Monday, September 24, 2007

Having my cake and eating it too

Do you remember very much from your childhood?


As a very young child, I remember fleeting moments of frustration mingled with happiness. I couldn't always make things work like I wanted to exactly when I wanted them. For instance, I knew that if I found the square plastic case with the picture of a jean pocket and a red cap sticking out of it, and I got the round disk into the player and pushed a certain button, my favorite song would come on ("Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen, in case you wondered). But sometimes the CD wouldn't be the right one; or I'd put it on upside down; or there'd be no CD in there at all. Or I'd push the wrong button or push it too many times and then the wrong song would come on and I never knew why.


Life as a little kid was a confusing world of rules that I couldn't control. Adults never understood me, eating chocolate for breakfast was Definitely Out of The Question, and whenever I tried to make cupcakes out of the box, they just tasted funny. It never occurred to me that there would come a day when my knowledge base (or physical skills) would be to my own satisfaction, but it did occur to me that as far as stages in life, I was just starting out. There were bullies at school, bees that that would sting a person for (apparently) no reason, and, time-outs that seemed as arbitrary of an occurrence as seeing a falling star. In short, being a child for me was about unpredictable, unavoidable circumstance. My world felt out of my control, and I didn't like it that way.


Of course, like every other grown person out there, I figured it all out eventually. There were those brilliant years of independence, of new skills and talents, of feeling like I knew it all even while I mistakenly thought I was humble, of reinventing myself every 30 seconds only to discover that the new me still wasn't quite right, of realizing that I didn't know anything at all but still wasn't humble, and of pure desperation for just not being able to be the person I wanted to be with the life that I thought I really wanted to have. Then I slowly began to construct my adult world. It started with a canine companion, an apartment, some important friends, the relationship, the career path and ultimately a personality that seems to be here to stay. There was a moment in life when things, attainable, tangible things (goals?) were finally within my grasp.

bCRW_5363 bCRW_5365

Suddenly I find myself with a pathetically mundane life filled with various goals I have invented for myself: the house, a good haircut, two dogs, my husband... we take them to the park in our Volvo wagon, which is where we met, under the big tree at the bottom of the hill. It's so picturesque some days that I almost want to gag (the fact that anybody is still reading this is promising). You see, it turns out that exactly what I wanted as a young kid - dessert before dinner, a big wheels truck, to watch cartoons on Saturday morning - really wasn't actually that important. Those exact things changed from day to day and year to year in as capricious of a manner as I choose my hair color. I think I finally figured out that the most important thing I have, the thing that keeps me together when I'm stressed out or feel like I'm losing it, is knowing that what I control is merely a state of mind. Sometimes, getting my control fix after a bad day is as simple as turning on the oven and grabbing a recipe. In the world of baked goods, it's easy to measure out exactly 1 cup of sugar, and to feel pretty good about that small success while you're at it.

bCRW_5366 bCRW_5372

I'm an adult now. I get to have my cake and eat it too. Chocolate, with beer in it, for breakfast even, if I want.


Chocolate Guinness Cake

Serves: don't ask

My posts have been full of "bests" lately, but this really is the best chocolate cake I have ever had. By now you should realize that I am a cookie person; the Chocolate Guinness Cake may change my dessert preferences forever - seriously. It is unbelievably moist, fail-proof, chocolatey, complex, dense and light all at the same time. It is amazing. I will be singing the praises of this cake for years to come. It'll take you several bowls and at least a half hour of hands on time to make it, but it's worth it. I should add that while about 80% of the people who ate this sang its praises repeatedly, the remaining 20% (Greg included) said that it was pretty good but didn't knock their socks off. I say, just try it and decide for yourself.

"Original" Source: Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington, MA

Modified Source: Deb at SmittenKitchen

The "original" epicurious recipe makes a gigantic cake. I made 75% of the original recipe in three 8" rounds. Deb made a 50% batch for a Bundt pan. One 8" round would easily serve 6-10, which is the recipe I am providing here. I think these would make fantastic cupcakes, especially with a gooey ganache or jelly filling.


Here is the recipe for one 8" round pan:

1/2 cup Guinness

1/2 cup butter

6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 large, preferably organic/free-range egg

5 tbsp sour cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter one 8-inch round cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper*. Butter paper.
  2. Bring stout and butter to simmer on stove or in microwave. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. Beat egg and sour cream in another large bowl to blend.
  4. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine**.
  5. Add flour mixture. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined (the batter will be slightly lumpy - that's okay).
  6. Pour batter into pan and give the pan several good thumps flat against the counter***. Bake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes; remember to turn halfway through the cooking time. Cool 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack, brush tops with extra stout****, and cool completely before frosting.

*Note: my favorite trick for chocolatey things is to butter the pan thoroughly, add cocoa powder to coat, shake around the pan, and tap out the excess (see photo up top). I do this instead of parchment paper - way easier

**If the chocolate mixture is too hot to comfortably hold a finger in, just temper the eggs by mixing them with a half cup of the hot mixture at a time. I figure if it burns my finger it'll curdle the eggs.

***Thumping cake batter is always a good idea. It gets the air bubbles out so that the cake will cook evenly. Plus, it is good satisfying fun.

****I added this part. : )


I made a chocolate ganache with Baileys in it that I wasn't psyched about. For frosting, I refer you to either of the two sources above, or else just search the web for chocolate ganache recipes (whipping cream + bittersweet chocolate = great) and drizzle over the cake after it has cooled completely.

1 comment:

Marce said...

All so true! While I´m still at the figuring-out stage, I do agree with you that each person finds his or her place at her own time, and I don´t think your life sounds gag-worthy at all, you are simply satisfied, nothing wrong with that at all... or with this cake for that matter.