Chocolate. Red wine. What else do you need?
James celebrated his first Wine and Unwind with the cast of Cymbeline, combining the Wine and the Unwind in one cake. (I’m sure, however, that there was some wine served separately, but the efficiency of this appeals to the stage manager in me.)
He tells me “This a not too sweet cake that goes great with vanilla ice cream or gelato, based on a recipe from Anne Willan’s 2001 book Cooking with Wine. There is just enough wine to give it a wonderful flavor!”
I know I like chocolate, and I like red wine, and I like both together. So how can this cake go wrong?
Chocolate Red Wine Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)* plus some for dusting.
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups dry red wine
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Whipped cream or ice cream for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and dust a 12-cup Bundt pan with powdered cocoa. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
2. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes longer. Working in two batches, alternately fold in the dry ingredients and the wine, until just incorporated.
3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack; let cool completely. Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
Patrick Page, who plays Cymbeline, and Raul Esparza, who plays Iachimo, taking their wining and unwinding very seriously.
*What is Dutch process cocoa? What is non-Dutch process cocoa? And why does it matter?
Non-Dutch process is simply natural cocoa powder: the dry, solid remains of fermented, dried and roasted cacao beans that have been ground into a fine powder. It is slightly acidic with, if you’re a complete nerd, a PH between 5-6.
Dutch process, on the other hand, is natural cocoa powder that has been washed with a potassium carbonate solution to alkalize it slightly.
Who cares, right? And what difference does it make to my cake?
Well, successful baking is more than a little bit of a science. In order for cakes to rise properly, you need the proper balance of acid and alkaline in your batter. If, as in this recipe, you’re only using baking soda to make your cake rise, then you want the slightly acidic natural cocoa because baking soda is alkalizing (it’s why you take a teaspoonful in water if you suffer from acid indigestion.)
Anyway, long story short, you really can use either kind of cocoa no matter what, but to make the ideal version of whatever you’re baking, stick to what the recipe says.