Monday, December 31, 2007

Ale's Well That Ends Well

The other day, I had a phone call from the lovely Phoenix. We had hoped to get together during the holidays to visit with each other, and the time flew by before we could even get in contact. Happily, we still have a little free time left, and she arranged to visit New Year's evening for dinner and the day after for general wandering about town.

Since I hadn't fully shifted from the mindset of cooking for Inn guests to cooking for myself, it took me a little while to think about what to cook for Phoenix. Only a little while, though... she tends to love the same vegetables and flavors that I do, and she's always willing to try something new.

So once I had settled on a dinner plan (about which you will hear more later), I had to consider dessert. After all, what's a special visit from a special person without a special dessert?

I thumbed through my dessert notebook, and two recipes jumped out at me: a vegan chocolate cake and a chocolate Guinness cake. Tough choice!

While I know Phoenix appreciates vegan dishes, I was tempted by the one cake. But though I don't keep Guinness or any other stout on hand at home (I go out for that, like I did this afternoon, thanks), I considered the possibility of using some Christmas Ale from the local Great Lakes Brewing Company in its stead.

That idea stuck. Knowing that the Christmas Ale contains ginger and that dark chocolate and ginger go so well together, I decided to use the Guinness cake recipe as a base and layer the ginger flavor all the way through it.

In one bowl, I whisked together the dry ingredients, with the addition of some ground ginger. In the other bowl, I mixed the eggs and some yogurt. And in a saucepan, I heated the Christmas Ale, some butter, and a handful of crystallized ginger before whisking in the cocoa powder.

I mixed everything together, poured it into the cake pan and baked it. Of course, I should have (A) lined the pan with the buttered parchment paper called for in the recipe and then (B) waited until it had cooled more completely, because my lovely cake ended up a bit, um, torn.

I'm not one to be daunted by such a trivial flaw in appearance, though. I let the cake cool overnight before drizzling a ginger-honey syrup (what I've used on fruit at the Inn this week) over the top and then making a chocolate sauce (with more Christmas Ale and ginger) to enrobe the cake.

Yes, that problem patch in the cake top still showed through the sauce, but the advantage to it was that the syrup and the sauce both then soaked into the cake just a little more, turning it into a lushly moist dessert with a warming rush of ginger and ale all the way through.

It's a dessert that Phoenix will enjoy, I know. And what a way to end the year!

Happy New Year to all, and best wishes to you in 2008!

Chocolate Christmas Ale Cake

Based on a recipe for Guinness Cake found in the March 2006 issue of Vegetarian Times; sauce based on Ultimate Chocolate Sauce from Great Good Desserts Naturally!

2/3 c Great Lakes Brewery Christmas Ale
10 T unsalted butter
1/4 c mini diced crystallized ginger
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 1/3 c whole wheat flour
2/3 c sugar (cane juice crystals)
1/3 c maple sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 c plain yogurt, drained

Ginger Syrup
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
2 T mini diced crystallized ginger
1/2 c honey

3/8 c (6 T) Dutch process cocoa
1/4 c maple sugar
dash salt
1/4 c Christmas Ale
1/4 c Ginger Syrup

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 8" round cake pan. Line with parchment. Butter paper.

Simmer ale, butter, and ginger in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa; whisk until smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk together flour, sugars, ginger, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.

Beat eggs and yogurt together in large bowl. Add ale mixture and mix well. Add flour mixture
in two additions, beating until combined. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake cake 50 to 55 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Transfer to rack; cool 10 to 15 minutes. Run knife around edge to loosen; invert cake onto serving platter. Cool completely (overnight is good).

Combine sugar and water in heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. After sugar dissolves, bring syrup to boil and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Lower heat. Add ginger and honey, stirring until honey is incorporated. Set aside to cool.

Brush ginger syrup over cake (or drizzle, letting it sink in). Set cake aside for a few hours.

Sift together cocoa, maple sugar, and salt. Simmer ale and ginger syrup together until mixture comes to a boil. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.

Pour sauce over cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. (Smooth with spatula if needed.)
Serve at room temperature.

Serves 8-16, depending on how large you cut the slices


At 1/10/2008 1:54 PM, Anonymous jasmine said...

Yum!! I don't bake a whole lot other than Christmas cookies (mostly because I can't justify having the baked goods around) but I may have to try this one.

At 1/10/2008 2:08 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

I think it would definitely be your speed, Jasmine. Of course, you could use Guinness and drop all the ginger layering... the original Guinness cake didn't have the frosting, either. But I think it's very nice with a seasonal ale with winter spices! (And it keeps well... I've still got a couple slices!)


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