Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chocolate & Dungarvan Stout Cake

Stout has always been something that I've both liked and disliked. I can remember my grandmother giving me a glass of Guinness (from the bottles which were kept under the kitchen sink) when I was little and poorly. She said that it would help me feel better and make me stronger. We all know now that stout is full of B vitamins and iron, but all I knew then was that it tasted vile (flat & warm) and I threw it down the bathroom sink as soon as she was gone.

Given that this was the same grandmother who used to put whiskey in my bottles when I was a baby to help me sleep, I actually think I've done pretty well to only be a moderate drinker.

I also remember her making porter cakes, which were rich with fruits soaked in stout for hours before baking in thick, heavy cakes that were delicious when smothered in butter. Yes, it's fair to say that my granny was pretty handy with alcohol. 

I came across the following recipe when reading the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days cookbook. The mention of a chocolate and stout cake imediately reminded me of Nana, but I'd doubt that she have much faith in this recipe given that it features lots of chocolate and not a lot of dried fruit and glace cherries. (She was rather big on the dried fruits). However, when making this cake, I decided to abandon the traditional Guinness and instead use a newer alternative - Dungarvan Brewing Company Black Rock Stout.

The result is a magnificently moist and rich chocolate cake, that has a lovely stout flavour to cut through the sweetness. It keeps well and as with most cakes, the flavour improves with age.

Chocolate & Stout Cake
Chocolate & Dungarvan Stout Cake
250 ml Dungarvan Black Rock stout
250g butter
400g castor sugar
80g cocoa powder
140 ml buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 eggs
280g plain flour
2 teaspoons bread soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 170 C and line the base of a 23cm diameter spring-form cake tin. Alternatively you can use an equivalent silicone bakeware dish, which requires no lining or greasing. Place the tin on  flat baking tray which will make it easier to get in and out of the oven.

Gently heat the stout and butter together in a saucepan over a low heat , stirring frequently until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and add the sugar and cocoa to the stout. Mix until the sugar and cocoa has melted into the stout, leaving you with a dark, sweet liquid.

In a bowl or jug, mix together the milk, eggs and vanilla essence, then add to the stout mixture. At this point it will look like a lot of liquid, but the cake will be all the moister because of this.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and raising agents. While beating slowly, gradually add the stout & chocolate mixture, ensuring that all ingredients are well combined.

The cake batter
Pour the batter into the baking tin. Gently transfer to the oven and cook for approximately 45 mins, or until the top of the cake springs back when gently pressed and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean and free of crumbs. Resist the temptation to open the oven and check on the cake until close to the end of the cooking time. This is a very liquid cake and you don't want it to collapse or sink inwards in the oven. 

Once you're satisified that the cake is ready, remove it from the oven and transfer the baking tin to a wire rack. Leave the cake to cool in the tin until cool enough to release from the tin. To remove the cake from the tin, run a butter knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the cake, then place a large plate on top and turn the tin upsaide down. Place another large plate on the cake and flip over to the right way up. Leave the cake to cool thoroughly.

My favourite way to serve this cake is with a chocolate buttermilk frosting, which is so easy to make, and uses some more of the buttermilk that you bought to put in the cake. It's best to ice the cake the day before as this will give the icing some time to crust and set, although it will remain quite soft to the touch.

500g icing sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
150g butter, softened
50 ml buttermilk

Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Create a well in the middle of the bowl. Add the butter and a spash of the buttermilk to the well and gradually start to mix the butter with the icing sugar, working from the inside of the well outwards. Add more milk as the mixture becomes dry. Beat until all the icing sugar has been mixed in and the icing is soft and fluffy. 

Carefully apply the icing to the top and sides of the cake with a butter knife, or spatula knife. Dust with some more cocoa powder if preferred. It's best to leave the icing sit for a while  (or overnight) to allow it to crust slightly before serving.

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