Remember Charlotte and her Celestial Chocolate Cake? Well, Charlotte’s 21st birthday was last week, which meant it was time to make her her own birthday cake! Charlotte knew she wanted to re-create a cake similar to the rich, moist Guinness Chocolate Cake she ate in London, where she recently studied abroad. She turned to British food writer Nigella Lawson for the recipe, who is one of Charlotte’s favorite chefs and happens to have a beautiful recipe for the cake. Charlotte was planning on making it herself, but she had enough going on planning her outdoor deck party (pics below!), and after all, isn’t there some sort of rule against making your own birthday cake?
I happily volunteered for the task. Charlotte sent me home with all the ingredients I needed — it was literally a cake in a bag (aka my dream come true), and the smell of vanilla wafted up to me as I walked home to my East Village apartment. This was late-night baking at it’s finest — and there was definitely a lot of improv, per usual, as I don’t have many kitchen staples this summer. But the cake turned out fabulous, and I somehow survived the pressure of making a cake that had to live up to the one Char had been dreaming about since London.
The only adjustment I made was that I turned this cake into a layer cake. While Nigella uses a 9 inch springform pan, I only had 2 8-inch round cake pans. The batter ended up filling each perfectly, and the frosting recipe makes enough to frost the bottom and top layers. Keep the sides un-frosted — the frosting is supposed to resemble the frothy top of a pint of Guinness.
Final note: The Guinness flavor is very subtle — if you don’t like Guinness, you will still like this cake!! The addition of the beer keeps the cake extremely moist and not overly sweet. I think it’s a really great, unique cake for any occasion.
For the cake:
- 1 cup Guinness beer
- 2 sticks + 1 2/3 tbsp. unsalted butter (use the extra 1/3 for greasing the pans!)
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ¾ cup sour cream
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ tsp. baking soda
For the frosting:
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
- ½ cup heavy or whipping cream
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans.
- Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan (or skillet, as I resorted to). Add the butter, in slices, and heat over medium-low until the butter is melted. Remove from heat, and whisk in the cocoa and sugar.
- In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla until the ingredients are well-combined. Pour the mixture into the saucepan. Whisk in the flour and baking soda. The batter should be light and airy.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine only took about 35 — if you’re not sure if the inside is cooked, stick a toothpick in the cake and see if it comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely (I baked the cakes the night before the party, wrapped them in plastic wrap overnight, then frosted it the day of).
- For the frosting: break the cream cheese into small chunks and add to a medium-sized bowl. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix, either by hand or with a mixer. Add the heavy cream and continue to mix until you have achieved a spreadable, smooth consistency. I did this all by hand, and it worked out great!
- When the cake has cooled entirely, place one layer on a plate or cake stand. Generously frost the top of the layer. Place the second layer on top of the first, and frost the top of the cake with the rest of the icing.
Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Guiness Cake.