Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting and Cream Cheese Filling

chocolate birthday cake - trust in kim

This birthday cake is a combination of three recipes, put together to become my friend John’s dream cake. The cake is rich and chocolatey, and the red wine and cinnamon give it a subtle flavouring that people thought was coconut. Attempting to make it more of a red velvet cake, I added beet powder. I didn’t find that it added much redness to the cake, so it is totally optional. For me the best part of this cake is the icing – you can’t go wrong with butter and chocolate!

The recipe called for 2 cups of red wine, but I changed that to one cup of buttermilk and one of wine; feel free to use just red wine, just buttermilk, or a combination like I did.

In the photo you will see that there is only a thin strip of the cream cheese filling, and there are only two layers of cake. Because I only had two round pans that were the same size, I only had two layers in the completed cake. (There is an extra layer in my freezer, in a different size). I quadrupled the amount of cream cheese frosting when I typed up this recipe, so if you make this, yours will have more of the white filling, and enough to make a triple layer cake.

The cake recipe comes from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. The chocolate buttercream frosting is from addapinch.com – I didn’t add the espresso powder she used in her recipe. The cream cheese frosting is an alteration of Deb Perelman’s mascarpone filling.

I recommend keeping the cake in the fridge until you serve it. I like it when the icing is cold, making it more solid when it is sliced.

What you need for the cake:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup red wine (I used a malbec, but anything will work)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 & 1/3 cups Dutch cocoa powder
  • 2 & 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons beet powder (very optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

What you do for the cake:

  1. Line the bottoms of three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment. Butter the parchment lightly.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  3. In a very large bowl cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for about 3 minutes, or until they are fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Beat in the red wine, buttermilk and vanilla; the batter will look a little odd, but it is fine.
  5. Sift the flour, cocoa, beet powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt on top of the batter. Mix until it is about 3/4 incorporated, then continue by folding it with a rubber spatula.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, evening out the tops with the spatula. Give the cake a small tap on the counter to remove any air bubbles (something my mom taught me), and place them in the oven. The recipe says to bake for 25 minutes, but mine wasn’t ready yet, so test with a toothpick to see if it is done, and return to the oven for a few minutes before testing again.
  7. When you take the cakes out of the oven, let them rest on cooling trays for about 10 minutes. Then run a sharp knife around the edge before inverting them onto the cooling trays. Let the cakes cool completely before beginning to frost them.

What you need for the cream cheese filling:

  • 460 grams cream cheese (not light, not spreadable) at room temperature
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (clear if you have it)
  • a pinch of salt

What you do for the cream cheese filling:

  1. Beat the cream cheese until it is fluffy, then beat in the vanilla and salt.
  2. Add half a cup of icing sugar at a time and beat until it is incorporated and fluffy.
  3. Spread half of the filling on top of one layer of the cake, and place the second layer on top. Repeat with the second layer of filling and third layer of cake.
  4. Refrigerate the cake until the filling has firmed up a bit before moving on to the chocolate frosting.

What you need for the chocolate buttercream frosting:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks), softened
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 & 1/3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 80 mL milk
  • 1 & 1/2  teaspoons vanilla extract

What you do for the chocolate buttercream frosting:

  1. Cream the butter, then sift in the cocoa and continue to cream that. Sift and then beat in a cup of the icing sugar, then beat in about half of the milk. Add another cup of icing sugar, then some more milk and the vanilla. You might not use all the icing sugar or milk. Test as you go to see when you think it is perfect.
  2. Frost the cake. I have little patience for this sort of thing these days, so my frosting didn’t look amazing. Here’s a tutorial if you want to do it better than I did.

Enjoy! Bon anniversaire, John!

birthday boy - trust in kimcake - trust in kimeating cake - trust in kim

Gazpacho

gazpacho - trust in kim

Oh summer, I love you for so many reasons! One of them is homegrown, flavourful tomatoes. Also the gazpacho that I can make with them.

This is the taste of summer. This is one of the recipes that makes me do a happy dance.

I fell in love with gazpacho on a trip to Spain a few years ago, and managed to eat it almost every day of my two-week stay there. It is refreshing and full of flavour. There are many different types; here are some: green gazpacho, watermelon gazpacho, and another tomato gazpacho that is very similar to this one. All are awesome, but this one is the easiest, I think.

This is so easy to make, and quite healthy too. I made a batch and kept it in the fridge for a few days. The amounts are estimates; do what seems right to you. It’s hard to go wrong. You can always add more of something if you need to.

What you need:

  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 medium red onion
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large sweet red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 2-3 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 slice of white bread (I used a whole wheat French bread)
  • salt to taste

What you do:

  1. Soak the bread in water for a few minutes, then squeeze the water out.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and add whatever you think you need.
  3. Refrigerate for at least and hour before serving.
  4. Serve topped with some chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, or a drizzle of olive oil.

Walnut Vinaigrette

walnut vinaigrette - trust in kim

When I was in France last summer I picked up a tube of walnut Dijon mustard. It isn’t something that is easy to find at home; in fact, I’ve never seen it, even in specialty stores, in Vancouver. Soon I will devise a recipe for it, so we won’t have to search for it anymore.

Here I’ve also used a walnut oil, just to bring out the nutty flavour. I love a combination of garlic and walnut, so I put in a clove of garlic. It needs to sit for a while, so you’ll need to make this a few hours in advance or the day before if you want to get that garlicky flavour in there.

What you need:

  • 1 tablespoon walnut Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 clove garlic

What you do:

  1. In a bowl or jar combine the mustard, sugar, and a little salt and pepper.
  2. Add a little bit of the vinegar to mix into the mustard, then add the rest, beating with a fork until combined.
  3. Add the walnut oil slowly, whisking in with the fork.
  4. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Peel the skin off the garlic clove, cut it in half and place it in the dressing. Let it sit for a few hours to allow the garlic flavour to be released. You can leave the garlic clove in the dressing for a week or two, or as long as it takes you to use it up.

Homemade Healthier Tartar Sauce

homemade tartar sauce - trust in kim

Tartar sauce with fish is so delicious, but that’s a lot of mayonnaise that is just way to easy to gobble up. I’ve recently bought some frozen, breaded fish to keep in my freezer for last-minute meals. I’ve also got some pickles and yogurt and a few other bits and bobs in the fridge that I can use to whip up this yummy sauce.

I served it with oven-baked breaded zucchini and baked onion rings. The tartar sauce is a nice dip for those too. If I was in more of a hurry I would probably have eaten it with some frozen peas. Great for a last-minute meal!

The amounts are estimates, so you’ll have to taste it and see what you think you need to add more of.

What you need:

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I use 3.5%)
  • about 1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickle
  • 1 teaspoon chopped capers
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced onion
  • 1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • a dash or two of hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot)
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you do:

  1. Combine the Dijon and yogurt.
  2. Add everything else. Mix it in. I like quite a bit of pepper in mine, but taste and see what you think.

Enjoy!

Green Salad with Roasted Beets, Walnuts and Goat Cheese

roasted beet goat cheese and walnut salad - trust in kim

This is a beauty of a salad. You can use red beets, but as you can see, I chose to use golden beets this time. I love the combination of beets, goat cheese and walnuts with the shallot dressing. Roasting the beets ahead of time makes this a quick salad to put together at the last minute.

This recipe comes to us from The Vancouver Sun’s book The Best Salads.

You can buy cooked beets, but I prefer the taste of home-roasted beets. The original recipe asked you to slice and bake the beets. I roasted them whole instead.

I bought a beautiful Okanogan, BC goat cheese from Dussa’s at Granville Island, Vancouver for this salad.

What you need for the salad:

  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot

What you need for the salad:

  • 5 beets (1 & 1/4 pounds in total)
  • foil for cooking the beets
  • 4 cups salad greens
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup soft unripened goat cheese
  • salt and pepper

What you do:

  1. Roast the beets ahead of time, or early enough that they have time to cool down before using in the salad. Wash, then cover each beet in foil. Bake at 400F for about 50 minutes. Test with a sharp knife to see if they are soft all the way through. When the beets have cooled, peel the skins off. Refrigerate if you are making them ahead of time. Take them out of the fridge at least an hour before using, so they can come to room temperature.
  2. After the beets come out of the oven, turn the oven off and put the walnuts on a baking sheet in the oven. Check them after about 5 minutes to see how they are doing. Keep them in the oven until they are lightly toasted – beware, though – even with the oven off they can burn easily. Let them cool, then put them in an airtight container if you won’t be using them right away.
  3. Combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and let it sit for at least an hour. This can be made ahead and refrigerated.
  4. Toss the greens with some of the vinaigrette and arrange on large plates for serving. Slice the room temperature beets and arrange them on top, along with some goat cheese and walnuts. Add a little more vinaigrette to the top if you wish. Salt and pepper to taste if desired.

Enjoy!

 

Grilled Zucchini with Za’atar Vinaigrette

grilled zucchini with za'aatar vinaigrette - trust in kim

 

I fell in love with Lebanese food the year I lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Now I seek out Lebanese recipes to experiment with at home. I found this one on David Lebovitz’s awesome site.

Za’atar is a combination of sesame seeds, sumac, and some herbs. Mixed with some mustard, oil and vinegar it makes a lovely dressing for grilled veggies. I made zucchini for this post, but later used it on other veggies as well, and all were delicious.

I can hardly wait until the zucchini in my garden are ready, and I can make this again.

What you need:

  • 1 kg zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons sherry or cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus some for the zucchini)
  • 4 teaspoons za’atar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sumac (optional)

What you do:

  1. Slice the zucchini to 1/4 inch, as evenly as possible so you don’t have parts that burn. Using a mandoline works well. Toss the slices in a some olive oil.
  2. Combine all the rest of the ingredients to make the vinaigrette.
  3. Heat the grill and brush it with some olive oil. Grill the zucchini slices until they are charred on each side.
  4. Arrange the zucchini on a platter and pour some dressing over the slices.

 

Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Cream Cheese Spread

sun-dried tomato cream cheese spread - trust in kim

This cream cheese spread makes a great appetizer with a loaf of fresh bread or crackers. A friend of mine used to always buy this spread when we were having wine and appies, and another friend, Sarah, makes her own delicious version. This recipe is a combination of what I guessed to be the ingredients in the store-bought version, and some tips from Sarah.

The one difference with my recipe is that I made my own oven-dried cherry tomatoes. I make up a big batch, and they keep for a long time in the fridge.

Make this recipe at least an hour ahead of time so the flavours have a chance to mingle.

What you need:

  • 1 – 250 gram tub of spreadable cream cheese (or Tofutti non-dairy cream cheese)
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • a few sun-dried cherry tomatoes packed in  olive oil (or oven-roasted to make it even better)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • a few sprigs fresh basil, chopped
  • a little freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you do:

  1. Combine the mayonnaise and cream cheese.
  2. Chop and add the cherry tomatoes, minced garlic, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  3. Taste and adjust the amounts of anything you think you need more of.
  4. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
  5. Garnish with a sprig of basil, and serve with a loaf of freshly baked bread or crackers of your choice.
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