This week was a good week. I started back at school, which wasn't good but also wasn't bad, which is good. Matt had a fun birthday, which is good. We solidified plans for my graduation trip, which is good.
Details: On May 9th, when I should be sitting through a four-hour long graduation ceremony, watching and clapping as a bunch of people I hardly know cross the stage to receive a $200k piece of paper that may or may not actually benefit them in any way, I will be in northern California, either dancing on a table or touring a vineyard. I don't know how y'all feel about it, but I think I win. Our trip starts in San Francisco and ends in Vancouver. Between those two cities we'll have three weeks to go on wine tastings, hike and take cheesy pictures of each other. Three weeks to reflect on what has been a daunting four years, during which I surely could have given more effort, complained a little less, and made my time in college more valuable. Three weeks to think about how I'm going to return to New Orleans, without a job, without a plan, and really without much money. That's a lot to do in three weeks.
But I'm super excited about it.
Anyway, y'all are probably starting to get the hint that I love cooking with alcohol. It's true. My favorite cake growing up was a rum-soaked loaf cake my mom would make around the holidays. Something about that subtle sting of alcohol, paired with the right amount of sugar and a well-done crumb is just wonderful. So, in celebration of my upcoming trip to wine country, this cake has a sweet port wine + mascarpone frosting.
At its heart, though, this is a coffee cake, which makes it pretty versatile. It's dense and not overly sweet, so it wouldn't be crazy to eat it for breakfast alongside a cappuccino, even though it has a teeny bit of wine in it. The coffee element of the cake comes from espresso powder. I recommend trying to find a high quality powder, as the low-quality cheaper ones sometimes have this strange synthetic taste that lingers too long on the tongue. Also, I included a picture of my favorite new brand of disposable cutlery and dining wear, Susty Party. They've got adorable products that are made using recycled, compostable material. Enjoy!
*this recipe makes enough for two 8" or 9" circular pans, though I used 6" pans cause I like small cakes*
- 2.5 cups All Purpose flour
- 1 t baking powder
- 1/4 t salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/3 cup instant espresso
- 2 sticks melted butter, cooled
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 4 lg eggs
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/8 cup espresso powder
- 1/4 cup sugar
PORT + MASCARPONE FROSTING
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 stick of butter, softened
- 4 oz mascarpone cheese at room temperature
- 4 T sweet port wine (I used Sandeman Tawny Port)
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about one minute
- Add the flour, salt and baking powder to the egg mix and combine
- Add buttermilk, melted butter, vanilla and instant coffee and beat for another minute, until the batter is smooth
- Pour into prepared cake pans and bake at 350* for 30 - 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out crumb-free
- Once the cakes have cooled completely, punch holes in the top of each layer with a fork to prepare it for the soak
- Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, remove from heat and whisk in espresso powder until sugar and powder are dissolved
- Pour over the cakes and allow to sit for about half an hour, until all of the liquid is absorbed
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip butter and mascarpone until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes
- Sift in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well between each addition
- Add port 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing between each addition
- After each tablespoon, check consistency of the frosting to make sure it doesn't get too runny
- If the frosting is too runny or too stiff, add a tablespoon of powdered sugar or port, respectively, until the desired consistency is reached