You never know where you’ll get your inspiration!
I have read thousands of magazines over the years – probably half of them cooking magazines. In fact, in my very first post on the blog – Welcome! – I wrote about my love of cookbooks and magazines. I wrote about how on my birthday Jeff brings me cooking magazines and a cup of coffee in bed and I am immersed for hours.
This week was NOT my birthday (I am not celebrating them more frequently than I absolutely have to), but I was thrilled to receive a magazine from our friends, Alicia and Jason, while I was “recovering” from some outpatient surgery. Although we haven’t known each other for very long, they clearly know me quite well. They made Jeff and I a wonderful dinner and sent along a copy of one of my favorite magazines, La Cucina Italiana.
A cup of coffee in hand and wrapped in a blanket in front of the fireplace I got lost in the glossy pages. But I kept being pulled back to the cover. Although I was lured by an advertisement for Alitalia’s business class “seats” and was dazzled by many recipes that I will likely make in the months to come, I kept thinking about the Torta al Vino Rosso (Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream and Raspberries) on the cover.
I like wine, but by no means am I a wine aficionado. My taste for wine has changed dramatically over the years working my way from sweeter wines to drier wines and from pinks to whites and finally to a point of appreciating and enjoying reds. But red is still not what I reach for first. So it is somewhat strange that this cake would draw my attention.
But I’ve learned that when inspiration hits, you don’t ignore it! On Friday I decided I’d try making the Torta al Vino Rosso before Jeff and I went to the movies. I mean, what could be bad about red wine and chocolate? It’s a winning combination – like peanut butter and jelly.
I decided to make the cakes in four small springform pans rather than in one large one. That way I could put one in the now-empty container in which Jason & Alicia sent the marvelous beef burgundy. You know, grandmas everywhere always tell you, “never return an empty container!” Who am I to argue with the grandmas?
I began measuring the ingredients, starting with the wine. We had a bottle of 90+ Cellars Pinot Noir open and the wine is described as, “pensively purple in color and alluringly scented with marvelous aromas of juicy black cherry fruit, cocoa and ginger backed by lurking noted of cardamom and violets. The wine’s flavors are boldly expressive and distinctly stacked upon one another as if they were painted by Rothko.” With a description like that, it sounded like a worthy ingredient for the Torta al Vino Rosso.
I chopped a combination of semisweet and bittersweet chocolate (the recipe called only for semisweet, but I can never leave well-enough alone AND I didn’t have enough semisweet). I carefully measured the remaining ingredients and greased/lined the small springform pans as I waited for the butter – which I had taken out of the fridge earlier – to reach the right temperature.
Then I began mixing the batter in stages as the recipe instructed. And when I did I was greeted by the most amazing aroma – mmm mmm mmm! It was so heady, in fact, that I called Jeff at work and asked him to invite Alicia and Jason to join us for the movie and for a piece of cake. If it’s possible for senses to cross, something about the scent sung to me! It was a great mix of restrained sweetness, winey fruitiness and comforting chocolatey goodness.
I lovingly slipped the cakes into the oven and waited. And inhaled deeply. And waited. The cakes rose beautifully as they baked. I was worried that I had overfilled the pans, but magically – almost like a souffle – they rose above the tops and held on for dear life! After I took them out of the oven I was tortured to have to wait for hours to try a bite! But I waited.
I busied myself getting (myself and the house) ready. And I macerated the raspberries in a syrup of red wine and sugar per the recipe. When Jeff got home, his first reaction to the cakes on the cooling rack was, “there’s no icing?” But I smiled, knowing….
Just before the doorbell rang, I whipped the cream with a whisper of confectioners sugar. Fortunately, Alicia and Jason arrived ready for a piece of cake – sometimes it’s that kind of day. As I was cutting the cake and topping it with whipped cream and then spooning over the macerated raspberries, I could tell Jeff was still unimpressed. But I waited…
And finally all the waiting paid off. Jeff described the Torta al Vino Rosso as, “possibly the best cake I’ve ever had.” And I concur.
It had a light texture and complex flavor. It was moist, but not too moist that it didn’t soak in a little of the liquid from the raspberries. And the whipped cream was a better complement than any icing ever could be.
I am sorry to say we set about eating it so fast that I didn’t take a picture of the finished product. So I will link you to the La Cucina Italiana website for both a glimpse of perfection and the recipe to reproduce it!