Soooo I’m officially a quarter-century old you guys.
Yesterday was my 25th birthday, and it began with a 13.1-mile run in Central Park. When I signed up for a half-marathon 11 weeks ago, I wasn’t really thinking about all of the dedication, effort and patience it would take — it was just something I kind of wanted to do, and what better day to do it than your birthday?
Two loops of the very hilly Central Park is no joke, as it turns out, but I had lots of help to get me through: countless texts and emails with encouragement and advice, and a mantra from Nila that got me through all those inclines (“Run the hills” — it works for both running and for life, and I literally whispered it to myself for all of Miles 3, 4, 9 and 10). On race day, seeing Caitlin at the hardest part of Mile 10 was a huge boost, and by the time I spotted my cheering squad at the finish line, I was all smiles.
And then, we had cake. Red wine chocolate cake, aka three of my favorite things in one perfect package. This recipe might be my favorite of Smitten Kitchen’s, and that’s saying a lot, seeing as how I bookmark pretty much everything she makes. It’s so ridiculously easy that one can make it in a Time Warner Cable-induced rage at 11 p.m. on a Friday, it travels well (in case you’re baking it for someone else) and when dusted with a little powdered sugar and topped with the luxurious mascarpone-whipped cream, it looks elegant and classy (which, coincidentally, is how people describe me. And by people, I mean no one).
Taste-wise, I think you can guess how much I liked this. The cinnamon adds a hint of spiciness, but other than that, it’s all delicious chocolate and wine. If you don’t like red wine, this probably isn’t the cake for you (also, let’s talk about that). But for me, it was the only way to ring in 25, and the best post-race recovery meal in history.
Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
For the cake:
- 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*
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder**
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*I used a 2011 Albero Tempranillo Barrica because I love Spanish wines, but any red will do — one with berry or fruity notes complements the chocolate nicely.
**Dutch-process cocoa powder has been alkalized to neutralize the cocoa’s acidity and mellow its flavor. (David Lebovitz explains this much more thoroughly over here.) I found some Valrhona cocoa powder in small bulk-style containers in the back of Whole Foods — you may want to check it out at your local WF.
1) Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and set aside.
2) Using an electric mixer, cream the butter in a large bowl 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. (The batter will look a little weird, but don’t worry.)
3) Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt over the wet ingredients. Mix until halfway combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. (Dare you not to lick the bowl clean — the batter is the most delicious chocolatey-winey pudding ever.)
4) Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The top of the cake will be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate. (God, could this cake sound more amazing?) Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then flip out onto a cooling rack and cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Note: I made this ahead, knowing that once everyone got here, there wouldn’t be time for baking. I let the cake cool overnight, then triple-wrapped it in plastic wrap and froze it, which made it a bit sturdier for the transfer to my aunt’s place. On Sunday, I took it straight out of the freezer, topped it with powdered sugar and the mascarpone whipped cream and celebrated turning 25!
For the topping:
- 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1/2 cup (118 grams) chilled heavy or whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1) Whip the mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla together just until soft peaks form — don’t overwhip. Dollop generously on each slice of cake. It can also be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours.