Because it’s fun for me, I’ve decided that today is the day that I will embarrass my former boss. You see, she and I are two of a very small group of girl-types in a very boy-dominated sector of publishing, and while I would normally argue that gender stereotypes are old, tiresome and played out, in our professional realm at least, they’re fairly rightly-placed. While the guys go on in great lengths about (pick one, or all of the below) the Red Sox, Giants, hockey, PlayStation, Borat, You The Man Now Dawg website, beer and where it doesn’t cost much and the Joy of Street Meat, she and I would spend an at least equal amount of time and devotion chattering about all aspects of food and cooking as, just my luck, she is as obsessed as I am.
Having excellent taste, she loves chocolate and Guinness in a near-equal ratio, thus when I happened upon this recipe many, many months ago, I bookmarked it for the express purpose of making for her birthday. In the months since, she’s moved onto bigger better things – Full-time freelancing! Breaking even! Subverting the dominant paradigm! (fine, I added that) – this recipe has drilled such a hole in my bookmarks, I was unable to ignore it any longer, busting it out for the birthday of a friend who ended up stuck in the airport from LA and didn’t make back in time for Sunday night’s dinner party and a sampling of her cake, which as it turns out, we were more than capable of enjoying without her. [Is this sentence still on? Because, really, I feel no need to stop.]
Now, I’ve explained before that I’m not a huge fan of chocolate cakes as I think all that egg, flour and baking powder dilute the inherent charm of true chocolate, leaving you with things that taste “chocolatey” but are not that bite I crave, covet and occasionally dream about. But this cake is really fantastic. The beer gives it a richer, fuller, nuttier flavor while keeping it from leaning too heavily on the sweet side; the sour cream makes it an exceedingly moist cake that is neither mushy or unstructured, without requiring any additional basting, sealing or prayer to keep it on this side of the texture of stale cornbread; and the chocolate ganache on top with a hint of coffee is like the crowning third of the flavor trifecta. This cake kicks butt.
The original recipe, at least according to the numerous, amusing comments on Epicurious, makes a stunning amount of batter. I took several writers’ advice and halved it to fit in a bundt pan, and decided to replace their sort of odd frosting suggestion with a basic, failure-free ganache, the same that I had used for the orange-chocolate chunk cake. I reduced the recipe by one-quarter, remembering that it had made way too much, but even a 75 percent, it mostly puddled beneath the cooling rack, clearly begging for a swipe from our hungry fingers.
Chocolate Stout Cake
Adapted from the Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington, MA via Bon Appetit
This recipe was originally intended to make a layer cake of 3 8-inch rounds. Upon many reviewers’ suggestions, I halved it and it fit perfectly in a bundt pan. The halved amount is below, and the icing replaced with a simple ganache.
1 cup (235 ml) stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces or 230 grams) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (65 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups (230 grams) all purpose flour
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup (160 grams) sour cream
6 ounces (170 grams) good semisweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons (90 ml) heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a bundt pan well; make sure you get in all of the nooks and crannies. (Some people even go so far as to brush the inside of their bundt pans with melted butter–you cannot be too careful!). Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup 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 3/4 teaspoon 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. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cake to rack; cool completely in the pan, then turn cake out onto rack for drizzling ganache.*
For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of cooled cake.
* Update 3/25/08: Previously, the instructions suggested that you cool the cake for only 10 minutes in the pan before flipping it out onto a cooling rack and cooling it the rest of the way. After several conversations with readers/test cooks who found that their cake stuck a little, awesome reader Susan tried to cool the cake completely in the pan before releasing it and nothing stuck. I agree that this might be a better way to go.