Mushroom Memories

“Wuddup slut!” is how I likely answered Andrew’s phone call that day. We’re actually quite close. 

Andrew and Erick were longtime pals before I met them, but they were the first friends I made when I moved to Los Angeles. Erick’s birthday always falls around Coachella’s second weekend. When Andrew called that Thursday morning in late April, I had an inkling what the call was about.

“I wanted to see if you grabbed tickets to the Soulwax show tonight?” Andrew asked, breezing past my greeting. “Katherine’s in town from Germany so a bunch of us are going, and I think we’re gonna make this Erick’s birthday thing this year.” 

I hadn’t bought tickets. Erick’s birthday is forever seared into my mind because the one year I went to Coachella, I forgot I’d agreed to cover it for a publication that rhymes with Meatport. With just days before the start of the second weekend, Andrew and Erick let me stay with them and other better-prepared friends, saving me from a homeless weekend in the Indio Valley. I’d celebrated Erick’s birthday with him every year since and I wasn’t about to miss one now. I told Andrew I’d buy one.

“Well it’s sold out, but it’s gonna be the same live setup they’re performing at Coachella,” Andrew continued undeterred. “It’s supposed to be pretty dope, and they’re only doing limited shows.”

The brief pause that followed was because I’d put him on speaker so I could Google more information about the tour from my phone. But I believe he mistook the silence for my FOMO, “I’m sure you can find tickets on Facebook or something,” he added with a tone of encouragement. “If you do find one though, make sure it’s for the floor seating so we can all be together.” 

“Okay, lemme research and I’ll call you back.” was how I ended the call though my internal dialogue was a little more pessimistic. 

I watched videos of the Soulwax Transient Program for Drums and Machinery performance from weekend one while I begrudgingly paid the exorbitant fees on [rhymes with] “Shrubhub.” Even sober, the production looked insane. By their own definition, the Transient Program for Drums and Machinery was more an installation than it was a traditional concert. Imagined by Soulwax and Ill-Studio, the stage setup had seven musicians operating the spectacle. The instruments, be they live, modular, or analog, were placed strategically on a giant rug which, when free of equipment, showed the demarcations of where each instrument was meant to be, reinforcing the schematic of the installation.

After securing a floor ticket I called Andrew back. I lived a seven minute Uber ride away from the venue so I offered to host the pre-show gathering. And for the remaining hours before everyone arrived, I baked a triple layer yellow cake with chocolate buttercream frosting for the birthday boy.

The pre-party was just Erick, Andrew, Katherine and myself and it wasn’t long before the conversation about party favors for the evening came up. 

I had an idea, “Well I have some mushrooms but it’s the bottom of the bag so it’s all shake.” I continued telling them how my preferred method is to blend the mushrooms with orange juice but unfortunately I didn’t have any juice at the moment.

“Can’t we just sprinkle some on the birthday cake?” Andrew suggested, “I mean..I’ve had mushroom chocolates before, it’s not that much different.” The comparison made sense to me but nevertheless, we decided Andrew should have the first bite. “It’s not bad,” he said optimistically with his mouth still full. He finally swallowed, “It’s actually not bad…like…at all.” He goes for another bite, “That cake is really fuckin’ good, Britt!” he said emphatically while still chewing.

The actual cake from that night

One day, I’ll write a research paper positing the evolution of the cocoa plant into chocolate with the discovery of psychedelic mushrooms was a kismet part of our expanding universe. But for now, just know, the combination of the two ingredients is surprisingly blissful.

All four of us had generous slices of the mushroom-shake-birthday-cake and washed it down with prosecco. We decided it’d be a good idea to use the bathroom and leave as soon as possible so that the mushrooms would kick in when we were already at the venue. 

But time is an illusion. And thinking we could leave in a timely manner was lousy judgment…and grabbing the rest of the ketamine I had on the way out the door was just overkill. 

Per Andrew’s advice, we arrived early to see the opening DJ and our hallucinating asses entered the venue like we owned the place. And once we claimed a spot at the very front of the stage, we basically did. The four of us aggressively held the Park Place of dance floor real estate until the rest of our friends arrived. One of the new arrivals was Vanessa. While she’s never been one to shy away from speaking her mind, once she saw the four of us were on a combination of a hallucinogen and dissociative, her eyes screamed “Oh Lawd, have mercy on my soul” while she herself said nothing at all.

Vanessa tried to establis7hh “drink getters” and “spot holders” to divide tasks among those who were functioning and those who weren’t. But the crowd grew more intense as Soulwax were set to go on any minute now and at a certain point, I could see she’d given up.

Overwhelmed by the increasing number of sloppy drunks around us, Katherine was getting anxious. Making parenthesis with her hands, she lowered her head and shielded her eyes from the ruckus around us. “Don’t worry about them Kat, look at me, look at me!” I pulled her arms down and bent down to her eye level, “Fuck everyone else, it’s just us. This is our universe! We are the center,” I tapped into my German, “Wir sind das Zentrum!” She shook off her nerves and stood tall, ready to defend our dance floor space.

Soulwax took the stage right when we all started peaking. We screamed and “Woo’d” every time the performance did something mesmerizing…which was always. If you were within any short distance of our crew, you would’ve hated us. And I think this review’s description of the crowd is actually talking about us. We saw the rays of hate zeroing in our general direction but we couldn’t stop fawning over how, to our tripping eyes, the production was constantly shifting.

We continued on like this for the rest of the set but right before the show scheduled to end, Vanessa tapped me on the shoulder, “Uhm, are you aware Erick is puking in a trash can by the entryway?” she shouted over the music. Everyone around us heard her. “He’s WHAT?!” I screamed. Vanessa grabbed my hand and I grabbed Katherine’s and we shuffled through the packed crowd. Andrew scurried behind. 

We found Erick sitting on a bench in the lobby. “I don’t think that second bump of K was a good idea” he moaned as we helped him up. “Those lights were crazy man…” he said in a stoner drone. We couldn’t help but laugh. 

After parting ways with our other friends, the four of us went back to my apartment. Erick immediately sprawled out on the hardwood floors, forgoing the couch just inches away. I threw all the blankets and pillows on the floor and we all joined him. I put on a playlist with some minimalist jazzy jungle and drum and bass. Maybe it was the music, maybe it was the fact we were finally able to breathe comfortably, but Erick got his second wind.

There we sat, talking and laughing until the wee hours of the morning. Just four friends enjoying each other’s company and reveling in the jaw dropping experience we’d just shared. 

Sometimes the best nights out with your friends are the ones you didn’t plan at all. 

Yellow Cake 

  • 2 cups and 2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened or room temperature (Irish butter preferred)
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs + 2 additional egg yolks, room temperature and separated
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting 

  • 2 ½  sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3–4 cups confectioners’ powdered sugar
  • ¾  cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 3–5 Tablespoons heavy cream at room temperature
  • ¼  teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache 

  • two 4-ounce quality semi-sweet chocolate bars (113g each), finely chopped*
  • 1 cup (8 ounces; 240ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream

Instructions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease two 9-inch cake pans (Pro tip: line the baking pans with parchment paper rounds and grease the parchment paper to help the cakes seamlessly release from the pans)
  2. Whisk the flour and cornstarch together. For extra floof, sift the two ingredients back into a large mixing bowl. Add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed for three minutes. The creamed butter and sugar will be extra creamy. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Turn the mixer down to medium-high speed and beat in the 4 egg yolks one at a time, letting each egg yolk fully mix into the batter before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla extract until combined. Set aside.
  4. Add about ⅓ of the dry ingredients and ½ of the buttermilk and beat on low speed until combined. Add ⅓ more of the dry ingredients and the rest of the buttermilk and beat on low speed until combined. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until combined. The batter is very thick. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Whip the egg whites: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high speed until fluffy peaks form, about three minutes. See photo and video above for a visual. Slowly and gently fold the egg whites into the thick cake batter. Avoid over-mixing as you don’t want to have bitch-ass deflated egg whites.
  6. Pour/spoon batter evenly into cake pans.
  7. Bake for around 30 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. After about 18 minutes, cover the cakes with aluminum foil to prevent the tops and sides from over-browning. To test the cakes for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. 
  8. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. And don’t be an impatient dick – wait for the cakes to be completely cool before you start frosting, assembling, and shit.
  9. While your cake cools, make the buttercream and ganache: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat only the butter on medium speed until creamy, about two minutes. This makes your frosting lit. Add confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, heavy cream, salt, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for a full minute. Do not over-whip, you kinky slut. Add 1/4 cup more confectioners’ sugar or cocoa powder if frosting is too thin or another tablespoon of cream if frosting is a thicc bish. Taste. Add more salt if you’re a salty heaux like me.
  10. To elevate your cake, you can add some ganache but this is optional if you’re not simpin’ for chocolate. Place chopped chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl. The finer you chop the chocolate, the better.
  11. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to gently simmer. (Do NOT let it come to a rapid boil, you dairy masochist – that’s too damn hot!) Pour over chocolate, then let it sit for 2-3 minutes to gently soften the chocolate before you stir.
  12. With a metal spoon or small rubber spatula, very slowly stir until completely combined and chocolate has melted. If it’s not melting, do not microwave it just use the heat exuding from your thighs
  13. Ganache can be ready to use as a drizzle or you can let it sit at room temperature to cool and thicken. It will fully cool within 2 hours. Refrigerating speeds this up, but the ganache will not cool evenly. Stir it a few times as it sets in the refrigerator so it remains even and smooth.
  14. Once completely cool and thick, the ganache can be piped with a piping tip or scooped with a spoon. You can also beat the cooled thickened ganache with a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until light in color and texture, about 4 minutes on medium-high speed.
  15. Assemble and frost your cake: If your cooled cakes have a domed-top, use a large serrated knife to slice a thin layer off the tops to create a flat nelly bottom surface. Garnish with mushrooms or sprinkles, if desired.

Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction