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:
- Line the bottoms of three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment. Butter the parchment lightly.
- Preheat the oven to 325 F.
- In a very large bowl cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for about 3 minutes, or until they are fluffy.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Beat the cream cheese until it is fluffy, then beat in the vanilla and salt.
- Add half a cup of icing sugar at a time and beat until it is incorporated and fluffy.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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!