Obviously cake recipes are going to be decadent and delectable in Jill’s hands—she’s a dessert whisperer, as evidenced by her previous cookbook, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. But it’s the word “do-able” in the book’s subtitle that is equally accurate and reassuring.
If the idea of making and frosting anything more complicated than a sheet cake terrifies you, don’t panic! The recipes in each chapter are organized by degrees of difficulty. Starting with one-bowl snack cakes and loaf cakes, segueing into more ambitious layer cakes and finally to multi-tiered wonders, the chapters ease you into ever-higher levels of cake mastery.
And, even better for those of us who need guidance and inspiration when baking, each chapter is defined by a craving. One chapter for chocolate (duh), one for caramel and butterscotch, one for all kinds of citrus, and a tantalizing selection of fruity “garden and orchard” cakes. (I’ll conveniently ignore the chapter devoted to my nemesis, the banana, and move on to the coconut section instead. To each her own!)
When summer strawberries are at their ripest and sweetest, they’re all the decoration you need for a summer berry St. Germain cake. A single layer of lemon-buttermilk cake is piled with St. Germain-soaked strawberries and fragrant strawberry puree swirled with freshly whipped cream—no finicky cake decorating skills necessary.
Need something comforting? Go for a luxurious loaf or pan cake, with options ranging from a classic diner crumb cake to a banana-brownie swirl cake to a Black Cow loaf cake (recipe follows below) spiked with rich milk stout beer and malted milk powder.
And if you’re ready to bring the house down with your dessert, cue up the creme brûlée cake. Slathered with frosting that magically tastes just like spoonfuls of creamy, cool creme brûlée, layered with tender vanilla cake soaked in burnt sugar syrup, and topped with fun-to-make caramelized sugar shards, it’s a project worth taking on. (The Lemon Bomb, a confection comprising lemon cake, lemon curd, limoncello syrup, lemon buttercream, and a covering of French meringue kisses, is next on my list.)
Because I realize that “fun” is relative when it comes to making statement cakes like those above, Jill and I thought we’d whet your whistle with one of the recipes from Cake, I Love You that are more modest in ambition, but big and bold in flavor. The Black Cow is like a yoga pants tuxedo: it’s crazy elegant but still comfortable enough for any event, from a backyard party to a holiday dinner.
A gentle reminder that making this cake (and all baked goods) is infinitely easier and more efficient when you’re using a kitchen scale to measure your ingredients. Jill’s included grams and ounces in every recipe, so you don’t have to worry about scooping, sifting, and washing all those measuring cups after the cake’s in the oven. Grab your scale and get moo-ving with the Black Cow!
The Black Cow (Malted Chocolate Stout Cake)
Excerpted from Cake, I Love You: Decadent, Delectable, and Do-Able Recipes, © 2017 by Jill O’Connor. Reproduced by permission of Chronicle Books. All rights reserved.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Makes makes 1 loaf cake (about 6-8 servings)/span>
- 1 cup (240 ml) stout beer (preferably a milk stout)
- 1 cup (200 grams) packed dark brown sugar
- 2/3 cup (50 grams) Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup (70 grams) malted milk powder
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) canola or vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (210 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 5 ounces (140 grams) chopped semi-sweet chocolate or chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons malted milk powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 to 8 malted milk balls, coarsely chopped
- Chocolate curls
Malted Chocolate Glaze
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spritz a standard loaf pan (9×5 inches) with nonstick baking spray and line with parchment paper, if possible. (Decorative loaf pans such as the one used for the post’s photographs can’t be lined because of their nooks and crannies, so don’t omit the spray!)
In a 2- to 3-quart) saucepan over medium heat, simmer the stout just until hot—don’t let it boil.
Whisk in the brown sugar, cocoa powder, and malted milk powder until dissolved.
Remove from the heat and let the stout cool to lukewarm.
While the stout cools, whisk the eggs, oil, sour cream, and vanilla together in a large bowl.
Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a separate large bowl.
Whisk the cooled stout into the egg mixture, then gently fold the wet ingredients into the flour just until a thick batter forms. Do not overmix the batter, or the cake will be tough.
Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
Bake for about 55 to 65 minutes, until a wooden skewer, knife, or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Transfer to a rack and cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cake from the pan to cool completely: either use the parchment paper to lift the cake from the pan, or gently invert the cake onto the rack.
While the cake cools, make the glaze: place the chocolate, cream, and malted milk powder in a small (1-quart), heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat.
Whisk constantly until the chocolate is completely melted.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.
Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake, letting it drip down the sides of the loaf. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the chopped malt balls and chocolate curls, if using.
Let the cake sit for at least 1 hour until the glaze is set before slicing.
Make ahead: Wrap lightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for ups to 3 days.