I love experimenting. I will admit to spending an ungodly amount of time each week skimming over recipes on the web, either in my reader, on various recipe sites or in my Epicurious app. Everytime I come across a recipe that seems worthy of my time, I send it to my Evernote and archive it for later. Some recipes have been waiting patiently for years and still haven’t been tested, while others are made the same day. I remember around the holidays seeing lots of recipes for fancy sounding chocolate combinations of brownies made with champagne, and I believe it was around this time that I came across the Smitten Kitchen‘s recipe for red wine chocolate cake.
I may not have made this one right away, but it certainly wasn’t forgotten and lost in the sea of my cooking to-do list. I must have been unconsciously saving it for the perfect occasion, just as Deb did, guarding the recipe until the fifth anniversary of her blog. Mine was no anniversary, but a looming day of professional cooking for hungry Parisians made me bring it out of its hiding place. For this special day, I concoted my own personal menu and knew that the dessert would be the hardest element to nail down. How could I pick just one? Luckily for me, the team was perfectly willing to let me try my hand at three desserts, and serve them as a trio after the beer and bourbon ribs and green bean casserole.
I knew that these peanut butter cookies would make the cut, and carrot cake as well. Then, logically, would come the chocolate. But how could I possibly choose between all of my book-marked and tested brownie, cake or cookie recipes? I almost made chocolate Coca Cola cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, but didn’t want to overdo it on the PB. I’d been thinking of ways to adapt American cooking to French palates, and suddenly realized that this red wine chocolate cake would be my ticket.
Since I’d never made it before, I decided to test it out prior to the big day. The original recipe was far too small for my French round cake pan, and I ended up having to double it. The cake ended just right, not too thick, not too thin, moist and earthy. The red wine added a spicy bite and the cinnamon, well, was the simply the perfect addition. My only qualm was that this chocolate cake did not seem quite chocolatey enough. It wasn’t the fault of the red wine, it was the cocoa powder. I never would have dared make this statement seven years ago, but after years of indulging in French chocolate “cakes” made with melted bakers chocolate, butter, sugar and flour (basically, a brownie), I just couldn’t quite get behind a cake using cocoa alone. That is not to say that I didn’t love and devour it. It was still richly flavored and fabulous, and the marscapone topping gave it a certain lightness despite the cocoa and wine. But I knew that if I, probably more French than American at this point, would’ve liked more chocolate, the French would certainly feel the same way.
So, on the big day I swapped this recipe out for a red wine brownie recipe with a chocolate glaze, which was equally divine and more amped up in terms of chocolatey goodness. I think it was the right decision, but this cake will definitely stay in my repertoire. Sometimes the American in me wakes up and justs wants good old American chocolate cake, dressed up with beer and pear cider or red wine. I can’t help it. So, the verdict is: definitely make this cake if you’re a fan of American chocolate cake. If you’re not, make it anyway. It really is delicious! I’ll try to post a comparison of the cake and brownie versions soon, and am hoping to have Jérôme’s famous French chocolate cake up on the blog very soon.
Red wine chocolate cake with whipped marscapone
Other than doubling the quantities, this recipe is 100% Smitten Kitchen
170 g butter (about 12 T)
1 1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 1/2 C red wine
2 t vanilla extract
2 C + 2 T flour
1 C cocoa powder
1/4 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1 C marscapone
1 C heavy cream
4 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract
A pinch of cinnamon and/or cocoa powder (my addition)
Preheat your oven to 325°. Line a 9 inch round baking dish with parchment paper and then lightly butter and flour the paper. In a large bowl, begin making the cake batter by creaming the butter until fluffy, then adding the sugars. Once well mixed, add the eggs and yolks, followed by the red wine and vanilla. You may be worried by the batter’s consistency at this point, but don’t be. It’ll all work itself out once you add the ingredients directly to the wet ones. Deb recommends using a mixer and then folding at the end to not overmix; as I made the cake by hand, and if you do too, you can simply gently stir the batter until it is well combined and nice and shiny. Pour into your baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes. The cake should be light and springy to the touch, and of course a knife should come out clean.
For the topping, simply whisk the marscapone, cream, vanilla and sugar until soft peaks form. I recommend adding the topping at the last minute, and storing it in a separate container.