Deep rich chocolate cake with the subtle bitterness of a dark beer, hints of coffee and caramel, and covered in a thick dark ale ganache.
I am in awe of – and look for – anyone who can take a dream, combine it with hard work, a lot of sweat and tears (hoping no blood) and turn it into a thriving business. This is how we found New District Brewing. It’s within walking (a stretch) and biking distance of our house. It was born of a home-brewing business (I have a soft spot given BD’s foray into esophogeal-charring jalapeno beer which turned into our Christmas Eve traditional beer cheddar soup) and is now a brick-and-mortar business putting out some fine beers. We’ve been going there since they opened in 2017 and are thoroughly enjoying the evolution of their beers. Altruistically, we support local. Selfishly, we like good beers!
A few weeks ago, we went in to the brewery to see what was new and to bring some growlers home. I’m partial to the lighter, bubblier variety (Hello, Gregarious IPA! Mama misses you.) BD on the other hand likes the darker, heartier beers. He wanted to try the Bourbon-barrel aged 1821 Dark and while he was trying that and the 1821 Dark original, I was sipping on them all (the upside to knowing your date really well; they don’t worry so much about your cooties) and I kept thinking that while I’d much prefer to drink the hoppier, lighter beers, the 1821 Dark reminded me of chocolate and coffee and caramel with that familiar beer bitterness.
Long story short, and a very fun end to this story, I turned the experience into a chocolate beer cake with a beer ganache and it is pretty damn delicious. Being a thorough recipe tester, I ended up with two final products … a sure sign we needed to share. I decided bring one to New District so they could see what people are doing with their beers when they aren’t drinking them.
BD and I got there on a Saturday evening around 6, cake in tow, and ordered beers (when in Rome, and all that … and so they could eyeball us before cutting into the dessert … I’m a suspicious sort so I assume everyone else is). I handed the cake to the gentleman who’d served our beers, explaining to his rather amused self what it was about, and we went over to a table to enjoy our beers. I assumed it would go into the break room (or the trash can) and that would be that.
A few minutes later, a man came over asking if I was the cake person (why, yes I am) and said that he was one of the owners and would we like to come over to their table to share the cake with them. WHAT!? Invited to the cool kids’ table?! BD and I grabbed our beers and went to the back table where the New District crew was already getting plates and forks together and tasters of 1821 Dark because, well, what else would you drink with an 1821 Dark chocolate cake. We toasted and shared cake with owners Mike Katrivanos and Dan Murray; brewer Michael Sutherland and his wife Annie; John Bergin, the brewery’s events and sales manager; and a mystery photographer whose name I am embarrassed to say I forgot.
What an unexpectedly terrific evening of recipe testing … we got to have our cake and eat it, too, with the New District folks. If you can get to Arlington, VA, stop in a try a few. If not, this cake would work with a dark beer that has a chocolate, coffee, caramel flavor profile.
If you give this cake a try, please let me know. And if you’ve got local artisans whose passion comes through in their product, please shop there, talk to them, and encourage their creativity. We all benefit.
Cheers and forks up!
Dark Ale Chocolate Cake with Dark Ale Ganache
1 cup (8 oz) dark ale (I use New District 1821 Dark)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbs instant espresso powder
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup sour cream (room temp)
2 large eggs (room temp)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp salt
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
6 oz. dark ale (I use New District 1821 Dark)
Preheat the oven to 350 with a rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour (or use cooking spray that does not contain lethecin) a 10-12 cup capacity bundt cake pan.
In a saucepan, heat the stout with the butter just until the butter melts. Take off the heat. Add the cocoa powder, espresso powder and sugar. Stir well. Set aside.
In a mixer bowl (or by hand) mix the sour cream, eggs and vanilla extract until combined and smooth. Add the stout mixture from the saucepan and mix thoroughly. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt and add to the mixer bowl. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape the bowl to make sure the flour is incorporated.
Pour into the prepared bundt pan and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Take a peek after 40. A toothpick should come out clean.
Cool on a wire rack in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out of the pan onto the wire rack to cool completely.
For the ganache, heat the stout just to the boil and then remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and then stir until melted. At this point, you will need to cool and stir until it reaches the consistency you’d like for your cake. A drizzle will take about 15 minutes, a fluffy frosting longer. To speed things up – but watch carefully – put into the fridge (right in the pot) and then remove and stir every five minutes or so. You can also whip with a whisk or hand mixer to get more volume which will end up the texture of a buttercream frosting.
*NOTE: A quick but very important note on the ganache. I made it half beer, half bittersweet chocolate. This created a very bitter (in the nice beer way) ganache. If you’d like a mellower “beerness” to yours, I’d go 3 oz. beer, 3 oz. heavy cream and 6 oz. semisweet chocolate.