Backhanded Complementary Cake

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Chocolate’s last relationship with an alcoholic beverage had been a disaster.  An unlikely combination upon first blush– hot chocolate and red wine– seemed like it may have been a good idea.  Why not?  Together, they would be a bold, adventurous pairing their friends on both sides felt would work perfectly together.

They weren’t.  The result was a swift and irreconcilable parting.  Hot chocolate and red wine were never meant to cohabit the same cup.  It brought out the worst in both of them.  Their pairing was a proverbial match made in Hell.

And so it was with understandable reluctance when chocolate was introduced to stout.  But, with the support of plenty of butter and chocolate’s wacky friend cream cheese, they gave it a try. 

Only moments into their conjugal relationship, both chocolate and stout knew, and everyone that knew them knew, they were meant for each other.  Heaven hadn’t known a happier coupling, and everyone who met the two together raved about this culinary power-couple. 

The lesson to be learned in love is that not all types of alcohol are incompatible jerks, especially if they’re Irish.

This version was adapted largely from Meghan Splawn’s recipe on thekitchn.com.

Backhanded Complementary Cake

Cake Ingredients

1 cup of butter

1 cup of Crannog Ale’s Backhand of God Stout

3/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

2 eggs

1 cup of sour cream

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

2 cups of all purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup of brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda

3/4 teaspoon of salt

The Icing– (Not just The Icing on the Cake, but an essential ingredient)

1/2 cup of butter

4 ounces of cream cheese

2 cups of icing sugar

Pans and Such

1 round spring-form 9” pan or a 9” circular pan with 3” sides

Parchment paper

Electric mixer

Large bowl

Small saucepan

How to Make It

1.  Melt 1 cup butter and 1 cup of stout in a saucepan over medium heat.

2.  Take the pan off the heat and bloom the 3/4 cup cocoa by whisking in and letting stand for 10 minutes.

3.  In a separate bowl, beat the 1 cup sour cream, 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon vanilla with a mixer.

4.  Add the cocoa-stout-butter mixture to the bowl used in step 3.

5.  Add the 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon salt and whisk until combined.

6.  Pour batter into circular pan with parchment paper.

7.  Bake at 350 F. for 40 to 45 minutes.

8.  Cool the cake for about an hour before icing.

9.  To make the frosting, beat 1/2 cup butter until smooth.

10.  Add the cream cheese and beat for 3 minutes or so until smooth.

11.  Add the icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time until 2 cups are added.  Beat until smooth.

12.  This doesn’t make a ton of frosting.  Just ice the top of the cake, and it’s plenty.

13.  After a slice of this cake, have another, then refrain from driving for at least 12 hours.

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Bah! Yumbug!

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Although mostly lacking in any excessive indulgence in Christmas traditions, there is one I adhere to with enthusiasm.  Ginger cake. 

Christmas without ginger cake would be like a Chinese Buffet without the lime jello, or a parade without the clowns that shovel horse manure, or a junior high band concert without the headache, or the history of cars without the American Motors Gremlin, or a visit to a fortune-teller without hearing about a tall, dark stranger, or a visit to Cache Creek without stopping at Hungry Herbie’s, or a “Top 100 Hits of All Time,” without something by Bobby Curtola.

You can only make it at Christmas.  There are eleven months in which ginger cake is just wrong.  Equally wrong is a stretch of December in which tea or coffee is not accompanied with a generous wedge of ginger cake.

I realize that ginger cake may strike many as an idiosyncratic Christmas tradition.  But give it a try, and there’s a chance you’ll be hooked.  Your Christmas tree will be relegated to a position of secondary importance during seasonal preparations while you follow this recipe:

Christmas Ginger Cake

4 cups of all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 Tablespoon of ginger powder

2 cups of Thompson Seedless raisins

3 Tablespoons of finely chopped preserved ginger (Dalton’s brand is good)

1 1/2 cups of butter

1 cup molasses

1 1/2 cups white sugar

3 eggs

11” circular coffee cake pan

What to do:

1.  Heat in a saucepan to a boil the butter, molasses and sugar.

2.  Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl.

3.  Add heated stuff to the dry ingredients, then stir in the eggs one at a time, stirring rapidly and making sure each egg is fully mixed in before adding the next one.

4.  Pour into a greased, floured coffee cake pan.  (You may also want to cut out a piece of parchment paper to line the bottom.)

5.  Bake for approximately 1 hour at 325 F.  It’s done when a chopstick comes out clean. 

6.  Let it cool for about half an hour.  Then, run a knife around the edge of the pan to make sure it’s not sticking.  Invert onto a cooling rack.

7.  Indulge.  Feel Christmasy.  Know that you have created the ultimate in Christmas traditions.  Had he ever tasted this ginger cake, even Scrooge would be Unscrooged.

A Recipe that Knows No Failure

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In some recipes, failure doesn’t stand a chance.  It’s not even within the realm of consideration.  Failure doesn’t even have your house address let alone a key to the front door.

Such is the case with rum balls.  All you have to do is to take chocolate– lots of it– chips and Oreo cookie crumbs.  Mix in some whipping cream and melted butter.  Why not throw in some booze and even some salt? 

The proportions don’t really matter.  All the elements inherently work because each could potentially stand on its own.  It’s the Travelling Wilburys of recipes– you could have each ingredient as a soloist, but throw them together and you have a supergroup that can do no wrong– never hit a sour note.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that the spherical aspect of the rum ball is really all that important.  They could be rum pancakes or rum smoothies and those consuming them could care less.

Some might argue that superior and inferior rum ball recipes exist, but this is not the case.  The only bad thing about a rum ball recipe is that it doesn’t make enough.

But for those who just can’t let go of needing a recipe, for those who still need a compass when they’re standing on Mount Everest, here’s a recipe.  But feel free to change it.  And if you can’t find your measuring spoons or your measuring cups were chewed up by the dog, don’t worry.  Just wing it.  Failure will remain blissfully ignorant of your venture.

Catastrophically Good Rum Balls

(A redundant name if there ever was one.)

Adapted from Rea’s Top Secret Recipe

3/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup butter

3 tbsp sugar (if you want, but I skip this)

3 tbsp rum  (make it 4)

1 cup chocolate chips

4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs

Think about adding some salt.

Paper candy cups

Old yogurt containers for storage

Wax paper (for between the layers when placed in yogurt container to store)

1.  Put cream, butter and sugar into a double boiler over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often.

2.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips.  Keep stirring until they are melted. 

3.  Add rum and crumbs (and maybe salt).  Mix well.

4.  Set in the fridge until firm enough to roll into balls.

5.  Roll into balls whatever size suits you or your glutinous friends.  I wouldn’t recommend anything larger than a cricket ball.  I did tablespoon sized (I finally found my measuring spoons– under the fridge.) 

6.  Place into paper candy cups and put into an empty yogurt container.

7.  The only hard part about the recipe is this:  Put the container in the fridge and let them age for a week to ten days for the rum balls to mature and for the rum flavour to really permeate the whole mix. 

However, if you want to be really scientific, eat one rum ball each day to taste their  progress through step #7.  “A rum ball a day keeps failure away.”