It is hard to believe that an entire year has gone by. We have lived another twelve months and managed to survive an apocalypse that never came. We face the end of 2012— an exciting year—so suddenly. In a split second, without warning, we blinked and realized that not only is December coming to an end, but the entire year is. We often ask ourselves, “where has the time gone?” We sit back, sigh a deep breath and try to remember moments of the year that have gone by. Memories that made this year so important. So special. We reflect on everything that the year had to offer. The highs and the lows. The people we met. The decisions we made. Situations we overcame. Changes we initiated. A graduation here. A birthday there. Suddenly it all seems to fit and make sense. Time definitely flies by and I hope it is because we have all been having fun. If you have not, well there is always next year.
The promise of a new year is very exciting. It means we have time to do all the things we did not get to do these past twelve months. It means we can start anew and really make it count. 2013 brings with it prospects of a better future. Go ahead and take that trip you have been wanting to take. Learn and grow by enrolling in those classes you have been eying. The concept of the new unexplored is inviting. New acquaintances await us and the idea of getting to know that special someone even more is enough to make you smile. This time of year is a time of reflection. It is a time to look back and make resolutions that push us to become better individuals. While the usual resolutions of dieting and eating habits can be beneficial, they seem so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. It is the resolutions to be happier, to live life, take trips, explore, take more adventures, read new books, that make all the difference. Those are the ones that matter. The ones that define us, and the ones we will remember most. Do not make resolutions to deprive yourself of the things you like to eat, but rather make commitments towards healthier choices with all things in moderation. Make a resolution to step out of your comfort zone and try out new recipes. Live on the dangerous side by cooking recipes you normally would not have tried before. How else will you know whether you like something or not?
New Year’s Eve builds the excitement and we all sit around, waiting for the big event. The grand 2-0-1-3. The champagne is poured, the food is laid out, friends and family are all around and we feel the intense anticipation that comes with this particular day. We all stand around in a group huddle in one room, television on low. The countdown begins, as if reminding us that we have to make these last moments count because they will never happen again. 10, 9, 8, we look around at everyone smiling and having a good time. We stare at those special people who make a difference in our lives and feel blessed that we are alive for yet another year. Even people we have never met before seem so important at this moment. 7, 6, 5, our stomachs begin to tighten up in excitement of another chapter ending and a new one just beginning. Satisfied and exhilarated that we have a brand new year to wipe the slate clean. 4, 3, we smile knowing that only happiness awaits. Happiness that we get to control because we have the power to make it happen. 2, 1, the cheers and screams, hugs and kisses, flying confetti and dancing balloons can only mean one thing. A new year is upon us. 2013. Go out and enjoy life, for we only have one to live. Stay safe and never take anything for granted. Tell those you love that you love them, everyday. Always live life to the fullest because you are important. Never doubt how much you mean to someone out there. Make this the best year of your life. Happy New Year!
As it is New Year’s Eve and all, I thought I would make a fancy dessert. This here is a fancy dessert.
We start off by mixing together the dry ingredients.
Or by sifting them together, if you’re not lazy like me and don’t have an aversion to sifting like I do, then sift away.
The cake we are making is a chiffon cake. It’s different than regular cakes that use butter. Chiffons don’t have butter.
According to my trusty companion wikipedia, “A chiffon cake is a very light cake made with vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder and flavorings. The lack of butter, however, means that chiffon cakes lack much of the rich flavor of butter cakes, and hence they are typically served accompanied with flavorful sauces or other accompaniments, such as chocolate or fruit fillings. The high amount of eggs and oil makes chiffon cake very moist.”
So there you go, the more you know.
Normally chiffon cakes are made with cake flour, to ensure they are light and fluffy. This one is made with cake flour.
To the cake flour add baking powder.
Give it all a good whisk, or a good run through a fine mesh sieve to sift.
Set the dry ingredients to the side and move on to the next step.
Separate the eggs. We need a total of 7 eggs. I know 7 eggs sounds like a lot, and sure it is a lot, but it’s what makes a chiffon cake light and airy and moist.
Separate the eggs either with a separator (it gets the job done) or by hand by juggling the yolk between the two egg shells.
For the purpose of this shoot/post, I used a separator.
Separate the seven eggs, dropping the whites in a clean bowl and the yolks in another.
Transfer the yolks into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium-high.
I know what you are thinking, I could have just dropped the yolks in the mixer bowl to begin with, but I wasn’t thinking. There was a lot of pressure to make sure I separated the eggs properly, and then I started and I thought “oh I’ll just drop it into this here empty bowl.”
So I added an extra step for myself, don’t judge me!
Whip the yolks for about 2 minutes, and then lower the speed to low.
And then raise it to high.
And then lower it to low.
And raise it to high.
Steadily stream in the granulated sugar into the whipping yolks.
Once all the sugar has been added, raise the speed to high and whip for about 5 minutes until it is thick and pale in color.
Lower the speed once again and stream in the canola oil.
Then add the vanilla extract.
And now for the star ingredient.
The main attraction.
The bee’s knees.
The cat’s pajamas.
The cream of the crop.
The apple of my eye.
You get the picture.
The champagne gives this cake a great subtle flavor, and if you are not the biggest fan of cooking with alcohol or don’t feel like adding the champagne, well then you can just use hot water instead.
But the whole point of this dessert is the champagne, so let’s live on the wild side together and add the champagne. 2013 is all about getting out of our comfort zone, remember?
We’ll be rich and luxurious for a day.
**Tip: On that note, you don’t need a high-end, super expensive bottle of champagne or sparkling wine, a 5 dollar bottle will do just fine. We’re not royalty, either.**
In a medium bowl add the dark cocoa powder.
To the chocolate, add the champagne.
Whisk the chocolate and champagne together until it is smooth and lump-free.
When you add the champagne, don’t get alarmed, it will bubble and rise up. Just whisk and the fizzing will eventually subside.
Set the chocolate aside.
Remember our dry ingredients from earlier? Well, grab those and add it to the egg yolk sugar mixer.
Mix until just combined.
Add the chocolate-champagne mixture to the bowl.
Mix until everything is evenly incorporated.
Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula.
Set this bowl off to the side.
I’ve just realized that there is a lot of setting off to the side in this recipe.
But anyhow, set this bowl off to the side too, and grab another clean mixing bowl.
Drop the egg whites in from earlier.
**Tip: Whipping egg whites can be very tricky. It seems like such an easy task, and it can be, but there are a lot of precautions one must take to ensure the whites whip properly. First off, you have to make sure the whites are at room temperature. Second, make sure there are NO streaks of yolks in the whites, or else they will not whip up at all. Also make sure there are no pieces of shell in the whites, or else they will not whip up at all. Third, always make sure the mixing bowl and whisk are thoroughly cleaned and completely dried, or else they will not whip up at all. Lastly if it is humid outside the whites will not whip up properly because of the environment. Okay now you are ready to whip up egg whites.**
Start the mixer on medium and whisk for about 5 minutes.
Slowly you’ll notice the whites get frothy and opaque.
Add the cream of tarter.
What is cream of tarter you might ask? Well thank you for asking. Cream of tarter is a stabilizer and it helps the egg whites puff up and stay puffed.
That’s my very fancy explanation of it.
Add it and continue to whip on high until the whites have doubled in size and stiff peaks have formed.
You’ll know the whites are done when they look like this:
See, they are very thick, have practically tripled in size and are glossy.
We’re egg white whipping pros.
Add a heaping spoonful of the whipped egg whites to the chocolate batter.
It is very important to fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter and not mix it.
You went through all that trouble to whip up the egg whites and make them light and fluffy, and the last thing you want to do is mix rapidly, because if you do you’ll watch them deflate.
So, slowly and oh so carefully folding in the egg whites, you’ll ensure the chiffon cake stays light and airy.
It’s quite the job to do by hand, and your arm does get tired—or at least mine did—but it is well worth it.
Continue to add the egg whites, a little at a time, until it is all evenly folded into the batter.
And the last two ingredients are dried cherries and dark chocolate chunks.
They just tie in nicely with the cherry sauce we are making later on and the dark cocoa we used in the batter.
Plus it’s a great added texture to have all throughout the cakes, the chewiness from the cherries and the richness from the dark chocolate chunks.
Add them and fold once more.
Okay, now the chiffon cake batter is done. Let’s portion it out into individual bundt cakes.
I wanted to have these be mini bundt cakes because it’s for a special occasion like New Year’s Eve and everyone just knows that mini bundt cakes are very special.
But if you’d like you can make it into one big cake by cooking it in a tube pan.
Use a medium ice cream scoop to portion out the batter into the pan.
**Tip: Whenever you make a chiffon or a sponge cake it is very important that you DO NOT grease the pan you are using. I know I know, that sounds scary and daunting. We’ve always been taught to grease the pans first because we are so afraid to have our cake stick to the pan and then cut to us crying as the crumbs fall and the cake falls apart as you try to invert it. But rest assured, you do not need to grease the pan. The cakes will come out easily.**
Fill each of the cavities about 3/4 of the way up.
Bake in a preheated 350º F oven for about 15-20 minutes until the cake springs back to the touch.
While the cakes bake, let’s make a sauce to go on top.
As wikipedia stated, chiffon cakes are usually served with a sauce, so I wanted to make a sauce that would take these cakes over the edge.
So I came up with a cherry champagne sauce.
First thing we need to do is add a 16 oz bag of thawed frozen cherries, along with it’s juices.
Add the honey.
Add a bit of cornstarch (to help thicken the sauce).
**Note: After I made this I realized the sauce was still tart, I liked it this way but if you’re not much of a tarty person, then add about 1/4 cup of granulated sugar at this point. That will sweeten it up.**
Place the lid on top and give it a whirl.
Blend until completely smooth.
By now the cakes should be done.
Remove them from the oven and immediately invert the pan onto a wire rack and allow to cool down completely.
**Tip: Inverting the pan right away and allowing it to cool upside down will ensure the cakes come out perfectly from the pan.**
Let’s turn our attention back to the cherry sauce.
Dump the puréed cherry mixture into a small sauce pot and place over a medium heat.
Cook for about 20 minutes until the sauce has reduced a bit and thickened. Stir constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Once done, transfer to a small bowl and allow to cool completely.
Run a knife along the sides of the cakes and the center and then carefully remove them from the pan.
If you only have one pan, like I do, then you’ll need to wash it out and cook the next batch now.
It’s a pain but I’m too cheap to buy another pan, so it’s a give and take.
Okay let’s finish up the sauce.
Once cooled, and right before serving, add the chilled champagne.
Add it to the sauce.
Whisk away until it is completely smooth.
There, you’re done.
Spoon the sauce over each cake right before serving.
If you are not serving the cakes right away, store the cakes in an airtight container, they will keep at room temperature for a couple of days. Store the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge, it’ll keep for about a week.
When you are ready to serve, warm the sauce and drizzle over the cakes.
There are all these fancy rules that state you can’t call champagne, champagne unless it is made from grapes grown in the region of Champagne in France. Other wise it’s just called sparkling wine.
Most commonly the stuff sold in the US is sparkling wine, but I feel like calling it champagne so don’t sue me.
When I began writing out this recipe I was stumped on the name. Everything I tried ended up with a long sentence for a title.
“Dark Chocolate Cherry Champagne Chiffon Cake.”
“Chocolate Cherry Champagne Chiffon Cake.” Talk about a mouthful of “c’s.”
I wanted to make sure to include dark in it because I feel like dark chocolate is an important factor in this recipe.
“Moist and Delicious Your New Favorite Dessert Dark Chocolate Cherry Champagne Chiffon Cake,” is what I really wanted to call it, but I figured that would be a tad too much.
Eventually I settled for “Dark Chocolate Cherry Champagne Cakes.” I figured it was long but not too long, just right.
I felt like Goldie Locks picking out the perfect name.
Whatever you want to call it, just give it a try. The champagne might turn you off and deter you from trying it, but don’t let it. I promise you, you’ll enjoy it.
Dark Chocolate Cherry Champagne Cakes
If you aren’t keen on cooking with alcohol and don’t want to add the champagne to this recipe you can swap it out for hot water instead. Follow the same directions but just use water in place of the sparkling wine. The taste will still be unbelievable.
yield: 12 mini bundt cakes or 1 9-inch tube cake
- 1¾ cups cake flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup dark cocoa powder
- ¾ cup champagne, sparkling wine or presecco, or hot water
- 7 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
- 1¾ cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup canola oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tarter
- ½ cup dried cherries
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. In a medium bowl whisk, or sift together, the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3. Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Place the egg whites in a separate, clean bowl, and set aside. Whip the yolks on high for about 2 minutes until slightly thick. Lower the speed to low and gradually add the granulated sugar. Raise the speed to high and whip for about 5 minutes until they are pale in color and thick. Add the oil and vanilla extract and mix until for another minute.
2. In a small bowl mix together the cocoa powder and the champagne. Once smooth, add to the egg yolk mixture and mix until evenly incorporated.
3. In another large mixing bowl, add the egg whites and whip on high until they begin to get frothy and opaque. Add the cream of tarter and continue to whip until the whites have tripled in size and have formed stiff peaks. Gradually add the whipped egg whites to the chocolate batter and fold in gently. Continue to fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter until they have all been added and mixed in.
4. Gently fold in the dark chocolate chunks and the dried cherries. Fill a mini bundt pan with the batter about ¾ of the way up in each cavity. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the cake springs back to the touch or when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
5. Remove the cakes from the oven and immediately invert the pan. Allow to cool completely. Run a knife along the edges and center of each cake and carefully remove each from the pan. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days. Or serve right away with a dusting of powdered sugar or serve with cherry champagne sauce (recipe follows). Enjoy and Happy New Year!
Cherry Champagne Sauce
yield: about 1½ cups
- 1 (16 ounce) bag frozen cherries, thawed
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ¼ cup granulated sugar, optional
- ¼ cup chilled champagne
1. In a food processor or blender, combine the thawed cherries, with their juices, the honey, cornstarch and granulated sugar if using. Blend until smooth.
2. Pour into a small sauce pot and cook over medium heat, for about 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened and reduced slightly. Transfer to a small bowl and cool completely.
3. Right before serving whisk in the chilled champagne. Serve on top of dark chocolate cherry champagne cakes, pound cake, fruit, or ice cream. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week. Enjoy!