Since Thursday I've been house-sitting (yay!) for someone who happens to have a Mac. (double yay, with a hint of jealousy lapping at the edges.) Whenever I see my food photos on a Mac, I immediately understand why some of my snaps are rejected on foodie sites.
Macs show every. single. detail, including lack of decent lighting, and errant hard water-stains on cutlery. I kind of feel like an American Idol contestant who is convinced that they can sing like Sarah McLachlan, when in reality they sound more like my cat when I'm trying to get him to take his sickeningly sweet-smelling antibiotics. There were several "ah ha" moments these last few days. After almost two years, my latest point and shoot camera are still getting acquainted.
Having said that, I realize that this is not my best work. It was my sister's birthday last week, and when it's someone's birthday, I don't always have the luxury of setting up a lengthy photo shoot...not with homemade cake-craving people welding sharp, hard water-stained forks, breathing down my neck.
I learned my lesson after last year's cake. Thankfully, my sister did too! Chocolate and chocolate, bad. Chocolate and vanilla, good. Chocolate and vanilla and stout...shut the front door!
Like all great layer cakes, this recipe is a bit labor intensive, but so worth all the ensuing bowls, pots, and utensils that will require washing. Apparently I'm on a sort of chocolate/stout kick lately. I think it has to do with the fact that I was a closet beer fan for so long. (My mom always made me think that it wasn't lady-like to enjoy beer.) Well, I'm in my 30's now, and yes, I love stouts and ales. In fact, I enjoyed a bottle as I made the cake. :)
This cake is moist, chocolatey, and over-the-top. There are two layers of chocolate cream, which is actually more of a mousse, as well as a layer of the vanilla bean cream cheese frosting (I made more than anticipated). And even though I couldn't really detect the stout flavour in the cake, it was still quite wonderful it all it's chocolateyness...which was tempered perfectly by the sweet vanilla bean frosting.
I'm so glad March and April are huge birthday months.
Oh, and an update on my cat, Niles. He's back from the vet, short one tooth, but much happier! (Except for when he sees me coming with the banana smoothie-scented antibiotics.) o_O
Chocolate Stout Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
for the cake (cake recipe adapted from The Hungry Mouse)
1 cup stout (Guinness or any kind of dark beer)
1 cup (that's 2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 Tablespoon baking Soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 room temperature eggs
3/4 cup room temperature buttermilk
for the chocolate cream filling
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
for the frosting
1 cup (that's 2 sticks) unsalted, room temperature butter
8oz softened cream cheese
2 cups confectioners' sugar (have an extra cup on hand)
2 Tablespoons of cream or milk
1/2 of a vanilla bean, scraped (If you don't have vanilla beans, simply increase the vanilla extract amount by 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (2, if you're not using vanilla bean.)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two 9x2-inch baking pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, grease the paper, and light flour the entire pans.
Place the pieces of butter and the stout into a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Stirring occasionally, cook over medium heat until the butter melts. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the cocoa powder and stir to combine. (Don't worry if it's a little bit lumpy.) Set the hot mixture aside to cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. [Note: If you want to hasten the cooling process, transfer the buttery chocolate beer to a separate large, heat-proof bowl.]
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the eggs and buttermilk. Beat on medium speed until well combined. On low speed, slowly add the cooled butter beer mixture.:) Beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until the batter just comes together. Remove the whisk attachment and give the batter a few good stirs with a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched.
Remove the pans from the oven and let the cakes rest in their pans for about 10 minutes before removing and transferring them to cooling racks. Once the cakes are cool, use a serrated knife to slice each one into 2 layers (You will end up with 4 layers all together.)
Prepare the filling: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa. Add a little bit of cream and begin to beat everything together on low speed. Slowly add the remaining cream and the vanilla extract. Continue beating on low until the mixture turns light and fluffy.
Prepare the frosting: Place the softened butter and cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and creamy. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar by about 1/2 cup increments. Once all the sugar has been beaten into the butter and cream cheese, add the milk, vanilla bean (if using), and extract. Beat on medium-high until well combined and fluffy. If the frosting looks too runny, add more confectioners' sugar. If it's too thick to spread, add a splash more milk...not too much though, as a little bit of liquid goes a long way in frosting.
Assemble the cake: Pick out a layer that looks the best...this will be the top layer. Place one of the other layers onto a serving plate. Dollop half of the chocolate filling onto the layer and spread evenly. Place a second cake layer over the chocolate filling and spread evenly with some of the vanilla bean frosting. [Note: You will have a lot of vanilla frosting to go around, so don't be shy.] Add a third cake layer on top of the vanilla frosting and spread the remaining chocolate filling over the surface. Finally, add the fourth and final layer. Use the remaining vanilla frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate to set the frosting, but allow the cake to come to room temperature before serving.
Makes one 9-inch 4 layer cake.