Beatrice Ojakangas column: Cozy foods for chilly days

Old-Fashioned Beer Beef Stew and Beer Chocolate Cake hit the spot.

Bowl of stew, bowl of salad and bread loaves
Old-Fashioned Beer Beef Stew.
Contributed / Susanna Ojakangas

It had been an overcast, kinda chilly few weeks — sound familiar? — and we were finishing the building of our house in the country.

Beatrice Ojakangas
Beatrice Ojakangas

My younger sister, Dawn, had drawn the plans for the house and we had decided that stained-glass windows would be the perfect touch for the second-floor walls between the hallway and the bathrooms.

After some inquiry, we were led to a collector of artifacts saved from the demolition of old Duluth and area buildings. We felt that we had hit paydirt.

Chocolate cake in round Bundt shape cut into pieces and plated
Beer Chocolate Cake.
Contributed / Susanna Ojakangas

The yard in front of this cozy little house on Park Point was covered with a variety of objects — fireplace mantles, pieces of door frames and nondescript pieces of carved wood — all partially buried in snow. There were two identical, framed, stained-glass windows that caught my eye. They were pieces from a demolished church somewhere on the Iron Range. Ideal! So we knocked on the door to inquire about the interesting items.

Inside the house was an old guy who had spent his life collecting all those snow-covered artifacts, including the windows. He said he didn’t venture out during the winter and preferred to stay cozy next to his wood stove with a pot of stew simmering on top.


He also boasted of a beer chocolate cake that he loved to make. He willingly shared the recipes with me. After some tweaking and testing, I’m sharing these recipes with you.

Old-Fashioned Beer Beef Stew

A dark beer adds to the rich flavor of this stew. I used a black stout locally produced by Bent Paddle.

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 ½- to 2-inch chunks
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups (12-ounce bottle) dark beer (I used Bent Paddle stout)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¼ inch rounds
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
  • Chopped parsley or cilantro for garnish
bowl of stew
Old-Fashioned Beer Beef Stew.
Contributed / Susanna Ojakangas

In a large bowl, toss the flour, pepper, salt and meat together until the meat is evenly coated.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot. Add the beef a few pieces at a time and brown them on all sides. When the meat pieces are browned, sprinkle any remaining flour mixture over the top. Add the vinegar, beer and beef broth. Add the bay leaves, onion, carrots and potatoes.

Cover and cook for 1 ½ hours until all the vegetables are tender. Add more water or broth if the stew is dry. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle with parsley or cilantro before serving.

Makes about 6 servings.

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Beer Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake with chocolate drizzle in round Bundt shape on glass plate
Beer Chocolate Cake.
Contributed / Susanna Ojakangas

This is a moist, delicate, cake with a deep chocolate flavor. I used the same kind of beer as in the stew recipe. 


  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup buttermilk or ¾ cup milk with 1 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 cup dark beer

Chocolate Glaze:

  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and dust with flour a Bundt cake pan or a 9-by-13-inch pan.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs and beat until light and creamy. Mix in the melted chocolate.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture along with the buttermilk and beer, mixing until the batter is smooth.

Turn the batter into the prepared pan or pans, Bake for 60 minutes for the Bundt cake or 45 minutes for the 9-by-13-inch pan. Cool.

For the chocolate glaze, heat the cream to boiling and stir in the chocolate chips. Stir until smooth. Drizzle over the cake.

Beatrice Ojakangas is a Duluth food writer and author of 31 cookbooks. Find her online at

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