It’s common to hear that people can either cook or bake. Maybe that’s why pastry is an entirely separate program at cooking schools (though most curricula include one course in pastry, it’s a small portion of a curriculum packed with soups, sauces, knife skills, roasting, and stewing), and why there are such things as “chef’s desserts” (think bread pudding or ice cream) or why, when a chef has serious pastry skills (Alfio Giulisano, I’m looking at you), people are really impressed. It’s as if you can do one well, or the other, but rarely both.
I am not a baker.
I love to saute and roast. I can braise with the best of them. Baking, however, was the province of my grandmother: her tea rings were legendary, her Christmas cookies coveted by all of my mother’s friends, who were the happy recipients of the piles of cookies my grandmother made each year.
I decided to make a carrot cake a couple of weeks ago, and though it wasn’t pretty, it was delicious (thank you to Kimberly Kanakes for pointing me towards Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, which was both easy and delicious.
After that success, when Graeter’s and Braxton Brewery approached me about creating a recipe with their new collaboration, Black Raspberry Chip Stout, I thought: I have to do a cake, specifically a moist, dense, chocolate cake. I adapted Nigella Lawson’s Guinness cake recipe, a recipe I’ve made several times before. It’s easy, rich, and the bitterness of the stout works well with the chocolate.
On top, instead of a cream cheese frosting — mainly because I’d just made one, but also because I wasn’t trying to make this cake look like a glass of Guinness– I switched to a simple buttercream, flavored lightly with Chambord.
It’s dense and rich, with just a hint of raspberry.
This is the perfect cake for Valentine’s Day: make it in a heart-shaped tin, and decorate with fresh raspberries. Of course, serve it with a scoop of Black Raspberry Chip on the side (that might be a lot of sugar, but it’s Valentine’s Day, right?), or wash it down with a can of the limited-edition Braxton/Graeter’s stout.