Let Them Eat Cake Stout – My Hardest Brew to Date

After five years of waiting, I finally started brewing in December. It’s been a ton of fun and I will only be doing more of it as a local homebrew supply just opened up downtown. Yes, I have been there many times already.

The 100th issue of Beer Advocate magazine had a great little idea for a stout made with a chocolate sheet cake that I just knew Chelsea would love, so over the previous weekend, I set to work.

Now, of course I don’t have the recipe on me (at the office) but I think I remembered it pretty well.

The ingredients/directions as I remember them were:

10 lbs Domestic 2 Row

1 lb flaked barley

.75 lb roasted barley

.25 lb chocolate row

.5 oz Target (?) hops, for which I substituted the Fuggle my LHBS had for the similar profile.

English Pale Ale Yeast (not sure of any more specifics)

1 sheet cake, baked, crumbled, boiled, simmered as slurry for 15 minutes, chilled and scrapped for fat.

Grain gets mashed for 60 at 154F and cake slurry goes into the mash before boil. Hops in for the full 60 min boil.


After hitting up the shop, twice, for everything I needed, I realized
that (1) I’ve never done an all-grain (as opposed to using malt extracts) brew before, (2) I’ve never done a stout
before, and (3) the ingredients list left off a recipe, so I
appropriated an Irish Dry Stout recipe from here:

Dry Irish Stout
(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.040 FG = 1.008
IBU = 35 SRM = ~38 ABV = 4.1%


7.5 lbs. (3.4 kg) 2-row pale malt (preferably Maris Otter)
12 oz. (0.34 kg) roasted barley (400–500 °L)
2.0 oz. (57 kg) chocolate malt (300–400 °L)
½ tsp. baking soda (added to mash)
1 tsp. Irish moss
9.25 AAU Perle hops (bittering) (1.2 oz./33 g of 8% alpha acid)
Wyeast 1084 or White Labs WLP004
¾ cup corn sugar (for bottling)

Step by Step

Bring 9 quarts (9 L) of water to 166 °F (74 °C) and mix in the malts and
baking soda. The temperature should fall between 154–156 °F (68–69 °C).
Hold mash for 60 minutes before sparging. Recirculate the wort until
clear and then run off wort to the kettle. Once the top of the grain bed
is covered by an inch of wort, begin sparging with 176 °F (80 °C)
water. Collect 6 gallons (23 L) of wort. Bring wort to a boil, add hops
and boil for 60 minutes. Add Irish moss 5 minutes before the end of
boil. Cool wort to 70 °F (21 °C), aerate, pitch yeast and ferment at 70
°F (21 °C). Rack after 10 days and a second time in another 14 days.
Then prime, bottle and hold 7 days before drinking.

This is the classic stout to serve on mixed gas using a stout faucet. If
this method is desired, skip the priming and bottling step and use the
technique detailed on page 33.

Extract with grains option: An extract version of this beer can be made
by substituting the pale malt for 6.0 lbs. (2.7 kg) of light liquid malt
extract or 4.25 lbs. (1.9 kg) of light dry malt extract.

Minus the Irish Moss, it gave me the right series of steps to flounder my way through whole mess, but of course, not without some issues. But first, pictures!


Ingredients, for the beer and the cake


The impetus for the brew


The cake, ready to be boiled and defatted.


Grain bag, with 13 whopping pounds of fresh grain.


Mash, recirculated and ready to strain and sparge.


After math of my grain bag falling back into the mash. 🙁


Didn’t remember to get any pictures while boiling the wort, but after much labor, here’s the mess in the carboy, yeast added moments before.

Onward to a tentative night, and back to the problems.

First issue

Sparging (the process, essentially, of washing off the grain bag, post mashing (essentially heating water, submerging grains, and letting to steep at a fixed temp)) was WAY harder than I expected and resulted in a lot of stickiness and some lost mash. You see, 13 lbs of grain, steeping in 154F water for 60 minutes gets super heavy and a plastic colander sat across the mouth of a 30 qt stockpot doesn’t quite cut it.

Second issue

A lot more fat stayed in the cake slurry than I’d have hoped. Fat makes strong bonds and is liable to block oxygen from getting to your yeast, thus killing fermentation. Despite my best efforts, I didn’t get enough of the fat out of the cake before mixing it all in.

Third issue

I’m not sure if it’s the properties of the mash (lots of extracted sugars) or the fat (insulation), but that wort would NOT cool down. I don’t have a wort chiller (large coil that you dip into wort and run cold water through to cool the wort) so I use an ice bath. I’m gonna need a wort chiller.

Fourth issue

I picked the wrong container to cool to measure
gravity (buoyancy of a beer before and after fermentation tells you alcohol content), and by that time of night I was done trying, so this is yet
another beer for which I will have no ABV.

Somehow, despite the fat that settled on top of the carboy, it started
fermenting like a champ somewhere between 7 and 15 hours in. I’m
tentatively excited that my Let Them Eat Cake Stout, which I made
specifically for my girlfriend who rather enjoys big, heavy beers during
the Texas summer, might actually make it.

A day and a half later, it unfortunately chilled out a bit with the fermentation, but I’m still cautiously excited.

Early Heathen Christmas

My lady and I decided to exchange gifts early for our first Christmas. We’re heathens, ya see, so we decided we wanted to do things on our own schedule. Lots of thoughtful gifts and nice surprises.

I got my lady a large standing mirror jewelery armoire, some really awesome Edison-style lightbulbs, a great app for her Mac, a Zippo hand-warmer, and a Hans Rosling (statistician) print. Please feel free to message me if you want that last one explained.

She got me some great new earbuds, silicon spatulas, several Le Guin novels, a great book on bread baking, and a craft brew monthly subscription.