Have you ever heard of writers who say that they had to write the story they wrote so they could get it out of them? As if they had no control over how the story came to be, but it was necessary to write it down so it would stop bothering them? There’s a song called "Breathe" by Anna Nalick that has a few lyrics that really embodies this feeling:
Two AM and I'm still awake writing a song
If I get it all down on paper it's no longer
Inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to
Yesterday morning, I woke up with this exact feeling about a cake that I needed to make. I knew precisely what it was supposed to look like, the perfect flavor combinations, and that I would have to somehow make it out of the house while prepping for my big party to go get fresh raspberries to top off the whole thing. This strange sort of inspiration was most welcome because I honestly couldn't figure out what type of dessert to serve to my friends who were coming over for my March Madness party.
Not that kind of March Madness party.
This one was a super fun wine tasting event that uses a March Madness type bracket to pit wines against each other, which is more entertaining than a silly ball game IMHO. We chose to only use red wines and capped the price at $30 - other than that there were no rules about what wines each guest chose to bring for the tasting.
As per usual with my house parties, I made a whole smorgasbord of snacks including a cheese and charcuterie plate, homemade pigs in a blanket, fresh veggies and chips with several dips. That part was easy, but I had no idea what to serve for dessert (you would think this part would be easier for me, but it certainly is not).
Because of my studies in food and beverage pairings, I immediately knew that a dark chocolate dessert would be an excellent idea, but what style should I serve it in? Chocolate macarons?A cake? Cupcakes? Up until the night before the party I was tentatively planning to make chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, which seemed so incredibly boring, but a safe bet.
Fortunately the next morning I woke up knowing without a doubt that I was going to make a dark chocolate cake in the shape of a wine goblet with fresh raspberries on top to represent the red wine my friends and I would be drinking later that day, and I leapt out of bed and set to work. I started by sketching my cake plan while my tea was steeping, and pulling all of my ingredients out of the fridge so they could come up to room temperature.
Typically for a shaped cake like this one I would use a shortbread like dough instead of cake for three reasons: first, the shortbread dough bakes a lot faster than cake and has a much faster cooling time, so I can get the cake done very quickly. Secondly, the dough can be molded into the exact shape I need the dessert to be in, so I don’t have to carve the cake (carving cakes is not one of my strongest skills). And third, when I can mold the dough I don’t have any leftover scraps. When I use actual cake - like I did for this cake - there are tons of leftover scraps that I need to either use right away, or store in my freezer until I choose to do a project that uses cake scraps.
I don’t know why I felt like I needed to use actual cake for this wine glass, but that is what I decided to do, and now I have a whole gallon size Ziplock bag full of dark chocolate cake scraps in my freezer just waiting for me to have another stroke of genius. Let’s hope that happens sooner rather than later!
So my tip of the week for you is that you can achieve the results of this cake through at least three different ways (I didn’t mention that there’s always the crowd pleasing “cupcake cake”, which positions the cupcakes in the shape of your desired object, then the frosting in spread across all of the cupcakes super carefully so the individual cupcakes don’t shift as you’re smearing the frosting - not something I’ve ever attempted but is also an option), and deciding whether you are adept at cake carving and want to have leftover scraps, or if you want short baking/cooling times and no leftovers will help you choose which method to use for your upcoming shaped cake.
Also I want to give a huge shout out to our March Madness Wine Bracket winner, Kristin!
Her wine, the 2018 Conundrum Red Blend beat out the other 7 wines in our bracket, and she won the coveted bottle of anti-hangover vitamins that have been saving my life for the last few months, as well as the highly revered trophy-glass to drink her winning wine from. Congratulations!
Happy eating, y’all!
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