St. Patrick’s day is about the only holiday I don’t really celebrate. There’s reasons, not the least of them being – if my name hasn’t given it away, I get to be Irish 365+ days per year, and have the total lack of suntan to prove it.
Apparently, my lack of festive feeling doesn’t buy me a pass when it comes to baking. A lot of years ago, I made the mistake of bringing this amazing, truffle-y beer-soaked glory of a cake to a family boiled-meat-and-sad-cabbage dinner, and it’s been requested, demanded, and occasionally pleaded for every year since.
I don’t make it every year, or even most years, because as good as it is, it’s kind of a pest to make. No one step is particularly difficult, but there are a lot of them, and darn near all of them involve a whisk and a small sauce pan. I have a finite number of whisks and small sauce pans, so that means that there’s a lot of dish washing involved.
Cake is great. Dishes are not. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices, and some years, I sacrifice cake for lazy.
This wasn’t one of those years.
Chocolate Stout Cake
adapted from this Guinness Cake recipe
Part one: the cake.
Start your oven preheating to 350, then, in a small sauce pan (that’s one!) combine:
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup Young’s double chocolate stout
Place over low heat and whisk until smooth, then remove from heat and set aside. It will smell amazing. Don’t taste it. I don’t say this because I assume anyone reading isn’t smart enough to realize that beer + unsweetened cocoa powder = disaster; I’m saying this because somehow, I always manage to talk myself into ignoring that bit of common sense. Learn from my idiocy, please.
In a small bowl, combine and set aside:
1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together:
1/3 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
Then add, one at a time:
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
To the now-cooled chocolate-and-stout mixture, add:
1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
Truth: this is my favorite step, because it’s just so pretty.
Add the cocoa-beer mixture and the flour mixture to the butter-egg mixture in alternation, beginning with the cocoa-beer part and ending with flour. This batter isn’t going to be pretty – that’s the buttermilk and baking soda fighting it out, and making everything odd and granular-looking in the process. Just let it happen.
I bake the cake in a 9″ round springform pan, bottom foil-covered and the whole inside greased and floured to death. I strongly recommend doing this if you can, but if you don’t have a springform pan, any 9″ pan – square or round will do. Just consider adding parchment paper to the bottom before you grease and flour, because this cake sticks like duct tape otherwise.
Regardless of your pan preferences, bake for 25-30 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the edges creep away from the sides. Cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack that’s been placed in a large baking pan or on a rimmed cookie sheet. Leave it upside-down and let it cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, move on to step two: The Goo.
In a small saucepan (that’s two!), combine:
1/4 cup stout
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir and heat until smooth, then set aside to cool. Like the original cocoa-and-stout mixture, this will smell amazing. Unlike the original mixture, it will also taste amazing. Secretly? I put a tablespoonful or two of it aside in a coffee mug. You’ll see.
Step Three: The Saucing
Once the cake and the goo are both cooled, use a fork to poke a lot of holes into the bottom of your cake, being careful not to stab all the way through. Spoon the goo over the cake bottom, a spoonful at a time, and spread each spoonful around. Stop when the cake stops absorbing the goo easily – it should probably take up 1/2 of the goo easily. Let the cake rest, then flip it carefully onto whatever you plan on serving and storing it in.
Poke holes all over the top of the cake, and pour on the rest of the goo. Don’t worry too much if it doesn’t completely absorb, but if there’s any major puddles, poke a few more fork holes into them.
Step four: Ganache is Where the Magic Happens
In a small saucepan (that’s three!), bring to a simmer:
10 ounces heavy whipping cream
Try and use the fattiest, best heavy whipping cream you can find. I buy mine in adorable glass jars from a local dairy, and this stuff is so rich that you actually have to puncture the buttery fat layer that forms on the top of it before you can shake and pour it. Also, it comes in a 12oz bottle, and at least a tablespoon of that 2oz extra needs to get added to that coffee mug we talked about earlier. Trust me.
Simmering cream is tricky. It will go from not-boiling to OH MY GOD FROTHY DISASTER pretty much instantaneously. To avert catastrophe: tiny bubbles will populate the edges and a skin has will form on top. Watch closely, and when the skin appears to be moving up and down, almost like it’s breathing, remove the cream from the stove. Then add:
10 ounces semisweet chocolate mini chips
Mix and then whisk these together until smooth. Let cool very slightly, and then spoon onto the cake top. This works best if you do it pizza-style – pour into the center, then use the back of a spoon to smooth it out toward the edges. You don’t need to add more than about 1/3 of the total amount, and even if you’re careful, some of it’s going to spill over.
Just let it happen.
Hell, revel in it.
Pour the rest of your ganache into a sealable plastic bag, and put it into the fridge for about 30 minutes. Squeeze the bag around about every 10 of those minutes to make sure it cools evenly. Then, take the bag out, snip a small hole out of one corner, and pipe out the much-less-runny ganache around the sides of the cake, and on the top if you want to be super fancy. Try not to worry if you wind up with ganache that escapes the bag’s closure into your and. Also, don’t feel too guilty if you don’t successfully resist the temptation to pipe ganache straight into your facehole.
There’s always a point in the baking process where I’m fully frustrated that all the effort – and all the dirty dishes! – are only going to result in a flat little 1-layer 9″ cake.
That frustration dissolves with the eating; then, it’s pure love at first bite. I describe this cake as 20% beer, 80% truffle by volume, and personally, I think it’s best served at room temperature or chilled, and accompanied by coffee – which, in turn, I serve myself in that mug of chocolate-goo-and-cream I set aside earlier.
Yes. Yes I do. I make no apologies – I need the energy to tackle the mountain of saucepans and dishes awaiting me.
Happy St. Whatsit’s day!