Part XXV: The Don Popeil Method
Here’s a secret. We’re lazy. We’re all lazy.
Yes, that includes you, Miss Ultra-Marathoner, and you, Mr. I Can Bench 450 Pounds With My Left Bicep Somehow. Deep, deep down, past the layers of muscle and sinew and unfortunately-named body spray, you’re the same as that fat guy who eats two cans of cool spicy mango ranch Pringles as a “warm-up”.
Every time you step into a gym, a pair of cross-trainers or a basketball court, you’re not really doing it for the workout. You’re doing it for the right to sit on your ass later and watch poorly-produced reality television. You’re earning the right to be lazy. Because you and I both know perfectly well that if you could look good the way you do after running and jumping and hiking, if you could make yourself look that good without the effort?
But we don’t, because the guilt of being a fatass outweighs the minor annoyance of getting off your butt and lifting heavy things over your head 3 or 4 times a week.
This, my flour-saturated brain has decided, is precisely the reason why people get antsy every time someone mentions baking a cake. You want the end result: the nice, pretty looking cake with the tiny spirals of frosting and a nativity made out of freaking marzipan, without the hassle. That’s the reason why cakes are “special”, and why you’ve never seen birthday mousse or funeral brownies.
Well, as usual, people are dead wrong. Cake’s easy. Really, really, really easy. Take the dry stuff, take the wet stuff, mix, frost, etc. So the theme for this week, after the most long-winded intro of all time, is this. Get off your ass. And make this Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Nutella Buttercream Frosting.
Here’s what you need:
– 2 cups + 2 tablespoon AP flour
– 1 cup cocoa powder
– 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon table salt
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 12 tablespoons (that’s a stick and a half) room temperature unsalted butter
– 1 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
– 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
– 2 eggs + 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
– 1 1/2 cup red wine
– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
– 1 cups (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
– 2 cups powdered sugar
– ⅔ cup Nutella
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– Pinch of kosher salt
– 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Here’s how you do it:
Like I said, cake’s easy as hell. First we’re gonna do the wet stuff.
Preheat the oven to 325.
Cream the butter in mixer until its smooth (well, it’s already smooth…smoother, I guess? Just throw it in there till it isn’t in stick form anymore), then add both sugars and beat until they’re smooth and/or fluffy.
Add all the egg parts and beat them in. The recipe I’m stealing this from says to “beat well”, so thank god for that. I was about to do a piss-poor job of beating those eggs. Good thing she included that.
So there’s red wine in this. It’s a good thing, and even if you don’t like red wine (what’s wrong with you?), put it in anyway. It makes the cake taste slightly like wine, but much more importantly, it makes the chocolate taste ten times better and richer. Just do it, along with the vanilla, and mix. It’s gonna look like absolute garbage, but don’t worry about it.
Next, the even easier part: take all the dry stuff (that’s flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt) and whisk it in a bowl. Mix it with the wet stuff until it’s mostly combined, then fold in the rest until it’s all the way mixed. See? Simple. Unless folding confuses you. In which case…paper might be a scary thing for you. Good luck with any job where you make copies.
Get two 9-inch cake pans out, line the bottom with parchment paper, and spray with non-stick. I sprinkled a little flour on the bottom too for good measure, but your cake won’t explode or anything if you don’t.
Put them in the oven for 30-ish minutes (mine ended up being about 32), until you can stick something in the middle of it and have it come out clean.
Once that’s out of the oven, put the pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then go around the edges with a knife. Flip the cakes out onto the rack and let them cool to room temperature while you make the frosting.
For the frosting, get your butter and powdered sugar in a stand mixer and beat them together on low. Or beat them on high, cover your kitchen in powdered sugar, get more powdered sugar, and beat them again on low. Your choice. Not that I’ve ever done that or anything.
Add the Nutella and keep beating on medium for about 2 minutes, then add the salt and vanilla and keep it going for another 30 seconds.
Pour in the whipping cream and beat it for another minute, until it looks like the picture.
Here’s a step I forgot to do: once the cakes are cool, cut off the tops. That way they’ll be flat and not wobbly as hell like my cake was.
In case frosting isn’t obvious to you, take the first cake, frost it, then put the second on top and do the same.
If you have a pastry bag, make little swirly bits on the top like I did. I had some chocolate ganache lying around (hm, a golden trophy labelled “douchebag of the year” just appeared on my desk after I typed that. Wonder what that’s about.) so I melted it and poured it on top. I don’t really feel like including that part but…I had to explain the random chocolate, so there you go.
As much as I hate cliches, there’s really only one song that could go with chocolate, red wine, and cake. It’s In a Sentimental Mood by one of the masters: John Coltrane.
There you go, people. You followed a few instructions, spatulized some frosting around a circle, and boom: cake. Or you just looked at the pretty pictures and shamefully cracked open your second box of Entenmann’s “Real” Apple Crisp Composite Substitute. Either way, it wasn’t hard. Sit on the couch and watch some reruns of Frasier. You’ve earned it. See you next time, fans.
Here’s the recipes I sort of stole from this week:
I realized halfway through this thing that some of you fine gents and ladies out there might not know how to use a pastry bag. That’s easy too. Lemme know if you want a tutorial on here, I’ll totally do it.