With great sadness we must celebrate our friend G as she leaves for graduate school in Australia. She has been one of our intrepid dinner party crew, and to celebrate her time with us, we have planned a surprise dessert and wine party. I made her two of my favorite kind of dessert, but I must ask: how on Earth is a person supposed to bake two perfectly scrumptious smelling Guinness chocolate cakes plus whip up multiple icing-like cake toppings and not eat even a teensy tiny slice??? I don’t have a very good answer, other than accidentally leaving a generous tablespoon of frosting in the bowl after transfer to the pastry bag.
I discovered Nigella Lawson’s Guinness chocolate cake recipe when one of very best friends in college, Anna, created a chocolate cake so delicious that I found it impossible not to snatch the print out of the recipe off the cabinet door when we moved out of our apartment at the end of the school year. She’s not an idiot by any stretch of the imagination, so she probably noticed. What she may not know is that since we graduated, I have had numerous people swoon over this relatively simple cake. This cake has such a decadent texture that it can be served simply with a dusting of powdered sugar. My preference is to add whipped cream on the side as well. However, sometimes simple is not the point. Celebrating G is not simple, and the icings for the two Guinness chocolate cakes that I made in her honor incorporate another stick of butter, a pint of heavy whipping cream, at least a couple more tablespoons of Grand Marnier, and one of my second favorite things: strawberries.
Nigella Lawson’s Guinness Chocolate Cake
(makes 1 9-inch cake)
1 cup Guinness Stout
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (the original recipe calls for vanilla extract)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch spring form pan with buttered parchment paper. Whisk sour cream, eggs, salt, and vanilla in a bowl and set aside. Slowly heat butter in a pot until melted (keep stirring so that it doesn’t boil). Add Guinness to butter and heat until slightly warmed (this helps the sugar and cocoa to dissolve faster). Add cocoa and sugar to butter-Guinness pot and whisk until combined. Add sour cream mixture to pot and whisk until well-combined. Add flour and baking soda to pot (I usually pour the flour into the pot first and then try to mix the baking soda in with the flour before combining them with the wet ingredients below) and whisk until no clumps remain. You can also use electric beaters to get the job done faster, and I have never had a problem over-mixing the batter. Pour the batter into the parchment paper-lined spring form pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan or on a wire rack. The cake will sink in the middle as it cools, and may split slightly as well. I only recently tried to refrigerate this cake overnight before serving, and I couldn’t tell the difference. The cake is better at room temperature though, so don’t forget to think ahead and take the cake out of the fridge.
Here are some of my favorite frostings for this cake. The cake is not too sweet, but decadently dense, without the heaviness of being too buttery, so it is delicious with pretty much every topping I’ve ever tried. Please let me know if you try a different topping and leave the recipe in a comment below.
From Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips are very good here)
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1-2 teaspoons vanilla, liquor, or whiskey
Place finely chopped chocolate (or just use chocolate chips) in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the heavy cream to a simmer and then pour over the chocolate. Let the chocolate and cream sit for a minute so that the chocolate can melt. Mix the chocolate and cream until you get a silky chocolate cream and then add in the butter and vanilla. Mix every once and a while as the ganache cools. It should be fairly thick once it reaches room temperature, and will be the texture of thick and delicious fudge if stored in the refrigerator.
Grand Marnier Whipped Cream
1 pint heavy cream
2-4 tablespoons of granulated sugar, or to taste
1+ tablespoons of Grand Marnier
Add sugar and Grand Marnier to heavy cream and beat until soft or stiff peaks. This can be placed in a plastic bag with a hole cut in one corner to pipe onto the cake, or served on the side to be spooned on each slice.
Grand Marnier Frosting (from Cooking Light: Cooking Through the Seasons)
1/3 cup cream cheese (3 ounces)
1/3 cup butter
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
3 cups powdered sugar
Cream together butter, cream cheese, and Grand Marnier. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar. I actually substituted some very thick sour cream for the cream cheese and used 1/2 cup butter, but I think the results would have been better with cream cheese (the flavor was still amazing!).
Michel Guerard’s French Chocolate Sauce. Once refrigerated, this sauce has the texture of a thick glaze and is perfect for the top of this cake. Or the top of anything.