Sweet holiday recipes for my first love: Dad | WHIDBEY RECIPES

My first love was the epitome of that romantic cliché “tall, dark and handsome.” He was slender, with sky-blue eyes that crinkled at the corners when he smiled, which he did often. I fell for him, hard, the first time I saw him.

My first love was the epitome of that romantic cliché “tall, dark and handsome.” He was slender, with sky-blue eyes that crinkled at the corners when he smiled, which he did often. I fell for him, hard, the first time I saw him.

He was older than I, far more experienced, and I was very naïve at that point, so it was easy for me to let him take the lead, teach me what he felt I needed to learn to become stronger, more independent, even to the point of, perhaps, not needing him any longer. He knew it was inevitable that I’d look, at some point, for someone closer to my own age, and yes, I did.

I admit to being fickle for a time, and other loves came and went over a period of several years, but never did our love for each other change, nor end. When each passing fancy burned itself out, he’d be there, loving me as always. Unfortunately, his ongoing presence did make it harder for those “others” to measure up.

That man, my first love, taught me so much about what it means to care about someone, to take care of the ones you love, to do what is expected of you by those who count on you. He taught me to understand the meaning of honesty, patience, kindness, work, self-respect, pride, friendship, and the importance of fun and laughter.

Yes, he had other women in his life, as well. I knew there was one, in particular, who was even more important to him than I, and yes, I was occasionally jealous. She had come along a number of years before I came into his life, and even though I knew how much I meant to him, I also understood that she was and would always be the true love of his life.

Eventually I left him for another man and we went on with our separate lives, but we always stayed in touch and never stopped loving one another. I am now and will always be grateful that he came into my life when he did.

His name was Charles, but everyone who knew him called him “Chuck,” except me. I called him “Dad.”


Dad had a lifelong sweet tooth and one of the small things I could do for him that always made him happy was to make what he called an “obscene dessert,” like these.


1¾ cups water

1 T. instant espresso powder

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2¼ cups sifted all-purpose flour

1½ t. baking powder

¾ t. baking soda

½ t. salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp.

2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

For the frosting: 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

1¼ cups whipping cream

½ cup sugar

4 large egg yolks

1/8 t. salt

1 lb. high quality dark bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

¾ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temp.

½ cup light corn syrup

¼ cup sour cream

White and dark chocolate shavings, for garnish


Lightly butter three 9-inch cake pans and line bottoms with waxed paper rounds. Butter the paper.

Bring water and coffee powder to boil in a heavy small saucepan; remove from heat. Add cocoa and whisk until smooth. Cool completely.

Into a med. bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add sugar in 4 additions, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Add eggs and yolks one at a time, beating just to blend after each addition.

Using a rubber spatula, mix dry ingredients into butter mixture alternately with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven about 23 min., or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on racks for 10 min., then turn out onto racks. Peel off waxed paper; cool completely.

Frosting: Carefully scrape seeds from vanilla beans into a heavy saucepan (save the beans for another use). Add cream, sugar, yolks and salt, blend well. Stir over med. heat until the custard thickens, about 7 min; DO NOT BOIL. Mix in chocolate, butter and corn syrup. Remove from heat; stir until smooth, then mix in sour cream. Transfer frosting to a bowl and refrigerate until spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 1 hr.

Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over. Repeat with second cake layer and frosting; top with third cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle white and milk chocolate shavings thickly over the top of the cake. Serves 10-12.


Dad’s cookie jar was almost never empty, and these cookies were a favorite; equally as wicked as the above cake, but much easier to whip up.


16 oz. quality (72% or more) dark or semisweet chocolate, divided

¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar

¼ cup butter

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla

½ cup flour

¼ t. baking powder

2 cups chopped nuts (your choice)

Coarsely chop half of the chocolate; set aside. Microwave remaining chocolate in a large microwavable bowl on high for 1-2 min. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour and baking powder. Stir in reserved chopped chocolate and nuts.

Drop by ¼ cupfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven 12-13 min. or until cookies are puffed and feel set to the touch. Cool on sheet 1 min., transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 1½ dozen.