Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chocolate Stout Cake (sort of)

    I say 'sort of' because we did a little bit of a riff on the original recipe (and what we typically do) this time, but it came out amazing!  Years ago, back when my wife and I were first dating, we were out shopping and she had wanted to swing by somewhere like Hobby Lobby, Michaels, etc to pick up scrapbooking materials.  Deciding to grin and bear it, I went along and, years later, I'm glad I did.  That day we picked up what has proven to be a gold mine of dessert recipes (all of a chocolatey nature): "Chocolate", a one-off issue of Fine Cooking magazine.  Actually, after doing a little internet research, it looks like it was rereleased in 2012, and you might even be able to snag it off store shelves if you're lucky.  If not, there are a few for sale on Amazon.  If you're just interested in this recipe and would like more detail than I give here, the original version by Nicole Rees can be found on the Fine Cooking website, here.  At any rate, for those of you that love chocolate (and beer) like we do, this one is definitely a keeper. 

     Ingredients for Cake-
       -10 oz. good stout
       -1/3 cup dark molasses (the original recipe says not black strap, but we've used all dift. types)
       -1 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
       -3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
       -1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
       -1/2 tsp. baking soda. 
       -1/2 tsp. salt
       -1 and 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened at room temp (plus more for the pan)
       -1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar (light, dark, or mixed)
       -3 large eggs, room temp
       -6 oz. semisweet choolate, chopped very fine

     Ingredients for Optional Glaze-
       -3/4 cups heavy cream
       -6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

    The cake itself is easy to make.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a large bunt pan (or about 12 of the mini-bunt pans) and coat the inside with either sugar (which we prefer, for a slightly crunchy outer layer) or cocoa powder.  Tap out excess.  Alternatively, you can use non-stick cooking spray to prepare the pan, but if you do this, don't dust the inside with either of the aforementioned ingredients.  On high heat, bring the molasses and the stout to a simmer; remove from heat and let stand. 
     At this point, I need to say a bit about the beer you should use.  We've experimented with several different beers over the years, and have learned a couple of things.  First, most stouts will work nicely in this cake, but don't use one that's overly hoppy (ex. Victory's Storm King), as these flavors will not work well in the finished cake.  You can also use most porters with excellent results, but again, avoid highly-hopped examples, like those brewed by Boulevard or Founders.  These are all great beers, but drink them with the cake rather than using them in it.  In general, rich, chocolatey, or coffee-stouts (if you like a little coffee with your chocolate) work best.  If using Guinness, I'd go for the malty Extra Stout (especially nice with its molasses notes) over the weak, thin-bodied Guinness Draught.  We mixed things up a bit this time, however, and used a leftover bottle of Bell's Batch 9000.  This was an odd beer, in that it blurred the lines between American Stout, Old Ale, and Strong Ale.  I didn't particularly care for the beer originally, and as I still had a couple in the cellar, I figured it might work for cooking.  Looking at the label, I noticed it was brewed with molasses.  Molasses in the cake, molasses in the beer...hmmm.  So we went for it.  More on that later.
     Beer excursus: complete.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda, and salt.  Cream the butter until smooth, and then add the brown sugar and beat for about three minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, and then alternately add (small portions at a time) the stout mixture and flour.  Finally, stir in the finely (and I do mean finely) chopped chocolate.  According to the original recipe, this is to be baked 45-50 minutes, or 35 for the mini-bunt pans.  We have observed, however, that the large bunt pans can take a bit longer, and that the mini ones are usually done in about 20 minutes. 
     Bunt cakes are a pain in the butt to get out of the pan (maybe it's just us, but we can never seem to accomplish it without tearing up the cake a bit) and you need to get them out before they're fully cooled.  The recipe suggests 20 minutes, but we usually take them out after 10-15.  For the glaze, simply bring the cream to a boil, take it off the heat, add the chopped (fairly finely) chocolate, and whisk until blended.  Don

     Notes: This makes one seriously dense, decadent chocolate cake.  This time around, the use of the Bell's Batch 9000 (sadly long since unavailable for purchase) was awesome; the entire cake was full of rum/brandy and molasses notes.  These actually almost overpowered the chocolate, but it was delicious, and for some reason reminded me of something that would be absolutely perfect in the winter served with gingerbread ice-cream or the like.  One of the great things about this recipe is that it just begs to be riffed on.  For example, add a touch of espresso powder and use a great coffee stout (especially Redband by Great River or Breakfast Stout by Founders) if you like coffee with your chocolate.  Perhaps add a bit of cinnamon instead, and use milk chocolate in the glaze for a 'Mexican Hot Chocolate' cake.  If you prefer a bit of fruit, make up a simple raspberry or blackberry coulis to drizzle over the top, along with the chocolate sauce.  Or, you can do what we did, and just serve it alongside some fresh strawberries and vanilla bean ice-cream.  For what it's worth, the cake is great fresh, reheated, or refrigerated (and even freezes well), but the chocolate sauce should be made up fresh and not reheated, as it gets a bit funny in terms of texture (as seen in the picture below). 

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