Malt-Frosted Newcastle Brown Ale Chocolate Cake
This is my signature chocolate cake and I’m proud to be presenting it to you. It’s a dark, 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 way more than Guinness, which is another popular chocolate cake quirk. Newcastle Brown Ale brings out the creamy, caramel tones in the cocoa (providing you use good quality cocoa) and it creates in a deeply satisfying chocolate cake. Geordie bias aside, this is the nicest grown-up chocolate cake I’ve eaten.
This cake is moist and delicious enough to eat just as it is, but I’ve tried a few frostings over the years. I sometimes frost it with black treacle buttercream on top, which adds a rusty tang which I like. Then only recently I switched the black treacle for malt extract. I have a tender spot for malt. Horlicks was my drink as a child. My mam drank it all the time when she was pregnant with me because it was rich in minerals and vitamins, which could explain me being born at a whopping 11lbs! You can buy jars of malt extract easily in big supermarkets and health food shops. If you’re not fussed about it, make a plain buttercream frosting, which is quite enough in itself to take the cake to delicious heights.
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
250g Caster Sugar
150g Soured Cream (or full-fat yoghurt)
3 large Eggs
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
300g Plain Flour
120g Cocoa Powder
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 7” sandwich cake tins and grease them well with butter. You could also use a 9” springform tin for one large, single layer cake. For extra ease, line the tins with a baking paper round on the bottom to ensure the cakes slip out nicely.
This cake is a melting method cake, which involves simply melting the ingredients together. Take a large saucepan and add 300ml of Newcastle Brown Ale. Bring it up to a heat on the hob until it is on the verge of boiling, then immediately lower the heat. Add in 200g of unsalted butter and 100ml of oil, and stir over a low heat until the butter has completely melted into the ale.
Remove the pan from the heat and add 250g of light brown sugar and 250g of caster sugar. Stir until dissolved.
Into the ale mixture, add 150ml of soured cream (full-fat yoghurt) and stir with a whisk until mixed in. If the soured cream forms clumps - don’t worry - these will disappear once the dry ingredients are added.
Crack 3 eggs into the mixture followed by 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Whisk well into combined.
Now we will prepare the dry ingredients. Add 300g of plain flour to your wet mixture followed by 120g of cocoa, 1 teaspoon of sodium bicarb (baking soda) and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Slowly fold all of the dry ingredients into the batter until no lumps remain to be seen. You will have quite a runny batter - which guarantees moisture in the cake - but this is exactly how it should be.
Pour the batter evenly amongst 3 sandwich tins (or one springform tin) 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) so they cook evenly. 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, with no liquid batter coating the skewer.. 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 buttercream, 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 butter a few spoonfuls at a time.
Once all of the icing sugar is mixed into the butter, add a teaspoon of vanilla extract with 2 tablespoons of malt extract and give the buttercream a final mix to distribute the flavourings throughout.
Spread the cakes liberally with the malt buttercream and stack them into 3 tiers, with a final swirl of buttercream on the top.