Saturday, November 19, 2011

Redemption - Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Sometimes you can't help but love something, although it gives you grief.  Like a mischievous child or a juvenile delinquent with a heart of gold, I harbor a soft spot for bad boys who are secretly good.  I hold the belief that people are essentially good, and that everyone makes mistakes.  Partly because, well, goodness knows I've made more than my fair share, but it all works out in the end.

Take this cake, for example.  The first time I made it, I thought it'd turn out a disaster.  I cheerfully made the batter with some friends, talking too much about how to measure flour and why you soften butter, why measuring cups come in both liquid and dry forms and why you grease a pan then flour it, and popped it into the oven, leaving it alone for about an hour.  Halfway through, someone turned off the oven.  I immediately turned it back on and baked it another 20 minutes.

I also flipped out.

When I finally controlled my irrational fit of furious anger at the idiocy and unfairness of the world 20 minutes later, I pried myself out of that sticky puddle of self-pity and ran upstairs for another toothpick.  Paranoid, I also needlessly set the timer and left the oven light on, just to clarify.  When I came back downstairs and tested the cake, it was perfectly done.  Springy to the touch, toothpick was clean with the tiniest little moist crumbs clinging to the sides.

I brought the cake upstairs, my black mood beginning to lighten.  The cake looked like a solid brick, having fallen while the oven was off, but the aroma was promising.  I borrowed a knife and cutting board, prayed and began to gently slice.  When I broke through the tough crust, I felt my anger melt and my despair fade.  The crust tasted crisp and pleasantly chewy, like the edges of good brownies.  Surprisingly soft and tender within, the cake was moist with a firm chocolate aroma, then subtle, mysterious flavor backed by a hint of rich butter.  The cake quickly won me over, and managed to woo everyone else as well.

I was still too depressed to take photos, but a repeat performance was immediately requested.  My friend even gave me red wine from her family's restaurant (soon to be posted!) to make another cake.  These pictures are from that cake.

My favorite part's the top crust :)

Red Wine Chocolate Cake from 17 and Baking, who adapted it from Smitten Kitchen, who got the recipe from At Home with Magnolia (Wow!)
Makes 1 9" x 5" loaf

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened 
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
¾ cup red wine
¼ cup plain yogurt (I made my own with milk and enough lemon juice to make it curdle)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa powder (Dutch or natural, see note)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

1 large mixing bowl
1 wooden spoon (or electric mixer, very handy here)
1 rubber spatula
2-cup liquid measure
¼ cup dry measure
½ cup dry measure
1 cup dry measure (optional)
1 9" x 5" loaf pan 
Butter and flour to coat the pan


1. Butter and flour the 9" x 5" loaf pan.  Preheat the oven to 325°F.

2. Cream the butter, then add sugars and cream until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and cream until lighter and fluffier.  This will take about 5 minutes with a good mixer and rather longer by hand.  Consider it your workout and this cake your reward.

3. Mix in the wine, yogurt and vanilla, ignoring the "curdled mess" look.  Gently fold in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Use a sifter or strainer if you have one.

4. Spread the thick batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake at 325°F for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the top comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then slice and enjoy!  If you have a cooling rack, this is a good time.

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