Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Espresso Ganache

A birthday cake for Beth

A birthday cake for Beth.

A few weeks ago we celebrated a very special birthday at one of our dinner classes. I have been meaning to tell you about it for some time now but haven’t had a quiet moment to sit and write until this rainy holiday Monday.

Lately we have been hosting a lot of birthday parties here at Kitchen Culinaire headquarters. All are special, of course, but for this particular class we were celebrating a milestone birthday of someone rather dear to us. My business partner/fellow cook and best friend Sarolta has a sister named Beth and Beth was celebrating her 50th birthday!

Sarolta wanted to do something special in honour of her sweet sister so she got together with her Mum to come up with something that would be meaningful for Beth on such a momentous occasion. Sarolta knew that Beth had always wanted her 50th year to be filled with things that she had never done before. Sarolta’s Mum knew that Beth had always expressed an interest in getting a group together to take one of our cooking classes but had never managed to find the time.

Perfect! We would host an intimate group of 10 for a mulit-course cooking class and birthday dinner party.

Next we worked out the logistics. Sarolta and her Mum put their heads together and figured out the guest list and discussed the menu options and wine pairings. We printed the recipe cards, bought the groceries, wine and flowers. Sarolta’s Mum insisted on paying for the entire evening which was so very generous (thanks Bess!). We put together take-home gifts and recipe packets and then lined up Sarolta’s husband Ross, who is a professional photographer, to do double duty as party guest and event photographer. All the photographs in this post (except for the first one) are courtesy of Pink Monkey Studios (thanks Ross!).

It didn’t take us long to come up with a menu that we thought would please the birthday girl and tried to include what we knew to be many of her favourite foods. We started with a trio of hors d’oeuvres and Prosecco and then moved on to an onion tart with tomato confit and goat cheese. Next up was an arugula salad with pears, hazelnuts and a pomegranate vinaigrette. The main course was sablefish with risotto bianco, a citrus beurre blanc and topped with truffled pea shoots. We rounded out the savoury courses with a cheese plate featuring a lovely local camembert served with some fruit and nut bread.

Beth loves chocolate and so for dessert we pulled out the best, grown-up, red-wine-spiked, chocolate cake recipe that we know.

This cake is so chocolately, rich and rather sophisticated to boot. The red wine in the batter adds a spice and earthiness that is further complimented by a bit of cinnamon. We often serve this just with a dusting of icing sugar or a dollop of mascarpone cream, but for this special occasion we decided to gild the lily and enrobe the cake in an espresso scented ganache. You can garnish this with seasonal berries or pomegranate seeds or even candied violets.

So what was happening in between all of the cooking and eating and drinking? Well, there were some heartfelt speeches and toasts, a video montage showing Beth on some of her adventures near and far, surrounded by her family and friends. And there were a whole lot of laughs as well. Beth spent much of the evening grinning from ear to ear.

When the party guests had departed and we were doing the clean-up in the kitchen Sarolta and I talked about what a lovely, sweet and special evening it had been. Very much like the birthday girl herself…

Happy birthday Beth!


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14 Responses to Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Espresso Ganache

  1. lovely! cake, post and photos ­čÖé

  2. Thanks Tamar, it won’t be long until we are celebrating your special day! xo J

  3. Bonnie says:

    That looks just Wonderful!!
    Funny, last month it was my birthday, and I kept wishing I was having a special dinner in your lovely kitchen. Now I really regret that I didn’t make it happen!!
    Next year…
    Is this the cake from the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook? She has a red wine chocolate cake recipe in there that has caught my eye. I’ve been wanting to make a Red Velvet cake but avoid the food colouring.

    • Hi Bonnie,
      Next year for sure! Yes, this is the cake from Smitten Kitchen and while I don’t have her new cookbook (yet) I assume it is the same or slightly revised from the one on her site. I really like this cake for its ease and depth of flavour.

  4. Chris and Merrikay Snelgrove says:

    THAT was the most unique birthday party EVER!  Delicious food, delightful company, fine wine, exceptional service, loving environment, heartfelt toasts.  Could NOT have been better in any way.  Thank you for including us in your special celebration, Beth.  Truly memorable!

    Kudos to the organizers, hosts, cooks, and professional photographer. ­čÖé

    Chris and Merrikay

  5. Steve and Karen Shalansky says:

    Fabulous party! The time just flew with such great company and activity. Beth – we were so thrilled to be part of your special day. Thank you so much to Sarolta, Julie and Bess for creating such a memorable evening.

    Karen and Steve

  6. Beth and Geoff Triggs says:

    What a way to celebrate my 50th birthday! Thank you so much for the MOST amazing evening. From the gracious and talented hosts and the warm and wonderful friends, to the spectacular cooking demo and resulting AMAZING dinner, we enjoyed every moment of our Cooking Class/Dinner Party. Julie and Sarolta, you are indeed the culinary equivalent of the dynamic duo — each of you bringing your own unique style and impressive skill-set to the fabulous partnership that is Kitchen Culinaire. A big shout-out to Ross at Pink Monkey Studios (best brother-in-law ever) for beautifully documenting my Epic Fiftieth Birthday; and to Mom — the only thing that would have made this unforgettable evening better would have been if you could have joined us.

    I’m still dreaming about my birthday cake! Thank goodness you gave us all the recipe so I can make another one, soon!

    Mad love and many many thanks,
    Beth and Geoff

    • So very pleased that we could be a part of your big celebration. We always say the success of any party comes down to the people who attend and you and your group were the best of the best. We had such a great time hosting you and your friends and were so touched by the heartfelt speeches and toasts. Happy birthday to you Beth!

  7. Nick and Sheila Bartley says:

    What an original event it was ! Great food and great friends together to celebrate!
    Nick and Sheila

  8. What a beautiful way to spend a special birthday. Well done, Julie!

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