I was thwarted from the beginning. How could it possibly have turned out well?

My final stout choices - Sebago and Rising Tide

Let me explain.

My chosen Maine beverage for this joint-blogger post proved an elusive prey. I hunted it at RSVP, Maine Beer & Beverage at the Public Market, Whole Foods, and Downeast Beverage. I even called friends intending to pilfer their coffers. To no avail.

Maine Beer Company’s Mean Old Tom Stout was apparently hiding in the bush (at least from November 9-11).

Aged in vanilla beans with a creamy head and roasty nose, I could just taste it’s coffee-ish, toasty malt in the Orange Chocolate Stout Cake recipe (below) I was borrowing from Evil Shenanigans. Her clever description and love of beer had inspired me. I was convinced Mean Old Tom was just the ticket to make her recipe sing.

Sigh. It wasn’t to be.

After half a day pondering my next move, I plodded back to the store and purchased a special Sebago Lake Trout Stout (aged in bourbon barrels) and *Rising Tide’s Ursa Minor (a weizen stout). I have to admit, in my deflated state I wasn’t giving these nice beers their due. Thirty minutes of searching my kitchen for my 8-inch cake pans put me in an even fouler mood. Apparently they were hiding with Tom. Grumpily, I grabbed the 16-inch sheet cake pan, hastily chose the Sebago and began baking.

Music cranked, measuring cups clanked. I slipped into baking mode and relaxed. Zesting the orange made me particularly happy. Bright fruit tickled my nose as I danced around to Guster and began whisking. A lick of the batter had me hoping again. Bitter notes from the bourbony beer and the sassy citrus blended well. That extra kick of vanilla I was hoping for from Tom became beside the point.

35 minutes in the oven, 10 minutes of cooling and I appeared to have a lovely confection. A nibble from the corner revealed a spongey, moist crumb. Nice.

The cavernous crack in the cake.

That’s when I made a crucial error in judgment.

Focused like a laser on stirring butter into darkness for the Brown Butter Frosting, I called Adam to help remove the cake from the pan per instruction.

Now, Adam’s a great chef, but he’s not a baker and I should have known better than to ask him for assistance. His food is fabulous, but he slams around the kitchen like a bear. Instead of gently prying the cake from the pan, he chose to flip it onto a plate. You can see the caverous split down the middle in the photo (left). At this crucial juncture I knew it would mean dryness, and I struggled not to slug him.

After banishing him from the kitchen and finishing the frosting, I gingerly flipped the cake over into another plate, layered on the icing and cut a slice.

The result? Not bad, but not as I had hoped. The cake was indeed a tad dry from the manhandling and the frosting proved too cloying for my taste. Sweet-tooths would love it, though.

To add insult to injury, that’s when A. called with the news – Whole Foods had just restocked Mean Old Tom.

Drat!

Evil Shenanigans’ Orange Chocolate Stout Cake (Yield 8-10 servings)

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, melted
  • 1 cup stout beer, at room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the frosting:

Adding the stout to the wet ingredients

  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup whole milk

Instructions

  • Heat the oven to 350 F and spray two 8″ cake pans with non-stick cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  • In a medium bowl combine the melted butter, beer, eggs, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until well combined and no large lumps of flour remain.  Do not over-mix.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center springs back when lightly pressed.  Let the cakes cool in the pan for ten minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.
  • While the cake cools prepare the frosting.
  • In a small pan over medium heat brown the butter until it is nut brown.  Be sure to stir the butter constantly.  Allow the butter to cool to room temperature.
  • Beat the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until combined.  Add the milk, a little at a time, until you reach your preferred spreading consistency.
  • Place one of the cakes on your serving plate, or board.  Spread 1/3 of the frosting evenly over the cake.  Top with the second cake.  Spread 1/2 of the remaining frosting evenly on the top, making sure you go all the way to the edge, then frost the sides with the remaining frosting.

Blogger’s note: Visit Portland Food Map for a round-up and links to other blogger’s experiences cooking or baking with a Maine-made beverage.

*BTW – Rising Tide recently released a new black ale with smoky notes called Atlantis. Killer!