Today is my 41st birthday, so I made myself a red wine chocolate cake to celebrate. There’s a back-story here. Last year, I turned forty. For months prior to this milestone, I’d contemplated baking myself a fancy cake to celebrate. I’d just started blogging the year before, and I envisioned a perfect blog post with a beautiful cake. I’d also envisioned having a tapas party and cooking great food with friends.
Sometimes fate has other plans: what I really did last year on my fortieth birthday was work my first meeting at a new job and then drive back to our house in Southern Oregon to finish packing so we could move to Portland and I could officially start work mid-March. I didn’t bother cooking for nearly a month, much less blog. Clay bought a couple of really good cupcakes from a bakery near our soon to be house and we went to dinner for Italian that night. While I was more than content to spend my fortieth this way, I started making plans for this year.
So this year, I’m 41. First and foremost, I want to say that I really love being in my forties. I’m more comfortable in my own skin than I’ve ever been. I feel like I’ve finally figured out who I am – I have a style that’s unique to me. I can look in the mirror and be happy with what I see. I love my work. My relationships is steady, stable, and happy. I started blogging as a creative outlet and have had so much fun making this my primary hobby. I’m content having a car that’s nearly at 100,000 miles. I know what I like and I know what I don’t. So, yes, forty has been awesome.
Baking this red wine chocolate cake was my birthday present to me this year. I set aside an entire day to bake and frost. I tackled Swiss Buttercream frosting and made something that tasted like it came from a bakery. It was an awesome experience. I loved setting up the photo shoot and taking the pictures of this cake, too.
I love how birthday cakes can be such a symbol of love. My favorite birthday cake when I was growing up was a cake my grandma made for me when I was a kid – and then once again when I turned 18 because I begged her to. The cake was a bunny cake, which was several sheet cakes formed together to make a bunny, with frosted “ears” and chocolate Easter eggs for the eyes. I could never eat the bunny head – that was just a bit too much for me. But I loved that fluffy white frosting and cake and I loved that she made the cake just for me. The photo in this picture was taken on my 18th birthday. Yes – a birthday cake is special.
My red wine chocolate cake is a layered chocolate cake some yummy red wine to flavor. The chocolate Swiss buttercream got covered with chocolate sprinkles on the top. Clay helped frost – he watched what I was doing, told me that the process of frosting was a lot like spackling, and took over my spatula. Yes – a birthday cake is about being loved. We’ve nibbled our way through the cake all week. (Given that do have a day job, it wasn’t actually practical to bake my cake on my birthday in the middle of the week, so I made it on Sunday, instead).
If you’ve never made a birthday cake for yourself or for others, I encourage you to do so. It doesn’t matter how it turns out – the important thing is the act of cooking because you love someone or because you love who you are.
A couple of things to note about the frosting. First, I used this recipe for Swiss buttercream and have linked it rather than trying to adapt it to suit my purposes. It made a lovely frosting, but our kitchen was definitely too warm for this to go well on the first try. If your buttercream turns out runny, it really does work to refrigerate for about 30 minutes and then whip it again. I will tell you though, use a bigger bowl than you think you need. My entire kitchen, including me and Daisy (who likes to lurk right under the counter top when I’m cooking) were covered in buttercream. Ok – in fairness, the dog thought this was awesome, except for the part where there was buttercream on her back that she couldn’t lick off. The other is that this recipe makes a lot of buttercream frosting. I like a little frosting and this ended up being way too much.
The recipe for the cake is adapted from Liv for Cake’s Mocha Chocolate Cake Recipe.
- 1 ½ cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- ¾ cup Dutch process cocoa
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup vegetable oil (olive oil works for this recipe)
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- ¾ cup red wine
- Frosting of your choice
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut out parchment paper circles to line the bottom of three 9 inch cake pans. Butter the pans (including the parchment paper) and sprinkle with cocoa powder to cover.
- Sift the cocoa powder. Combine all dry ingredients, from flour through salt and stir until the mixture is thoroughly incorporated. Add the oil, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and wine and stir until thoroughly mixed.
- Divide the cake mix between the three pans.
- Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until a knife or skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Frost with your favorite frosting. I used this recipe for my Swiss buttercream – but beware, this makes enough for several cakes.
- Serves between 8 – 16.
This post is linked up to #CookBlogShare, hosted this week by Hijacked by Twins
This post is also linked to Saucy Saturdays #87. For more great recipes, check out the hosts’ sites: