Red Wine Velvet Cake with Mascarpone Buttercream

With fresh berries being in season, the time is now for this pretty cake, which actually falls into the category of “naked” cake with its exposed layers and minimal amount of frosting (this was a new term for me and my first “naked” cake).

Given the July birthday boy and girl’s suggestion of a buttercream frosted cake for this month’s office birthday treats, I perused many recipes looking for something rather elevated from your typical cake and frosting. After changing my mind a few times, I settled on Red Wine Velvet Cake from the always solid Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. And she’s got a new cookbook coming out soon—I’m so excited!!

With three 9-inch layers, it’s a good sized cake, one that I knew would easily feed my sweets-loving office mates. After making a few cakes lately in the 9-inch pans, a two-layer 8-inch cake seems so tiny! And you can cut slimmer pieces when you have three layers and still feel like you get a big piece of cake. Yes, please!

I followed the cake recipe exactly, but switched up the topping/frosting a bit. Liking the fact that mascarpone cheese was called for in the original cake topping, but heeding the request of buttercream, I decided on a mascarpone buttercream—the best of both worlds. It’s easily one of the most delicious frostings I have ever tasted, and not over-the-top sweet.

The addition of the berries was mine after scrolling through an endless number of beautiful “naked” cakes on Pinterest. Wait until just before serving to add them though. Enjoy!

Red Wine Velvet Cake with Mascarpone Buttercream

From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

16 tablespoons (225 grams or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pans

2 3/4 (345 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

2 cups (380 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar

2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

2 cups (475 ml) red wine (any variety—I used a blend)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups (115 grams) Dutch cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt

Fresh berries for garnish

Mint leaves for garnish

Powdered sugar, for dusting the garnish

Mascarpone Buttercream Filling (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease three 9” round cake pans with butter or non-hydrogenated shortening. Line each pan with a round of parchment paper and grease the paper. Dust bottom and sides of pan lightly with flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes. Add eggs and beat well, followed by the red wine and vanilla extract.

At this point the batter will look like a somewhat mottled mess, but don’t worry. Mix the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until mostly, but not quite combined. Remove the bowl from your electric mixer and continue to stir with a rubber spatula until fully combined.

Divide batter evenly among the three prepared pans and smooth the batter with a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of cakes comes out clean.

Cool the cakes on a rack for 10 minutes and then turn each cake out onto the rack to cool completely and remove parchment. Once cakes are cool, if the tops are domed, you can use a long serrated knife and cut horizontally to remove the dome. The cake scraps make for a nice snack while you prepare the frosting. If making ahead, you can wrap the cooled cakes in plastic and foil and freeze.

Mascarpone Buttercream Filling (From this Southern Living recipe)

1 pound powdered sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

8 oz. mascarpone cheese, room temperature

Beat sugar and butter on medium-high speed until thick and creamy, about 4-5 minutes. Beat in vanilla and salt. Add mascarpone and mix on low speed just until combined. Do not overmix or the mascarpone will start to break down and the frosting will become too thin.

To assemble, place a cake layer on a cake stand or platter and frost the top with 1/3 of the buttercream. I found this easiest do by fitting a disposable piping bag with a ½ inch plain piping tip and making a generous piped edge around the perimeter and then fill in the center and spread with an offset spatula for an even frosting thickness. Repeat with the other two layers. Swirl the frosting on the top layer to make it pretty.

Store cake in the fridge, removing about 30 minutes before serving. Right before serving, top with a pile of berries and place some around the sides of the cake too. Stick a few mint leaves in as well. Sift powdered sugar over the berries right before cutting the cake (it tends to eventually dissolve on the berries, so don’t do it until the last minute).

Cut into somewhat thin wedges and serve (with three layers, your pieces don’t need to be large). Makes about 16 servings.



Summer Fruit Crisp with No-Churn Coffee Liqueur Ice-Cream

Fruit Crisp with Ice-Cream
Up until a few days ago, I had never made ice-cream. Never wanted to buy an ice-cream maker and every recipe I’d ever come across required one. That is, until last week.

While looking for ideas to make M & M sandwich cookies for an office birthday party, I stumbled upon something even better, M & M cookie ice-cream sandwiches!!! Included was a very simple ice-cream recipe only requiring three ingredients, and wonder of all wonders, NO ice-cream maker necessary.

Very intrigued, I went to the store for heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk, dumped them in the bowl of my stand mixer, added a teaspoon of vanilla, turned the mixer on high and the timer for five minutes. Plopped the resulting thick, creamy deliciousness into a container and froze it overnight. Skeptical it could be this easy, I kept checking it to see if this was really turning into ice-cream.

Amazingly, by the next morning, it truly was ice-cream. Lovely, rich, creamy and decadent ice-cream! The entire batch was gone before I even made the M & M cookies, so another batch was necessary and it ended up being not quite enough for the number of sandwiches I needed. One more batch coming up.
M & M Cookie Ice-Cream Sandwich

Earlier that day some friends at work were joking that I always put booze in my baked goods (it really isn’t always), so it gave me the idea of incorporating booze into this ice-cream. What would go with M & M cookies? Hey, doesn’t coffee go great with cookies? And I just happened to have some of my mom’s homemade Kahlua (coffee liqueur) on hand.

Worried that the alcohol would interfere with the ice-cream freezing, I only put in ¼ cup, but it was enough to give it a coffee/boozy hint, and while I didn’t think it was possible, this version was even better than the first two batches.

After filling the remaining cookies, there was ice-cream left over that needed a partner and I immediately thought of a mouthwatering recipe seen recently on 101 Cookbooks for a summer berry crisp that, aptly, also contained alcohol, this time in the form of red wine.  And with a healthy boost from the fruit, oats and whole grain flour, it would cancel out the not-so-healthy ice-cream, right??

There were fresh raspberries at the farmers market last night and some cherries and plums at home. The only ingredient missing from the original recipe was port, and as Heidi Swanson mentioned in her notes, red wine would also work, and she’s right. This is the best fruit crisp I have ever had and Pete agreed. A big scoop of the coffee liqueur ice-cream on the still-warm-from-the-oven crisp took this dessert over the top! Enjoy!
Pan of Fruit Crisp

Summer Fruit Crisp with No-Churn Coffee Liqueur Ice-Cream

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

4 tablespoons poppy seeds  or a combination poppy and black sesame seeds

1 cup rolled oats (not quick oats), uncooked

1 cup organic cane sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or all-natural cornstarch

1/3 cup / 1.5 oz. organic turbinado sugar

4 1/2 cups berries/fruit – mix of ripe, pitted cherries, raspberries, peeled plums, etc.

1/4 cup port wine or merlot

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F with a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish, or equivalent.

To make the crumble, mix together the flour, poppy seeds, oats, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Use a fork to stir in the melted butter. Divide the mixture into three portions and use your hands to form three patties. Place the patties in the bowl and freeze for at least 10 minutes, or until you’re ready to bake.

Make the filling by whisking together the arrowroot and sugar in a large bowl. Add the fruit and toss until evenly coated. Wait 3 minutes, add the wine, and toss again. Transfer the filling to the prepared baking dish.

Remove the topping from the freezer and crumble it over the filling, making sure you have both big and small pieces.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the topping is deeply golden and the fruit juices are vigorously bubbling. Let cool a little before serving, 20 to 30 minutes. Makes about 9 servings.

No-Churn Coffee Liqueur Ice-Cream
Adapted from this Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe

2 cups heavy cream

1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ cup coffee liqueur

Place bowl and whisk of your stand or hand mixer in the freezer for 15-30 minutes. Remove from freezer and add all ingredients to the bowl. Whisk at high speed for about 5 minutes until mixture is good and thick. Transfer to a 2-quart container with a tight fitting lid and freeze overnight (keeps in freezer for two weeks. Makes about 2 quarts.

Valentine’s Vegetable Pot Pie

Heart Shaped Pot Pie
I’ve always liked Valentine’s Day, even before that fabulous February 14th eight years ago when I met my husband on a first date. Even when I was unattached or attached to the wrong guy. Valentine’s Day was always a festive, red and pink day—whether it was cookies and cupcakes shared at the office, foil wrapped chocolates, or a fuchsia or scarlet clothing choice. And it’s a day not just to share with your romantic partner, but with your family, your friends—it’s about celebrating all those loving relationships! And what better way to celebrate than with good old comfort food.

A Valentine’s menu started percolating in my brain earlier this week and I knew immediately what the dessert would be, this Chocolate Lava Cakes with Raspberry Sauce & Chambord Cream recipe (one of those “I can’t believe it’s vegan” desserts!) blogged about last year. And for some reason, the idea of pot pies came to mind. We’re in the midst of one of the coldest winters in 20 years, and comfort food is helping us survive. At first I was thinking of individual pot pies in cute little ramekins, but I have a seldom-used heart shaped tart pan with removable bottom, so why not one large pie? It all came together in a test version last night and was definitely a recipe to share!

This version, with its meaty crimini mushrooms and red wine-spiked gravy, is reminiscent of a beefy pot pie, but you could change up the veggies and substitute white wine if you’d prefer a lighter flavor and color, more attuned to the traditional version.

For reasons of both ease and flavor, I used puff pastry for the crust, but if you have a favorite homemade crust recipe, go for it. Trader Joe’s has the best puff pastry I’ve tasted, with no partially hydrogenated anything, however, it does contain butter. Pepperidge Farm’s puff pastry is vegan, but contains small amounts of hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup. I’m sure there are other brands out there and you can check the ingredients to make sure you’re buying one that works with your preferences.

Valentine's Vegetable Pot Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print
If you prefer to make these in ramekins or crocks, it should work just fine, but the cooking time may be slightly less—just keep an eye on them. Pair with a tossed green salad and the dessert mentioned above for a complete Valentine’s Day dinner!
Pot Pie Wedge

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large shallot, diced
1 leek, sliced
1 carrot, diced
¼ bulb fennel, chopped
2 cup diced potatoes
2 cups diced crimini mushrooms
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup vegetable stock (homemade would be ideal) or good quality broth
½ cup red wine
¾ cup shelled edamame
2 tablespoons fresh or 2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground sage
salt and pepper, to taste

1 package store-bought puff pastry, defrosted (if you want vegan, make sure to check ingredients)

1 egg (for a vegan version, substitute non-dairy milk of choice and omit the water)
1 teaspoon water

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. When oil is hot, add garlic, shallots, leeks, carrot, and fennel. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 2-3 minutes. Add potatoes and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms have released their liquid, about  5 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables. Stir to coat and cook for a couple minutes. Add broth and wine, stirring until combined. Increase heat until mixture comes to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, until it thickens somewhat. Turn heat off and stir in herbs, dry mustard, and edamame. Taste, and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Roll one sheet of puff pastry to about 1/8” thickness. Place the pan on the dough, using pan to guide the shape, cut dough in a heart shape about 1 ½” larger than pan. Gently ease puff pastry into pan, pressing it to edges and against sides. If using a round pie or tart pan, cut dough in a circle 1 ½” wider all around and ease into pan, pressing dough to edges and against sides.

Transfer vegetable mixture into pastry lined pan.

Roll second sheet of puff pastry to 1/8” thickness (you probably won’t use it all). Cut into 1” wide strips. Place strips over the top of vegetable mixture, forming a lattice pattern, trimming strips to fit. Press dough on edge of pan with a fork or crimp with fingers to mesh strips to edges in a decorative pattern.

In small dish, make egg wash by mixing egg and water until well combined. With a pastry brush, coat all pastry surfaces with egg wash. Bake 30-40 minutes, until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling. Transfer to cooling rack for 10 minutes.

If using pan with removable bottom, remove from pan and let cool on rack 10 minutes longer. Slice into wedges and serve hot. Makes 6 servings. Enjoy!

Pie side