Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Okay. I haven’t made a cake in a long time, and I did so because two of my beautiful friends celebrated their birthdays and they are both a big fan of red wine!

I’m not the biggest wine fan myself, so I had a little help in choosing the wine to bake with, but if that is deterring anyone who is like me, and not a huge fan of wine, you can still make this cake! I found that the wine did not overpower the cake at all, and it added a nice flavour.


I found the recipe here, and I am quite pleased with it. I made my own vanilla buttercream instead of the icing suggested (because mascarpone is ridiculously expensive), and I’ve included that in the recipe below. It still worked very well together, but if you like mascarpone, go for it!

Enough chatter. On to cake!

Ingredients

Yield: 1 8-inch cake

For the cake:

¾ c. cocoa powder
1¾ c. flour
1 tsp. espresso powder
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
½ c. vegetable oil
1¾ c. sugar
1 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. red wine – I used Yellow Tail Cabernet Sauvignon

For the frosting:

2 c. butter, at room temperature
3¾c. icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

For the red wine reduction:

1 c. sweet red wine
4 tbsp. sugar

For the cake, preheat oven to 350° F. Brush 3 8-inch cake pans with miracle cake release or line with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, espresso powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine eggs and oil. Add in sugar, beating to combine, until mixture turns pale. Reduce speed to low, then add in vanilla and milk.

Add in dry ingredients, mix until just combined, then add in wine and combine until smooth.

Divide batter into pans evenly, then bake in preheated oven 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks completely before icing.

For the red wine reduction, in a small saucepan combine the wine and sugar. Bring to a boil, then continue to simmer on medium-low heat until wine reduces to about ¼ c. It may take about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before using on cake.

For the vanilla buttercream frosting, in a mixer bowl fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add the sugar 1 cup at a time. Add vanilla and salt, and beat until smooth and combined.

To assemble cake, place cooled cake layer on a cake stand or board. Top with a generous layer of icing (doesn’t have to be too thick, but should still be there). Place second cake layer, repeat layer of icing, and finish with top layer of cake.

Ice the top and sides of the cake, getting the sides as smooth as possible. The original recipe had a “naked cake” look (meaning scant icing around the sides), and I decided not to do that. Drizzle the red wine reduction over the top of the cake. Slice and serve.

 

 

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Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows

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Sorry for the silence around the blog for the past few weeks. It’s been a madhouse! Shortly after my last post about those Chai Chocolate Sables, it was my birthday. I was going to actually make my own birthday cake, a Chocolate Raspberry Truffle concoction of Annie’s creation. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten that cake. It is sitting in the back of my mind, just waiting for me to crave a cake.

The weekend after my birthday, we were whisked away to a friend’s beautiful wedding, and I didn’t want to bake anything when we were going to be out of the house for three days. Finally, after all the travelling and revelry was done, I wanted to settle down and do some baking.
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Now, these marshmallows are not strictly baking. But, they are candy and dessert-like, so I decided to post them. At my beautiful friend’s wedding, she had a S’more bar (so clever!) and this gave me the initial idea of making homemade marshmallows. I have been tossing around the idea for a long, long time, but going to the wedding gave me the jump I needed.  I also made myself a sourdough starter, so in the next few weeks, there will be a post about homemade sourdough bread. As of right now, though, I made homemade marshmallows!

Thank goodness for Annie and her recipes.The only tool that you need for this recipe that may not be in your kitchen is a candy thermometer. Other than that, enjoy these babies. I’m going to try them next time with a flavouring other than vanilla.

One side note at well. The recipe calls for light corn syrup, which means clear corn syrup. I have almost two full bottles of corn syrup, the Golden kind, in my kitchen, and wasn’t about to go buy a third bottle, so I just used the Golden corn syrup. It turned out perfectly fine, but that was why I added a bit of food colouring so that these marshmallows weren’t a brownish gold colour.

Next time I want to make vanilla marshmallows though, I will buy the clear syrup, because the white colour of pure vanilla marshmallows is gorgeous. However, with a little bit of colour, and double the vanilla because I still don’t have vanilla beans, homemade vanilla marshmallows are within reach. Nor going to lie, I also made a quick little S’more to try, and wow. Amazing.

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Ingredients

Yield: 8-9 dozen marshmallows

1 c. cold water, divided
2½ tbsp. (3 packets) unflavoured gelatin
1½ c. sugar
1 c. light corn syrup (golden works as well)
¼ tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. vanilla (double this if using golden corn syrup)
¼ c. icing sugar
¼ c. cornstarch

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add ½ c. of cold water and sprinkle the gelatin over the water to soften it. In a medium saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, mix the other ½ c. of cold water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean and add to the mixture. If using golden corn syrup, add 2 tsp. vanilla.

Heat the mixture in the saucepan over medium heat, until mixture reaches 240°F. Immediately take off the heat. Turn mixer to low, and slowly drizzle the sugar syrup into the mixer bowl. When all of the sugar syrup has been added, turn mixer to high, and mix for 12-15 minutes, or until the mixture becomes thick and the bowl is lukewarm.

While the marshmallows are mixing, in a small bowl whisk together the icing sugar and cornstarch. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan, and sprinkle some of the icing sugar mixture into the pan, coating the bottom and sides. Once the marshmallow mixture is ready, spread into the greased and sugared pan with a lightly greased spatula. Sprinkle some (but not all) of the sugar mixture over the top of the marshmallows. Leave at room temperature for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Once ready to cut, tip out the marshmallow slab onto a cutting board. Using a knife or pizza cutter, rub blade in the icing sugar mixture and slice marshmallows into squares. If desired, use cookie cutters for fun shapes. Place marshmallows and the rest of the icing sugar mixture into an airtight plastic container. Shake to cover marshmallows and prevent them from sticking together. Store in the airtight container.

Neapolitan Cupcakes

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Oh, you read that right. Neapolitan cupcakes. Just like the classic ice cream, with a perfect blend of strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate, but in cupcake form! I saw these on Pinterest, and immediately wanted to make them. When I proposed the idea of a cupcake to Paul on Monday, he was enthused. I had him look through the various desserts I have pinned, and as soon as he saw the picture, he was of a one track mind. I found the original recipe here, and it was worth the work of a layered cupcake and a free afternoon spent baking. I actually timed everything out so I would have an uninterrupted afternoon of baking. I made the dough for the vanilla sables, then while it was firming up in the freezer, made and baked the batter for the cupcakes, sliced and baked the sables, and finished off the buttercream icing while everything was cooling. All in all, it was a productive day that I timed out (if I do say so myself) almost perfectly.

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I was also quite intrigued at the concept of a layered cupcake, and I have always been a fan of Neapolitan ice cream. Granted, my brother used to always eat all the chocolate, but I love the combination of flavours that always seem to marry together perfectly.
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The cupcake starts off with a chocolate batter, then a vanilla batter is layered on top of that, and after baking, the entire cupcake is frosted with a fantastic strawberry buttercream icing. I will let you know right now, if you are a fan of strawberries, this icing is for you. Oh. My. Gosh. It’s so good. Like sooo good. I kept having to restrain myself from licking the spoons, the beater, the spatula… well, you get the point. This strawberry icing is amazing. It uses a reduced strawberry puree to give it that punch of strawberry flavour, and it tasted EXACTLY like strawberry ice cream to me. So delish.
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If you are like me, and just dreaming of when the temperature outside hits more than plus 10, these Neapolitan cupcakes are definitely reminiscent of warm summer days and cool summer treats.

Ingredients

Yield: 22 cupcakes

For the chocolate batter:

1/3 c. cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ c. boiling water
¼ c. butter, melted
2½ tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
¾ c. plus 2 tbsp. sugar
¾ tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk (reserve egg white for white cake batter)
¼ c. heavy cream
1 c. flour

For the white batter:

1½ c. flour (the recipe says cake flour, but I used all-purpose and it was fine)
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
7 tbsp. butter, softened
¾ c. sugar
Seeds of ½ large vanilla bean, or 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
3 large egg whites
½ c. milk (anything but skim – I used 1%)
½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the strawberry buttercream:

1 c. plus 4 tbsp strawberry puree*
1½ c. butter, at room temperature
5 c. icing sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
4-6 drops red food colouring (optional)

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F.

For the chocolate batter, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the cocoa and baking soda until incorporated. Pour in the boiling water, and whisk until the bubbling stops and the mixture is combined. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a mixer, blend the melted butter, oil, sugar, vanilla and salt until combined, about 30 seconds. Stir in egg and egg yolk. Blend in the cocoa mixture and then the heavy cream. Slowly add in the flour and mix until incorporated, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed.

Line a muffin/cupcake tin with liners of your choice, and add about 1/8 c. of batter to each liner. I used a ¼ cup measure, and used the full measure to fill two liners with batter. Repeat until all batter is used. Set aside.

For the white cake batter, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt for at least 20 seconds. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter, sugar and vanilla bean seeds together until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract until well blended.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and mix until combined. Add half of the milk mixture to the butter/flour mixture, and mix until combined. Mix for 1 minute, until light and fluffy, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the second third of the flour mixture and the last half of the milk mixture, beating after each addition, then mix for 1 minute longer, again, until light and fluffy. Add the last third of the flour mixture, and mix until well combined.

Gently layer 1/8 c. of the white batter over the chocolate batter in the liners, and carefully spread batter to edges.

Bake in the preheated oven for 16-19 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, and making sure that a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the strawberry buttercream icing, put the strawberry puree into a small saucepan over medium heat, and reduce by 2/3, until you have about 6 tbsp of liquid. (6 tbsp. is slightly less than half a cup.) You must reduce the puree to the right amount, or the frosting will become too runny. The reduction will take about 14-15 minutes. Transfer the reduced puree to a bowl, and place in the freezer to chill, stirring every few minutes to evenly chill the reduced puree.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter until it is fluffy and pale. Occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in 2 c. of icing sugar, followed by the puree, vanilla extract, and food colouring. (Mine took 4 drops to get that fantastic pink colour.) Blend until combined. Add in the last 3 cups of icing sugar, mixing after each addition. If the frosting is too runny, add in more icing sugar, ¼ c. at a time, until you reach the desired consistency. (My icing took the 5 cups, no more.)

Spread or pipe the finished frosting over the cupcakes, and store in an airtight container.

* To make the strawberry puree, simply dice up some washed strawberries and blend them in a food processor or blender. Voila! Fresh strawberry puree!

Vanilla Sables

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Hello again, my dear readers! This week, I felt an irresistible pull to make cookies. I didn’t really care what kind of cookies, I just wanted to make cookies. I also wanted to make something I have never made before. It was a kind of feeling that I just wanted to make small, single portion baking, so I made these vanilla sables, and, for a more indulgent treat, I made Neapolitan Cupcakes. That recipe will be posted in a few days, but I wanted to start off with something relatively simple.

Of course, who do I turn to when I am looking for something I have never made before? Annie, of course! She had this recipe for vanilla sables, as well as a slightly more complex version of Chocolate Chai Sables. Well, let me tell you, I was tempted by both, and the vanilla sables won. For a recipe I had never tried before, I wanted to taste the original version.
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These sables were a resounding success. I did have to make a few tweaks to the recipe, but that is because I don’t actually have any vanilla beans (gasp, I know!). It’s an investment I keep meaning to make, but I just keep forgetting to order a nice big bag off the internet. Either way, I substituted some extra vanilla extract for the absence of vanilla beans, and regular sugar for the vanilla sugar.

If, however, you have vanilla beans, and feel the urge to make some vanilla sugar, take some used vanilla bean pods, and stick them in a container of white sugar for a few days. That’s it! When I finally get around to getting some vanilla beans, I also have plans to make my own vanilla extract, so hopefully in the next year there will be a post on that.

These French sables, they remind me a little of shortbread. The cookie dough is all mixed together, then rolled into a log, and frozen for a few hours or overnight. After that, it is cut into slices, and baked. Quite simple, and not that time consuming. But, enough talk! To the cookies!

Ingredients

Yield: About 2 dozen cookies

1 c. butter, at room temperature
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise (or 2 tbsp. vanilla extract)
2/3 c. vanilla sugar (or regular sugar)
2 large egg yolks
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2¼ c. flour
½ tsp. salt

For finishing:

Turbinado sugar (approx. ¾ c.)
1 egg white, lightly beaten with 1 tbsp. water

In a mixer bowl, combine the butter, vanilla bean seeds, and vanilla sugar. Beat on medium-high, about 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Blend in the egg yolks, one at a time, and add in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour and salt until incorporated, and a thick dough forms.

Gather the dough together and transfer to a piece of parchment paper. With your hands, form the dough into a long log, about 12-14 inches long and 1¾ inches in diameter. Wrap the dough up in the parchment paper, twisting the ends to secure, and place the dough in the freezer for 2-3 hours, or until firm.

After the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Unroll the dough from the parchment paper, and pour a line of turbinado sugar on one side of the parchment paper. Whisk the egg and water together, then brush over the dough log. Roll the dough log into the turbinado sugar. (If you can’t find any turbinado sugar, just use brown or white sugar. I used white sugar, and the cookies turned out fine. Paul looked for me, but could not find turbinado anywhere.)

Slice the sugared dough into ½ inch slices with a sharp knife, and transfer to the baking sheets.

Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, for 14-15 minutes total, until cookies are just set and light golden around the edges. Let cool briefly on pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Lemon Layer Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

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It has been a while! Life has caught up to me, and I am sorry for that! However, let’s get things rolling again with a fantastic cake to help round off the month of February! A very good friend of ours came down to Lethbridge for the weekend to celebrate his birthday. That only meant one thing – a fancy, home-cooked dinner and a fabulous dessert to go along with it!

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Paul decided to make a rotisserie chicken with cheesy broccoli and cauliflower and a rice pilaf. When I asked Darren what he wanted for a birthday cake flavour, his answer was “Something simple like vanilla or lemon.” Well, vanilla and lemon are both simple concepts, but I decided to combine the two to make something simply amazing!

Of course, the first place I went was the wonderful Annie of Annie’s Eats. Her cakes have been inspiring me for years, and this recipe was no exception! Combining a luscious lemon cake with a light, lemony mousse-like filling, and a vanilla buttercream frosting? This cake sounds like heaven!

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The only real change I made was substituting extra vanilla extract for the vanilla bean seeds. I do not currently have any vanilla beans, and I need to make this change very soon, but I decided to just put the extra punch of vanilla in the frosting instead.

I will note that in Annie’s recipe, she says you will have frosting left over. I didn’t, and I mixed the frosting up even slightly longer than she recommended, just to make sure it was as light and fluffy as I could get it.

This cake does take some time to make, and its various components are worth the work. Still, if you like lemon, vanilla, or a combination of both, take a day and make this cake! You won’t be sorry!
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Ingredients

Yield: 1 8 inch cake

For the cake:

3 c. cake or all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
16 tbsp. (1 c.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Zest of ½ lemon
2 c. sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
1¼ c. buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tbsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:

4 oz. mascarpone or cream cheese, chilled
2½ tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ c. icing sugar
2 tsp. lemon extract
Zest of ½ lemon
1 c. heavy cream, chilled

For the frosting:

1½ c. plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 c. icing sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 tsp. vanilla extract (2 tsp. if you do not have any vanilla beans)
2 tbsp. heavy cream

For the candied lemons:

1 lemon
1 c. sugar
1 c. water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms and sides of 3 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper. (To help the paper stick to the pans, I butter the edges of the pans.)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside. Add the butter to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and add the lemon zest to the bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat for one minute more.

Add the sugar to the butter mixture, about a ¼ cup at a time, mixing for about a minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Combine the buttermilk, lemon, and vanilla extracts together in a liquid measuring cup. Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter mixture in alternating increments, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Mix until just incorporated, then beat for about 15 seconds longer.

Divide the batter equally between the three pans, and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes. Be sure to rotate the pans halfway through baking. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks to cool completely.

For the filling, combine the cheese and butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth and well-combined. Mix in the icing sugar and beat until just incorporated. Blend in the lemon extract and lemon zest, on medium high speed until the mix is light and fluffy. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and set aside. Wipe out the mixer bowl, and attach the whisk attachment. Pour in the heavy cream and beat until stiff peaks form. Mix a third of the whipped cream into the butter mixture, and blend until smooth and evenly incorporated. Gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream until evenly incorporated. Refrigerate until needed.

For the frosting, add the butter to the mixer bowl fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip about 1 minute, until smooth. Add the icing sugar and beat on low speed until just incorporated. If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the pod and add them to the butter, along with the salt. Continue to beat until smooth. Mix in the vanilla extract and heavy cream on low speed until just incorporated. Increase the mixer speed and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Refrigerate until needed.

For the candied lemon slices, wash lemon and dry thoroughly. Slice as thinly as you can with a serrated knife, and poke out any seeds with a toothpick. In a saucepan, combine the water and sugar over medium-high heat. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves, and add the lemons in a single layer, none overlapping. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer 20 minutes, turning at least once so both sides are exposed to the mixture. Remove from heat and store in a container with the syrup until ready to use.

To assemble the cake, level cake layers if necessary. Place one cake layer on your cake stand or serving platter. Top with half of the whipped cheese filling, and spread evenly across the layer. Top with second layer of cake, and the rest of the filling, and spread evenly. Lay the last cake layer on top of the filling. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the vanilla frosting. Using any remaining frosting, pipe accents on the cake. Garnish with candied lemon slices. (I also drizzled the candied lemon syrup over the top of the cake for an extra lemony punch.)