Chocolate Stout Cake with Chocolate Frosting or Ganache
Do you know what’s great about baking? Ok, yes, other than eating the baked goods themselves? The inherently social nature of baking. At least in households like ours, with just the two Freds, baking a tall, double layer, 9″ cake isn’t really at all practical unless we’re baking it with the purpose of sharing its delight. So, inevitably, we find ourselves baking around our social calendar. Which is actually kind of nice. The result is that each cake, pie or batch of cookies is invariably tied to a nice memory. Except for the time we stayed up all night baking 200 banana nut muffins for no reason other than the sudden acquisition of a crate of bananas on their way out. But that’s another story.
This cake is actually tied to two nice memories for us. First, the bourbon tasting party we attended this Fall at which I first sampled this cake, made by our friend, and expert baker, Lauren. And second, Fred’s mom’s birthday for which we baked this cake last weekend. My intention had been to follow the recipe and make a big, two layer cake. A classic, tall, over-the-top, chocolate birthday cake, with a twist – the addition of dark, creamy beer – to add complexity and depth. And well, I fulfilled that intention for the most part, but due to the too late realization that we actually only own one 9″ cake pan, we ended up with one single layer cake for the birthday party and another single layer caked baked the next day with the remaining batter. Such is life.
Thankfully, the mere fact that the cake and its frosting were made from scratch, was enough to make Fred’s family delighted, and since there were only five of us celebrating I suppose a double layer cake would’ve been a bit much. Maybe just a little. Especially since this cake is rich! Moist, relatively dense, with deep, dark chocolate flavor, this is my ideal chocolate cake. Texture wise it falls somewhere between your classic fluffy devils food and your flourless chocolate cakes – ie it’s dense enough to be decadent but not so dense that you can’t reasonably enjoy a full slice. And best of all it stays moist and delicious for a good half a week (probably longer if you wrap in more thoroughly than we did), so we had no problem polishing off the half we didn’t freeze before it even hinted at dry staleness. Deeeeelicious!
Chocolate Stout Cake with Chocolate Frosting or Ganache (adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Baking Blog)
(Makes one 9″ Double Layer Cake)
2 cups dark beer, preferably a chocolate stout
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1.5 cups dutched cocoa powder
4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1.5 tsp salt
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Then grease two 9″ cake pans at least two inches deep, and line the bottoms with parchment paper circles.
Place your stout and butter in a medium saucepan and heat on medium low until the butter melts, stirring frequently. Once the butter has melted and you have a homogenous mixture, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in your cocoa. Whisk until smooth and then set aside to cool.
While your beer and butter mixture cools, whisk together your remaining dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt). Set aside.
Next, beat your eggs and sour cream in a stand mixer, until well combined. Slowly pour in your beer and butter mixture and mix on a medium-low speed to combine. Finally, slowly add your dry ingredients and blend on a low speed. Mix until fully incorporated.
Divide your batter equally between your cake pans and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until they are set and a cake tester or very long toothpick comes out clean. Remove your cakes from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before attempting to turn the cakes out of their pans.
Allow to cool completely before attempting to frost.
Chocolate Ganache or Frosting Ingredients
1 lb semi-sweet chocolate
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache or Frosting Preparation
Place your chopped chocolate or chocolate chips in a large heat proof bowl. Then bring your cream to just a boil in a medium to small saucepan. As soon as it boils, turn off the heat and pour over the chocolate whisking vigorously until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Then, add the vanilla, stirring to combine.
At this point, you may wait a few minutes for the ganache to thicken slightly and then pour the ganache directly over your cooled cake for a thin, shiny layer, or you may cool the ganache in your fridge, stirring every twenty minutes, until the ganache resembles a thick but fluffy frosting, which you can spread over your cake. If you opt for the pouring option, I recommend chilling your cake prior to icing to help the ganache adhere better.