Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Red Wine Chocolate Cake... and a Series of Kitchen Mishaps

It was a weekend of accidents and mishaps, mostly - okay, completely - due to my own carelessness and forgetfulness.

It all started on Friday night when I cut my finger while slicing sweet potatoes for soup.  Finger cuts are just a given once in a while when you're handling sharp knives all the time, especially when you're accident prone like me.  I stub my toes on our coffee table at least three times a week.  (Or could it have been the Pumpkin Spice Eggnog White Russian I had been sipping on that made that knife slip dangerously into my finger?)

Fortunately, after 5 days, it's getting easier to type while the tip of my finger is still bandaged.

It could have been the throbbing in my finger distracting me, or maybe I had just been inside my head too much for this recipe, but I made a fatal error with a chocolate cake I had been planning for quite a while.  More specifically, a Red Wine Chocolate Cake.  I have my baking pretty much planned out each month so that we don't end up with too much at any given time, or so that I'm making something for an event or to take into work, and last weekend's baking was to be a single-layer chocolate cake, with red wine baked into the batter, and topped with a rich chocolate ganache, then covered in fresh raspberries.

Sounds amazing, right?  And it would have been...  but after I put the cake in the oven, I peeked (as I can never stop myself doing, even though I know I shouldn't open the oven door), and saw to my dismay that the cake wasn't rising.  Not one little bit.

I studied my recipe and realized at once what I had done - I completely forgot to add the baking powder and baking soda.  I did this once with a batch of biscuits, but never with a cake.  After dramatically dropping my head to the counter and feeling sorry for myself for a few minutes, I decided to just go with it, as it was getting late, and I wasn't in the mood to make it over again at the moment.

You can see in the picture below that the cake covered in ganache and raspberries is very thick and dense - the result of absolutely no leavening.  We ate a piece or two anyway, and it was actually pretty good, sort of a cross between a brownie and a cake but more dense.  After all, it was chocolate.  And so pretty.

But not able to leave it alone, I had to know how it would have turned out had I done it right, so I tried again on Monday night.  Fortunately, it's a cake that doesn't call for a lot of ingredients, being just one layer.  If the measurements seem odd, that's just because it's half a layer cake recipe, so this could easily be doubled and served as a layer cake, but I liked the simplicity of the single layer cake for this.

When I put my second cake in the oven, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was forgetting something...  but this one turned out exactly as it should have.  It rose exactly right, with a rich, chocolatey flavor and just a hint of the red wine.  I would have liked the wine to come through much more, so I would use a much bolder wine next time, but just use whatever you like to drink.  And of course, enjoy a glass of it along with your cake.

I didn't make ganache for the second cake, or cover it in raspberries - instead I just sprinkled it simply with powdered sugar and garnished with a few raspberries.  It was just delicious.  I think this version of the cake looked just like a snowy winter day.

Since it wasn't enough to slice my finger and forget a crucial ingredient in the cake, I made yet another mistake.  I overcooked our duck for dinner.  Not even by a little - by a LOT.

I don't know how it happened...  well, if I'm being honest, I DO know how it happened...  I didn't use a thermometer to check the temperature.  I just stuck it in the oven and figured it would be good in a couple of hours.  Why did I think I was too good for a thermometer?  Who knows.

The flavors were wonderful - I marinated it in oranges, vanilla and cinnamon, then basted it in a glaze of orange marmalade, honey, cinnamon and vanilla.  After an hour and a half of roasting it breast side down, I turned it over to crisp up the top, and Jamie asked me if I'd checked the temperature yet...   uh, oops, that would be a no.

So, we checked it, and stared at the thermometer hoping it was wrong.  The temperature was approaching 200F.  A well-done chicken is good to go at 165 (although I usually stop cooking chicken around 155).  A duck should be served medium rare, around 130-135.  Enough said.

We ate some of it, and it tasted pretty good, in spite of being very chewy.  But we made some really good stock with the leftovers, and there's a jar of duck fat in the fridge right now that you know will make some amazingly tasty duck-fat fries!  That will make up for the roast duck disaster, I think.

The weekend wasn't a complete failure, though.  I made a yummy Eggnog Spice Bread that I shared with you already, and a Tomato Tart that I have yet to share.  An overcooked Roast Duck, but an abundance of duck fat and duck stock.

We also ate with our roast duck some crostini with Caramelized Leeks, Turkey Bacon and Goat Cheese.  The dip was so nice and tangy, and was great served slightly warm.

And a beautiful Red Wine Chocolate Cake, that I just knew deserved a second chance.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake
printable recipe
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, unsweetened cocoa powder (plus extra for dusting)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup milk (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Extras:  Ganache (recipe below), raspberries and powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.  Spray the paper and the sides of the pan with non-stick spray, then dust with cocoa powder (just as if you were greasing and flouring the pan).

In the bowl of your electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the remaining wet ingredients and beat on low for 30 seconds to combine, then on medium speed for 2 minutes until well blended.

Pour batter into the prepared pan.  Bake at 350 for 25-28 minutes, until the center is done and the cake springs back when gently touched.  Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.  Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and cool completely before serving.

For the ganache:
Chop 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate; place in a bowl and set aside.  Heat 1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream in a small saucepan, and remove from the heat just as it starts to boil.  Pour the cream over the chocolate.  Let stand for several minutes then stir with a spatula until smooth and shiny.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before pouring over the cooled cake.

If desired, place fresh raspberries on top of the ganache before it sets.  Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour to set.

Yields 8 servings.

Goat Cheese, Turkey Bacon and Caramelized Leek Crostini
printable recipe
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 leek, diced and rinsed (white and pale green parts only)
  • 8 strips turkey bacon, diced
  • 1 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 loaf bakery bread, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • olive oil, for drizzling

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the leeks and bacon, and season lightly with salt.  Cook until the leeks are soft and browned and the bacon is crispy.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

In a bowl, combine the sour cream and goat cheese.  Stir in the leeks and bacon, then season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle the bread slices with olive oil, toast under the broiler until golden, and top each slice with the dip.


  1. Both dishes look and sound amazing! This is the kinda meal I want everyday!

  2. These all look and sound delicious! I too am a total klutz, I'm always wondering where my bruise on my legs are coming from. :)

  3. I have one of those kevlar gloves that I wear when I'm using a mandoline. You might want to wear it when you're in that foggy, klutzy zone to protect your fingers from amputation. :)

  4. Love the cake. Your post reminded me that I have a similar recipe that I have wanted to try for ages but haven't gotten around to yet.

  5. I usually wind up creating a new recipe when I make a mistake,but everything looks great!

  6. Oh wow, sorry about all the mishaps, but everything looks fantastic! Hope your finger is feeling better :)

  7. Heather, I absolutely love your blog! Beautiful photography and amazing recipes... what do you mean you're not a professional? It looks pretty darn close to Bon Appetit! I've been blogging 3 years now and I'm going to be writing a food blog once a week for an online newspaper. Haven't a clue what I'm doing but your blog inspires me. Come visit me on Granny Mountain in Arkansas...

  8. You've had quite a week! Everything here looks delicious and I'm wishing that cake would show up on my counter any minute. Hope your finger is better.

  9. Red Wine Chocolate Cake recipe was g8.. I must try it.. and ur pics are really mouth watery

  10. Joycee, that's so nice of you to say! I've only been doing this since May, and if you look at some of my earlier posts, you'll see that my photos were just awful! I'm working hard to improve them as I learn. Good luck with your writing job! That sounds amazing!

  11. What a week! You certainly had adventures! However, your perseverance and making lemon-ade out of lemons is amazing! The cake, the duck and the duck spread look delicious!

  12. Looks delicious. Would love for you to come and share this with us over at foodepix.com.

  13. It looks really beautiful! And sounds interesting. I definitely have to try it.


I love comments, and I read and appreciate every single one. Please review my comment policy under my Baking & Blog FAQs page.