I turn 40 tomorrow. I’m officially middle age now.
I’m actually OK with that, partially because I don’t look anywhere near 40 (most people guess I’m 30). But it is a milestone birthday, so it’s made me stop and think about it.
Statistically, I’ve already lived more than half my life and about 1/3 of my adult life. The last 20 years of my life have been an interesting journey. But as I’ve talked about before, I’m at a crossroads in my life. And that’s becoming more and more exciting to me. I’ve been on a creative bent lately – writing this blog, baking, and wanting to do more knitting and jewelry making. To me (well, really to my excellent therapist), it seems that I’m coming out of this period of my life which has been very stressful with a constructive bent and not a destructive one. Which is good. I’m really looking forward to the next period of my life. My friend NM told me the other day that he feels like big and great things in life are just around the corner for me. I think he might be right. I’m finding that turning 40 is not a big deal, because I’m excited about where things are going for me.
I found an awesome recipe on the fabulous Smitten Kitchen blog the other day. Chocolate cake with red wine IN THE CAKE! You know how amazing chocolate and red wine are? This recipe combines them IN THE CAKE. Amazeballs. I had the day off from work today, so I thought I’d give it a go.
Step one: Get out the most awesome piece of kitchen equipment ever:
I know I can bake without it, but oh man does this make things easier! I heart my KitchenAid stand mixer.
After starting once with butter right out of the refrigerator, I started again with room temperature butter. It just wasn’t mixing right using the cold butter. And I wasn’t too far into the recipe, so I only wasted 3/4 stick of butter and 3/4 cup brown sugar.
The recipe called for dark brown sugar, but I only had regular light brown sugar. It also called for dutch cocoa, and I had Hershey’s cocoa powder. Oh well, substitutions will be made…hopefully they wouldn’t cause problems.
So after mixing butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and eggs, it was time to add the wine. The recipe said to use whatever red wine you like. Living in a dry house, I didn’t have any. So Thursday, I stopped and asked the awesome guys at Solo Vino what they recommended. After getting over the idea of putting wine INTO the cake (they had never heard about it either), they told me to be sure to use a wine that didn’t have any tannins, natural or artificial. I didn’t ask why, so I can’t tell you why that’s important. I just know it is because they said it is. I also like those guys because you can tell them what price point you want, and they always find something awesome.
They recommended a spanish wine, Casa Solar, for $6.99 a bottle. I did sample a tiny portion (quality assurance is very important), and it’s pretty good. I’m not a wine snob, so I’m sure some of you wouldn’t like it. To me, it tasted like a nice red wine. So I mixed it in, added all the other stuff, and poured it into the pan.
The recipe said to use a 9″ pan; I only had an 8″ pan. Hmm, hope that doesn’t matter. Oh well, into the oven it went. It needed a few extra minutes because of the smaller pan. The recipe said when the cake tester came out clean, the top would be shiny like a chocolate puddle.
Yeah, not so much. But as long as it tasted OK, I’d be happy. (It should taste OK – I licked the spatula, and the batter tasted great! Chocolately but with a hint of wine flavor.) I let it cool and sprinkled it with powered sugar.
Looks pretty, doesn’t it? Maybe not bakery-pretty, but good for homemade. I’m going to take it to the dance studio tomorrow and let the staff be my guinea pigs. I hope it tastes good – I actually have confidence in this and think they’ll enjoy it.
So I’m feeling really good today. My dancing is going well, I will triumph over my triple swing mental block, I’m enjoying the creative bent I’m on and look forward to developing it further, I got to bake something new and exciting today, and I’m excited about what’s next in my life and how I get to shape it.
So to my 30s: thank you for the journey you put me on. I did a lot of growing, changing and self-discovery during that time, and I’m a much more confident and happier person now than when I entered my 30s. (And I’m a dancer now!) But I’m happy to leave you behind. I think the 40s are going to be fantastic!! BRING ‘EM ON!!!!
“Age doesn’t matter unless you’re a cheese.”
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe)
6 tbsp unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk (at room temperature)
3/4 cup red wine
1 cup + 1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment, and either butter and lightly flour the parchment and exposed sides of the pan, or spray the interior with a nonstick spray. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and the yolk and beat well, then add the red wine and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together over the wet ingredients. Mix until 3/4 combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The top of the cake should be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip out of the pan and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack. Dust with powdered sugar. The cake keeps well at room temperature or in the fridge.
Optional topping (which I haven’t tried yet):
Mix together 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, 1/2 cup chilled whipping cream, 2 tbsp granulated sugar, and 1/4 tsp vanilla until soft peaks form. Dollop generously on each slice of cake.