More Baking With Booze: Chocolate Raspberry Liqueur Cake

Here’s the thing about chocolate cake: it’s so easy to grab a box mix and make a totally standard, totally adequate chocolate cake, but it’s transcendent to put in the effort and make a chocolate cake from scratch.

Dec 28, 2011 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

There have been pleas to stop the baking madness -- but I just can’t. On one hand, it’s that I like baking. On the other hand, it’s that someone asked me to make them a cake and bought me booze for it -- so, you know, obligated. This is where I laugh at myself.

I promise, my brownies are just brownies. No special ingredients. Of any sort. And I also promise that I didn’t intend that to be a pot joke.

After the teacakes were a hit at work, a coworker asked if I’d bake her a cake. She wanted something chocolate. And for the cake to have booze in it. The secret to food in general, I think, is in the balance of flavors. So the natural questions was what goes well with chocolate?

Raspberry. It was kind of a d’uh moment. That’s how I knew it was time to bake a chocolate raspberry liqueur cake. It was a choice moment.

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And, I admit, it was a good excuse to use one of my favorite bundt pans, which is a ring of pine trees. You use powdered sugar on the cake, especially chocolate cake, and it looks like snow on pine boughs. I have no love of snow in real life (well, at least no love beyond my child-like thrill that it is snow), but it’s pretty to look at. This is looking at snow and then eating it. Metaphorically. Figuratively. Anyway.

Chambord is too top shelf for baking (if I ever had a boozy cake food truck, I’d totally have top shelf teacakes just because), but Raspberry di Amore is the right price -- and the right degree of raspberryness. (Add about a half a shot of this stuff to a glass of white wine, y’all – prepare to swoon.)

But, really, any brand of raspberry liqueur that you would be willing to sip at while you bake the cake would be just fine. No need to be a liqueur snob here!

Here’s the thing about chocolate cake: It’s so easy to grab a box mix and make a totally standard, totally adequate chocolate cake, but it’s transcendent to put in the effort and make a chocolate cake from scratch.

The cake I made is based on this recipe from the New York Times. 

Obviously, this is not a whiskey cake. Though please do try that recipe with bourbon. Oh my goodness, chocolate bourbon cake is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. But so is chocolate raspberry liqueur cake, so please do make both of these cakes. 

Making a cake from scratch can seem like a really intimidating process, especially when you have to melt baking chocolate. Don’t worry, though -- you can totally do this by taking it a step at a time.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing pan

2 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting pan

5 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/4 cup instant espresso powder

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup bourbon, rye or other whiskey, more for sprinkling

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish (optional).

Assemble your ingredients. Having everything to hand will make life a lot easier. And then figure out if you own a double boiler.

1. Grease and flour a 10-cup-capacity Bundt pan (or two 8- or 9-inch loaf pans). Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In microwave oven or double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate. Let cool.

Y’all, I do not own a double boiler. While I would love to, it’s one of those things that we didn’t get as a wedding gift and we’ve never bought for ourselves. One day I will get over myself and order one from the Internets, that beloved source of all things.

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In the meantime, we use a metal bowl plunked down over a small pot of boiling water. Same physics concept. It’s brilliant and lo fi. Baking chocolate can be procured at your local grocery. It’s not the same thing as the chocolate used in candy bars. Melt five ounces of baking chocolate (mmmm, dark chocolate) in your double boiler or metal bowl. 

Do not leave this chocolate unattended. Do not attempt to melt this chocolate in the microwave, no matter how much the Internets (beloved but also tricksy) tells you that you should be able to. The chocolate will burn. It will smell phenomenally bad. And then the grocery store will be closed when you discover you don’t actually have enough chocolate to make your cake. Not that, uh, that’s ever happened to me or anything.

OK, yes, it happened to me. It was awful. And I wound up at a Wal-mart after midnight before a holiday when a bunch of people were coming over. It was absolutely worth it. But, seriously, I don’t want to be the desperate woman in search of baking chocolate again.

So, melt your chocolate. And then set it aside. Because you can do that. You don’t have to have everything in motion every second. Making this cake is about ordered steps.

2. Put espresso and cocoa powders in a 2-cup (or larger) glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to come up to the 1 cup measuring line. Mix until powders dissolve. Add whiskey and salt; let cool.

You do not have to use the espresso in this recipe if you do not want to. But I’d recommend it even if you don’t like coffee (I don’t like coffee). Coffee and chocolate are amazing together -- the coffee intensifies the taste of the chocolate and doesn’t come out as a distinct flavor itself. So, you know, I’m a fan of the espresso in this context.

The instruction still says whiskey because I’m quoting the original recipe. Baking with booze involves a little bit of rebellious spirit. Be a rebel with me. Every time the recipe says whiskey, read that as raspberry liqueur. It’s so liberating.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter until fluffy. Add sugar and beat until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, baking soda and melted chocolate, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. 

Fluffy is a really imprecise term, isn’t it? I beat my butter until it forms stiff little peaks. It winds up looking like the whipped butter you get to spread on your bread at fancy wedding receptions. That’s because it is, in fact, just like the whipped butter at fancy wedding receptions. That’s how you know you have beaten it enough. Beating the mix after adding each egg insures that each egg is thoroughly incorporated. It’s just good policy. 

4. On low speed, beat in a third of the whiskey mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1 cup flour. Repeat additions, ending with whiskey mixture. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes for Bundt pan (loaf pans will take less time, start checking them after 55 minutes). 

Remember, rebellious spirit. Raspberry liqueur instead of whiskey.

The principle here is similar to what was going on with the way the batter was mixed after each egg was added. It’s all too easy for flour to get clumpy. You don’t want it to be a struggle to add your flour -- that’s just needlessly difficult. Adding one cup at a time and beating in between makes it actively easier to mix up your batter.

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5. Transfer cake to a rack. Unmold after 15 minutes and sprinkle warm cake with more whiskey. Let cool before serving, garnished with confectioners’ sugar if you like.

Seriously, use pot holders for this step. If you do not own pot holders, don't make this cake until you do. That bundt pan is heavy.

It might seem like sprinkling the cake with extra booze is an unnecessary step. You might think hey, I’ve already soaked this thing through with raspberry liqueur. But you would, in fact, be wrong. Not because the cake can’t stand on its own, but because omg deliciousness. Adding a little extra puts this cake right over the top.

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I love this recipe -- it’s absolutely delicious. It also produces a gloriously textured cake; the fine, dense quality of it is just beyond. And that’s what makes this cake so superior to a box cake. It’s not just about flavor; it’s about mouth feel. It’s about the way it gives under the edge of your fork and stays together instead of crumbling as you bring it to your mouth.

Does that sound rapturous or what?