It’s March 18th. The day between the two religious feast days that celebrate my ancestry…St. Patrick’s Day (the O’Toole in me) and St. Joseph’s Day (the Celani in me). The fact that these are called feast days by my religion are only so fitting as I very much enjoy overeating both kinds of food in celebration. And drinking…can’t forget that.
As I sit here typing away, a stock pot full of Sunday sauce complete with sausage, shanks, meatballs and neck bones is simmering away in the oven with wine and tomato. I will turn this into a glorious bowl of meats and pasta for an Italian feast that will sit beside corned beef and Guinness pot pie, two things that probably aren’t even really Irish. Oh well. Corned beef is good shit, Irish or not. And Guinness cooked with anything is good shit too, even if they drink it all in Irish homes before they can cook with it. And I love looking at my plate on this day, a giant ethnic hot mess…delishhhhhh.
Bailey’s isn’t bad either…though I personally don’t enjoy drinking it, I had a few bad experiences with it on New Year’s Eve that involve measuring cups and waking up with my face in trash can that have caused my stomach to turn at the very smell of Bailey’s. However, bake it into a chocolate cake and I will wolf it down without any trouble. And it’s the Irish side of my contribution to the dessert in this meal.
This cake came out of necessity for me…the necessity to make dessert Irish for St. Patrick’s Day. If we are gonna celebrate an Irishmen who drove fake snakes away, we might as well do it with beer, whiskey and cake.
The Bailey’s cake is rich and chocolaty and the Guinness caramel has a wonderful malty, coffee flavor that compliments the Irish (coffee) cream. The caramel is actually my favorite part, I would eat it on just about anything. Folding it into a milk chocolate ganache lends a sweeter flavor and a light color…dark chocolate is bitter and, I think, the caramel is bitter enough so this is a good balance.
Bailey’s Buttermilk Cake with Stout Caramel and Milk Chocolate Ganache
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
¾ cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup buttermilk, shaken
½ cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
½ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Stout Caramel Sauce
2 cups sugar
½ cup Guinness
One stick of butter (unsalted, though if you are using salted butter eliminate the salt below)
½ teaspoon of sea salt
One cup heavy cream
Milk Chocolate Ganache
8 oz of milk chocolate (I used Hershey bars) broken up
One cup heavy cream
Grease and flour two 8 inch cake pans.
Into the bowl of an electric mixer place the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
In another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.
With the mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to properly incorporate all of the batter together. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
To make the caramel, place sugar and Guinness in a heavy bottom saucepan (I use all-clan pans for caramel, if you don’t use a heavy duty pan, your caramel will burn on the bottom of the pan, I know this from experience) on high heat. Stir ONLY until sugar is dissolved, then LEAVE IT ALONE! I mean this. Don’t touch it, even though you will want to stir it, because everything in your baking mind tells you not to leave it. If you stir it, even once, the sugar will crystalize and it will be done for, and the mess is a bitch to clean up. Cook this until it reaches 350 on a candy thermometer and is a dark, reddish brown color. It won’t smell exactly like regular caramel sugar (if you have made it before) and that ok, because the malt adds a different flavor and you want that.
Immediately take off the heat and add the butter. It will bubble up like you’re in a science lab. Gently whisk until the butter is melted and then add the cream, which will also bubble up, and whisk until smooth and combined. Whisk in your salt at the end and let it cool completely before using.
To make the chocolate ganache, and this couldn’t be simpler, bring the cream to a simmer and break up the chocolate into a small bowl. Pour the cream over the milk chocolate and whisk until completely combined. Let this cool, I put it in the fridge and check until it has thicken and it cold.
When the ganache is cooled place it in a mixing bowl and beat on high with the whisk attachment until the mixture is stiff and fluffy, like a frosting. Beating with the whisk attachment incorporates air which make the frosting lighter and increases the volume. Slowly add the caramel, roughly half of what you have made and continue to beat until incorporated and thick.
Place one layer of cake on a plate or board and top with frosting. Drizzle this with a little of the remaining caramel and place the second layer on top. Frost the top and drizzle with caramel and chocolate shavings if you like. I keep this cool as the ganache is not super sturdy, just take out about 30 minutes before eating.