Thursday, January 19, 2012
Red Wine Chocolate Cake: A compromise
I went to a birthday party at a local bar two weeks ago.
It was very out of character for many reasons - first because I didn't know the person all that well and (usually) break out in hives at the thought of social situations that involve groups of strangers who all know each other. They stand in their little clusters laughing at their inside jokes, while I cower in the corner, nodding and smiling and looking very intently at my phone, because I don't know how to interject myself into their conversation without feeling like one of those beeping trucks that's backing up.
Right into those inside jokes that, in my hyper-neurotic world, are clearly about me and my weird phone-staring and smile-nodding and corner-dwelling.
But that's all beside the point.
The party was at a bar.
And it didn't start until 10:00 p.m.
I don't go out at 10:00 p.m. I'm home by 10:00 p.m. Home with my hair in an ugly knot bun, sporting my dark teal sweatpants, a swag-bag Nasoya tofu t-shirt and pink hoodie sweatshirt -- my unofficial apartment uniform. It gets extra scandalous when I break out my thick socks and purple fuzzy slippers.
It's dead sexy. Like if I was a contestant on "The Bachelor," it would be a total T.K.O. from the moment I stepped one slippered foot out of the limo with my mug of hot tea.
This party was huge for me. I was going out at 10:00 p.m. To mingle with strangers. At a bar. On a Friday night.
This is the sort of crazy shit that happens in the "year of yes."
Because, as I told myself over and over again so I wouldn't wimp out and go to bed at a "reasonable hour," it could be the best night ever. I could be the life of the party in my pink blouse and black cashmere cardigan. I could meet a guy who complimented my black flats and wanted to take me to Osteria Mozza.
And there could be cake.
This was what was going through my head as I willed myself to stay awake by dancing around my apartment to Rihanna's S&M on repeat. I secretly hoped that, yes, there might be a cute boy there with horrible taste in women (i.e. me), but more importantly, that someone would show up at the bar with an overly frosted sheet cake with balloons on it and those fake candles that don't blow out. Clearly that would be a totally normal thing to happen at a 27-year-old's birthday party.
At a bar.
At 10:00 p.m.
On a Friday night.
Even so, I held onto that sliver of irrational hope that someone else in my decade might be as lame as I am and still equate birthday parties with cake and balloons rather than tequila and regret. That someone else might be wishing they were home drinking tea and snuggling up with a fleece blanket rather than pretending not to be appalled by the subpar wine list and girls wearing tube tops as dresses.
But there was no cake. I was not the life of the party. And nobody complimented my flats or asked if they could buy me an al dente pasta dinner. There were half-naked strangers and inside jokes and loud voices and music that made my head hurt.
And, like I said, no cake.
There should have been cake.
At the very least, this cake, a red wine chocolate cake with mascarpone whipped cream and sifted powdered sugar that, in the world of people above the age of 10, is as close as one can get to neon-colored frosting balloons.
It's a proper compromise for an adult's birthday party - at home with friends, in an office with co-workers, or at a bar.
At 10:00 p.m.
On a Friday night.
Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Whipped Mascarpone
From Smitten Kitchen
Notes: In all honesty, when I set about to make this cake, I was expecting the wine flavor to dominate, to overwhelm the chocolate and leave that distinct boozy taste that I always hated in chocolate liquors. Instead, the wine was only perceptible through its fruit, lending a sort of jamminess that only enhanced the flavor of the chocolate. I loved it - so much so that half-way through my first slice, I emphatically declared to my coworkers that I would be having a second. I can easily see this becoming my go-to chocolate cake - and not just because of how easy it is to throw together. The only difficult part was finding Dutch processed cocoa, which is alkalized and less bitter than regular cocoa (think Ghiradelli and Hershey's, et all). Check the ingredients - if it says "alkalized," you should be good to go!
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 cup red wine, any kind you like (I used a sweet 'n spicy Shiraz)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup chilled heavy or whipped cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform or round cake pan with parchment paper. Grease paper and exposed sides of the pan with butter, then lightly dust with flour.
Cut butter into smallish chunks into a large bowl, then use an electric mixer set to medium to cream till pliant. The butter will likely stick to the blades of the mixer - that's ok. Add the sugars, then continue beating with the mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla (adding it before the egg makes the vanilla flavor more prominent), then add the egg and yolk and beat for a couple more minutes. Finally, add in the red wine, paying no attention to the somewhat garbled appearance of the batter at this juncture in the batter-making process.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt -- either directly into the wet ingredients, or into a separate bowl if the desire so strikes. Mix with the electric beater until about 3/4 combined, then fold the rest of the floury bits in with a rubber spatula. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing with the spatula until the top is even.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out almost clean. (Mine took around 28-29 minutes and the tester was still a bit sticky, but not overtly so. It was perfect once cooled completely.) If using a regular cake pan, you can let cool for 10 minutes or so and then invert onto the rack to cool completely, but if you are using a springform pan, feel free to let it reside in said pan until you are ready to serve.
For Whipped Topping:
Combine mascarpone, whipping cream, sugar and vanilla in medium bowl with tall sides (to prevent splashage). Beat with electric mixer over medium-high speed for a couple minutes, or until soft peaks form. It is advisable to not overbeat. I may have done so with this preliminary wine cake attempt, but didn't so much mind the thick texture.
Dust top of cake with sifted powdered sugar, then slice into slivers. Top with whipped mascarpone.