It was my eighth or ninth birthday when I learned that life is unfair. The toll of caring for two kids, bills that rudely arrived in our mailbox and my construction-working dad's unpredictable schedule left my parents strapped for cash. This meant no presents for me. My mom, as gently as she could, apologized and expressed the sorrow she felt over her empty hands. I wouldn't have it: I cried, I kicked, I screamed. The tantrum didn't make a box wrapped in shiny paper magically appear, but it did make my gentle mother disappear, replaced by her tough-love side. She slammed my bedroom door and shouted, "Then stay in your room and cry like a little baby!" I complied.
An hour or so later, our home filled with the drifting waves of pure goodness. I knewthe smell. It was my mom's chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. No cookie dough bits or crumb topping, no layered caramel filling or shredded coconut—just chocolate upon glorious chocolate, the rich, creamy, gooey frosting smothered generously upon the dense, equally rich, spongy, chocolate-y insides. It's the only cake I enjoy, and it doesn't hurt that it doubled as a lesson in love and humility. It's still the cake I get on my birthday years after I've left the nest, and it's certainly worth more than any gift that parades itself in shiny paper.
You're not getting into my mom's kitchen any time soon, but Macaroni Grill makes a damn fine chocolate cake. Five bucks buys you a heap of chocolate. The cake is even more enticing when topped with their chocolate ganache sauce and sprinkled pecans. It's not my mom's, but it'll do the trick.
Macaroni Grill is found in any fancy Orange County strip mall.