Friday, December 30, 2011

A Slightly Irish Christmas

Well, not really. A bit of family heritage and some Guinness though. I love Guinness, at least I love it aesthetically. The taste doesn't do much for me. I'm not really a beer/lager/stout/ale kind of gal. I wish I was. I made valiant efforts in my teens to force myself to enjoy it but no luck. I find the idea of a cold beer on a hot day appealing but then I drink it and eugh. That said, I've grown to really enjoy red wine as I have aged so maybe I just need another stab at the whole beer thing...

Anyway, Guinness, gorgeous. Its thick, rich, dark body and its contrasting creamy head... Beautiful. (I know this sounds quite sexual but it's true, what can you do?). I don't want to drink the stuff but I do admire it and it is amazing to cook with. It takes your stews to a whole other level of deliciousness - so rich and dark. I have been meaning to try and make a Guinness and chocolate cake for ages and Christmas seemed an appropriate time. I don't like Christmas cake (aren't I being fussy today!?) and I wanted a rich, wintry cake alternative and this seemed just right. Guinness and chocolate is a notorious combination. The Guinness adds depth and darkness to the chocolate, moisture to the cake and counteracts any excessive sweetness. Awesome.

Attractively styled with sockets in the background - baked goods must be kept on top of the toaster to be sure that they are out of the puppy dog's reach in our house. That and I'm lazy and we were about to eat it.

I used a Nigella recipe that basically calls for bags of everything - 400g sugar and an entire block of butter! What you might expect from Nigella really. I'm not her biggest fan but this is a good recipe and my only amendments/comments relate to the icing and the cooking time. Nige says 45mins-1hr and my cake took a solid 1hr15mins. Temperature in our oven can be unpredictable but it is a massive cake and 45mins seems optimistic in any oven. She also puts 125ml of double cream in her icing. I'm all for double cream and approve of its addition to almost everything but here I question it. I added probably less than 40ml and that did lighten and smooth out the cream cheese icing and make it extra-spreadable but I felt that even that much cream had begun to make the icing quite greasy. I love cream cheese icing and I like mine to taste of cream cheese and I felt that the cream was beginning to make it taste a bit lardy. I'd suggest that you add the cream to taste rather than just whacking the whole 125ml in. Also, a note on the cream cheese: always use Philadelphia full fat in baking! I know it is more expensive and less 'healthy' but the own brand/lo-fat cream cheeses are always all watery and they split when you try and whisk them and they bake horribly and they are just bad. I speak from unpleasant experience.

Result: Excellent. The cake was amazing still a tiny bit warm from the oven. You have to let it cool before you ice it but it is a massive brick of cake so it insulates the middle really well. It was moist and dense and dark. This isn't an airy, fluffy wisp of cake but that isn't what you want in our freezing dining room where we often have to wear coats. This is a hearty, warming cake. The icing marries beautifully with the cake bulk. I thought the Guinness added a slight, strange banana-y taste but no one else agreed and, as my sister pointed out, it has been a loooooong time since I ate a banana so what would I know. [Bananas rank highly on my least favourite food list - behind smoked salmon and cauliflower but above a whole raft of other things]. You only need a small piece of cake and it is a very large cake so it is a relief to be able to say that it ages well. I think most cakes are rubbish by Day 2 but this one is still going strong on Day 5 (?). It has compacted slightly and become denser and almost pudding-y. Also, the imaginary banana smell seems to have gone which is good news for me.

What do you think? Intriguing, yes?

Chuck x


  1. So good to hear about all this yummy christmas baking. Tracey Boyd is part shape part sexy all around bad for the season. x

  2. That looks so yum! Nigella's measurements are often a bit dodgy though I've found!

  3. Ohhh this sounds soooo tempting. I love the idea although it's been ages since I had a guinness--I really stopped because of the calories, I find the taste {after more than one} divine. I think you should give it a try one more time. I would love your recipe on adding it to stew--I think the cake is too ambitious for me at the moment, but who knows, maybe next christmas...

    Hoping you had a lovely christmas holiday and wishing you all things bright and beautiful in 2012!
    xo Mary Jo

  4. This looks so awesome - my sister has made Irish car bomb cupcakes before and loved them

  5. That looks and sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen. LOVE it.

  6. Mmmmm I remember having this for the first time when a lady at Boots HQ used to make incredible cake. I have the recipe she copied for me somewhere but I haven't tried it yet! It looks amazing :)