Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Drunken Berry Cake

Photo from Natasha's Kitchen

Since I started getting into cooking a bit more three or fours year ago, I have always dreamed of making a fancy cake. Or fancy cupcakes. Or fancy biscuits. However the reality is that I don't have creative bone in my body and any attempt to prettify my kitchen creations in any way falls flat on its face. I suppose it doesn't really help that each time I try I get frustrated and haphazardly cut, mix, slather and poke whatever it is to/on the cake it is. Care is something that only comes to me when I'm hanging up my cricket posters or I'm attempting edit cricket photos or attempting to take photos of my friends with cricketers (or just photos of cricketers if I am to be perfectly honest).  Even then, my lack of artistic talent results in crookedly hung posters, pictures with terrible contrast, and photos featuring far too much ground or sky. So when one of my friends showed me a photo of the cake she had made for her mum's birthday - which, by the way, resembled the original photo above - I thought "surely it can't be that hard?" and decided to give it a go. My friend was right, the cake was delicious. It was addictive. It was everything it should be, except maybe pretty.

I have realised that the reasons for my downfall are many:

  1. I used regular cocoa powder instead of dark: the cake didn't look as chocolatey.
  2. I halved the recipe to compensate for the amount of sweets I was baking so we could actually have some chance of eating it all: hello Leaning Tower of Pisa - I should have made it only a two layer cake to make it structurally more sound.
  3. I used cottage cheese instead of cream cheese for the icing: it was delicious but I lacked patience so didn't beat it until it was smooth like normal icing.
  4. I used mixed berries: contributed to the structural instability and general ugliness
  5. I hurriedly cut the two cakes in half horizontally: maybe it would have been better to take some more time and actually look at what I was doing.
  6. I was lazy and didn't ice the outside: despite the lumps in the icing, this would have covered up the general mess and possibly have made it more bearable to look at + I ended up eating the icing by the spoonful and became incredibly tipsy which wasn't a very pleasant experience.
All those things aside, this cake was amazing. Rich, moist, and chocolatey, with the added freshness of berries and a festive feel provided by the rum. If you make this over the New Year period, maybe take it easy on the beer and wine - especially if you're a lightweight. 

Drunken Cherry Chocolate Cake (from Natasha's Kitchen)
Serves 12-16

For the cake 
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1½ cups white granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup warm milk 
1 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder (which clearly I didn't use - just look at the colour of my cake eek)
2½ tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp fine sea salt

For the filling 
4 cups (450g) fresh pitted cherries (or berries)
½ cup golden rum 
¼ cup cold filtered water

For the frosting
225g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature 
3 cups powdered sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
450g cream cheese, softened to room temperature (or cottage cheese - makes it nice and fluffy....and lumpy)
4 Tbsp of the reserved cherry/rum syrup

To decorate (I obviously didn't bother with this) 
Semi-sweet chocolate chips to create shaved chocolate
A handful of fresh cherries for the top


Making your cherries/berries drunk: Roughly chop your pitted berries, place them in a bowl with ½ cup golden rum, and let them sit at room temperature for one hour. Drain the cherries in a sieve over a bowl. Keep both the cherries and the syrup.  

Making the cake: Preheat the oven to 180˚C, butter and flour two 20cm cake pans and set aside. Electrically whisk together 4 Tbsp soft butter, 1½ cups granulated sugar, 2 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla. Beat on high speed for 7 min until light and fluffy. Whisk in 1 cup warm milk until smooth. Sift together 1 cups flour, ¾ cups cocoa, ⅛ tsp salt, and 2½ tsp baking powder. Fold the sifted mixture into the batter just until combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pans and bake at 180˚C for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool as soon as they are able to be handled safely. 

Making the frosting: With an electric mixer, mix the butter, powdered sugar and salt on low speed or until combined (about one minute). Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Add cream cheese gradually and mix until combined. Once all of the cream cheese has been is incorporated, continue to mix for one more minute. Add 4 Tbsp reserved cherry liquid, 1 Tbsp at a time and mix until combined (about one minute). Reserve the remaining cherry syrup. Refrigerate frosting until ready to use.

Assembling the cake: Slice each of the cake layers in half horizontally and evenly (unless you want your cake to look like mine) into two layers with a serrated knife. Place one layer cut side up on a cake stand. Stir ¼ cup cold filtered water into the the remaining cherry rum syrup and brush ⅓ of this generously onto the first cake layer. Cover the top with frosting and top with of the chopped boozy berries. Repeat with the next three layers but don’t put any syrup or frosting over the final layer. Refrigerate the unfrosted cake for 15-20 minutes to let it rest, then frost the top and sides. Decorate, serve, eat. 

Warning: this cake is highly addictive! It is also best after it has been left at room temperature for about half an hour before eating. This allows it to become deliciously moist and soft....and totally irresistible. 

Happy New Year! May 2014 be the best yet :-) 

- Matilda

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