Autumn is here. While it’s still warm enough for open-toed shoes in the afternoon, the mornings are chilly and late evenings on the patio require a jacket. For many people, this means fall cleaning, buying school supplies, packing up the summer clothes, and breaking out the sweaters.
I’m not most people though.
For me, autumn doesn’t mean cleaning out the closet – my winter and summer apparel are the same (all black, all the time) – and I’ve got no children to badger me about school supplies. Instead, autumn means re-arranging the liquor cabinet and wine racks and pushing the gin and tonic, the pinot grigio, and the pale lagers to the back and out of sight before heading off to my favorite independent liquor store to replenish winter staples. Currently, those staples are focused on beer.
It is, of course, beer “season” – here in Denver, that means the Great American Beer Festival, Oktoberfest, and the microbreweries are calling my name. But it’s not the pale ales for which I’m clamoring.
I want dark, rich, full-bodied stout.
Specifically, I want to drink stout while baking it into a cake.
The last few months have been hot as sausages sizzling in a frying pan. While I am a glutton, I’m not a glutton for punishment. So, when the ambient air temperature is 95 degrees, turning on an oven to 350 makes me feel a bit sick. Come to think of it, drinking a stout when it’s 95 degrees turns my stomach a bit too…but I digress.
When the weather turns though and the possibilities for cooking, baking, and drinking are seemingly endless, my imagination begins to run wild, I ramp up for the Duck My Puppy Cake and Cocktails Club, and I begin to plan party themes and menus centered around what liquor I’ve got a fancy to bake and serve. That, every year, begins with stout and stout cake.
I’d love to take credit for coming up with the idea to bake beer into a cake. But I can’t. That’d be a lie. I will take credit for my own discovery of the delights of drinking beer while baking cake though…something I thoroughly enjoy and can’t believe I didn’t think of long ago.
As far as drinking stout goes, there are several varieties and labels from which to choose. There is, of course, the standby of Sam Smith’s Oatmeal Stout as well as Sam Smith’s Imperial Stout. However, this area of Colorado is known for its many microbrews and I try to take advantage of new ones I stumble upon as often as possible. Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of trying Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout brewed right here in Lyons, CO. And I have to say wow! Just wow! If you’re a stout fan, you’ve got to get your hands on some of this award winning beer. Black as tar and thick, it’s rich with chocolate, caramel and coffee. Of note, it’s 10.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). This one will leave you singing…possibly in your underwear…possibly to Madonna. One is more than enough for me.
A recent import discovery was during an incredible 5-course wine, meat, and cheese event at The Wine and Cheese wine bar in Westminster, CO. The fourth course was paired with Dale’s Pale Ale – another from the Oskar Blues Brewery and nothing new for me – and Lion Stout from Sri Lanka. I loved the Lion Stout! It’s not quite as full-bodied as the Ten Fidy, but this beer delighted me with a hint of vanilla and bittersweet chocolate. And while it’s not quite as potent as the Ten Fidy at 8% ABV, it is dangerously gulpable.
Still, my favorite stout is the Twisted Pines Big Shot Espresso Stout. It’s not quite as complex as the others and I must stress that you should really like coffee if you’re going to try this and like it. It’s my personal favorite though, because it’s a little less sweet than the others, but still has the roasted malt and chocolate flavor with a big coffee aroma and taste…and it’s local. This is why I do hesitate to mention this one because if you don’t live in or around Boulder, CO, you’re unlikely to find it. However, it is worth a mention because if you ever run across it in your travels you really ought to give it a try – especially if you love coffee. And I do love coffee almost as much as I love cake and beer. Plus, what goes better with cake than coffee?
That’s right: coffee-flavored beer.
Now, you may be thinking that while beer is tasty and cake is delicious, beer cake sounds positively disgusting. Let me assure you, it is most certainly not disgusting and is, in fact, moist, delectable, fun for the tongue. Just…trust me. It’s a bit like – OK a lot like – gingerbread and, no surprise, is an Irish dessert.
Before I give you the recipe though, here are a couple of things to know about baking or cooking alcohol. First, alcohol content does not matter. Do not waste your time or money using your highest alcohol content microbrew as the alcohol will bake right out of the cake. Save the highest ABV for liquid consumption.
Secondly, it is perfectly acceptable and encouraged to be thrifty when selecting your alcohol ingredient! The most important requirement is to select a beer or liquor that has a strong aroma and flavor. It is, after all, going to blend with several other ingredients and does not need to be the best quality in your stock. Again, save your finest for a drinking experience at which it can hold its own.
Irish Stout Cake
* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 2 teaspoons cinnamon
* 2 teaspoons ground ginger
* 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 cup *dark* molasses
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* 2 eggs
* 1 12-ounce bottle stout or dark beer (I use Guinness for baking purposes)
* 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
* powdered sugar for garnish
Additionally, it is helpful to have a bottle or two of your favorite drinking stout handy). Baking is hard work, ovens heat up kitchens, and you’ll want to have something on hand to drink while you work up a sweat.
Also, if I’ve got a bottle of stout to cook with that is more than 12 ounces, I find it helpful to measure out the stout into a liquid measuring cup before I start. This allows time for the head to go down so that I’m getting an accurate measurement.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. (This would be a great time to break open your beverage and take a nice long pull. You’ve worked hard. You deserve it.)
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and sugar.
4. In a smaller bowl, beat molasses, oil, and eggs until blended.
5. Gradually stir the molasses mixture into the dry ingredients mixture until well blended – I usually do about 2-3 minutes with my mixer on medium high.
6. Here comes the fun part…slowly add the stout and the applesauce. The mixture will be runny.
7. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan.
8. Bake 40-50 minutes until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
9. Crack open another beer and put your feet up. Drink the beer.
10. Cool the cake in the pan for 10-15 minutes and then remove the cake from the pan to a cooling rack.
The cake needs to cool for at least an hour. Make sure it’s completely cool and then transfer to a serving plate before sifting some powdered sugar over the top and sides. Serve with fresh whipped cream and more beer or an Irish coffee.