This past week was my friend Reggie’s birthday (yes, the one of Irish Soda Bread fame). I went in to San Francisco to surprise her for her ferry ride home with the rest of our “ferry friends”. What a great celebration! I thought it might be nice to bring in a cake along for some extra cheer. I inquired with her husband what her favorite cake or dessert was. His response? “Besides wine? Chocolate, Breyer’s Strawberry ice cream and crème brulee.” Wow! Now how do I incorporate all of those concepts into a yummy dessert? I didn’t quite know but, with those ingredients, I was definitely up for the fun of the challenge! My solution? I made a cabernet and dark chocolate cake, filled with Breyer’s Strawberry ice cream and topped with crème (minus the brulee). I put the cake in a large ramekin with a lid for easier transport cold.
First, the pairing. Of course I had to sample the wine against the chocolate I was going to use in the cake. First up was Benzinger, which I really like a lot. Unfortunately, the flavor combined with chocolate came out with a very dry flavor. Definitely not what I was looking for. Up next was Ghost Pines. The flavor was perfect. Rich and fruity – a definite win against the chocolate and the strawberry ice cream! It was like it was meant for chocolate!
Chocolate Cabernet Cake
1 stick softened, unsalted butter
¾ dark brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup good cabernet (I used Ghost Pines)
7 oz good dark chocolate
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, sift together flour and baking soda and set aside. In a medium sized saucepan over medium low heat, melt together wine and chocolate, whisking occasionally.
Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, cream together butter, sugars and salt. Add in vanilla. Incorporate eggs, one at a time until well-combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between each addition.
Once all eggs are combined, add in flour mixture and wine mixture, in three alternating parts, beginning with flour and ending with flour, fully incorporating each addition and scraping down sides of bowl thoroughly. Mix on medium speed for two minutes.
Prepare two 8 inch round baking pans with baking spray or unsalted butter and a light dusting of flour. Pour batter into both pans, making sure they are equally filled. Bake in oven for around 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a couple of crumbs on it. Let cake rest at least 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks. Once cakes are completely cooled, wrap the layers in plastic wrap and place them in the freezer.
And, while your cake is baking and freezing, let’s get on to my favorite, the crème brulee topping.
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla, plus a scraping of vanilla bean seed
The tiniest bit of salt –maybe 10 grains
Beat together egg yolks, sugar and salt on high for around five minutes or until yolks are pale yellow and thick. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan on medium, heat cream just until it is hot to the touch. Stir in vanilla. Remove from heat and let rest around two minutes.
Carefully add a little at a time of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Once about half of the cream has been added to the egg, slowly pour the egg/cream mixture back into the remaining hot cream in the saucepan. Cook on low heat for 5-8 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens (it should easily coat the back of a spoon). Do not let this mixture come to a boil!
Pour custard into desired dish(es) (heatproof if you plan on torching it). Cover custard with plastic wrap directly on top of the custard so that a skin doesn’t form and place in refrigerator for at least two hours, but ideally overnight.
Again, I am going to top the cake with just the crème, but if you want to make it “brulee”, sprinkle the top of the custard with a little sugar and, using a blow torch, heat the sugar evenly until it browns and bubbles. In restaurants, they usually have a really nice “shell” of sugar. As I don’t do it all that often, I find it easier to layer the sugar on. Thin layer of sugar, torch, then another thin layer and torch, until the desired “shell” is reached.
Once the cake layers are good and frozen, remove them from the plastic and place one layer in/on the desired dish. Spoon strawberry (or any flavor you like) ice cream on top of the layer, then top with the other cake layer. Finally finish the top of the cake with the crème topping and put the whole cake back in the freezer. Freeze at least two hours. Let soften 15-20 minutes at room temperature before serving.
This frozen treat would make a beautiful torte, layered cupcake, individual ramekin dish or stand-alone layer cake.
Happy Birthday, Reggie!