Cinnamon Red Wine Cake

I volunteered to make a cake for a friend’s birthday dinner, as my last chance to practice frosting before the wedding cake. Since many of the people at the birthday would also be attending the wedding party, I looked for a completely different cake recipe. Don’t want people getting bored with cake.

I thought about a red velvet cake, but perusing the recipes realized that that would necessitate a prodigious amount of red food coloring. And I haven’t seen any food coloring anywhere in Jenny Lou’s, April’s, Sanyuanli or Carrefour except for the gel-icing kind, and if I did find it, using an entire bottle in one go seems sort of wasteful. I stumbled across a recipe for a “red velvet” cake that wasn’t really red at all, but had red wine in it. To go with it, I decided to try my hand at German buttercream frosting, which is a custard based frosting rather than the Swiss or Italian meringue type.

This cake (and the frosting) has an immense amount of butter. I ended up halving the frosting recipe and having more than enough. Still, a truck load of butter.
1 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup cocoa, 2 cups butter at room temp.
1/4 cup oil, 2 1/4 cups brown sugar, 1 tsp salt. 2 1/2 tsp baking soda 3/4 tsp baking powder. 1 Tbs or to taste of cinnamon, ground. 1 Tbs vanilla. 6 eggs. 1 1/2 cups red wine.

Sift together flour and cocoa, set aside.
Mix in butter with brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon. Blend. Add eggs in one at a time, then add red wine and vanilla. Slowly sift in the flour mixture. Split the batter between two 8-inch round cake tins, and bake at 176C for 35-40 minutes. The batter is quite light brown, but it deepens into a rich chocolaty color.

Baked cake and cake batter

In the meantime, start the frosting.
1 1/2 cups whole milk, 1 1/4 cups sugar, 2 Tbs corn starch, 2 eggs, two egg yolks, 4 cups butter room temp, vanilla, and additional flavor like melted chocolate.

Simmer milk. Beat eggs, cornstarch and sugar together. Temper the egg mixture with a half cup of milk, then slowly pour the egg into the milk. Simmer for about a minute, whisking, to ensure the cornstarch cooks. Add some vanilla. Pour the custard into a bowl and chill. In the fridge for an hour or so if you have time, or stick it in the freezer, pulling it out to whisk around briskly, for twenty minutes if you’re a procrastinator like me.

Take the room temp butter and add into the custard tablespoon by tablespoon, beating until light and frothy. This is where you want to add in any flavor: I added 1/3 cup of melted chocolate.

Important! Let the cakes cool completely before attempting to frost. Even if you’re pressed for time, if you try to hurry the process the frosting will start to melt when you stack the cakes and you’ll start to hate yourself and frosting. And hating inanimate things like a bowl of whipped butter, egg and sugar probably isn’t good for you.

Somehow I managed to get the cake properly frosted, then I set out to try and hail a cab to Gulou, where a very nice second story rooftop terrace of a Chinese restaurant had been booked for us. The restaurant nicely took my cake to chill during dinner, which was a heavenly amount of lamb chuanr, jiche (chicken wing) chuanr, grilled mantou and other delicious things.

Frosted cake. Not pretty, but incredibly tasty.

Finally, we broke out the cake. People really loved it, the whole thing disappeared quite quickly, and several people came up to ask “HOW did you get this SO moist?”
Butter. The secret it butter. Between the cake and the frosting I using 4 packs of butter. And that was cutting the frosting recipe in half! But, people don’t want to hear that they’re eating butter mixed with a little bit of flour and sugar and wine, so I said “the amount of butter” really softly and “the wine, the red wine makes the cake” much louder. Everyone is happy when they think the secret ingredient is booze.

This cake was worth the effort. The red wine and cinnamon and cocoa combined have an amazing flavor. The chocolate buttercream frosting is just sweet enough, there isn’t that much sugar to overwhelm things. It’s fluffy, a bit denser than the meringue based because of the custard, and creamy.


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