Better Living Through Reading (and Chocolate)

Better Living Through Reading (and Chocolate)


I had a birthday over the weekend. I don’t do well with moderation and am happier when I avoid desserts, but I really wanted to bake a cake for this birthday. I used to love to bake, and if there ever was a good time, this was it.

This cake has been in the back of my mind since I first read Molly Wizenburg’s charming memoir A Homemade Life a couple of years ago. (I liked it enough to give it a spot in the Memoir/Cookbook Mashups category of the summer reading guide.) Not only was her description mouth-watering–she calls this thing the Winning Hearts and Minds cake for a reason, and she served it at her wedding–but it’s very nearly flourless.

Ingredients for Molly Wizenberg's Winning Hearts and Minds Cake

My kitchen hasn’t seen these ingredients in a long, long time

So this chocolate cake made its debut at our table this weekend. I deviated from the recipe a bit: Molly’s recipe calls for super-fancy chocolate, and I used Ghirardelli. I couldn’t find fancy butter, so I used (gasp!) store brand. And it was amazing.

I actually made two of these cakes: one with the Ghirardelli and store-brand butter, and a dairy-free, soy-free version with Enjoy Life chocolate chips and coconut oil. (I substituted a gluten-free flour blend for the tablespoon of all-purpose flour in both cakes.)   

I never would have found this cake were it not for that memoir. And while I won’t be baking it often (I’m not so good at moderation, remember?) I’m happy to have it in my repertoire, and whenever I bake it I’ll have an excuse to talk fine chocolate and nerdy book love at the table.

Do you have a “better living through reading” story? Share it in comments (especially if chocolate is involved).

18 comments | Comment


  1. Meg Evans says:

    That has been my go-to cake for a few years now. It has even earned a new nickname around here.
    We now call it Four O’clock Cake, because of the time I added some espresso to it.
    Fout o’clock in the morning was how late it kept my mother in law awake!

  2. I’m dying to know how the coconut oil version compared–?? 🙂

    My only “better living through reading” story is that I simply see life differently (better?) after reading good children’s fantasy literature. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      The coconut oil version was really good. I was more concerned about the Enjoy Life substitution than the coconut oil substitution, because I find those chips taste more of sugar than chocolate. But I needn’t have worried. 🙂

  3. Jaimie says:

    That sounds so good! I’m thankful that neither my husband or I has any food allergies, so when we crave sweets, we make homemade brownies with butter, sugar, flour, and cocoa… and I’m happy. 🙂 So glad you were able to find something you and your family could eat and enjoy!

  4. Tim says:

    Don’t you love Ghirardelli chocolate? Their hot cocoa mix is amazing. When I was a kid we used to take out of town guests to Ghirardelli Square near Fisherman’s Wharf. The ice cream shop there has the best sundaes, and there’s a chocolate mill in the middle of things so you can watch the coca being crushed into molten liquidy goodness right before your eyes.

    For me, I found a wonderful apple cake recipe through studying the Bible. Well, the recipe wasn’t in the Bible, but one of the older women in our Bible study group made the cake for us and it was so great we asked for the recipe. She said she got it from her grandmother, so you know it has to be old. It’s a simple and delicious recipe for apple cake, plus the recipe includes a yummy caramel drizzle to go on top.


  5. Tim & Anne, every time we go to the supermarket, my dear loving husband buys me 5-6 bags of these chocolate chips. I snack on them throughout the day. I keep them in the freezer in our garage to make grabbing them here and there ever-so-slightly more difficult. (That’s my form of moderation.)

    The funny thing is that my 19 year-old daughter picked up the habit from me. And just recently, I’ve caught my 6 year-old son snacking on them, too. It is beyond funny to see him stretching up to reach the freezer. Often he brings me a few, too. They’re always slightly grubby from his little boy hands, but how can I say no?!?!

  6. Keely says:

    I’ve read Shauna Niequist’s “Bread and Wine” twice in the past two months. No other book has inspired me more in terms of hospitality, caring for others through food, and welcoming others into my home and my story–mess and all.

  7. Angie says:

    I read Molly’s book, and held onto that recipe! I don’t care for chocolate that much, (I know, I know, I’m so weird!!) but everyone else in the whole world does, so I figured it was a surefire winner to take places. I recently read ‘Bread and Wine’ too, and absolutely loved it as well!

  8. Jennifer H says:

    you had me at chocolate 🙂 I have been doing my doses of chocolate in pre-portioned candy and ice-cream treats. I am not ready to tackle a whole cake, but looks so yummy!

  9. Amanda says:

    That’s one of my favorite memoirs! I think I wanted to cook pretty much everything in it after I finished reading, and I’m so glad to hear a good report of this yummy treat! (Happy belated birthday by the way!)

  10. Reading Lean In encouraged me to mentor the younger people in my office. My way of mentoring? Cook breakfast for them on Fridays so they come to my office and talk to me. I’ve tried so many good recipes because of that (and made good progress on the mentoring too).

  11. Shauna mentions this book, and it’s been on my list for a while! I’m excited to read it.
    Speaking of Shauna, in Bread and Wine, she talks about her bacon-wrapped dates and suggests that if you only make one thing from the book, you should make them.

    They have made me more popular. People now talk about me as the girl-with-the-bacon-wrapped-dates.

    Quality of life, indeed.

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