I had always had what I considered to be a very good relationship with Guinness, the famous dark brown Irish stout, until an unfortunate St. Patrick’s Day evening out with college mates many years ago. I was living in Bath, England, spending my junior year
abroad, taking a respite from the ivory tower of a New England women’s college. It was St. Patrick’s Day, and my friends and I met up with a few members of the university rugby team at a local pub. One of the rugby boys explained to me that it was necessary to
drink Guinness, and Guinness only, on this hallowed day. Not one to be a wet blanket, I joined in the fun and, five pints later, lived to regret it (I’ll spare you all the humiliating details, but I will say that I somehow ended up in someone’s garden picking a lovely bouquet
of flowers at 4 am)…I haven’t touched the stuff since, but I have found that Guinness, with its bitter, coffee-like flavor, makes a wonderful addition to chocolate cake. This simple, earthy cake (which I originally developed for The Cake Book) is exceptionally
moist and really only needs a dusting of confectioners’ sugar to finish it. But because the Guinness is bitter, the cake is not too sweet, so I suggest you serve it with some sweetened whipped cream or caramel or vanilla ice cream. I’ve included a recipe for my favorite accompaniment, Brown Sugar Whipped Cream. Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day, or any day of the year. I’ll drink to that.
Chocolate Guinness Cake
Adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle (Wiley, 2006)
Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 10
Storage: in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week
Special Equipment: one 9-inch diameter x 3-inch high round cake pan or springform pan
1 3/4 cups (7.4 oz/212 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (2.2 oz/61 g) natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
21 tablespoons (2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons/10.5 oz/298 g) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups (17.2 oz/488 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (one 12-oz bottle/360 ml) Guinness stout (do not include foam when measuring)
1 cup (4 oz/114 g) coarsely chopped pecans
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting cake
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch diameter x 3-inch high cake pan or springform pan. Dust the pan with flour and tap out the excess.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the brown sugar and beat at high speed until very light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula occasionally. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating it with the stout in two additions and mixing just until blended. Add the pecans and mix just until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and stir it by hand a few times with a rubber spatula to make sure the batter is evenly blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer.
4. Bake the cake for 65 to 70 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan, set on a wire rack, for 20 minutes.
5. Invert the cake onto the rack and cool completely.
6. Just before serving, dust the top of the cake lightly with confectioners’ sugar.
Brown Sugar Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment (or by hand with a whisk if you’re feeling peppy), whip the cream with the brown sugar and vanilla at high speed until soft peaks form. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 hours.