Let Them Eat Cake (With Beer)

Cooking with Beer by | Oct 2009 | Issue #33

The produce bins in your local market and the little snap in the air as the sun sinks earlier on the horizon are all signs of the shift from summer to fall. Our tastes change from light and refreshing, to hearty and savory. The fall harvest brings apples, hard squashes, mulling spices and full-flavored brews. Imperial Porters, Barleywines, holiday ales, pumpkin beers and maltier alternatives begin showing up on the grocery store shelves. To celebrate these offerings are two cake recipes that are simple in nature, yet when joined with their liquid counterparts, add an elegant touch to any evening.

Pumpkin Spice Cake
with Porter Vanilla Mascarpone Frosting, IPA-Glazed Hazelnuts, and Pumpkin Ale Crème Anglaise

A perfect treat to finish off a great meal of roasted beer-brined chicken with sautéed Swiss chard and brown ale mashed potatoes. Try pairing this dense spice cake, loaded with fall flavors, with some of the new seasonal brews from your local breweries.

Serves: 8-–2 large slices

Cake Ingredients:
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
2 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
1/4 cup Porter-style beer
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup black strap molasses
2 each eggs, large
1 cup pumpkin purée, canned or fresh
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Take two 8-inch cake pans and coat with a nonstick spray or grease with butter. Set aside.

In a bowl, add the cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, pepper, clove and allspice; mix well. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the butter. Tilt and rock the pan until the butter has melted and starts to foam. Keep a close eye on the butter. Once the foam starts to break down and turn a light caramel color, the butter will start to smell like toasted nuts. This is browned butter. Remove from the heat and add the spice mixture, mixing well, letting the spices toast and flavor the butter. Set aside the pan to cool, while the rest of the ingredients are measured out.

In a bowl, sift the cake flour with the baking powder and soda. Set aside.  Using a liquid measuring cup, add the sour cream and Porter. Mix together and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the brown sugar, molasses and cooled browned spice butter. Using a whisk attachment, whip on high speed for about 3–4 minutes until the mixture is combined and the sugar is almost dissolved. Add one egg at a time, beating the mixture well. Add in the pumpkin and vanilla, mixing for another 30 seconds. Turn the speed to low, add the flour mixture and sour cream Porter liquid. Mix until just combined, leaving no lumps or wet patches. Divide the cake batter evenly into the prepared cake pans.

Place into the center of the oven and cook for 25–30 minutes, or, when inserted in the middle, a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven, let rest for 15 minutes. Then, using a knife, trace the edge of the inside of the cake pan to loosen it. Invert the cake onto a wire rack and let cool completely. This cake can be made from 4 hours to 3 days ahead. Once fully cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to decorate.

Porter Vanilla Mascarpone Frosting

1/2 cup Porter
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
4 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. butter, unsalted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2–3 cup powdered sugar

In a saucepan, add the Porter and place over medium heat. Reduce the beer by a quarter, or until it measures 2 tablespoons. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the mascarpone, cream cheese and butter. Beat with a whisk attachment until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla, powdered sugar and beer reduction. Whip again until fully combined, and the finished product is light and fluffy.

Once the cakes have cooled, take a cake plate and place the first cake down (upside down, with the bottom of the cake on top) and use about 1 cup of the frosting. Using a spatula, level out the frosting, spreading to the edges of the cake. Top with the second round of cake, again, upside down to have a flat top to the cake. Starting in the center, add the remaining frosting to coat the top. Then, using the spatula, spin the plate and frost the sides.

Note: For best results, make sure that the frosting is firm at room temperature. If the frosting is too warm, it will melt off the cake; if the frosting is too cold, it will not want to stick to the cake.

IPA-Glazed Hazelnuts

1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. India Pale Ale
1 cup hazelnuts, raw (or pecans, walnuts or almonds)

In a small bowl, add the salt, powdered sugar and beer. Using a whisk, blend together to make a syrupy glaze. Toss in the nuts (any type of nut will work) until fully coated. Pour the mixture out onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper or silpat and place into the 350˚F oven for 12–15 minutes. The glaze will be bubbling and the nuts should have a nice golden-brown color. Remove from the oven and let cool. Crumble the candied nuts up, and then sprinkle them on top of the frosted cake, coating the top.

Pumpkin Ale Crème Anglaise

1 cup Pumpkin Ale
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brown sugar, light
1 pinch salt
5 each egg yolks, large

In a medium-sized pan, add the beer, cream, sugar and salt. Place over a low flame, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Using two bowls, separate the eggs, putting the egg whites in one and the yolks in another. Save the whites for another use. Once the cream mixture has reached 170˚F, using a ladle, add a scoop to the yolks and whisk quickly to warm them, preventing them from scrambling. Add in another ladle of the mixture, whisk again, then add the yolk and cream mixture to the remaining cream in the pan.  Mix well with a wooden spoon and heat to 170–172˚F. The sauce will thicken and coat the back of the spoon.

Strain into another bowl and let cool. This sauce can be served warm or cold with a slice of the finished cake. It can also be turned into ice cream by adding the chilled sauce to an ice cream maker and following the manufacturer’s instructions. Refrigerate the remaining sauce. Will keep for 1 week.

Caramelized Apple Almond Cake with Scotch Ale Sabayon
Before serving this scrumptious apple cake, try a Dopplebock and shallot-roasted pork loin with herbed spätzle and sautéed purple cabbage with caraway and Märzen as a main dish.

Serves: 12 slices

Cake Ingredients:
6 each apples (Granny Smith, Jonathan, Empire), peeled (4 diced and 2 grated)
12 oz. butter, unsalted, room temperature (3 sticks)
4 oz. Scotch Ale
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 each orange zest
3 each eggs, large
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. fresh orange juice
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour*
1/2 cup oat flour*
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, freshly ground

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Coat a bunt pan with a nonstick spray and set aside.

Take a large sauté pan and melt one stick of butter over medium heat. Add the 4 diced apples and 1/4 cup of the sugar once the butter foam starts to fall. Sauté the apples, stirring frequently until the apples turn a light golden-brown color, about 8 minutes. When done, deglaze the pan with the ale, removing any fond from the pan.

While the apples are cooking, take the remaining butter, sugar and zest, and place them into an electric mixer. Beat on high until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time, then add in the extract and orange juice.

In a sifter, add the flours, soda, salt and nutmeg, and blend together. Use a whisk and again, remix the flours to add as much air into the mix as possible. Add the flour mixture and half of the sautéed apples to the bowl of the mixer, along with any liquid in the pan. Reserve the remaining half of the apples for garnish on the plates. Refrigerate. Blend the mixture together until a batter forms. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour.

Check for doneness by piercing the cake with a toothpick; if the toothpick is clean, the cake is done. The top should be golden brown. Let the cake cool for 45 minutes, till the pan is cool to the touch. Using the tips of the fingers, lightly pull the cake from the edges of the pan. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack or cake plate, and lightly tap the perimeter of the pan to loosen the cake. Let cake cool till ready to serve.


6 oz. Scotch Ale-style beer, Old Ale, or Barleywine
6 each egg yolks, large
1/3 cup brown sugar, light
1 pinch sea salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Fill a medium-sized pot with an inch of water and bring to a boil. In a metal bowl that will fit into the pot, like a double boiler, add the beer, yolks, sugar and salt. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low and place the bowl on top of the pan. Using a whisk, beat the mixture, making sure to scrape the entire surface of the bowl, preventing any of the mixture from scrambling. Whip until the mixture triples in volume and turns a thick pale yellow color, like a custard. Remove the bowl from the simmering pot if this transition happens too fast. It should take about 3–5 minutes, depending on the yolk and beer temperature. Once done, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In another bowl, whip the cream to a soft peak. Fold the cream into the egg mixture. This can be served warm or cold, if not using right away. To serve, pour a spoonful or two over each slice of cake. Then garnish the plates with the remaining caramelized apple cubes and a light dusting of cinnamon, or a cinnamon stick.

Variations: The cake can be made with pears or quinces for a unique twist and paired with an alternative beer. The sabayon can be made with the same proportions, but with a Chocolate Stout to drizzle over a chocolate cake, or a fruit beer to go over an angel food cake, or even a Belgian Quad to go over a dried fruit compote-filled crêpe.