Disappointment & Cake [Maple Porter Chocolate Cake]

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Disappointment is something I’ve never taken on with grace. It shrinks my insides and turns them black and jagged as shards of broken glass.  

I’m learning, as time passes, that taking on life’s disappointments, of which there will be many, I’m sure,  with grace and calm is not always easy, but makes finding the light on the other end a lot less foggy and grim.

This week brought a disappointment that hit me hard. A double blow to the heart and ego that left me raw and with a choice. To fold into myself and let the sadness take over, tightening around my insides like thorned vines, or  to dig deep and find the calm I know is in there, buried under tangled knots of anger. I’m trying to choose the calm, granting myself the allowance to feel the hurt but not so much that it nips at my ankles, holding me back from the happiness that tomorrow might bring. It’s not the easiest option, yelling and stomping and burying my face in a pillow would satisfy the darkness, but it’s not how I want to feel, not how I want the following days to play out. 

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There are things that help release the calm. Chocolate cake, for one. Dense and strewn with dark cocoa and Maple Porter, rich and soul-satisfying, cascaded with tangy buttermilk and cocoa icing. It fills the evenings, when darkness tends to find a crack from which to seep in from, with something to look forward to, something to indulge and slip away into. Whether you’re getting over a disappointment, a heart break or just a hard-won day, this cake is for you. I can vouch for it’s calming abilities, and am certain you’ll agree. Eat it, and feel the calm that only chocolate can bring wash over you like buttermilk icing.  

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Maple Porter & Chocolate Bundt Cake
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

A friend of mine, Justin, works for Nickle Brook Brewery in Burlington Ontario. When he mentioned they would soon be selling their Maple Porter at liquor stores, I knew instantly that I would make this cake with it (and then drink the remainder of the bottle… at 11am… that what’s darkness does). Nickle Brook uses pure, dark Canadian maple syrup in their robust porter, that’s added before fermentation so it becomes fully integrated in the beer. You can taste the essence of maple, but it’s not sweet or overpowering the way some flavoured porters tend to be. Whether you’re drinking it or cooking with it, it’s worth grabbing a bottle (especially now that it’s sold at the LCBO). 

2 cups Nickel Brook Maple Porter
8 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1 cup  natural cocoa powder (dark if you can find it), plus more for pan
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2  cups muscovado or dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
3 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups plain whole yogurt

Preheat oven to 350. 

Butter a large bundt pan and sprinkle about 2 tbsp of cocoa powder into the pan. shake it around until the cocoa coats the pan. Add more if necessary. This is the same as flouring the pan but it won’t turn your beautiful chocolate cake white around the edges. 

Bring the 2 cups of porter to a boil in a pot, lower to a simmer and cook until reduced to 1 cup. Remove from heat, add the butter and cocoa powder and set aside to cool. 

In a large bowl, mix the flours, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir until evenly combined. Set aside. 

In another bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk and yogurt until uniform in texture. Gradually add the cooled stout mixture, mixing constantly as you do. Pour in the dry ingredients and fold just until ingredients are combined and no streaks of flour remain. Scrape into the prepared bundt pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 

Let the cake cool completely and pour the icing in a ring around the center of the cake. It will melt off beautifully and set gently while still being a little sticky so you can lick it from your fingers as you slice big hunks of the cake onto your plate.

Chocolate Buttermilk Icing:
3/4 -1 cup powdered sugar, depending on taste
1/3 cup natural cocoa powder
2 tablespoons buttermilk

While cake is baking, whisk ingredients together until smooth, at least 1 minute of good whisking. Add more sugar or cocoa if you’d like it thicker, add more buttermilk if you like it thinner. If it’s too sweet, add more cocoa. Not sweet enough? More icing sugar. 

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