I am guilty of bookmarking recipes and never getting around to trying them. I will watch food videos on YouTube and read food articles and lists about the top slow cooker recipes you need in your life, eggs for every meal, healthy food swaps and on and on, but never do anything with them. One of the YouTube videos I regularly re-watched but never re-created was for a Guinness chocolate cake. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner and, since there’s no better way for me to celebrate than with a pint of black gold, I thought I’d finally try this recipe from Donal Skehan.
I very much enjoy the act of eating—much more than cooking, baking, grilling and especially cleaning the aftermath in my tiny kitchen. Unfortunately, sometimes I have to do the work to feed myself. This recipe was going to be my first adventure ever making a cake from scratch. Good thing I had something to sip on to calm my nerves. Donal’s recipe is measured by weight, so I knew I was diving into real baking science. Here are my tips after my first attempt:
- Every “true” baker I know uses a scale to measure everything. They warn me against trying to convert the ingredients because the results will not be the same. If you’re a perfectionist like me, using a scale will bring you all sorts of delight.
- This recipe advised lining the bottom of a springform pan with a parchment circle. I didn’t have parchment paper on hand so I skipped this step, and it was not a lot of fun peeling this cake from the base of this pan. I wish I had had a parchment circle.
- Caster sugar was also something I didn’t have in my pantry, and honestly I didn’t even know what it was. The internet informed me that this is superfine sugar, somewhere between granulated and powdered sugar. I put my 375 grams of sugar in my blender and pulsed it until it was a finer texture. Worked perfectly.
- I wasn’t sure what the texture of the Guinness/butter/cocoa mixture was going to turn out to be so I made sure to use my favorite nonstick saucepan by Scanpan. It wasn’t sticky but it was an odd, thicker liquid. I don’t think using a nonstick saucepan was required for this step but, knowing my cleaning laziness, any tool that makes my life easier is a personal requirement.
- I used vanilla bean paste in place of the vanilla extract. My life changed when I discovered this sweet ingredient during a cooking class at Sur La Table, and it’s the only thing I use when a recipe calls for vanilla. It makes me feel fancy, too.
- The cream cheese I used in this recipe was a whipped cream cheese/Greek yogurt blend I buy from my local grocery store. Greek yogurt is a good source of protein, so it means the frosting I made was healthy. (Thank you to that healthy food swaps article I found.) My taste testers said the frosting was delightful and they would not have been able to tell that there was Greek yogurt mixed in.
- Plastic zip-sealed bags are not piping bags. I put the frosting I made into a plastic zip bag and put it in the fridge to keep until I needed to frost my cake. I figured I could pipe the frosting into a pretty concentric circle easily. Nope! The frosting was so thick that the bag exploded from a seam as well as oozed from the top. It was not evenly coming out of the bag so the image I had imagined of smooth and perfect frosting was looking more like mashed potato art made by a kindergartener. After seeing my hands covered in frosting and my head hanging in disappointment, my lovely coworker who is a culinary pro graciously frosted my cake for me with her fancy off-set spatula skills.
The result of this experiment was extremely successful. The recipe was easy to follow, so I put my stamp of approval on it for all you novice bakers out there. The cake itself was dense yet spongy with a deliciously rich chocolate flavor and a light malty note. The cream cheese frosting was not too sweet and complemented the chocolate well. I’ve brought a variety of sweets in to work for sharing before and this cake disappeared faster than any of them. I will definitely be making it again and am checking this recipe off my to-try list.
But now I’ve got four more bottles of Guinness to go through. Any recommendations on what I can make with them or add to my endless to-try list? What is your favorite recipe to make for St. Paddy’s Day? Please comment and share below!