A new someone enters your life. Together, you enter the cocoon of honeymoon bliss, a cocoon of swooning and smitten stares. Eventually, you two, lovey-dovey butterflies emerge to learn about each other’s lives, including each other’s friendship circles.
This is important. Meeting the friends is important.
You watch those friends. You watch the dynamic they have. They invite you with open arms because you’re important to him. You go to their house for a bbq. You meet each other at a show. You have a drink after to revel in the revival of Neutral Milk Hotel. You find each other amongst a crowded music festival and loud brass music.
What is the common thread running through each encounter? What is the classic combination these friends clutch in their hands?
Whiskey & Ginger Ale.
It’s their drink, and it’s a good one. You know this because you have been paying attention (and drinking with them). When the next gathering rolls around, you come prepared, a little late, but prepared nonetheless.
This is a cake for his friends. The chocolate cake has bites of spicy, candied ginger, and the whiskey caramel sauce seeps into every chocolatey nook and cranny. The chocolatey, gingery cake may sink like a volcano after rushing the cooling process, but it’s a volcano of whiskey caramel sauce, so no one complains. They just grab forks and start eating directly from that chocolate, whiskey volcano.
The only snafu? These friends have kids, and when the adults say, “Cake,” that pack of kids comes running from every room in the house. With huge smiles on their faces, they charge at you. For a moment, you feel as though you’re in a battle scene and wave your hands frantically admitting defeat. “There’s alcohol in this cake,” you admit to the adults. The blonde boy, with the deepest sadness in his voice, WAILS, “Whhhhhhhhhhy would you put alcohol in a caaaaake?” This kid is not interested in your story about observing these friends and their drink of choice. The whiskey-ginger ale drinking adults distract the distraught child with Joe-Joes cookies, and your boozey, collapsed cake is still a success.
Chocolate Whiskey & Ginger Cake with Whiskey Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) organic, unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large organic eggs
1/4 cup organic heavy cream
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger (from peeled ginger)
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
For the Cake
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.
Put butter, molasses, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until butter has melted. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Let cool 5 minutes.
Add eggs, milk, and grated ginger to the molasses mixture; whisk to combine.
Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into a medium bowl.
Gently fold the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until just combined. (There should be lumps remaining.)
Gently fold in the candied ginger.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cake cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
3/4 cup packed organic light or dark brown sugar
4 oz. (1/2 cup) organic unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons honey
1-1/2 Tablespoons whiskey
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
1-1/4 cups organic confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Glaze
Set the cake on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet.
In a saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, honey, whiskey, and salt.
Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes.
Add the cream, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, for exactly 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
Gently whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla until completely smooth.
Let stand until the glaze is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but still warm and pourable, 3 to 8 minutes.
If a skin forms, gently stir it back into the glaze with a spatula; don’t over-stir or the glaze may crystallize.
Pour the glaze slowly and evenly over the cake. When the glaze is set, after about 15 minutes, transfer the cake to a serving plate.
Whiskey Whipped Cream
1 cup organic whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons whiskey
Chill the cream in a mixing bowl in the freezer until the cream just starts to freeze. Remove from the freezer. Add the vanilla and maple syrup.
Use a mixer, on medium speed, to beat until peaks begin to form.
Add the whiskey, and continue to mix until combined. Keep chilled until ready to serve.
Here’s to breaking children’s hearts and winning over adults!
ps: Most of the alcohol in the sauce should cook out, but the whipped cream is definitely boozy, so I erred on the side of precaution rather than the side of intoxicating children.