Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Red Wine and Chocolate...Indulge with a Little Taste of Heaven!

"Dessert is to be enjoyed. Everyone loves to be a little naughty once in a while, and allow themselves a little taste of heaven in eating and enjoying a calorie-laden frivolity. So, go on — live a little and enjoy baking. Indulge yourself.” - Claire Clark, in her introduction to Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts.

When I initially set my sights on this Chocolate Red Wine Cake for our "Cooking with Wine" Concert in the Park theme, I did not realize it was on the cover of Indulge. Probably a good thing, because I may have been too intimidated. My last experience with tempering chocolate was a disaster and Claire Clark, former pastry chef of The French Laundry, is certainly a tough act to follow.

I took my time, read and re-read the recipe, prepped my ingredients, and sipped a little wine throughout the process. The cake turned out almost perfect, and I had fun playing with chocolate! The cover photo on Indulge is a bit deceiving as far as the size of the cake. It's only 9-10 inches in diameter, depending on the size of your bundt pan, and 2-3 inches high, but it is rich and decadent in flavor and overflows, literally, with wine. There's wine in the batter and then the entire baked cake is soaked in wine! A small piece, served with one of the chocolate disks, and a drizzle of warm chocolate sauce, will satisfy every craving...

Chocolate Red Wine Cake
Recipe from Claire Clark, Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts, and also here
(Serves six to eight)


For cake
4.5 oz. (125 g) unsalted butter, softened
4.5 oz. (125 g) caster sugar
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
5 fluid oz. (150 ml red wine), room temperature (I used Red Zinfandel)
4.5 oz. (125 g) plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/4 oz (65 g) dark chocolate (55-57% cocoa solids), grated

For soaking

2 fluid oz (50 ml) water
1 oz (30 g) caster sugar
4 fluid oz (125 ml) red wine

For garnish

1 jar Red Currrant Jelly
10.5 oz. (300 g) dark chocolate, tempered
Optional: raspberry sorbet and hot chocolate sauce


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C). Grease and flour 10 inch (25 cm) bundt tin (I used a 9 inch and liked having a little more height to the cake). Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add beaten eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add 5 fluid oz. (150 ml) red wine. Mix well. (At this point, the batter separated and looked disgusting.  However, it did come back together after the dry ingredients were added).  Sift flour, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa powder, baking powder together. Sift again, then fold a tablespoon at a time in to creamed mixture. Fold in grated chocolate. Transfer to bundt tin. Level. Bake in center of oven for 35 minutes until well risen. Skewer-test to check if cooked. Once cooked, cool in tin for 20 minutes, then take out and cool completely. Clean tin for reuse.

To soak the cake, bring water and sugar to the boil in a small pan, stir in 4 fluid oz. (125 ml) red wine. Fill bundt tin with red wine syrup. Place cooled cake back in tin. Once liquid has been absorbed, reverse cake out again, being careful not to damage. (This was easier than I expected, as the cake is small and can be picked up and set back into the bundt pan). Cool.

Bring red currant jelly to a rolling boil in small pan. Remove from heat, then brush hot jelly over cake. Let jelly set, then repeat process to get glossy finish (The next time I make this cake, and there will be a next time, after the soaking step, I think I will invert the cake onto a rack placed on a baking sheet, and slowly pour the hot jelly over the cake.  The brushing method did not result in a very smooth, glossy finish, and alot of the jelly ended up around the edges of the plate).

To garnish cake, make discs of tempered chocolate (I used David Lebovitz' method for tempering chocolate, here). Once cooled, cut off base using hot knife so that they sit flat at the bottom of cake (see above).

Claire’s notes:  Make the chocolate decorations the day before you make the cake, to take the hassle out of finishing it. If you do not feel up to tempering chocolate, look in your local supermarket for chocolate decorations; the cake will keep for a week in a sealed container in the fridge; Sheets of acetate can be bought in boxes from most stationery stores.

Claire Clark, former pastry chef at The French Laundry for almost four years, reportedly returned to London to pursue her own venture. To see her in action, she shares her recipes for Orange Pistachio Cakes and Scones, with a video of her making the scones, here.

Back to our concert menu...

Red wine and chocolate were paired in two other desserts, one of which only appeared via tragic "casualty" photos. The photos brought tears to my eyes....as I laughed hysterically at the story told by the cake's creators and destroyers, Mary and Geoff.

Mary & Geoff live up the coast, in Solana Beach, and rarely make it down to Concert in the Park. When I was a baby-lawyer, Mary hired me and we worked together for several years, and were able to socialize often. Those were the days! Mary actually got me hooked on red wine, when Silver Oak cabernet sold for under $20 at our neighborhood grocery store!

I can't possibly tell story of Mary's Chocolate Red Wine Cake casualty, as well as she and Geoff did, but they were kind enough to share a few photos...

It appears all is well, and the cake will be accompanying them to the park in a few hours...

But then, while washing her hand mixer purchased with Green Stamps...yes, Green Stamps, the motor fell out...and blades were missing!

Three were found, but the fourth remained MIA.  Shit, Geoff Oh no, Geoff, where's that last fucking little blade?  Probably in the cake, says Geoff, snickering under his breath.

Mary frantically searched for the missing blade, thereby destroying the Chocolate Red Wine Cake in the process.  But, no blade??

Plan B, a quick run to the bakery for Tiramisu!  The missing blade has yet to be consumed found.

Mary, now a happily retired attorney, and her husband, Geoff, soon to be happily retired, will continue traveling the world to exotic lands and hope to avoid any future kitchen casualties.  I think a new KitchenAid may be under the Christmas tree this year.

Carmen prepared these scrumptious Red Wine Chocolate Truffles, decorated with vibrant hot pink Luster Dust. She found the recipe at Heather's Sprinkle Bakes blog, here. Carmen says she doubled the amount of cream and used raspberry wine. I think I had about six two.

Although a few of our main chefs took the week off for travel and other ventures, we still had more than enough to eat for our main courses. I previously posted the lovely Chicken with Mustard Mascarpone Marsala Sauce, here. This one's definitely a keeper!

Carmen also made Port-Braised Duck Legs with Black Pepper and Dried Cherries, adapted from All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking by Molly Stevens, but my photo didn't do it justice. Also, be sure to read the related and very interesting New York Times' article about cooking with wine: It Boils Down to This: Cheap Wine Works Fine.

John concocted skillfully prepared a red wine marinade, and red wine barbecue sauce, for pork baby back ribs, to go with some awesome sweet Merlot-colored corn I found at Whole Foods.

And Sparks Brandon prepared Chicken Breasts smothered in a Red Bell Pepper Coulis (the coulis had a touch of white wine).

It was a great evening, with Mary and Geoff in company. We also celebrated Bradley's 50th.

Some chefs will be traveling next week, and we expect to have a small group for Challenge Tacos! I'm looking forward to trying another "cover" recipe!

I'd love to hear how you "indulge" and/or your most memorable kitchen casualty....


Sippity Sup said...

Wow, I am sure I could never "indulge" you with anything similar. So I'll just say how do I become friends with your friends. GREG

bunkycooks said...

I haven't even had coffee yet...you are killing me with this food first thing in the morning! OMG! The chocolate cake is just gorgeous. Your next career is a pastry chef...or Food Network Star! :)

Carmen said...

I'm giving the duck another try this week and hoping for perfect results.

Great picnic Sunday! Your cake was wonderful! And John's ribs ... !

Denise said...

Greg - Not quite sure how to interpret that comment, but I guess you become friends with my friends by hanging out with us!

Gwen - Pastry Chef, not so much. Food Network Star? Maybe, but I think I would rather work behind the scenes rather than in front of a camera!

Carmen - The duck really was delicious and I'm sorry my photo sucked! Maybe we can do a re-shoot this week? Those truffles were amazing!