“Giving chocolate to others is an intimate form of communication, a sharing of deep, dark secrets.”
I stood there, at the train station, and at the same time I was shattered into a million pieces, scattered all over the floor.
I had stepped up to the ticket vending machine, in the dreary and depressing train station of Leighton Buzzard, without knowing which ticket to buy.
It was June, but it was a June as British as they come. Filled with rain, chills and the inevitably fogged windows in heated rooms.
As I was standing there, in the sweaty ticket hall, in my trench coat and vintage brogues, suitcase in hand – it dawned on me. Just as much as I couldn’t see past the steamed up windows, I couldn’t see past this very moment.
Where would I go? Where should I go?
Who am I about to become?
It hadn’t been love at first sight (and neither is this a love story). He was 6ft 4″ tall and I didn’t take note of him at all.
I was an intellectual artist with a drinking problem, he was a working class expat from the Midlands with drinking expertise.
I had fallen for someone else, but in true artist’s fashion, it was a passion unreturned.
So I settled for a dance with this airplane contractor, one quite smitten with me, but one I swept past myself five minutes after saying our goodbyes.
Life humored me in such a way that he would walk into my bar one late Friday evening a few weeks later as I was trying to sober up – which is what one does at a bar, right?
And in my newly defogged state of mind I saw the one superficial feature in him I was hunting for: He was taller than me. So I stayed.
I moved to the forsaken hell of a caravan close to his workplace. Yes, a caravan, yes, in the middle of a sheep’s field; yes, I moved to a caravan in a damn field in a different country than my own for a man who was taller than me.
I enjoyed the weekends with his kids, we rented an apartment together, we got cable TV.
And while I was busy suffering from a deep culture shock, unable to talk to anyone but the crazy lady on the bus stop bench, he burned me. He burned me hard and he burned me fast, like a lightning bold shooting through a dry branch.
I packed my suitcase late at night, crying. “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” had been his words, his final ones to me.
It didn’t make sense, what was the distinction, did he not see how he had broken my heart?
I had two choices: I could go on or I could go home.
I was painfully aware of the fact that I’d go home soon, but I wasn’t able to go home immediately. I would do it on my terms, not on anyone else’s.
So I stood in front of the ticket machine and did the only sensible thing I could muster up: I closed my eyes and hit a destination.
And when my train came to a screeching halt in the large and light-flooded station of Brighton, I stepped out into the sun and broke into tears.
I found a hostel 30 minutes later through the friendliest member of a job agency to have ever walked the face of this earth.
I cried myself to sleep that and every subsequent night.
The barista job I got a day later paid for my long-term hostel bed rent, canned beans and cheap wine.
I cried at work every time I loaded the dishwasher, every time I cleaned the downstairs after closing time, every second I thought about the softly-sweet hugs of his son and daughter.
I met someone at the hostel, no, not in the way you’re thinking. Sure, she was interested in women, but she was a friend, not more, though friendship sounded better anyways.
I’d bring back leftover chocolate cake from the coffee shop, rich and heavy, covered in cheap and too-sugary chocolate buttercream.
We’d share it over a glass of red with a screw-on cap and our deepest sodden secrets.
Then we’d go out, wander the streets, step into a small bar and dance our sorrows away.
She was my dawn on an endless stretch of darkness, quite possibly one of the best female friends I have ever had.
I’m not a baker of big and beautiful centerpiece cakes with many layers. I’m a maker of rustic bakes without much flair, treats that are shared in intimate settings between dear friends over a spill of emotions.
I’m very much aware that I just shared these streusel coffee cake bars, which are equally fit for a heartfelt tête-a-tête. But these sweet potato chocolate cake bites are too good to keep a secret from you.
They’re small. They’re adorable. An interesting bake.
I have made cake with sweet potato before (it even has pecans, too), but never with chocolate. A match made in heaven, much unlike the contractor and I.
Almost not sugary enough, rich with cocoa and chocolate – just like the bitter-sweetness of my not love story, which turned out to be much more about friendship than about heartbreak.
They’re also gluten-free, using buckwheat flour. I’m as much of an eclectic cook as I am a person. I love minimalism just as much as kitschy alternative retro, and a raspberry cake with regular flour and sugar as much as a gluten free and vegan treat.
What I’m always after is the special, the irregular, the one thing to turn your mundane into the extraordinary.
This sweet potato chocolate cake makes for great bite-sized treats as you’re sobbing over your latest lost love to your own dawn on the horizon, and dare I say it? They taste so good with a glass of heavy, sultry red wine.
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 7 oz dark chocolate, the better the quality, the better the cake
- 1 medium banana
- 1/2 cup raw sugar, or coconut sugar
- 2 tbsp almond butter
- 2 tablespoons very strongly brewed espresso
- 1 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/4 cup raw cacao
- 1 tbsp chia
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
- Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into chunks. Cook them in boiling water for 10 minutes or until soft. Drain, then place the chunks back into the pot on the hot (but switched off) stove for 30 seconds to evaporate excess moisture.
- Heat the oven to 160°F. Prepare an 8x8 inch (20x20cm) baking dish by greasing with coconut oil OR lining with parchment paper. Mine was non-stick, so I just greased it.
- Place the sweet potatoes and dark chocolate in a food processor and process until smooth and the chocolate has melted. Add the banana, sugar, almond butter and espresso and pulse until smooth.
- Add the buckwheat flour, cacao, chia and baking powder and pulse until combined. Fold through the pecans.
- Spread the batter in the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes. You can adjust the baking time to your liking - a little less will give you more fudgy brownie-like consistency, the longer you bake, the more cake-like they will become.
- Cool in the tin on a rack, then cut into squares.