One thing that I’ve been trying to do over the past several years is to conscientiously think about the Sabbats as holidays. They’re religious observations, obviously…but if I’m to really integrate them into my life, then I need to come up with some life things that I can look forward to, that I can build traditions around.
As you know, I celebrated Samhain this year with Hartwood Grove, and Z. made some really good, awesome gingerbread for the cakes and ale. And something clicked for me. Over the past few days, I’d been craving desserts that heavily featured molasses and warm spices. I’d been churning out batch after batch of molasses cookies (and gobbling them up soon after…not the best thing for the waist line), and when it came time for me to make house dinner on Wednesday, I decided to pull out all the stops and make an intriguing dessert I found on the internet: Gingerbread Stout Cake with an Ale Caramel Sauce. The cake is originally attributed to Claudia Fleming of Gramercy Tavern, but the addition of the caramel sauce is the brain child of home cook and blogger Peabody.
Oh, oh, oh was this ever decadent. The outside of the cake caramelizes to a hard, crisp shell while the inside is moist and dense. In fact, it’s so dense that the very middle has a texture almost like pudding (it is completely baked–trust me). It is thick and rich, and utterly in-your-face gingerbread. Z.’s gingerbread is fantastic–I definitely want the recipe–but this is the one that screams “holiday” to me. It’s one of those special once-in-a-year cakes, and what better holiday for it than Samhain?
As a note, this cake does sink a bit as it cools, which isn’t a huge aesthetic problem as the Bundt cake is inverted and no one will see the sinking. However, I’d like to fix this problem eventually. One hypothesis is that too much baking powder may be the culprit. It might also just be the extreme moisture content of the cake: the batter is exceptionally thin (which is what causes the crisp shell–some sugar sinks out of the batter and caramelizes on the pan, which is why a thoroughly greased nonstick Bundt pan is essential for this recipe). Further baking will reveal the answer, I’m sure.
Gingerbread Stout Cake with Ale Caramel Sauce
1 cup Guinness Extra Stout (or a similar dark stout)
1 cup dark molasses (definitely not blackstrap molasses)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cardamom
3 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Thoroughly grease and flour a 10- or 12-cup a heavy, nonstick Bundt cake pan (such as those from Nordicware’s cast aluminum series), or thoroughly coat the pan with baking spray. Set the pan aside.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and spices together. Set the dry ingredients aside.
Bring the Guinness and molasses to a boil in a 5 to 6 quart saucepan or Dutch oven and promptly remove it from the heat. Whisk in baking soda, then cool to room temperature. The baking soda will cause the Guinness and molasses to foam up, and if a big saucepan or Dutch oven isn’t used, it may foam out of the pan.
Whisk the eggs and sugars together in a medium bowl or in a stand mixer. Whisk in the oil, then molasses mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk them together until just combined. The batter will be very thin.
Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan, and rap the pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Place the cake on the center oven rack and bake about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering to the pick. Cool the cake in its pan on a rack 5 minutes, then turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely. When the cake is cool, use a very large spatula or a series of spatulas to help transfer the cake to its serving platter as the moisture and denseness of the cake makes it prone to breaking with uneven weight distribution.
Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream and the Ale Caramel Sauce.
Ale Caramel Sauce
12 ounces ale
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pour the ale into a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil. Continue to boil the ale, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until it is reduced by two-thirds (or to 4 ounces).
Add the butter and brown sugar to the reduced ale and bring it to a low boil, stirring only when the mixture is in danger of boiling over. Continue boiling until the mixture is thick and syrupy, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Slowly stir in the cream as it will spatter up and cook the caramel sauce another 5 or 6 minutes, until it is thickened. At this point, remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Cool the sauce until it is slightly warm or even room temperature. Keep in mind that the sauce will thicken even more as it cools, so you may wish to pour it into a squeeze bottle while it is still more fluid.