The day before my Birthday, the friend casually texted me saying he might have a surprise “if it comes out right”, and asked if I will be home around dinner time the following day. His inquiry seemed rather ambiguous, so I dismissed it as a common courtesy. I was quite surprised when he, his wife and daughter appeared at my doorstep with a cake box. After a short visit and many thanks on my part they left and I had the Kiev – a Soviet classic hazelnut flavored cake with an offensive amount of butter, sugar and a rich nutty chewy filling. Finding such a cake under a glass of a Japanese pâtisserie is impossible. As a consequence, my friend’s wife, an experienced home baker, made one from scratch!
Being a beer connoisseur, I immediately started thinking about beers that could work well with the cake flavors and took upon myself the mission to do as many beer and cake pairings as I can. Here are my tasting notes:
I Found My Thrill is a Danish wild ale aged for 30 months in French Oak Foeders on locally grown Blueberries. This deep burgundy colored, refreshing and highly effervescent light-bodied ale with plain yogurt sourness, delicate blueberry and oak flavors has a whiff of a rustic Danish barn to it. Buttery sweetness of the Kiev is contrasted by a tangy blueberry yogurt and lightly puckering oak tannins. The carbonation lifts the buttery fats from the palate making you ready for more cake.
Salvator pours mahogany with a lightly tan head. Rich biscuit, caramel and toffee aromas with some floral notes on the nose. Similar malt forward nutty and biscuit flavors are barely balanced by high and clean floral bitterness. The body is medium and smooth. The finish is brief with biscuit like malts and clean bitterness. The Kiev is showcasing the Salvator’s bitterness and slightly overpowers the beers flavors. The hazelnuts somewhat complement beer’s nutty and biscuit flavors, while the bitterness is contrasted by cake’s sugar and carbonation is scrubs the palate.
Different kinds of nut flavors in the beer worked well with Kiev’s hazelnut and intense dark roasted coffee flavors of big and high ABV beers wonderfully demonstrated the cutting power of the bitter coffee with sweet desserts.
Kuri Kuro pours an opaque very dark brown with a fluffy tan head and has a cocoa nibs, nuttiness and sweet caramel bouquet with butterscotch notes. The dark chocolate, coffee, chestnut, caramel and toffee malt flavors are dominating. There is a light stale note, but its not unappealing. The body is medium to full and oily. When I had the ale fresh, there was an alcohol-like roughness in the finish, but after cellaring it for a year, the roughness has mellowed out – aging it was a good decision. Similar yet different chestnut and hazelnut flavors work well together. The lightly sweet beer accentuates the buttery hazelnut like sweetness, while the cake makes the coffee like and cola nut like beer nuttiness stand out. Light to medium carbonation is cleansing the palate of the slick butter leaving a long and lightly warming hazelnut buzz. A great pair!
The Shalow Grave pours a dark brown with mahogany tint and a fluffy tan head. It has aromas of nuttiness, cola and French roast espresso. Burnt toast, caramel, butterscotch and nutty flavors play on the palate. Smooth, chewy and silky medium to full body makes it quite drinkable. The Porter has a brief finish of dry roasted coffee, caramel and nuts. The French roast espresso contrasts with Kiev’s buttery hazelnut sweetness. The low carbonation and the sturdy body of the beer makes the pairing very satisfying – you can’t stop the teaspoon of cake followed by a sip of beer repetition.
The Cocoa Shake pours an opaque very dark brown with a dark tan head. It has a rich Swiss milk chocolate bar and vanilla ice-cream like aroma with notes of soy-sauce. The flavors are similar with the addition of vanilla, caramel and toffee. The body is silky and full and the carbonation is low to none. The finish is very long warm and drying, full of dark chocolate and roasted coffee. Intensity-wise, both the Kiev and the Shake are similar. The cake’s hazelnut buttery sweetness is contrasted by a dark chocolate, cocoa powder and roasted coffee. Beer’s vanilla complements the buttery Kiev sweetness and the high ABV cuts the cake butter. Both the cake and the beer are desserts which could be had on their own. Having both together is an intense experience and is quite a treat.
Dark brown with a fleeting tan head, this milk stout has aromas of cocoa, chocolate, cola and Resee’s cups. Ritch cocoa, dark chocolate, Resee’s and nutty roasted malts dominate the palate. Silky smooth and slick medium to full body has normal carbonation and a cappuccino-like dry roasted coffee finish. Hazelnut and peanut flavors work well together and if you have the cake first, there is a smooth transition from former to latter. Bitter roasted coffee and dark chocolate contrast the buttery cake sweetness and the palate is refreshed by carbonation. A great pair.
The Espresso Totalitarian has a very fluffy dark tan head and pours an opaque black. It has aromas of nuttiness, caramel syrup, cappuccino foam, clean noble hop floral spiciness with a charred campfire-like note. The nutty, chocolate, cola like malts transition to a medium roast espresso flavor. Body is full and carbonation is normal. The bitterness is assertive. Warming and drying, French roast espresso bitterness with soy sauce like notes persists in the finish. Kiev’s buttery sweetness is cut by Totalitarian’s extreme bitterness which is coming from roasted coffee and hops combined. This is a great example why bitter coffee works well with sweet desserts – the cutting, or the extreme contrast of flavors, is very exhilarating and pleasurable.
A drinkable, full bodied, smooth and lightly oily Baltic Porter pours a very dark brown with a tan head. It has aromas of nuttiness, cola, dark chocolate and espresso. Both dark and milk chocolate flavors are followed by a dry and warming chocolate and espresso finish with a campfire like note. Intensity-wise the cake and the porter are quite similar. Buttery and sweet hazelnut is complemented by the dark bitter dark chocolate and roasted coffee of the beer and a unique mocha-like flavor is created. Excellent.
Aromas of dark chocolate, French roast coffee, caramel with charred charcoal-like notes, bitter espresso, cacao powder and dark chocolate-like flavors, smooth and silky smooth body make this very dark brown with tints of ruby porter yet another good pairing. Carbonation is low to medium and bitterness is medium to high to which the roasted malts contribute. Finish is brisk with cappuccino and dark chocolate and has a very dry and roasty note. The cake accentuates the roasted acidic bitter espresso and brings forth Porter’s caramel and toffee like notes. The contrast between the buttery sweet hazelnut and the bitter coffee is quite enjoyable. Interestingly, when the cake is gone, the beer by itself becomes quite bitter, so, you need to time your eating and drinking to finish at the same time.
Dark Star has a very creamy cappuccino and milk chocolate bouquet with a light roasty notes. A rich coffee-like malts and oatmeal flavors of this very dark brown Imperial Stout are balanced by a high to assertive clean bitterness. Its body is medium to full and silky with oats. Coffee flavors in the finish are brief, however a warming and dry roasted note remains. Cappuccino and oatmeal make hazelnut to take the spotlight and linger on the palate. The bitter and drying coffee is contrasted by the cake’s sweetness. Its flavors pass gently into hazelnut, which makes the beer’s caramel-like notes shine trough. Similarly to Smog City’s Coffee Porter, when the cake is gone, the roasty note in the finish becomes assertive.
The most memorable pairings were Kuri Kuro, Peanut Butter Milk Stout, Beer Geek Cocoa Shake and Espresso Totalitarian. Different kinds of nut flavors in the beer worked well with Kiev’s hazelnut and intense dark roasted coffee flavors of big and high ABV beers wonderfully demonstrated the cutting power of the bitter coffee with sweet desserts. The least favorable pairings were I Found My Thrill and Salvator. Although there was a contrast between the dry and tart blueberry yogurt of the Danish ale and the sweet buttery hazelnut, intensity-wise it was a mismatch. A lightly flavored shortcake with fresh berries could have been more fitting. Doppelbock’s mildly sweet biscuit and caramel flavors were overpowered by Kiev’s richness. The lager contrasted the cake with hop bitterness and scrubbed the buttery palate with carbonation, but nothing more. If anything could be learned from this experiment is that beer and cake can create wonderful pairings and at least, the staple pairing of vanilla ice-cream and stout, separately or as a ice-cream float in the beer, should be tried by everyone.