Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sweet Sunday - Chocolate Stout Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

As Chris, James, and I drove to a get together last night for the great Irish celebration, I laughed as I realized that I was wearing the same green shirt that I had worn 3 years ago to a party some friends had thrown when we were living in Canada.  I actually remember that day really well.  We had spent the day in Syracuse (our go-to for extensive American shopping at the time), and I had bought a wedding dress that day!

Our lives sure have changed since then.  A few months later we were married, got a dog, got pregnant..... jeez, its maybe how fast time flies.  It was during that time of pregnancy, maybe a short time before, that I was really coming into my love of baking - I had a lot of free time on my hands then!  I made countless cookies, bread, cakes.... you name it.

With baking came an interest in cake decorating.  I took some classes at Michael's while we still lived in Ottawa, and they were really fun.  I am for sure no expert cake decorator, but I did learn the basics of working with things like fondant and gum paste.  For Chris's birthday last summer, I wanted to make him something spectacular, so I made him a giant beer-mug cake.  It was awesome.  I found a delicious chocolate recipe that incorporated stout, an entire bottle - if you are not a beer drinker like myself, you will still love this.  Stout really brings out an amazing flavor in chocolate cake.  I can't put it into words, but it is just out of this world.

So naturally, I thought of this recipe when planning something delicious to make for a St. Patty's party.  The hard part this time around?  I didn't get to sample any since I gave up chocolate during Lent.  But you know what?  I have survived.

Chocolate Stout Cake

1 bottle stout beer
3 sticks unsalted butter, diced
1 cup dutch-processed cocoa, sifted (or dark, like Hershey's dark)
3 cups flour
3 cups sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2/3 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt

Vanilla Bean Buttercream (with a grown-up twist)

3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or milk)
1 vanilla bean (if you don't have any, it's okay)
2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
liquor of your choice for thinning - I used a combination of cake vodka and maple whiskey

To make the cake:  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare your chosen pans (either 3 8-inch cake pans, 2 9-inch cake pans, cupcakes, mini-cupcakes, etc).  Combine the stout and butter in a medium saucepan and heat on medium until the butter has fully melted.  Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder.  Set aside to cool slightly.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In another small bowl, beat the eggs and Greek yogurt until smooth.  Pour the beer mixture into the egg-yogurt mixture and stir until well combined.  Add this to the flour mixture and mix on low until just combined.  If you make cupcakes like I did yesterday, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to add batter to your cupcake pan (I'm Type-A like that with cupcake batter).  Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine took 30), or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.  I also baked some mini-cupcakes and those took about 15 minutes.  If you make 8- or 9-inch cakes with the batter, the original recipe recommends 35-40 minutes.  Just keep an eye on them.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the icing:  Cream the butter until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar about a cup at a time, beating until smooth with each addition.  Add the cream, vanilla bean, and vanilla extract and beat until smooth.  When adding your choice of liquor, just add it about a shot at a time until you reach your desired consistency or flavor.  Buttercreams made with liquor will not have a super strong liquor flavor, but rather subtle.  Again, just work with your taste on this.

To assemble: I used a large rosette tip to pipe simple swirls of buttercream onto the cupcakes.  Then I sprinkled them with green coarse sanding sugar.  If you want to make the chocolate shamrocks, you can go about this a few ways.  On a white piece of paper, sketch out an outline.  On top of this, place a piece of wax paper so that you can trace the outline.  Or, I after doing this for a few, I found it easier to just freehand the shamrocks.  And you can use a variety of methods for the actual chocolate - candy melts, almond bark, chocolate chips, or even baking chocolate, as I used (semi-sweet).  I melted 6 or 7 ounces in a double boiler, and it was more than enough to make lots of shamrocks.

Usually I would conclude my Sunday posts by saying that IF you decide to make this recipe, you won't be sorry.... but for this recipe, I am begging you to make it!  Its truly SO easy and OH SO delicious!  As soon as Chris put the trays we brought on the table last night, people were chowing down.... and of course I made sure to save a few for Chris and James (aka the cupcake thief) to enjoy at home.... which was a very good thing because last night James decided to show us that we really should have gotten a babysitter in order to stay longer than 20 minutes at the party (which was absolutely kid-friendly, and there were lots of kids and babies there).  Do you remember a few posts ago when I referenced an epic meltdown, the likes of which had never been seen?  That was NOTHING..... NOTHING.  But don't take that as complaining on our part.  I think we are just entering a new phase of toddler-hood.  I definitely know I would take James's worst days over no days.  I just love that little crab.

I hope your weekend was great, and that you are getting set for a great week to come!  I have a fantastically delicious and healthy recipe coming your way on Tuesday, so get ready!

Cake recipe adapted from Love and Olive Oil

Buttercream recipe adapted from Annie's Eats