It was love at first sight when I spotted my new cookbook obsession, The Boozy Baker.
Being a bit of a boozy baker myself, I felt an instant kinship with Lucy Baker, whose book brims with recipes for sweets containing wine, beer and spirits, in addition to lush libations. This plum biercake, a fluffy gingerbread-esque cake made with a full cup of German doppelbock beer, was first on my list.
Plums are coming into their own here in California, and while their skins can sometimes be too puckery for me to want to eat them out of hand, I love the way their tartness contrasts with this spicy cake. The flesh bakes into meltingly tender slivers, the plum flavor intensifying in the heat of the oven.
The cake base has the fluff of a yellow cake while conveying the spice of cinnamon and ginger underpinned by dark molasses. The dark beer comes through in rich undertones, its moisture keeping the cake light. Ginger and plums make a snappy pair, enhancing each others’ zippy qualities, and here the plums brighten a typically fall-flavored confection. (Speaking of which, this would make an ideal dessert come Oktoberfest, if you can still find plums in your neck of the woods.)
In sticking with the beer theme, I swapped in some barley flour for half of the all-purpose. Barley flour is soft, light and creamy, almost like an unbleached cake flour, with the nutty flavor of whole grain. Tasting it, you wouldn’t know this cake is made with whole grain flour, but using it satisfied my inner health-nut. A few small changes also included upping the salt content a bit, and adding a good grinding of black pepper, and sprinkling the plums with sugar, which helps them stay moist.
A slice of this cake makes a heavenly summer dessert, served with a plume of softly whipped and lightly sweetened cream flavored with vanilla, which softens the cake’s assertive flavors. We invited some friends over to help us devour it, and they brought what turned out to be the ideal beverage accompaniment: equal parts ruby port and hot water poured over a lemon wedge studded with cloves, which took the chill out of the San Francisco summer night. I think Lucy Baker would approve.
In the spirit of boozy baking, I whipped up yet another granola variation: Maple Bourbon Pecan, made with vanilla bean browned butter, maple sugar, and a splash of bourbon. I’ve posted the recipe as a variation beneath the original here. It is our new favorite, with plain yogurt and ripe peaches, for breakfast.
Other Boozy recipes I’ve got my eye on are Bourbon-Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies, Cherry Pie with Scotch and Walnut Crumble, Individual Raspberry-Amaretto Cheesecakes, and Beer Profiteroles with Chocolate Beer Sauce. The mouthwatering recipes and stunning photos in Lucy’s book are enough to turn anyone into a Boozy Baker.
Adapted from Lucy Baker’s The Boozy Baker
If you can’t find doppelbock, Lucy says you can use another dark beer, such as porter or stout instead. Be sure to serve this cake with a generous billow of lightly sweetened whipped cream flavored with vanilla. All ounce measurements here are by weight.
Makes 8-10 servings
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (5 ounces) barley flour
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
a few grinds of black pepper
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
1 large egg
3 tablespoons (2 ounces) molasses (I used unsulphured)
1 cup German doppelbock beer (see headnote)
5-6 medium, ripe but firm plums, halved, pitted, each half cut into 3-4 wedges
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º. Butter a 9″ springform pan.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, spices, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and 3/4 cup of the sugar until lightened and fluffy. Beat in the egg and molasses. Add a third of the flour mixture, mixing on low to just combine, then mix in half of the beer. Continue like this until all the flour and beer are added, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Give the batter a final stir by hand to make sure it is homogenous.
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Arrange the plum wedges in concentric circles over the top, and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Bake the cake until a tester inserted into a cakey (not plummy) part comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Let the cake cool slightly, run a thin knife or offset spatula around the sides of the cake, then release the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool until warm; it’s still baking from residual heat. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with ample whipped cream.
The cake is best the day it’s baked, but will keep for up to a few days at room temperature in an airtight container.