Mothers and children. Also, chocolate cake.

Celebrate Mother’s Day with my favorite chocolate cake, and learn how you can brighten Mother’s Day for other families by helping kids with cancer.

Fog happiness. That’s what Gretchen Rubin, in The Happiness Project, calls the good feelings you get from parenthood. I’m grateful to have read that, because sometimes it’s darn near impossible to describe the kind of happiness you get from brushing yogurt out of someone’s hair for the second time in one day, or from deciding not to tell a five-year old girl to “grow a pair and do it yourself,” or from being eternally cast as the muggle parent of Hermione Granger in a weeks-long Harry Potter enactment. Sometimes you just can’t find the words.

It’s called fog happiness because, like fog, it “surrounds you and transforms the atmosphere, but when you try to examine it, it vanishes.” In my own parenting experience, there have been occasional knock-it-out-of-the-park moments of joy: a birth, an atypically rousing chorus of a Laurie Berkner song, receiving this on an otherwise uneventful Wednesday afternoon:


Sometimes, just a game of peek-a-boo.


But mostly it’s the yogurt hair. In darker moments, I’d sometimes wondered how yogurt hair could be any kind of happiness at all, and whether it was hypocritical to name it so. It can’t do other parents any good to have me combing yogurt hair behind closed doors and telling them it’s the time of my life. Still, ask anyone and they’ll tell you. There is happiness in parenting, and it’s happiness of an immense magnitude, deep-rooted and high-soaring, both. It’s fog happiness. I’m so glad to know that now.

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With Mother’s Day around the corner, it’s a good time to be thankful for the happiness we’ve got, however crazy-ass it may be. It’s also a great time to pay it forward to other families in need of a little extra crazy-ass happiness of their own.

My friends Phoebe and Cara of the delightful cooking blog Big Girls, Small Kitchen are hosting a virtual bake sale from now through Mother’s Day to raise money for The Valerie Fund, a not-for-profit organization that supports comprehensive health care of children with cancer and blood disorders. They’ve created a delicious-looking Peanut M&M Blondie and are selling it through Baking for Good to raise money for The Valerie Fund. Click here to check out the deliciousness, and please consider buying some blondies for a great cause.

And if you’d like a little brown-eyed girl to go with your blondie, have I got a chocolate cake for you. Along with thriving, healthy kids, every mom deserves a knockout chocolate cake recipe to serve them when the mood strikes. It took me years to find mine. Not uncharacteristically, it took exactly until I stopped thinking I was better than everyone else and opened my eyes and ears to popular wisdom. This cake is adapted from a 1999 issue of Gourmet, via’s most popular recipe of all time. Nearly 1,400 reviewers can’t be wrong.

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The cake is moist and just the right amount dense, with a tender crumb. In the original recipe, it’s frosted with a rich ganache, but I like it better with a lightly sweet raspberry whipped cream, which also has the distinct benefit of being pink. With all that to offer, you never know. It might even make your Mother’s Day a break-through-the-fog event.

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  • Um, you’re totally my hero. Can’t wait to try this cake!ReplyCancel

    all of it… that cake looks so delicious! I’d like to reach through the computer & chomp on it for breakfast! ;o)
    LOVE the pics!!! & thanks for explaining Fog Happiness!!! Def need to get on the happiness project banwagon… love everything you post about it.ReplyCancel

  • What a beautiful post, child, and cake! I can’t wait to try that whipped cream…We’re so grateful to have you participating in our project!
    -Cara and PhoebeReplyCancel

  • Anne

    Whaaaa! Why do you always make me cry? I just forwarded this listing to Dan and not-so-discreetly asked him to make me this cake for Mother’s Day. The inspiration continues… Also, who doesn’t want a Peant M&M Blondie? What a great idea. Going there now. Thanks Carolyn!ReplyCancel

  • thanks for posting. this looks wonderful.ReplyCancel

  • Carolyn,
    This post got me a little misty. It’s not often, as a 24 year old, that i think to myself, man, I want kids. Like, right now. But you just made me very excited for motherhood and all the foggy joys that come with.

    Thank you so much again for supporting the Valerie Fund and our sale, and for sharing all the brown-eyed beauties in this post.


  • Lovely lovely post! I am not a mother but know the joy you are talking about. I nannied for a family for 6 years and practically raised the children. Now we are all great friends and the youngest is my god-daughter. There is not a day that goes by, where they don’t bring happiness into my life!ReplyCancel

  • Aww, thanks, everyone. I hope it helps!ReplyCancel

  • what a deliciously moist chocolate cake…I love the addition of the Raspberry whipped cream!ReplyCancel

  • That sounds incredible and I love this post! Such a great view on motherhood – including those yogurt in the hair moments.ReplyCancel

  • Fog happiness. I know the notion well, knew it must have a name. Indeed, indeed. Thank you for passing it on. (And happy mother’s day — looks like you’ve got it nailed!)ReplyCancel

  • What a deliciously moist chocolate cake!Can’t wait to try it. =)ReplyCancel

  • […] perfect chocolate cupcake recipe and avoiding baking chocolate cupcakes at all. I already have a favorite chocolate cake, but I’m not in love with the way it translates to […]ReplyCancel

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