Coffee Milk Stout Custard Cake

Cooking with Beer by | Dec 2014 | Issue #95
Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

This dessert is one of a kind. The top layer has the look and texture of a brownie, the inside has the mouthfeel of a moist cake and the bottom is rich and creamy, much like a thick custard or pudding. With the different choices of beer available, the flavor combinations are endless.

Serves: 9–16 people

4 oz butter, unsalted, preferably European style, at room temperature
12 oz Stone Coffee Milk Stout, at room temperature, or another Milk Stout
1 cup half and half, preferably organic
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (try TCHO or Valrhona)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 each extra large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1/4 tsp malt vinegar
10 oz powdered or confectioner’s sugar (about 1-3/4 cup)
1 tsp bourbon vanilla extract
extra confectioner’s sugar for garnish

Evenly coat the inside of a square, 8-by-8-inch cake pan with a non-stick spray or, using a paper towel, grease with a tablespoon of butter. Set aside. Preheat oven to 325°F. Do not use a convection setting.

Place a medium-sized pot on low heat and add the half and half, butter and the coffee Milk Stout (or chocolate Stout, coconut Porter, barrel-aged Imperial Stout, etc., depending on the flavors you’d like and the beers available). Let the ingredients slowly warm, allowing the butter to melt. Remove from heat when the temperature reaches about 110°F.

In a bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; whisk together until the flour mixture is an even chocolate color. (If you have a copper bowl, use this to get more air volume into your egg whites.)

Set two more bowls onto the counter, separating the egg whites into one and the yolks into the other. Add the malt vinegar to the egg whites and whisk them into stiff peaks.

Add the powdered sugar and bourbon vanilla extract to the egg yolks in the second bowl. It’s important to weigh the powdered sugar, as the volume of the sugar will vary if it is measured by scooping the sugar in measuring cups. Whisk until the mixture turns a soft, pale yellow color.

Pour the flour mixture over the egg yolk-sugar mixture and whisk to combine. Slowly add the beer-half and half-butter mixture and whisk to create a thin batter. Keep whisking until the flour is completely incorporated and no lumps remain—this is not like pancake batter. Next, set the whisk aside and add a third of the beaten egg whites. Using a spatula, fold them into the batter to lighten it and make the remaining whites easier to fold into the batter. This will preserve little bubbles of air in the finished batter. Add the next third of the whites and be more gentle as you fold them in. Fold in the final third of the egg whites until the batter has no white streaks.

Pour the finished batter into the prepared cake pan and place in the center of the oven. Bake for 55–60 minutes, or until the center reaches 190°F. As this cake is also custardy, the center will be soft and won’t fully set like a traditional cake. It should be Jello-like, not runny. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack for one hour. Refrigerate for a few more hours to allow it to fully set before cutting.

When ready to serve, lightly dust the top of the cake with a layer of powdered sugar. Using a sharp knife warmed under hot tap water and wiped clean, cut it into thirds or fourths in each direction, creating 9–16 squares. This cake is very rich; a little goes a long way. Using a spatula, serve it on small dessert plates and garnish with whipped cream (ideally flavored with vanilla, bourbon, rum, or sweetened with malt syrup).