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Sincere Acts of Sweetness

March 4, 2009

Guinness Chocolate Cake with Whipped Chocolate Ganache

My good friend is not a big fan of anything food that is predominately flavored with citrus fruits, particularly lemon. To compound things, my son who likes lemons is not a fan of almonds, so I knew they would be underwhelmed at the idea of eating the Torta di Mandorla that I made on the night of our little Oscar party. So as not to exclude them from the dessert festivities, I set out to find a dessert that they would both like.


After a few minutes of perusing Epicurious, I found this a recipe that not only looked super simple to make, had over 300 reviews, and scored a 94% on the “would you make it again” scale. Plus it’s made with of all things, beer. Beer and chocolate?

Boy did this cake live up to its reputation! Now, honestly I can’t give you my opinion on taste because I didn’t have any – I know it’s hard to believe, but I really don’t like the taste of chocolate, especially a cake like this where it’s chocolate on chocolate. However, between my son and my friend’s boyfriend that was over, and the twenty or so other folks this cake fed at work the next day, there is no doubt that this cake is a sure fire hit. Everyone loved it!

The original recipe says that it makes 12 servings but my cake fed close to 25 servings (this is why I call this a "mega" cake!) The recipe says to make it in three eight-inch cake pans but I decided to make a two layer cake using my ten-inch cake pans instead. Even after filling the pans a little more than half-way with batter, I still had enough left to fill two four-inch round pans! That's a lot of batter!

The finished cakes were extremely dense and would be great for carving or stacking. Once they cooled, I covered them loosely with plastic wrap and let them sit overnight to let its flavor mature, which according to several reviewers is a critical step in this cake’s success. Several reviewers said that this cake tastes best after 48 hours.

My only beef with this recipe was with the frosting, however I think that might have been my fault. I used several different brands of chocolate to get the full pound the recipe called for. Half of it was in chip form and the other was block, which I chopped. I’m not sure if the combination of chocolates made the frosting so viscous or if it was the brand of whipping cream I used (all I could get was Lucerne brand from Safeway which is definitely not my favorite.) The problem I had was that my ganache never got to the point where it was spreadable; it was just too drippy! To fix it, I added powdered sugar to it and it eventually firmed up just fine.

As a fun and inexpensive way to decorate the cake, I melted down some chocolate using a double-boiler, spread it thin on a sheet of parchment paper, covered it with another sheet of paper, rolled-up the paper in a tight tube, and stored it in the refrigerator until the chocolate had hardened (about 2 hours.) When I unrolled it, it created lots of bark-like bands of chocolate that I carefully peeled from the paper and affixed to the top and sides of the cake. You'll want to use tongs or just work really fast because the heat from your hands will melt the chocolate.

Just in case you’re curious, even though this cake was made with a very full-bodied beer, my son had no idea there was any alcohol in this cake. His only complaint was that it was “too filling” – go figure!

Guinness Chocolate Stout Cake
Yield: 12-18 very generous slices, closer to 20+ normal sized slices
adapted from Epicurious.com

Cake
2 cups stout* such as Guinness (pour the beer slowly and don't include the foam in your measurement)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups full-fat sour cream, at room temperature

Whipped Chocolate Ganache 
2 cups whipping cream
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
(if your ganache doesn't set, you may need several (1-6 cups) of powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides or 2 10 or 12-inch cake pans. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add about 1/2 cup of the stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and mix very slowly to temper it (this will help you to avoid scrambling the eggs) and beat just to combine. Repeat the process another three times (for a total of 2 cups) and then add the remainder of the stout-chocolate mixture.

Add the flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed - scrape the bowl a few times to look for hidden flour pockets but be careful not to over mix! Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely. Cover and store for a minimum of 24 hours before frosting.

Ganache
Bring cream to a very low simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours. (Julia's note: I left my frosting in the refrigerator for close to 5 hours and it was very soupy. I even tried putting it in the freezer for a half an hour and that didn't work either. To help with thicken it, I slowly added sifted powdered sugar until it thickened up. It took me approximately 4 to 6 cups to get it to the point where I could spread it.)

Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake. If you're only making two layers, use 1 cup between the layers and spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.

Decorate any way you'd like or just leave it plain. Keep covered and store in the fridge or the counter.


19 comments:

  1. This looks lovely! What a massive cake!

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  2. 4 sticks of butter?? WOW hahaha. Sure does look amazing and I'm sure it tasted great! Love the pictures :)

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  3. I made Guinness chocolate cupcakes for Valentine's Day so I definitely understand how amazing beer makes cake taste. Yours looks awesome!

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  4. I'm with your husband and son: the more chocolate the better. Chocolate on chocolate, decorated with more chocolate? Count me in! This cake sounds and looks absolutely fabulous. I can't wait to make one!! Plus, your decorations look great!

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  5. Julia your cake is gorgeous!!! Loved the chocolate shards. Everything you make you add that little something that makes it extra special. Me? I'm just happy to be done.
    ~ingrid

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  6. Jeremy (from work)March 05, 2009

    I can vouch for this cake - it was AWESOME! Thanks for sharing, Julia. Your chocolate-and-beer combo inspired me to brew a batch of Mocha Porter after a three-year layoff.

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  7. Jason (from work)March 05, 2009

    The best chocolate cake I've ever had...hands down! If this cake had its own blog, I'd subscribe.

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  8. This looks delicious, I'll keep it in mind!

    I really like chocolate ganache as a cake filling and covering. I have a lot of success with the cake bible recipe where the ganache is cooled and then whipped. It seems to get quite stiff that way.

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  9. Wow, this looks delicious!

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  10. Now that is an amazing looking cake! I find that chocolate and stout go really well together.

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  11. I'm going to have to make a stout cake just to see what it's like. I made a cake with tomato soup that was a spice cake and no one would have ever know they're was soup in it!

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  12. Loving the chocolate on parchment idea for shavings.

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  13. whoa. that sounds just amazing! i literally started salivating at the pictures. i am craving chocolate in a major way right now, so i could totally eat this whole thing!!

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  14. This cake is enormous! My sister LOVES chocolate cake, so I'll be sending her this link right away. Thanks for sharing, and thanks again for the candy apple, it was unbelievable!

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  15. Just found your blog and love it - added it to my google reader. I am going to try this cake for sure - thanks for such an informative post.

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  16. I love chocolate more than I can say, and this cake delivered on the chocolate flavor in spades. If I had to choose a favorite between this cake and the Heaven and Hell Brownies, I'm not sure I could do it. It was one of the best-tasting cakes I have ever eaten. It had great texture. And it never hurts when it's lovely, either.

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  17. You can whip the ganache in your mixer once it's cooled a bit to make it more spreadable.

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