Sunday, April 5, 2009

chocolate stout cake

I feel ambivalent about layer cakes. Of course, they have their place as nostalgic hallmarks of birthdays, weddings, etc., but I've never felt compelled to attempt one myself.

There are so many variables to consider—flavor, crumb consistency, cake-to-frosting ratio—and, even when all of these things align, the results are rarely earth-shattering. For the baker, it seemed, too little reward.

That's probably why, many years later, this marks my first frosted layer cake (not counting Lee Bailey's peach cake, with its cumulous layers of whipped cream).


Given its many adoring Epicurious fans, I expected to like the cake. What I didn't expect was that I'd enjoy the process of making it. With a bit of work in advance, it was surprisingly easy. Dangerously easy, even. As in why-don't-I-just-whip-up-a-multi-tiered-cake-on-a-whim easy.

And the cake itself? It was almost earth-shattering. Almost.

Chocolate Stout Cake
Adapted from Bon Appétit, September 2002; recipe originally from the Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington, MA

I halved this recipe (reflected below) and it still made for an imposing two-tier cake. (I can’t imagine what kind of mixing bowl could accommodate the original proportions.) The layers I made the night before and wrapped in tinfoil; the frosting (semisweet, which was far from cloying) I whipped up the morning of. Next time, I’d try a sour cream frosting, or perhaps a malted chocolate frosting—something to accent the stoutiness of the cake.

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cups whipping cream
3/4 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.


For icing:

Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours.

Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool completely.

Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours.

Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.

2 comments:

  1. I totally agree about the effort to reward ratio being so uncertain. For me, there's also a density anxiety, i.e., things fall apart, the center cannot hold. Oh, I've had many a sad, sagging confection.

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  2. That is a handsome cake. I would be able to enjoy it more if I wasn't still reeling from your confession. Ambivalent about layer cakes? What?

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