When your whiplash is healed and you're not taking muscle relaxers that make your head feel as if it's floating 6 inches away from your body, it's best to celebrate with a boozy chocolate cake. And so that's what I did.
As a piecemeal German, I find there's a certain stereotype that dictates I must be a beer lover, hammering it down at every opportunity in huge frosty mugs, slamming the table with my palms and flaunting my German heritage as an excuse to slosh brew all over the place. I catch a glimpse of Oktoberfest every now and again, and I find it incredibly difficult to keep a straight face amongst the beer wenches, unable to cross their arms together in spite of life-threatening cleavage, and I feel mildly embarrassed that I probably have a relative or two who pours beer for a living. Come to think of it, my mother's maiden name is the same as the Samuel Adam's founder and there's more than a handful of bars and breweries with the Koch namesake. Nonetheless, I find my taste for beer only goes so far as snapping the caps off for my thirsty German uncles. I don't care for the smell, the taste, the hiccups and the stale smell of empty bottles. I think I would have done really well in the 1920's, with a super-short bob, avoiding the speakeasies and cheering for prohibition. I'd probably be heading up the Anti-Saloon League, parading up and down the street with signs reading Lips That Touch Liquor Shall Never Touch Mine. I like to think I had my own personal form of prohibition my senior year in college when I served as an RA; there's something incredibly gratifying about telling tipsy freshman to start pouring it down the drain.
At any rate, my curiosity got the best of me in these cupcakes, what affect could beer have on dessert? Then I did the math. Beer? Good. Cake? Great. Marrying them together only made sense, surely they could create something bigger than the sum of its parts. Now for me, going into the liquor store is no small feat. I tend to skip over the tablespoon of kirsch or Grand Marnier called for in recipes, I'm not convinced a tablespoon is worth a 24 oz. bottle of the stuff. But this recipe asks for two full cups of Guinness, and that seemed worth it to me. So I fumbled about the liquor store, trying not to inhale the cigar scented air and keeping my eyes on the floor while a shady-looking construction worker asked me how I was doooooooing. Eww. I finally made it out, beer in hand and back to my trusty kitchen. I tipped the black and gold tin cans up and down, pondering the soft clinking sound that came from within, like a miniature sack of marbles tossing about the dark brew. Now I don't know much about booze, but I know most of them don't come with marbles inside, and the very thought struck me as a choking hazard, but no matter - this wasn't for drinking.
To begin, the butter and stout are simmered together in a saucepan until they turn into a frothy, caramel colored liquid before whisking in a hefty amount of cocoa powder. Now at this point, forget everything I said about not liking the smell of beer. This was amazing, it was an entirely new level of smell. I leaned over the pot, letting the warm steam fill my nose with a toasty complex scent, rich with chocolate and buttery, the bitterness of the stout completely evaporated into a nutty aroma. It was incredible, I tell you, incredible. The new and improved stout is whisked into a sour cream and egg base along with flour and sugar and the basic sort of ingredients you'd find in any respectable chocolate cake - but this was anything but ordinary. I punched up the flavors a bit from the original recipe, adding instant espresso to give the chocolate a little kick in the pants, and a handful of chocolate chips to speckle the inside slices.
I didn't want to overwhelm the complicated flavors with a double dose of fluffy frosting, so I opted for a simple ganache instead. It isn't overpowering nor excessively sweet and it makes for the perfect topping.The original recipe makes an enormous amount of batter, I ended up with two dozen cupcakes and a Bundt when all was said and done. Thankfully, I work with some of the most willing eaters imaginable, and a special high-five to Mike for eating four of these babies all to himself. The recipe below is halved, it will give you one nice sized Bundt cake or two dozen cupcakes.
Guinness Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit and SmittenKitchen
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
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
3/4 teaspoon instant espresso
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I like Callebaut)
6 tablespoons heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Simmer butter and stout together in a small saucepan over medium heat until it is golden and frothy. Whisk in the cocoa powder until fully incorporated and removed from heat. Allow to cool about 15 minutes.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, instant espresso and salt into a large bowl, set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together eggs and sour cream until combined. On low speed, pour in the cocoa/stout/butter mixture and blend until it is an even color. Slowly add the flour mixture, stir in the last bit by hand to avoid overmixing.
Pour into a Bundt pan or fill two 12-cup muffin tins. For the Bundt, bake for 35-45 minutes and 15-18 minutes for cupcakes.
Allow to cool completely to room temperature before topping with ganache, I also sprinkled some white chocolate on the tops just for a little contrast.
For the ganache, melt together the cream and chopped chocolate together over a double boiler over medium heat, mixing until smooth. Spoon on top cooled cupcakes or cake and allow to harden a bit, you can speed this process up by popping them into the fridge.