Chocolate Guinness Cake – Recipe Dissection & Tips

I've been wanting to make Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake for ages now, but my 'To Bake' list is long and unending, and a girl can only bake so much until she explodes from too much cake. Luckily a colleague of mine reminded me that it's St Patrick's Day this Sunday- why not make a Guinness cake in time for that?


In general I love Nigella's dessert recipes. It was Nigella's recipe book 'How To Be A Domestic Goddess', which was handed to me on my birthday in my teenage years, that was the book that made me a cake enthusiast (although I still accredit my early general cooking skills to Delia). As usual, however, I made some alterations to the original recipe. I can never seem to stick to a recipe any more... I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

For starters, I used low fat margarine instead of butter. I'm in two minds about marg- on one hand, it's synthetic stuff, and even if butter is high in cholesterol and saturated fat, 'You know where you stand with butter' (quoting my dad directly, here). On the other hand... yeah. All that cholesterol and saturated fat. It's a coin toss, really, and this time my arteries chose synthetic and low-fat. I'll admit, butter is always better (especially for flavour), but the cake didn't suffer in the slightest and still tasted fantastic.

Secondly, instead of a cream cheese frosting, I made a Guinness glaze.

Don't get me wrong- I LOVE cream cheese frosting. I could eat it with a spoon. However, something Nigella pointed out in her own recipe made me rethink: '...although I've eaten versions of this made up like a chocolate sandwich cake, stuffed and slathered in a rich chocolate icing, I think that can take away from its dark majesty.'

Alrighty. So why replace a rich chocolate icing with a rich whipped cream cheese one?

Also having done a bit of research on this cake, quite a few people noted that you could barely taste the stout- only as a sort of malty ghost of a flavour that complemented the chocolate (a good thing- stout on its own is bitter, strong and an acquired taste). I also suspected (correctly), that the amount of bicarb required, which on its own has an almost soapy taste, would end up masquerading as the flavour of the stout: it's the bicarb you're tasting rather than the Guinness, but thinking it's the Guinness. Wouldn't a thick dollop of creamy, tangy frosting hide the true nature of the cake even more?

So even though I'm a cream cheese frosting fiend and everyone on the interweb agreed that the cake was delicious with it, I replaced it with a thick, glossy glaze made with icing sugar and a few tablespoonfuls of Guinness. I'm glad I did- it was smooth and unmistakably stout-flavoured without the bitterness. It was the perfect complement to the cake and gave a sweet little reminder of the star ingredient of the show.

Really, I didn't have to ice it- Nigella says this moist, soft cake is gorgeous on its own (and it certainly is). But then I am a sucker for aesthetics.

Please excuse the dying daffodils. And Fudge warming herself on the radiator in the background.

"I said no closeups..."
Take a look at the inside of the cake: so damp and dense, but not claggy. Somehow, this cake still has a light spring to it despite all the moisture that went into it.

Nigella says that this cake is like an aromatic gingerbread without the spices, and I can definitely see where she's coming from. I'm also a gingerbread fan, so I can see myself adapting this recipe even further and attempting a Guinness gingerbread cake in the future...

This is what the baked cake looks like still in its tin. Don't bother with the skewer-poke test: the centre will never truly be dry. The recipe calls for the cake to be baked for 45mins to an hour, and indeed it took me an hour. It really depends on your oven. I found the best way to check if it was done was by jiggling the pan a bit to see how firm it was in the middle, and even poking the surface with my finger to see how springy it was.

Sheba, wondering why I keep taking this thing out and poking at it.
Also, I bought a 500ml bottle of Guinness, whilst the recipe calls for 250ml. Obviously I used a little more for the glaze... but what to do with the rest of the foul, bitter stuff?

Guinness hot chocolate. Oh, yeah.



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