Chocolate Stout Cake with Caramel

All right, I know St. Paddy’s day was yesterday. Which is why I made this cake yesterday. But I bet there are some people out there with an Irish stout or two left in the fridge and no desire to ever drink again. And frankly, this cake is fun to make. You get to stand over the stove cackling and inhaling the chocolate infused fumes of Guinness. Okay, maybe I have too much fun in the kitchen. The recipe is pretty nuch Nigella’s–I think. Her website is all metric and by weight, so instead of using a simple internet converter, I guestimated the ratios based on my own devil’s food cake and increased things to make it a two layer mostrosity rather than Nigella’s relatively moderate single layer. I subbed in some brown sugar, as usual. I thought about using molasses instead as well, but I worried the bitterness of the stout didn’t need any help. I was actually wrong about that, so next time molasses is in.

Ingredients (Makes 2 eight-inch rounds, and serves more than you’d think. This sucker is rich.)

1 1/2 cups (1 12-ounce bottle) stout (I used Guinness extra stout)

12 T (1 1/2 sticks) butter

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar

3/4 cup sour cream

3 eggs

2 T vanilla

3 cups flour

1 T baking soda


Put a good stock pot (let’s say 6 quarts at least) on the stove and heat it up to medium.  Pour in the stout and let the foam subside while your husband mutters something about “crazy” and “sacrilege” and “cooking beer.” Ignore him, he doesn’t know any better. Add the butter in chunks and whisk until it melts.

Stir in the cocoa powder. I couldn’t get a good picture of this because it steamed like crazy. This, incidentally, is when the cackling happened. Those fumes smelled awesome. Awesome and evil. Add in the sugars and whisk vigorously until it is fully dissolved.

I whisked little waves of the mix up the sides of my pot to see if there were still any granules holding out. It seemed to work. Turn off the heat now, you don’t need it anymore and it could mess with your eggs. Stir in the sour cream and beat the eggs in a little bowl while the mixture cools a bit.

When the mixture has cooled enough that you aren’t afraid to touch it with your fingers, whisk in the eggs and vanilla. I can’t stress enough that the batter can’t still be steaming. You do not want scrambled eggs mixed into your batter, so it has to be cool enough not to cook the eggs on contact.

Sift in flour and baking soda, and whisk again. The completed batter should be thick and fairly smooth.

Heat the oven to 350°F while you prepare the cake pans. Butter both 8-inch pans, then line them with parchment paper. Then you butter the parchment paper, too. This used to drive me crazy, until I figured out how to do it without crumpling the parchment.

Yep, I put the cake pan on a hot burner and let the butter get a bit melty. Works like a charm. Though I’m guessing no one else has ever had this particular problem before. Now divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

The pans end up being quite full, so be careful when transferring them to the oven. Bake at 350°F for about 40 minutes.They will rise to be rather domed. We’ll handle that in a bit.

Let them cool completely before flipping them out onto plates. Level at least one of the cakes, pour about half a cup of caramel over it, top with the other cake (I didn’t level it, just plopped it dome side down.) and add another half cup of caramel.

It is dense and moist and dark and sweet all at once. Everyone seems to want to top stout cakes with thick, fluffy buttercream or cream cheese icing, “to mimic the head on a stout beer,” but I say this way is better, the rich caramel soaking in to every bite without being to cloyingly sweet. It brings out the hint of stout flavor–and despite the whole bottle of stout in the recipe, it is only a hint–and adds its own near-burnt complexity to the mix. Did I mention that I always let my caramel almost burn? The last moment between caramel and charred mess is the most delicious. If you’re using jarred caramel, we’re done here. If you want to make your own, though (and you should!), join me tomorrow and I’ll show you how.


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  1. #1 by mollyparr on March 19, 2011 - 10:32 AM

    I’m impressed with your gutsy move to guestimate. I always get a little nervous when baking because it reminds me of chemistry class. These look great! Can’t wait to read about the caramel.

    • #2 by koshercorvid on March 19, 2011 - 11:43 AM

      Don’t get me wrong, I only guestimate when baking because I’ve made so many hundreds of cakes that I know a good fat/flour ratio by sight. And because I don’t mind occasionally feeding mistakes to the birds. But pastry is more forgiving than cookbooks want you to think. If it weren’t, you wouldn’t be able to measure flour by volume at all. And I have to admit, what I hated most about chemistry class was how rarely we got to play with chemicals. I guess I just like to experiment and see what happens.

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