Last year, I walked into work on Halloween and found my coworker, Connor, just as I often did: tall, FULL of charm, and bifocaled. His cap was as it usually was. His hair hadn’t been messed with. In fact, the only difference about Connor was that his name tag read, “JOHN.” I laughed so hard.
At fifteen, I deliberated on my costume until the big day. I remember the moment when it suddenly occurred to me. I put on torn boyfriend jeans and dyed my curled hair temporarily red. I took a marker to an old, white t-shirt and wrote out the words, “Joe lies.” Just like that, I was Corey from Say Anything.
There is a picture of me as a two year old dressed up as Donald Duck on Halloween, in which I look miserable. To think, that was once defeat! What long ways we travel. I have this sneaking suspicion that discomfort just never stops, and that-though 5’7 is IT for me-I am always, always growing. Goodness, is it ever awkward.
I think back sometimes to the fatigue I would experience as a growing kid, and I wonder why we don’t consider how growing pains change as we age. Whether or not we actually take up more space is irrelevant; we are often changing, and sometimes, that change occurs in character-building ways.
With Halloween looming once more, I guess I started thinking about all the ways we dress up in whatever we need to, every day. Of course, there is a 100% chance that that statement stems from the fact that I am writing this with Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” on repeat. A symbol for romantic equality, the song features her asserting that “it” doesn’t hurt, followed by the words,
If I only could / I’d make a deal with God / And I’d get Him to swap our places / Be running up that road / Be running up that hill / With no problems
Swap places. HMM. I admit, my mouth is currently full of cake, which easily sways any and all of my decisions, BUT. This thought, though. This empathic thought. Isn’t that what we kind of do for one Halloween night a year? Granted, it’s not always with the purpose of understanding where others might be coming from. We do, however, present ourselves (in the name of tradition) as the things that we are not.
Couldn’t we do this a little more often? I keep thinking of all the times I have wished another person knew where I was coming from.
Habits form over time before they occur naturally; think of all the years it has taken for the earth to make it seem effortless that the trees are shedding. As a Minneapolis resident, I’d venture to say that Winter is still a bad habit in need of mastery…but I digress.
In honor of Halloween, and of this concept of considering where others are coming from, my cake dressed up like Elvis. One part Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cake, another Chocolate Peanut Butter Buttercream. And if that isn’t enough, I will point out: it is perfectly pompadoured like The King, himself.
Makes 1 two-layer cake
Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cake:
4 incredibly overripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp molasses
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Chocolate Peanut Butter Buttercream:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup Ovaltine
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 9-inch cake pans and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together mashed bananas, peanut butter, sour cream, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and molasses until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in banana mixture. Beat in dry ingredients in halves, alternating with milk, until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Divide evenly between cake pans and bake, rotating halfway through, until a tester comes out clean with moist crumbs attached (about 20 minutes). Let cool 5 minutes in the cake pans before turning out onto a cooling rack, allowing to cool completely before frosting.
Beat together butter and peanut butter. Beat in Ovaltine and cocoa powder. Add confectioner’s sugar in thirds, alternating with milk and vanilla in between. Buttercream will be fluffy and creamy; if it needs more liquid, add milk by the tablespoonful until it reaches the desired consistency. You can frost this cake any way you like, but I prefer to leave the sides of the cake without buttercream. To do this, place one of the cake layers on the cake stand and swath it with half the buttercream, gently smoothing into one layer. Place the second layer on top, then repeat. To create the pompadour-like swirl you see pictured, plop the buttercream into the center of the cake. Use a spatula to gently push the dollop of buttercream to the edge of the top layer of cake. Alternate how deeply the spatula dips into the buttercream and you swirl it back toward the center of the cake.