The Cake That Was (Not) Bad

One of my favorite food blogs – in fact, one of the gateway food blogs that led to the enormous backlog of posts I have bookmarked to read and taste test on Feedly – is Smitten Kitchen. Gorgeous photos, pretty much infallibly delicious recipes, one adorable toddler…what’s not to love? So, of course, Deb Perelman’s (the woman behind the blog’s) cookbook went straight to the top of my Christmas wish list.
Since I got the book (Santa was good to me), I’ve made her mushroom bourguignon, which was a big hit at our Game of Thrones premiere party. This time, I moved on to dessert. Red wine velvet cake, to be exact.

As far as layer cakes go, this one wasn’t crazy difficult. (I’ve done a German Chocolate Cake from scratch, and that was…less simple.) You start out by lining and flouring three pans.

You then mix up a basic cake batter base, which, I’ll warn you, looks REAL gross when you add the wine. Don’t be alarmed. Ignore the alarm that rises within you despite Deb telling you not to be alarmed. Press onward.

Add in the dry ingredients.

Once everything looks more like a batter that isn’t cause for alarm, it goes into the pans and into the oven.

And out comes…a baby alligator! Just kidding, it’s a cake. As expected. It looks pretty much like a chocolate cake. (And technically, it’s three cakes. Unless your oven ate the other two.)

You mix up a mascarpone topping and frost. No need to do the sides. This is a rustic cake (mine’s a bit tippy, we’ll just call it extra rustic). Put it on a cake stand. Be impressed that you finally found a use for your cake stand.

Now, the taste test is where things got…interesting. The Boy tried it, and he wasn’t terribly impressed. It was “weird.” I didn’t mind it – it was definitely different, and you could taste the wine, but that wasn’t a bad thing, was it? As I only have an audience of one, doubt crept into my mind. What if it was bad? What if everyone hated it?
When we got to the party (for which the cake was made) I handed it off with an itmightbeterrible mumble. And yet – it was well received! Lauded, even. They kept eating it for days!
So – Smitten Kitchen:1, Scientific Sample of One: 0. As expected.
Red Wine Velvet Cake with Whipped Mascarpone
From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
This is definitely a cake for grown-ups, since it is a little different – not terribly sweet, nor terribly chocolatey, with a strong hint of wine. I might have wanted a bit more filling, so maybe make a double recipe (Deb suggests doing that to cover the sides if you are so inclined, though she warns that cake may still peek through). Still, as far as layer cakes go? Easy. And pretty. And looks damn good on a cake stand (if I do say so myself).

Yield: 16 to 20 servings (1 towering 9-inch cake)
Cake Ingredients

16 tablespoons (225 grams or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pans
2 3/4 cups (345 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

2 cups (380 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar

2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

2 cups (475 ml) red wine (any kind you like)

2 teaspoon (10 ml) vanilla extract

1 1/3 cup (115 grams) Dutch cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon table salt
Filling Ingredients

16 oz. (500 grams) mascarpone cheese
2 1/3 cups (280 grams) confectioners’ sugar

Pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cake Directions
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment, and either butter and lightly flour the parchment and exposed sides of the pan, or spray the interior with a nonstick spray. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and yolk and beat well, then the red wine and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together, right over your wet ingredients. Mix until 3/4 combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of each layer comes out clean. The top of the caks should be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip out of pan and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack.
If your cakes have domed, you can trim layers flat with a serrated knife.
Filling Directions
In a medium bowl, beat the mascarpone with the confectioners’ sugar, pinch of salt, and vanilla extract at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Assembly Directions
Place the first cake layer on a cake stand or plate, and spread with 1/3 of the filling. Repeat with the remaining two layers. Chill the cake in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it.
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