For the past few weeks, I've been researching symptoms and treatments all while feeling like I am floating around on a pool raft. There aren't really any "cures," but only ways to manage symptoms and some preventative tips for when you might encounter a trigger (traveling). I was terrified at first. What if it never goes away? What if it gets worse? Will I ever travel again? For the first time, I joined an online support group. Reading about what other people were going through was equal parts comforting and terrifying. Some had mild symptoms like me while others were suffering for years and years.
It was devastating when I canceled this highly anticipated trip to Colorado, but I am determined not to let fear keep me from traveling ever again. I am learning so much now about triggers and how to manage my symptoms (lots of rest and low-stress, two things that I constantly struggle with on a daily basis). My family doctor suggested I book another appointment with my neurologist (scary that I have one of those now, but it's for my migraines) to discuss vestibular migraines and a treatment plan for when I do eventually travel again. Just last night, Brett and I booked our flights home for Christmas. I'm a little scared of what will happen, but mostly feeling excited and confident that I can overcome this terrible illness and not let it control my life. I read that it's life-altering, not life-threatening, so I will not let it beat me! Hopefully optimism wins. And if not, at least I can drown my sorrows in chocolate cake =)
Chocolate Caramel Cake
adapted from Half Baked Harvest
For the Chocolate Cake
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup canola oil
4 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup hot coffee
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans and set aside. Stir together the dry ingredients (including the sugar) in a mixing bowl and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, buttermilk, yogurt, oil, melted chocolate, and vanilla on medium speed for about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low, add in the dry ingredients in two batches. Mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, slowly stream in the coffee and mix until combined.
Evenly distribute the cake batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 3o to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack fro about 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
For the Caramel Buttercream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 to 4 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup caramel sauce, or to taste (recipe to follow)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
splash milk, as needed
pinch salt (optional)
Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioner's sugar until incorporated. Turn the mixer to medium and mix until combined. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth. Add more/less caramel, sugar, and milk until desired thickness and sweetness is achieved.
For the Coconut Caramel Sauce
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups coconut cream, full-fat coconut milk, or heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
In a large, dry skillet, heat the sugar over medium-high heat. Cook the sugar until it melts into a medium golden color. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the butter, a tablespoon at a time. Whisk in the coconut cream.
Return the skillet to medium heat and cook until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Carefully pour into a heat-safe container and cool. Sauce will thicken as it cools.
Place a cooled cake layer on a cake board or serving plate. Spread on about 1 cup of buttercream with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat. Crumb coat the cake with caramel buttercream and chill in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes.
Frost the cake with the remaining buttercream. Before serving, slightly reheat the caramel so that it flows (should be thicker than honey) and is about room temperature (not too warm or it might melt the buttercream). Drizzle over the cake (I start by adding drips around the edges, but can you just pour onto the top and then spread around). The caramel will most likely continue to slowly drip down the cake, so try to not get discouraged - it will still taste amazing!!