Malt-Frosted Newcastle Brown Ale Chocolate Cake
This has to be one of my signature bakes! A very special chocolate cake - every aspect of it works in completely delicious harmony. A rich chocolate cake undercut with Newcastle Brown Ale, a gentle Geordie ale with a smoky flavour and a brassy caramel flavour. I believe these qualities enhance a chocolate cake much more than Guinness, which I think just adds darkness. Newcastle Brown Ale brings out the creamy, caramel tones in the cocoa (providing you use good quality cocoa) and it results in a deeply pleasant chocolate cake. Geordie biases aside, I think this is the nicest grown-up chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten!
Really, this cake is moist enough to eat just as it is, but I’ve tried all kinds of enhancements over the years. For a while I used to eat this with a black treacle buttercream on top, which gave the cake a creamy tang which I liked. Then only recently I made an adjustment I switched the black treacle for malt extract. I have a soft spot for malt. I grew up drinking mugs of Horlicks. My mam drank it all the time when she was pregnant with me as it was rich in minerals and vitamins, which might explain why I was a whopping 11-pound baby when I was born! The malt adds nostalgia for me, and probably for you, and you can buy jars of malt extract easily in big supermarkets and health food shops. If you’re not fussed about it, you can make a plain buttercream frosting, which is enough in itself to take the cake to a delicious height!
MALT-FROSTED NEWCASTLE BROWN ALE CHOCOLATE CAKE
N.B.: Makes three small sandwich cakes for a three-tier cake.
300ml Newcastle Brown Ale
200g Unsalted Butter
100ml flavourless Oil (vegetable, groundnut, sunflower)
250g Light Brown Sugar
225g Caster Sugar
150g Soured Cream
3 large Eggs
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
300g Plain Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoons Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)
MALT BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
200g Unsalted Butter
300g Icing Sugar
2 tablespoons Malt Extract
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Start by preheating your oven to 160C. Take 3 small sandwich cake tins and grease them well with butter. For extra ease, line them with baking paper on the bottom to ensure they come out nicely.
This cake is a melting method cake, which involves melting the ingredients together instead of beating or creaming them in a mixing bowl. Take a large saucepan and add 300ml of Newcastle Brown Ale. Bring it up to a heat on the hob until it is steaming hot and on the verge of boiling, then lower the heat. Add in 200g of unsalted butter and 100ml of oil, and stir over a low heat until the butter has melted into ale.
Once the butter has melted, turn off the heat completely and add in 250g of light brown sugar and 225g of caster sugar. Stir until dissolved.
Into the ale mixture, add 150ml of soured cream and stir with a whisk until mixed in. If the soured cream forms clumps, don’t panic, these will disappear once the dry ingredients are added.
After adding the sugars and soured cream, the temperature of the mixture should be about body-warmth. Crack in 3 eggs and whisk into the mixture until combined, followed by 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Now we will prepare the dry ingredients. Add 300g of plain flour to a mixing bowl, followed by 120g of cocoa, 1 teaspoon of sodium bicarb (baking soda) and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Fork together until roughly combined.
Pour the ale mixture into the dry ingredients and mix rigorously with a wooden spoon or a whisk. You will have quite a runny batter - which lends succulent moisture to the cake - but this is how it should be, no worries.
Pour the batter evenly amongst 3 sandwich tins and place into a 160C oven for 25-30 minutes until cooked. if you distribute the cakes across two oven shelves, make sure you swap them around halfway through cooking (around 12 minutes in). When they’re finished, skewer the middle of the cake with a knife or a piece of spaghetti to make sure it is cooked through; it will come out clean if it is. Leave the cakes to cool completely before icing.
Once the cakes are cool, it’s time to make the buttercream icing. A food processor is the cleanest way to make this icing, as it prevents icing sugar wafting around your kitchen. Start with 200g of soft, unsalted butter and beat it with a wooden spoon until it is pale and fluffy. Take your 300g of icing sugar and mix it into the beaten butter a few spoonfuls at a time.
Once all of the icing sugar is mixed into the butter, add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and 2 sticky tablespoons of malt extract and give the buttercream a final mix to distribute the flavourings through.
Spread the cakes liberally with the malt buttercream and stack them into 3 tiers, with a final swirl of buttercream on the top.