Chocolate Cherry Stout Skull Cake

Hungry Native Martha's Vineyard Food Blog Skull Cake Cherries Martha Stewart Chocolate Stout Beer Cake ©HungryNative.com

This past weekend, the Hungry Native team was charged with bringing dessert to a meeting of our local beer club.  We wanted to make something using beer as an ingredient, so we decided to try this Moist Chocolate-Cherry Stout Cake with Dark-Chocolate Glaze.  Although we’re loath to endorse anything Martha Stewart related, a friend of ours, RM, has had excellent luck with it, despite its ridiculously long name.  Since Halloween was fast approaching, we ditched the boring round cake pans and instead used this cool skull shaped one.

Hungry Native Martha's Vineyard Food Blog Skull Cake Cherries Martha Stewart Chocolate Stout Beer Cake ©HungryNative.com

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Then mix the flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside.  The dried cherries are simmered with stout (we used Guinness) and molasses for about five minutes, until the cherries are plump.  Strain them but reserve the liquid, and let them cool.  The reserved cooking liquid is then brought to boil and taken off the heat.  Next, whisk in the cocoa powder, until the mixture is smooth.

Hungry Native Martha's Vineyard Food Blog Skull Cake Cherries Martha Stewart Chocolate Stout Beer Cake ©HungryNative.com

The cocoa mixture is added to the eggs and sugar, and beaten until combined.  Then the oil and flour are added, along with sour cream and finally, the cherries.  Since the skull mold has many nooks and crannies (like the teeth), take extra care to make sure that they are all buttered before pouring in the batter.

Hungry Native Martha's Vineyard Food Blog Skull Cake Cherries Martha Stewart Chocolate Stout Beer Cake ©HungryNative.com

The original recipe called for baking a 14 inch cake for 60 to 65 minutes, or 50 to 55 minutes for two smaller 10 inchers.  We checked our skull cake at 50 minutes, but it failed the tooth pick test and wound up taking just about 65 minutes to bake fully.

Hungry Native Martha's Vineyard Food Blog Skull Cake Cherries Martha Stewart Chocolate Stout Beer Cake ©HungryNative.com

After letting it cool for about twenty minutes, we held a wire rack on top of the pan and turned the whole thing upside down, giving it a good tap on the counter to help the cake release.  To our surprise, the two halves came out easily, with all the detail intact.

Hungry Native Martha's Vineyard Food Blog Skull Cake Cherries Martha Stewart Chocolate Stout Beer Cake ©HungryNative.com

To prepare the halves, we used a serrated knife to cut the rounded “muffin top” off of the pieces, giving them nice flat surfaces for joining.

Hungry Native Martha's Vineyard Food Blog Skull Cake Cherries Martha Stewart Chocolate Stout Beer Cake ©HungryNative.com

We slathered the base with some store-bought chocolate frosting, to serve as a kind of glue.  We also used some cut down wooden skewers to help anchor the face to the back of the skull.

Hungry Native Martha's Vineyard Food Blog Skull Cake Cherries Martha Stewart Chocolate Stout Beer Cake ©HungryNative.com

The front still slid down a bit, but we just filled the small seam with more filling.

Hungry Native Martha's Vineyard Food Blog Skull Cake Cherries Martha Stewart Chocolate Stout Beer Cake ©HungryNative.com

Martha’s recipe calls for making the chocolate glaze from 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, 11 ounces bittersweet chocolate and an indeterminate amount of cornstarch.  If you visit MarthaStewart.com, you’ll find that many people have left comments wondering just how much cornstarch to use, but sadly, Martha has yet to respond.  We decided to just omit it all together, and it came out just fine.  The sugar and water (and cornstarch?) Are heated on medium and whisked until the sugar has completely dissolved.  The chocolate is then added and the mixture brought to a simmer and constantly mixed until thick, about 8 minutes.  After removing from the heat, you can whisk in small amount of water to thicken further.  Once it had the proper consistency, we ladled the glaze over the skull, letting it run over all the surfaces and pool on the plate.

Hungry Native Martha's Vineyard Food Blog Skull Cake Cherries Martha Stewart Chocolate Stout Beer Cake ©HungryNative.com

We were very happy with the finished product.  The skull had a great shine, and most of the detail was still visible under the glaze.  Also, it kinda looked like the head was sitting in a puddle of blood, which was a cool effect.  The cake came out incredibly moist, with a well incorporated cherry tang and a hint of a malty note from the Guinness.  The harder chocolate glaze provided a counterpoint to the tender cake and kept things from getting too sweet.  The skull cake was a big hit at the Halloween beer club meeting despite its less than scary origin as a wedding cake.

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