stoked as yo. Also I am currently eating yr breakfast crumble and I didn't put in the sugar and it's just not the same??? Like in a bad way??? Anyway next time I'm putting in sugar it's very important.


  5. Hannah says:

    Everything about you is better, every single fucking day, every day forever because you make the world better, you make my world better, you make the world better, and forever and ever you are and will be the lady whose dreams taste like the sweetest, most heartfelt, beautiful, sprinkle-topped magic.

    Your choice of songs are exquisite. Today, I cried many times in the work bathroom, and I thought of you and how much I wanted to run into your arms and hug you so squeezy tight for so many reasons, and then I came home and read this and I'm listening to The Only Exception and so I'm losing my train of thought but I'm not losing the fact that I think so fucking highly of you and you are, in every way, the best getting better.


  6. dear colleen says:

    No pity here you wrote and have an amazing cookbook published. Most people never even get close to this level of success. You've done it once and you'll do it again. I feel like I personally have a good understanding of what you're going through, last year I kind of had the world handed to me on a plate and due to bullshit like just being one person, living in the ass back of beyond, health, money (lack of) I just couldn't grab or build on the opportunity. It's a hard road picking up and starting over again but it'll all be easier this time round. I find it's always worth thinking a little left field and if no one is smart enough to take you on there's always kickstarter. It seems to me with you have the drive and following to easily fulfil a funding campaign.


  7. sasasunakku says:

    In other news, I was in Phoenician falafels yesterday and was flipping through a Fishhead magazine from last year and out of all the celebrity “chefs” (their words, not mine) you were like top by a zillion! You probably knew at the time but, reminder!


  8. Sonia says:

    Hey Laura,

    Lovin' your Kenzo sweater and the Swonderful dress in one of your other posts 😉 I'm pretty sure I interviewed you on the summer programme a couple of years ago on RNZ. Sweet blog! Fantastic that you've published a cookbook too. I love your dedication!

    Keep up the good work.
    Sonia x


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