MALBEC CHOCOLATE CAKE

 
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Oh boy, it's been a while. As it turns out, when you have to plan a wedding in three and a half months, buy a condo, make improvements on said condo, have a few scattered trips to various places, and are super busy at work all at the same time....shit gets a little crazy.

I feel like such a grown-up right now. I OWN LAND. Okay, I really just own a piece of a building, but still. Landed gentry. We've been buying real people furniture, too. Not "sofa that came out of Brandon's parents' garage and is possibly from the 70's" furniture. Like, real expensive furniture. That matches. And isn't torn up by cats (yet). 

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AND we're getting married in 36 days. We got our marriage license today. It was literally the easiest government office visit in the history of ever. I expected DMV-style hellishness, but was pleasantly surprised. Also, I thought marriage licenses came on fancy paper with seals and all that. Ours definitely came from a black and white copier. Boring.

We decided to get our marriage license today because it has officially been one year since my mom passed away. That might seem like a weird thing to do, by my mom was never one to want people to be sad. I mean, she left explicit instructions that we were to have a celebration lunch for her instead of a funeral (complete with a specific guest list, too). Anyway, I know she would've wanted us to turn today into a better day, and this was a nice way to do it. My mom's marriages with both my dad (until he passed) and my stepdad were full of love and happiness, and the marriage license was an effort to commemorate that, in a way. And then we went out to have celebratory (and memorial) drinks and burgers...cause that's the way mom would have wanted it.

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If you're lucky enough to have your mom around this Mother's Day (or someone who's like a mom to you), make them this cake. It's rich and delicious and moist (sorry!), and the Malbec wine adds some deep fruitiness that complements the chocolate incredibly well. The orange-cream cheese frosting gives some tanginess to cut through the richness of the chocolate, and almost lends a sangria-type vibe to the cake. You can make the cake in one bowl (super easy!), and you can substitute any red wine you like if you can't find Malbec. It only lasted three days around here, but it stands up well to the fridge, and maybe even got better overnight. I'm pretty sure it'd make great cupcakes, too!

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Malbec Chocolate Cake + Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

for the cake:

6 TB unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup Malbec wine (or, sub any red wine you prefer)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp orange extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon  all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used the Onyx cocoa powder, but dutch is fine too)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
a pinch ground cinnamon

for the frosting:

8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 TB unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract (or orange blossom extract)
zest of 1 orange
a pinch of salt
about 2 1/2 cups of confectioners' (powdered) sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of two 6-inch round cake pans with parchment, and spray the interior with a nonstick spray. 

  2. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. 

  3. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. 

  4. Add the egg and yolk and beat well, then the red wine + vanilla and orange extracts. Don’t worry if the batter looks curdled. 

  5. Scrape down the sides/bottom of the bowl.

  6. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together, right over your wet ingredients. 

  7. Mix until 3/4 combined, then gently stir the rest together with a rubber spatula. 

  8. Spread batter in prepared pans. 

  9. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. 

  10. 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. 

  11. Once they're completely cool, you can either even out your layers, wrap them well in plastic wrap, and freeze them until you want to use them, or even them out and frost them immediately.

  12. Make your frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth, light, and fluffy (3-4 minutes).

  13. Add in extracts, zest, and salt, and beat for another minute. 

  14. Scrape down the sides/bottom of the bowl AND the attachment (sometimes zest will get stuck to it, especially if you're using the whisk attachment.

  15. Sift in one cup of powdered sugar at a time, mixing well in between, until you have a frosting that is your desired consistency. It took about 2 1/4 cups for me, but it can vary depending on the type of cream cheese you use (light cream cheese makes a looser frosting and will need more powdered sugar to stiffen it up, just FYI).

  16. Decorate cake as desired! I frosted mine, and then covered the sides in cake crumbs from when I evened out the layers, and topped with orange slices.

 

Yeasted Coffee Cake

 
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I know I've written about different kinds of coffee cake at least a few times before, but this one deserves mentioning, too. It's yeasted. Yeasted! It's almost like a danish and a loaf of bread got busy while nobody was looking, and nine months later...ta-da! Yeasted coffee cake.

Actually, I imagine the gestation period for a danish/bread lovechild is probably more like a few hours instead of nine months. All it needs is a little time to rise, right?

I ended up making this coffee cake twice in a week, mostly because it really is that good and also because I brought one of those cakes to work for a student-worker's last day in the office.

The one pictured here is from the first time I made it -- that time, I royally screwed up the recipe (I forgot to add the sugar and had to knead it in at the end. BAD IDEA.) but it still turned out great. I also decided to swirl my jam of choice into the dough, instead of just slathering it on top of the cake. I ended up using Kaya, which is basically a pandan-coconut jam/curd type of spread typically found in Asia (mine is directly from Singapore, but Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines have versions of it as well). If you ever have the opportunity, try some. It's some seriously amazing stuff.

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The second time I made this cake, I used blackberry jam and added some extra spices (ginger and cinnamon). I also omitted the coconut from the streusel, and replaced it with some chopped nuts. And I didn't swirl the jam into the dough, I just spread it on top like the original recipe suggests.

It was great both ways, and is obviously a pretty adaptable coffee cake. You could add chocolate chips or citrus zest to the dough, change the streusel mixture, change the jam flavor, and change the spice profile, and still end up with a killer coffee cake.

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Yeasted Coffee Cake

recipe adapted from Red Star Yeast
click here for a printable PDF of this recipe!

For the cake:
1 ¾ cups bread flour
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast (I used instant)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 tsp spices of your choosing (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, etc)
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup water
2 TB unsalted butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup jam/preserves

For the streusel:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup flaked or shredded coconut (or, replace with nuts, or leave it out altogether)
1/2 tsp ground spice of your choosing
2 TB unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Butter or grease your 8x8 or 9x9 pan. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer , combine 1 cup bread flour, sugar, spices, and salt. Stir to combine. 
  3. In a saucepan or in a microwave-safe dish, heat milk, water, and butter until warm (115F to 130F). 
  4. Add milk/water/butter mixture to mixer bowl. Mix briefly to combine. 
  5. Add egg and vanilla. Mix on low speed for a few seconds to incorporate, and then beat for about 3 minutes on medium speed.
  6. Gradually incorporate remaining bread flour – you should end up with a stiff batter.
  7. Spread in prepared pan.
  8. Prepare streusel by combining all listed ingredients. Set aside.
  9. Spread jam/preserves on top of batter, and then cover with streusel.
  10. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes (or until doubled in size).
  11. While cake is rising, preheat your oven to 350F.
  12. Once cake has finished rising, bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.

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