There is something dangerous and sexy about drink. Bubbles that tickle the nose, bite the back of the throat; a feverish flush crawling up your neck, coercing you to let down your hair, laughter bubbling up uncontrollably. Heat like a flow of lava over the tongue, burning a path down the gullet, clawing at your chest. Fumes rushing up into your head, behind your eyes, seething, foggy warmth clouding your thoughts and all reason. A powerful blast of sexy is drink; shimmering gold or pink or deep jewel red, wrap your hands around the sensuous curve of a glass, breath in the heady bouquet, the electrifying scent, a fusion of fruit and earth and the devil that makes your head spin, makes you think of things, creates desire that burns like the liquid as it courses through your body.
Why the fascination with drink? Why the necessity to imbibe, to ring in each holiday, to toast each celebration with something boozy? There’s no way around it, drink is the very essence of conviviality. We pop corks, the spicy sweet blaze of alcohol rushes into the glass amid laughter and merriment with each milestone, each festive event. Refined and savage, sophisticated and fierce, a glass of something straight up or a mad inventive cocktail brings a dash of hospitality, a splash of romance, an infusion of cheer. And out of nothing but a feeling of wellbeing, a burning passion, we toast our beloved, nothing but the best, the booziest will do.
One would think that after twenty-five years and more of living in France that having a drink, a flute of bubbly, a glass of wine, a splash of brandy or a drop of grappa, would have sunken into the trite and meaningless, like a glass of milk or a cup of coffee. A banality, a glass of red for lunch, a glass of white with dinner, wine drunken like water to wash down a meal. A sweet sip of Cointreau, the burning heat of brandy, the tickle of Champagne, popping corks whenever the mood hits, everyday, yes, the liquor flows like water in France.
But no. No matter how often we partake, no matter how many bottles line our kitchen shelves, no matter how many corks fill our utensil drawer, a drink is still something special; it is downright celebratory. Birthdays or anniversaries, New Year’s eve or a personal success, what better way to celebrate than with….booze! And there are so many things to fete, so many people to honor. The applause is loud, the memories are great, we raise a glass to commend and praise, to congratulate and rejoice. Big or small, in this mad, wild, uncertain world we live in, every little pleasure, milestones both large and small, the chance to share joy with others, pat friends on the back or triumph with loved ones, there is such delight in raising a tumbler, hearing the click click of glasses meeting, the charm and comfort of sharing a drink with friends and strangers.
Therefore, each and every Friday I dash excitedly over to my friend Barb’s wonderful blog Creative Culinary to discover what new cocktail she has concocted for The Friday Cocktail hour. And each Friday, I sit back and savor her words and images, sit back, close my eyes and imagine that I am holding one of her cocktails, surrounded by girlfriends on her terrace while the warm sunshine filters through the trees. Or maybe at a noisy, rambunctious party or even something a tad more solemn. Or curled up with the one I love the most to quietly exult in whatever we have accomplished together.
And this week, Barb is celebrating – celebrating! – one year of Friday Cocktail and we are pulling out the booze! But as Barb’s Friday cocktails are not just cocktails, as Barb spikes dessert after glorious dessert – from Blueberry Basil Martini Pops to Sicilian Chocolate Gelato with Bourbon and Strawberry Ricotta Gelato Fizz – she has shown us that something boozy doesn’t have to be liquid! So to help Barb celebrate the one-year anniversary of her Friday Cocktail, I have created a Chocolate Berry Rum Trifle. A dense Chocolate Fudge Chiffon Cake, a mix of blueberries and cherries in their juice (and why not a splash of Cointreau?), a Rum-Infused Vanilla Pastry Cream and clouds of whipped cream make one hell of a festive treat!
And now you scoot on over to Creative Culinary and check out all the boozy delights, cocktails and desserts, that we have all brought to the party! Happy Cocktail Anniversary, Barb!
Favorite boozy treats from Life's a Feast:
Cherry Prosecco Granità
Chocolate Rum Bundt Cake
Chocolate Orange Grand Marnier Madeleines
Orange Cointreau Brownie Tiramisu
NOTE: Drink sensibly and always in moderation.
CHOCOLATE BERRY RUM TRIFLE
FUDGE CHIFFON CAKE
From Abigail Serves, Choicest Recipes Presented by Sisters of Abigail No. 3, United Order of True Sisters, Albany, New York, 1956 – of which my Great Aunt Mae Cohen was co-chairman
¾ cup (scant 200 ml) boiling water
½ cup (50 g) unsweetened cocoa
1 ¾ cup lightly spooned into measuring cup and levelled (220 g) cake flour
1 ¾ cup (350 g) sugar
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
7 medium or large eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Have ready an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.
Sift the cocoa powder into a small mixing bowl and whisk in the boiling water until smooth. Allow to cool.
Sift or whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and whisk in the oil, the egg yolks, the vanilla and then the cooled cocoa mixture until smooth.
Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl (I prefer plastic) and sift on the cream of tartar if using. Whip the whites until very stiff; beat stiffer than for angel food or meringue. Fold the stiff whites carefully into the cake batter with a rubber or silicone spatula until blended. Pour into the tube pan and bake for 55 minutes at 325°F (160°C) and then increase oven temperature to 350°F (180°C) and continue baking for an additional 10 or 15 minutes, until the top of the cake springs back when lightly touched.
Cool the cake in the tube pan upside down before loosening with a long, sharp blade and remove from the pan.
RUM-INFUSED VANILLA BEAN PASTRY CREAM
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
2 Tbs cornstarch
½ cup (100 g) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter, cubed (at room temperature makes it easier)
The seeds scraped from one vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla
2 – 3 Tbs rum, or to taste
Sift the cornstarch into a small mixing bowl. Dissolve the cornstarch in ¼ cup of the milk; whisk until smooth and there are no lumps. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar and the vanilla seeds in a saucepan. Bring just to a boil; remove from heat.
Place the whole egg with the yolks in a medium-sized heatproof mixing bowl and whisk to blend. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture until smooth. Pour the boiling milk in a slow, gradual stream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook. Return the mixture back to the saucepan.
Whisking constantly, cook over low heat until the pastry cream thickens and comes just to a boil. This should only take a minute or two. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla extract if using.
Whisk the rum into the pastry cream a tablespoon at a time to taste. Allow to cool slightly, whisking or stirring occasionally to keep it creamy and so a skin doesn’t form on the top.
ASSEMBLE THE TRIFLE
About half the CHOCOLATE FUDGE CHIFFON CAKE
RUM-INFUSED VANILLA BEAN PASTRY CREAM
2 cups (500 ml) heavy whipping cream
Confectioner’s sugar to taste, about 2 Tbs
¾ - 1 cup berries, fresh, jarred or frozen, sweetened with 2 tsps sugar
1 Tbs Cointreau or Grand Marnier for the fruit, if desired
1 Tbs blanched slivered almonds
Place the berries in a small bowl with about ¼ cup of the juices if using frozen or jarred. Stir the sugar into the berries, add about 1 tsp (or more to taste) of the Cointreau or Grand Marnier and allow to macerate while preparing the pastry cream.
Place a glass or metal bowl with the beaters of an electric mixer in the refrigerator to chill. The bowl must be large enough to hold all of the heavy cream once it is whipped.
CHOCOLATE BERRY RUM TRIFLE
Cut 1-inch (2 cm) thick slices of cake and press together, overlapping just slightly, into the bottom of a clear glass serving bowl (mine is approximately 8 inches in diameter): I used 5 slices. You want to see a layer of chocolate cake underneath the layers of pastry and whipped cream. Spoon about ¾ of the spiked berry juices over the cake, allowing the juices to soak into the cake. Spread all of the rum-infused pastry cream on top of the layer of cake slices, making sure all of the gaps around the edges are filled with pastry cream. Spoon ¾ of the berries evenly over the pastry cream.
Add another layer of cake sliced thinner, about ½ - ¾ inch thick.
Whip the heavy whipping cream in the chilled bowl with the chilled beaters, adding 2 tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar. Beat until very thick. Mound the whipped cream onto the Trifle, making sure that the whipped cream comes to the edges of the bowl and fills in any gaps around the edges. Just before serving, top with the rest of the berries and about a tablespoon of blanched slivered almonds. If you like you can grate on some chocolate.
Serve immediately. Store any leftover Trifle in the refrigerator, the bowl covered with plastic wrap.