Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Stout Cake

I like odd recipes. Doing something that seems wrong – in this case, blending stout, a pound of melted butter and a lot of chocolate together-  and having it turn out sublime is a pretty big thrill. (Yeah okay, I need to get out a bit more. Maybe.)  Based on an old Bon Appétit recipe, I think this may well become my new go-to chocolate cake.

I made this cake for St. Patrick’s day, but like my turkey pastrami, there’s nothing Irish about it. I used Rogue Brewery’s Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout  and you can taste it in the cake. In the 1800’s when oatmeal stouts were first conceived,  these brews were marketed as health drinks, specifically a tonic  for mothers and children.  I don’t think my nieces will buy it though, so should either of the them ever ask for a chocolate birthday cake,  I’ll probably stick to something more conventional. But K.M. and I are sold.

The cake is definitely on the dense side, though whether that is the oats in the stout or the whole wheat flour I bake with is hard to know.  I mean dense in a good way; sort of a toothsome quality. It is also moist and an incredible dark chocolate delivery system.

It’s a big cake – which makes me a little tense. I have a history with oversize layer cakes.  The truth is I’ve made some scary cakes in the past. Mostly fine to eat but totally terrifying to look at.  They all had  a lurch to one side or the other and one occasion one of these monstrosities actually collapsed.

I wish I had pictures. The first cake of this kind I remember very well. My friends and I called it “La Bomba”.  It was a raspberry lemon cake that I made for my friend Carol’s birthday, nearly twenty years ago.  I made four layers of lemon cake. In part I was going for drama , but mostly I was a afraid to try to cut the layers in half – the way a sane person would make a four layer cake.

It was ginormous– easily a foot high – and the raspberry frosting I made turned bright, bright pink.  We ate thin slices the size of dinner plates, and laughed. That cake has gone down in my personal history, along with “son of La Bomba” and “La Bomba the 3rd” – just to mention the direct descendants.

Eventually, I saw Alton Brown bake,  split the layers, trim and frost a layer cake in the early days of Good Eats. And my cakes haven’t lurched or collapsed since then. The three un-split layers in this cake feel like a throwback, but the this cake has the perfect balance of sweet chocolate frosting to not-so-sweet dark chocolate cake.

That said, it’s still a big cake.  Though apparently, it’s good for what ails you.


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