I hate to start this post on a defensive note but, I CAN BAKE A CAKE!! Ok, that feels better! The reason I am feeling so defensive is because for the third year in a row I screwed up David's Birthday cake.
Ok, the first year hardly counts as a screw up because I never even made the cake. Year one, we were still living in separate countries. Well, that is not nearly as dramatic as it sounds. In order to get to David's apartment I would ride my bike two miles to the bus stop in Port Townsend and put the bike on a bus, then ride the bus for about 1 1/2 hours to Port Angeles, Washington. From Port Angeles I would get on the ferry for an hour and ride to Victoria, B.C. where I would get back on my bike and take another short ride up to David's apartment. I did this nearly every other weekend for nine months before we moved to Alaska. So, back to the cake... That year I promised David a home baked cake for his birthday. I left work early so I could get to Victoria early to surprise him for his birthday. When I arrived at his place I first searched the cupboards for a mixer. No mixer. No big deal, I can mix it by hand. Ok, how about a cake pan. No cake pan. No big deal, I'll just run downtown to one of those cooking shops and buy one along with the pizza stone I was buying for a birthday gift. David loves pizza, so I thought homemade pizza would be the perfect gift, it was and still is three years later. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving! Oh yeah, the cake...so after shelling out $60 for a pizza stone I was hoping to find a cheap cake pan and maybe a rubber spatula. After walking past three dozen bakeries and searching out three cooking stores where I could not find a cake pan for less than $40 I decided to stop in one of the bakeries to price out a cake. The first cake I looked at was $12, sold. Why purchase $60 on baking equipment and groceries and spend my afternoon baking when I can buy a perfectly good cake for $12 and spend the rest of my afternoon sipping coffee at Bean Around the World?
This brings me to birthday #2. New location...Fairbanks, Alaska. David has not let me forget that I still owe him a homemade birthday cake. He chooses Lava Cakes for his birthday cake. I think I am off the hook as Lava Cakes are super easy to make. Oh no, I get running late and the Lava Cakes have not hardened up in the fridge by the time we are finished with dinner. David says, "just put them in the oven, they will be fine". Well, they were not fine, lava cakes became Lava Soup. So, now I am two cakes in the hole. Finally, in September I discover a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake that turns out beautifully and it becomes Make up a Birthday Cake #1.
Finally, this year (are you still awake out there?) I get the recipe from David's Mom for THE birthday cake. This is the cake his mom made every year for his birthday. I made sure to get the recipe when we went back east last summer. The recipe was obviously well loved and parts of the directions had worn away. Do you see where this is going? I was determined to make this a good one. I read the directions carefully, creamed the sugar and shortening, added the melted chocolate, I'm getting ready to add the mix to the baking pans and I do one last scan of the ingredients list and What? Two cups of milk? When was that supposed to go in there? Maybe the milk is for drinking. Is it really supposed to go in the mix? So I dump it in and ugh, this does not look right. The mix is really watery. I put it in the oven anyway and it puffs up like a souffle. Of course David comes home and says, "this doesn't look anything like Mom's". I figured as much!
So, as to not be two cakes in the hole I decided to make this Chocolate Guiness Cake as make up cake #2. We opted for ice cream rather than the ganache in the original recipe. May I recommend Bailey's Irish Cream Ice Cream?
Chocolate Stout Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
which was adapted from Bon Appetit, September 2002, recipe originally from the Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington, MA
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process) ( I used King Arthur's Black Cocoa)
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*
6 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules ( I used 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a bundt pan well; make sure you get in all of the nooks and crannies. 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.