Imperial Stout Chocolate Cake

This recipe comes from Sean Paxton, who prepared it for the NCHF Brewer’s Dinner.

The Cake

2 cups flour, all purpose 
2 cups sugar 
2 tsp baking soda 
1 tsp baking powder 
1 tsp sea salt 
250g chocolate, unsweetened 
150g oil, neutral or nutty 
2 eggs 
400g imperial stout 
125g heavy cream 
5g vanilla extract 

Sift flour, sugar, soda, baking powder, and salt together. In a larger bowl over warm water, combine chocolate and oil. Melt together, remove from heat. Blend eggs, then cream, beer, and vanilla. Combine with chocolate mixture and dry ingredients. Butter and parchment 12” round springform pan. Bake 60 min at 350F in convection oven (use more heat for non-convection ovens). Test with toothpick.

This cake can be used after it is cool, but is better after a day. You can use cocoa powder and oil (equal parts) for the chocolate to get a moister cake, as Sean's original recipe did. You may need to compensate for a stronger, weaker beer. Anchor porter is nice, but I use North Coast Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.

Penuche Icing

From Sean Paxton at the NCHF Brewer’s Dinner.

2 1/2 cups raw sugar (succanat, 400g) 
150 ml imperial stout 
125g heavy cream 
100g butter 
1/4 tsp salt 
10g vanilla extract 
200g sour cream

Combine sugar, stout, cream, butter, and salt in a 2 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Over medium heat, stir to blend ingredients and bring slowly to a boil. Once everything is dissolved, do not stir the mixture. Boil the syrup to hard ball (120C aka 248F), maybe 20 minutes—no stirring! Remove pan from the heat and set it in a large bowl of water. Stir the penuche now and then until icing is lukewarm to the touch. Stir in the vanilla.

While the caramel is still lukewarm, pour into a mixing bowl. At this point, beat the penuche like fudge with electric mixer using the whisk. Beat for 10 minutes, until it reached spreading consistency and has lighten in color. Stop mixer and add sour cream and mix another minute. Let cool to room temp, before you spread on to the cake. Decorate with cacao nibs. The trick to this recipe is to balance the frosting and cake—one should be sweeter and the other more bitter. To make the frosting more bitter, use succanat (freeze-dried raw sugar, much better than molasses or American brown sugar (a blend of molasses and white sugar)), use more and stronger beer, boil to a lower temperature (114C), and use less sour cream.

Notes from Sunspark and Mer: We got this recipe in Feb 2005 from Raj Apte whose wife Pavlina made the cake. Raj is a fabulous cook as well. He says that real succunat sugar has a strong taste so taste and adjust. We used Muscovado in the amounts listed and it worked really well, not too bitter, but complex and earthy-sweet. We actually made the frosting several times and Muscovado is clearly a cut above even the Turbinado sugar (which in turn is probably better than national-brand brown sugar.)

We used a large 550 ml bottle of Oatmeal Stout the first time. This has the benefit that if you're not a beer drinker, 550 ml is just enough for the frosting and cake with none left over. We had problems getting the frosting to congeal enough but it doesn't affect the taste. You may just need to use it more like a glaze.

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