Argh. I know I’ve been repeatedly saying this, over & over again. But let me reiterate: it’s f*!%ing cold.
Early Sunday Morning on Orchard Street, by Vivienne Gucwa
Pardon my French, but really. It’s freezing. And one of those eerie signs of a cold day in New York? A white sky. When it’s just stark white or a very pale milky grey, my grandma used to say it was a sky full of snow. When it looks like that, I have no desire to do anything other than stay under the duvet in a warm, dark room, playing around on my MacBook listening to music while the wind whistles outside & frost patterns form on the windows. Screw interacting with society. I’m better off indoors, warm, with my four-legged companion(s) and my kitchen. There goes that Lisbeth Salander tendency again- good thing I got rid of the mohawk.
And good thing I love New York, & I was born here… or else this shit would get really old, really quick. I’m used to it… but that doesn’t make a 19° degree temperature any less shocking.
Anyway, this cake is warming. And really easy- which means I don’t have to be out of bed for very long to make it.
The best part? It’s made with beer.
Guinness stout, actually. It’s a delicious… cake. Bread. It’s more like… I don’t really know. It teeters between a bread and a cake, and just when you think it’s one thing, it’s another. Just when you’re thinking it’s a great dessert it jumps up and slaps you right in the face, saying: “I’d be excellent for breakfast, too.” And if you’re thinking that a cake with beer in it wouldn’t work for breakfast? Well then you’re not Irish/Polish/German and you’ve also never had this cake. It isn’t sweet, it isn’t savory. It’s an enigma. It’s like gingerbread, just not as sweet. And it’s like a brown bread, but moister and not as savory. And when I say moist? I mean it. It’s not something you can gorge on- one small slice at a time is plenty. You can add some diced candied ginger to the batter, or you can add a little fresh grated ginger, just to up the gingerbread-y-ness of it… or you just can top it with some whipped cream & then put some candied ginger on top. Speaking of whipped cream? I think if you put a whiskey whipped cream or a bourbon whipped cream on it, you’d knock your guests right out of the chairs. On the other hand- it would be good toasted (or baked twice) into an almost biscotti-like texture and paired with a soup that borders on the sweet side, like a creamy chestnut soup. It would even be good toasted, with butter, but you just can’t imagine how good it is plain, at room temperature, with just a bit of mildly sweet, homemade whipped cream.
But then again, everything is better with whipped cream, no?
I know, it doesn’t look like an enigma, does it? But it is. It’s a cake-bread. A bread-cake.
Anyway. It is what it is. You make it & figure it out.
All I know is that it’s spectacular with a simple whipped cream and a smidgen- just a sprinkling- of confectioner’s sugar, accompanied by a hot cup of Irish coffee made with Bailey’s Irish Cream.
GUINNESS GINGER CAKE (adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated)
- 3/4 cup Guinness Irish stout*
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2/3 cup molasses
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan, and set aside.
- Over medium heat, bring the Guinness to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir occasionally. Take off the heat and add the baking soda (mixture will froth). When the foaming subsides, stir in both sugars & molasses until dissolved. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together remaining dry ingredients. In another large bowl, pour the Guinness mixture. Then whisk in eggs & oil until thoroughly combined.
- Whisk the wet mixture into the dry mixture in thirds, stirring until completely smooth between each addition. DO NOT OVERMIX/OVERBEAT: less is more.
- Transfer batter to the prepared pan and gently tap it on your counter to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the top of the cake is just firm and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve.
*If you haven’t got Guinness, any stout will do. Samuel Adams cream stout would work wonders too, I imagine.
I repeat: it is NOT a sweet cake. It’s not a chocolate fudge caramel drizzle cake that’s going to make your teeth ache just looking at it. And it’s NOT a full-on bread, because it’s too sweet to be. It is nothing like a beer bread at all, and it’s not like any cake you’ve ever had before. Seriously. Maybe if you use a more chocolatey stout, or maybe Samuel Adams Merry Mischief stout, it’d be a bit sweeter (and also stronger! That Merry Mischief stuff packs a wollop!)… but that’s up to you to experiment with, if you so choose.
I’m secretly giggling at that little peak that formed in the whipped cream… (!) It almost looks like a middle finger, doesn’t it?
Yeah. You’re welcome.
Now I’m crawling back into my warm bed, with a full plate & hot mug of Irish coffee, of course.
Sources & credits: Bailey’s mugs; vintage, silverware; vintage.