Since I wrote so many weeks ago about what was going to be my attempt to stay calm during the Christmas season, I felt like I should come back with some kind of update on how I’m doing. In a phrase: not super well. Things have felt so busy, and while I vowed not to add anything to my calendar/obligations unless it was super important, a few of those super important things have come up and I’ve been busier than I expected.
Saturday night I went to bed feeling completely depleted (we had stayed up too late two nights in a row), and the next morning I woke up and told Gerrit that if I didn’t have a quiet morning alone I might have a mental breakdown. I told Gerrit that I’ve been fantasizing about Christmas being over, and this made me really sad.
So I sat on the couch and read. I daydreamed. I thought about Christmas and how fun it will be later this week. I listened to some quiet Christmas music. I folded some laundry. And then I cleaned up the kitchen (for what seems like the thousandth time this month) because we were having people over that night.
It made me feel a thousand time better.
Even though we’ve been busy I won’t give myself a completely failing grade though. There have been invitations we have turned down this month. I am buying frozen rolls for Christmas instead of making them. I have outsourced at least 75% of Christmas dinner. I stayed home from church Sunday and had my own kind of Sabbath. There have been nights where we have successfully done nothing. I served leftovers of my dad’s birthday cake to our friends on Sunday instead of feeling like I needed to make something else. (And since it was this chocolate stout cake, I heard no complaints. It is in my freezer now, too, and is coming back out on Christmas.)
The truth is though, that you just can’t escape the abnormalities of the season. And while it is fun and magical, I’m also trying to accept that there is nothing wrong with looking forward to things being back to normal and that it doesn’t mean I can’t simultaneously enjoy the season.
This is one of my all time favorite chocolate cakes. Even though it has beer in it, it really doesn't taste like beer at all. (I don't even like beer and I love this cake!) It's also a great cake to make in stages; I always make my layers days ahead of time and freeze them before frosting them.
- For the cake:
- 2 cups stout (Guinness)
- 2 cups (4 sticks) butter
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/3 cups sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- For the icing:
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 8-inch cake pans, and line with parchment paper, then butter the parchment paper. (Or you can butter and flour the cake pans.)
- In a medium-sized sauce pan heat butter and Guinness together over medium heat. When butter is melted, bring the mixture to a simmer, still over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix together and set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sour cream together. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and vanilla, beating until fully combined. Slowly add the flour/sugar mixture, beating at low speed just until it is combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, making sure that everything is incorporated.
- Divide the batter evenly among the three cake pans. Bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove cakes from oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes in the cake pans on wire cooling racks. Then remove the cakes from the pans and allow the cake to cool on wire racks completely, 1-2 hours. Once they are cool, this is a great time to wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and freeze them if you want to wait a day to two before you ice the cake.
- To make the icing, combine chocolate and heavy cream in a heat proof bowl and place the bowl over a pot of simmering water (to create a double boiler). Heat slowly, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the icing, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours, until the icing is spreadable. (Alternately, you can heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat until warm and then pour it over the chocolate. Then let it sit for about a minute, and whisk together until chocolate is melted and smooth.)
- If necessary, cut the top of the cake layers horizontally with a serrated knife to make the top of each one even. Place one cake layer on a cake plate and spread a layer of icing over the top. Then top with the second layer, spread another layer of icing, and top with the third layer. Spread the remaining icing smoothly over the top and sides of the cake. Store the cake in the refrigerator.
adapted from epicurious.com