Arcadia's Cocoa Loco Chocolate Cake
I started a "Cooking with Michigan Beer" section because not enough people (myself included) cook with beer on a regular basis. You see beer battered fish on many restaurant menus or Guinness stew on St. Patrick's Day, but other than that, it seems like most people don't think of beer as an ingredient, or are just too afraid to use it in their recipes. . .but people use wine in their cooking all the time. When you stop and think about it, it just makes sense to cook with beer. Beer has more in common with a lot of the food we eat than wine does; it contains grain (barley), herbs (hops), water, and yeast, where wine is mainly just some fermented grapes. Adding beer to a recipe can really enhance particular flavors of the ingredients, help blend the flavors of the dish, or just add that little zing that a meal might be lacking.
For my first culinary experiment, I cheated a little and looked to a fellow beer-blogger's site at fermentationnation.com for some inspiration and started with a good old fashioned chocolate cake with a slight twist. Since I already had the basic recipe in front of me, the more challenging part, of course, was picking out the perfect beer. I too, have added Guinness to brownies before, and although I think it's a decent beer, I agree that it's too thin-bodied and mild to add enough flavor to make it worthwhile in most recipes. With this in mind, I knew I'd need to pick out a beer that was bold enough to stand out in my cake without overpowering it. I narrowed it down to two contenders: Arcadia's Cocoa Loco vs. Bell's Double Cream Stout. I couldn't make a decision at the store, so I had to buy both and do a taste test. Poor me, but somebody had to do it!
The Double Cream Stout has quite a bit of tang to it, and since the recipe already calls for sour cream (also tangy), I feared my end product might end up tasting like it had spoiled: not exactly the flavor I was going for. The moment I smelled and tasted Arcadia's Cocoa Loco, I knew it would be perfect for this recipe. It's huge on the cocoa in the scent, but also has a really warm roasted malt scent, quite a bit of molasses, and a bit of alcohol to it. It's more of a medium bodied beer with a very nice creamy quality that compliments the very rich cocoa flavor; a flavor which has both bitter and dark characteristics that reminded me a lot of baking cocoa. It's a flavor that makes it exactly the kind of beer that you want to dump into your cake batter.