Every year, about this time, there’s a lot of huffing and puffing about stout. Guinness, to name a particular well-marketed brand. But you don’t just have to go for the obvious option if you’re looking for a St Patrick’s Day beverage. Red ale is another traditional Irish style and the reds being produced by microbreweries across Ireland are a little bit more interesting than the generally over-chilled black stuff on offer.
This style is characterised by sweet caramel malt, given an edge with some burnt barley. Show me words like that and I think baking and cakes and chocolate and, perhaps, a little spice.
I get to play with the remainder of the special Green Saffron spice blend that Arun made for A Winter’s Ale and, while I would recommend you searching out his regular mixed spice for this cake, if you can’t get your hands on that, just make sure your spices are fresh before you use them.
I used Eight Degrees’ Sunburnt Irish Red for this but there are plenty of Irish reds that you can seek out and try in this recipe – check out Rebel Red, Porterhouse Red, Dungarvan’s Copper Coast and O’Hara’s Irish Red.
Whether you cook with it or drink it, enjoy an Irish beer on Paddy’s Day – but don’t forget to look beyond the obvious!
If you’re in Dublin, check out the Irish Craft Beer Village at the IFSC which will be open from Wednesday 13 March until Monday 18 March. They might not have any Spiced Chocolate Ale Cake available but there will be plenty of real Irish beer there. For food, I’d highly recommend the savoury offerings from Cillian at The Pieman.
Spiced Chocolate Ale Cake
This cake has a sophisticated flavour, is not too sweet and is a good keeper for the cake tin. It’s also a substantial cake, more than enough to feed several hungry brewers or St Patrick’s Day festival-goers. For best results, warm gently before serving, dollop with softly whipped cream and eat with a glass of the beer that you used for making it.
200g dark chocolate. 60% is best, often easiest to manage through using a mixture of 50% and 70%
125g red ale
170g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon mixed spice
200g light muscovado sugar
150g caster sugar
Chocolate ale ganache
200mls red ale
100g dark chocolate, 60%
2 teaspoons light muscovado sugar
Pinch sea salt
Preheat the oven to 160°C (140°C fanbake). Grease and line the base of a 23cm round tin.
Put the chocolate, butter and ale in a large bowl. Melt, stirring regularly, over a simmering saucepan of water or – carefully! – in the microwave. Mix well and allow to cool a little.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, mixed spice and cocoa into another bowl and combine with the muscovado sugar and caster sugar.
Whisk the buttermilk into the cooled chocolate mixture and, one at a time, whisk in the eggs. Tip the dry ingredients into the bowl and stir together.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 60-65 minutes until well risen, firm to the touch and drawing away from the sides of the tin. Stand for 5 minutes then carefully remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
To make the ganache, pour the ale into a wide saucepan and simmer down until reduced to 50mls. Depending on the size of your saucepan, this can take 5-10 minutes. Be aware your kitchen will smell like a brewery.
Put the chocolate, cream, sugar and salt into a bowl. Melt over a simmering saucepan of water or in the microwave. Whisk together, pour in the reduced ale and mix well.
Cool until spreadable then spread over the cake.
Makes 1 x 23cm cake.
Update 7 March 2013: having had several discussions about levels of icing, it’s been made clear to me that people feel that there should be more! In that case, reduce the 200mls of ale to 100mls and combine with 200g chocolate, 100g cream, 2 teaspoons sugar and a pinch of salt. You won’t need so much sugar if you’re not reducing the ale quite as much. This will give you enough to thickly ice the top, along with enough to drip lusciously down the sides.