This is a lovely cake made with stout beer and dates, and cinnamon and nutmeg, topped with a delicious butterscotch sauce and a dollop of tangy creme fraiche. For this post in particular I wish we had smell-o-vision, because holy hannah, this cake smells good. It smells spicy and warm and comforting, and of winter treats and roaring fires. This is the cake version of cuddling up on the couch with a warm comfy blanket and a good book.
February 26, 2011
Name of cake: The Cake Version of a Warm Blanket and a Fire
Constituents: a spice-date-stout cake with a butterscotch sauce
I almost wish we were having dark gray stormy days to go along with this cake as it would be so fitting.
First up, this cake needs a cup of stout beer. Rose recommends Guinness, which is a great beer that I like pretty much only from the tap. This is the beer with which I chose to celebrate my 25-hour 21st birthday in Copenhagen, Denmark. If I recall properly, it was the first beer that I learned to enjoy. I was a few days short of 21 in St Petersburg, Russia with Raiuchka, Jenni, and our fearless leader Tim. We spent a week in St. Petersburg at the end of May 1994 and the city was gorgeous. Previously, we had spent a week in Moscow going through some serious culture shock. Previous to that, we had spent four months in Simferopol, Ukraine as pretty much the only Americans in the city. Moscow was loaded with American tourists and holy shit, we are freaking obnoxious. It was truly a shock.
|This is not the Guinness you're looking for. And yes, those are the empty quail's egg shells from a couple of weeks ago in the background. I don't have the heart to throw them out!|
Anyway, in St. Petersburg we frequented the bar at a Western hotel, and there it was that Tim introduced us to Guinness. I can't remember if the bar was Irish themed or what, but that's what we drank. We flew out of Russia on my actual birthday, and since we flew west to Copenhagen we gained an hour. Raiuchka and I had planned to do some traveling around Europe--we were both meeting other people in a week or two and decided to travel around together first. Jenni had plans to go to Southern France pretty much right away, and Tim was flying back to the US the next morning. So in Copenhagen, Raiuchka, Tim and I met up at a bar not too far from the hotel we were in, and we hoped to drink the night away. I just turned 21! We were in Europe! We just left the former Soviet block! Laundromats! Drinking water right out of the tap! No spiders in the showers! So much to celebrate.
We drank Guinness and marveled at the prosperity west of the fallen Iron Curtain, and we didn't drink the night away. We were dog tired. But we drank Guinness.
My Guinness story doesn't extend into the baking of this warm spicy date cake, as I decided to pick a stout that was made closer to home. As in, a 5 minute drive from my apartment.
This is a huge bottle of beer. There's a half liter left over; do you know how much sticky toffee pudding we could make with a half liter?
The beer is brought to a boil, baking soda is added, and the liquid is poured over the dates and left to cool. What is the baking soda for? After cooling the dates and beer are pureed to a smooth paste.
This cake is different than most butter cakes in the book. Instead of using the two stage method to mix the cake, the more familiar creaming of the butter method is used. I don't think my butter creamed optimally as my cake was 1/4 inch short, and that's the only thing I can point to as the culprit.
The eggs are added, then the dry ingredients are added incrementally alternating with the date beer paste. This is all scraped into a 9x13 pan and baked for about half an hour.
In the meantime, the butterscotch is made. Dark brown muscovado sugar, a vanilla bean, and butter are brought to a boil. Cream, lemon juice and a pinch of salt are stirred in, and that's about it.
|The silpat stuck to the top of the cake when I turned it out. Jerk.|
This cake is served warm, about 15 minutes after coming out of the oven. This just enhances the comforting and warm feeling the spices and butterscotch invoke. The cake is soft, the butterscotch a tad lemony but also deep and satisfying. The creme fraiche mellows out the sweetness of the caramel, and the toasted pecans give a nice crunch and almost a toasty savory quality. This is one of the times I feel all four components come together in a synergistic rush of pure, delicious, cakey joy.
|check it out--you can see the cake reflected in the butterscotch, plus all the vanilla seeds|