Sunday, March 15, 2015

Chocolate Stout Cake

They say everyone's a little bit Irish on Saint Patrick's Day. In fact, I am a little bit Irish every day. If you climb four branches up on my family tree, you'll find Leopold Bloom... maybe.

Picture by James Joyce, Wiki Commons
Looks just like me, no? Same neuroses around the eyes.

So, I'm not Irish enough to march in a parade. (Is there a Saint Patrick's Day parade in Baltimore?) At our March 17th wedding, we did not make a kiddush of green Manischewitz. But I am Irish enough to serve corned beef this Tuesday. And I will definitely bake a chocolate cake with enough Guinness that you can taste it in every bite. Good enough?

What if I throw in these four leaf clovers?


This recipe is a mashup of a cake from Taste of Home, my own Baltimore Buttercream, and candy clay decorations.

Can I just take a moment to tell you how much I love candy clay? Melt candy discs with corn syrup, wait six hours, and you end up with sweet play dough. It's so much less vile than fondant! No, you can't cover a cake with it and get a smooth finish. But how did we get to a point where it's normal to cover cakes with a rubbery coating intended to be peeled off before eating? How is this even a thing?

So, I am Team Candy Clay... Whew! Glad I got that off my chest.

This recipe makes a big, rich cake with about 16 slices. It will keep for several days in the refrigerator. You can, of course, use green fondant for the decorations. Or even omit them entirely if you want a more sophisticated look. You do you!

1/2 bag green Candy Melts (170g), divided
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (32g)
green food coloring (optional)
gold dragees (optional)

1 1/4 cup Guinness, or other stout
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (142g)
1 3/4 cups sugar (350g)
15 tablespoons natural cocoa powder (110g)
2 eggs, beaten
7/8 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (300g)
2 teaspoons baking soda

2 egg whites (70g)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)
1/3 cup corn syrup (100g)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (165g)
2 cups (give or take) powdered sugar (260g)
pinch of table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the Candy Clay:
The night before, set aside a quarter of the Candy Melts (43g, or just eyeball it). Microwave the remainder in 30 second intervals, stirring between each until smooth. Mix in the corn syrup and tint with food coloring until you get the shade of green you like. Scrape the dough onto plastic wrap, cover and form into a disc, then let it rest at room temperature for several hours.

Bake the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350˚ (325˚ convection). Use baking spray with flour to coat three 7"- or 8"-round pans.

In a large saucepan, melt beer and butter. Remove from the heat and whisk in sugar and cocoa. Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla, whisking until smooth. Add in flour and baking powder, using a bit of elbow grease to break up any lumps. Divide batter between three pans and bake for about 40 minutes, until the cake is just starting to pull away from the sides of the pans.

Cool in pans for five minutes, then invert onto racks to cool completely.

Whip up the Frosting:
Using the mixer's whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until frothy. Add two tablespoons of sugar and kick the mixer up to high, beating until soft peaks form.

Meanwhile, stir the remaining sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil for a full minute, then remove from the stove. In several additions, pour the hot sugar syrup into the meringue, beating after every addition.

When all the syrup is in, turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for several minutes until the bowl cools to room temperature. One tablespoon at a time, add the soft butter to the meringue, beating well after each addition.

Beat in the vanilla, then the powdered sugar. The texture should be loose, but stiff enough to form soft peaks. If it's too loose, add a little more sugar. Too thick, add a teaspoon of milk.

Assemble the Cake:
Use a serrated knife to level the layers, smooth about half a cup of frosting between each layer, then apply a thin crumb coat of frosting all over the cake. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to set the crumb coat. Smooth the remaining frosting over the cake, taking as much time as you feel like investing to get a smooth finish.

Roll out 1/4 of the candy clay to about 1/8" thickness. Use a small round cutter or an icing tip to punch out rounds. With a paring knife, cut a small notch in each leaf, then use your thumbs to pull and press it into a cloverleaf shape. Roll the scraps into stems, then carefully press stems and leaves into the sides of your cake. Repeat with remaining dough until you get a pattern that you like.

With a sharp knife, chop the remaining candy melts into fine shards. Press these into the bottom inch of the cake to make grass and hide the stems. Arrange gold dragees on top.

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