Archive for the ‘Chocolate’ Category

It was my friend Anna’s birthday last week and as a nod to her Irish heritage, I thought I’d make Katie Quinn Davies’ (author of beautiful food photography blog What Katie Ate) Guinness Chocolate Cake which was featured on Design Sponge recently. I thought I’d do a test run first because chocolate cakes are always a bit hit and miss in my opinion; it’s easy to end up with one that’s not that chocolatey or worse still, dry. So being incredibly organised, I whipped the first one up one night  last week after work. Now this cake is super easy to make, I urge even the most beginner of cake makers to give it a go and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. There is no creaming of the butter and sugar for a start and the addition of Guinness keeps the cake spectacularly moist, dense and rich.

So in a whirlwind on Wednesday evening, I had the cake tin lined, the batter poured in and the cake in the oven in an effortless 20 minutes. And then I started to smell burning. Almost immediately. “But I’ve only just put the cake in the oven, so it can’t be burning” I thought to myself as I settled down in front of the TV with a glass of wine. 10 minutes later I could still smell burning, so I thought I’d better take a peek. Oh no! My cake was sinking into a funnel like shape as it seeped through the bottom of the cake tin, onto the bottom of the oven where it was indeed burning. My attention to detail had obviously been fading since it was close to 9pm as I realised with horror that I’d gone and put the bottom of the cake tin in upside down. “What an idiot!” I scolded myself (although it was pretty funny). I text mum (who is an excellent baker btw) thinking she’d find it hilarious, but she actually went very easy on me and replied “you poor thing, such an easy mistake to make” rather than the “oh dear where did I go wrong” response she was probably thinking. James’ response was slightly more typical of his sense of humour; “that sounds like elimination in the Masterchef pressure test…”

I wasn’t exactly sure what to do and whether I could salvage it, but in a mad dash I quickly lined a baking tray, shoved it under the cake tin, praying it would act as a seal and then nervously watched and waited to see what would happen. Strangely enough, the baking tray worked, the cake stopped looking like a funnel and resumed rising just like normal! It cooked slightly quicker and didn’t rise quite as high as it was supposed to, but other than that it came out totally fine. “Hurray! Indeed, this cake is fool-proof!” I thought as I iced it with the fluffy cream cheese icing (addition of whipped cream gives the icing a wonderful light and frothy texture). It tasted rich, decadent and dense with flavour, perfect for a celebratory birthday cake. In fact the texture and taste of this cake is so nice that it would be perfectly delicious without the icing, although then it wouldn’t look like a pint of Guinness which is part of it.

Practice Cake

So I was happy with the test run, James was happy with having dessert for the next week and I went out and bought a second lot of ingredients for round two a couple of days later.

Friday morning rolled around, Anna’s birthday dinner was that evening, so I got up before work and whipped up cake number two (taking care to put the cake tin together correctly this time). As we were heading off to work, the cake out of the oven and looking fabulous as it cooled on the wire rack, James suggested this time around cutting it in half so that it would have an additional layer of icing through the middle, which he believed would make it even better than it already was.
“Hmmm, I don’t know if that’s a good idea” I said skeptically. “You see, the whole point of the beautiful frothy icing on top of that high tower of rich, moist black cake is that it resembles a pint of Guinness” I explained to him.

“But I think it would taste great and that’s more important” he responded.

“Well normally when I do a cake with layers, I bake the layers separately and I’ve already baked this one PLUS I have already done my practice cake and I didn’t practice cutting it in half. I don’t think I should change anything now” I said firmly.

To which he replied “just cut it through the middle, it’ll be  fine, seriously, I’ll do it for you if you want”.

“Well, ok, maybe, I’ll see” I said feebly and we parted ways.

With two hours before dinner, I arrived home from work and as I stood contemplating the lovely cake, even though I had serious misgivings about any deviation from the plan, I decided to go ahead and cut through the middle just as James had suggested. I began cutting very carefully and slowly, following the markings I’d made to ensure I kept the knife on a even plane. It was going so well with the knife almost gliding through the middle of the cake. As I got to the end, very carefully, I began to lift the top layer gently off and then suddenly and without warning it split into numerous pieces. “Noooooooooo! My cake! What am I going to do now?!” I despaired. “It’s ruined!”  Seriously, I don’t know what I was thinking?! I’d already done a practice run! I knew I shouldn’t be trying anything new now, two hours before I had to be at the restaurant with the bloody thing! I can’t believe I had gone against my better judgment and listened to someone who’d never baked a thing in his life! They say love is blind, but I really wish I’d been made deaf in this instance. And do you know what James’ response was when I text him about my disaster?! “Don’t worry, fortunately icing is the make-up of the baking world!” Helpful chap he is.

So there I was with not much time to spare, patching up my once beautiful cake and willing it to stay together.  I was pretty mortified turning up with my very ‘homemade’ looking cake. But it actually tasted pretty good and the birthday girl was happy which of course was the main thing. What a saga the birthday chocolate cake ended up being.

However, I still maintain that this is THE cake to make if a. you like chocolate and b. you want a cake that is easy and reasonably quick to make. And of course I learnt some valuable lessons, so there were some positives among the many expletives to come out of Casa Kilburn last week!

Katie Quinn Davies’ Guinness Chocolate Cake

Ingredients for the cake:
250g  unsalted butter
– 250ml Guinness
– 75 g good quality cocoa sifted
– 275 g plain white flour, sifted
– 2 teaspoons baking soda
– 400g white castor sugar
– 2 medium eggs
– 150ml sour cream (creme fraiche if you can’t find sour cream)
– 1 tablespoon good quality vanilla extract

Ingredients for the icing:
300g cream cheese
– 150g icing sugar, sifted
– 150ml cream (double), whipped
1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F and grease and line your cake tin.
tip: lining the tin with baking paper is important as it keeps the sides and bottom of the cake moist

2. Add the butter, sifted cocoa and Guinness to a small saucepan. Warm over a medium heat and stir until the butter has melted and the cocoa dissolved. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to cool slightly.
2. Add the sifted flour, baking soda and sugar to a large bowl and mix together well. Pour in the warmed Guinness mixture and lightly combine.
3. Add the vanilla, eggs and sour cream and with an electric hand beater, beat everything together until well combined. The batter should be thick and dark chocolate in colour.
4. Pour the batter into the cake tin and cook in the oven for 1 hr to 1 hr 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Due to the moistness of this cake, you’re better off removing the cake from the oven when there are still a few crumbs on the knife rather than waiting for it to be completely clean and risking it drying out. Mine was ready after just over 1hr in the oven.
5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from the cake tin and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

Icing Instructions:
1. Place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl and with an electric beater, whisk on a low-speed until the cheese is smooth and there are no big lumps remaining.
2. Gradually, add in the sifted icing sugar and continue to beat gently until combined and lump free.
3. Turn off the beater and with a large spoon, fold in the whipped cream, mixing gently to fully combine.
4. To ice the cake, make sure it has completely cooled and then with a large palette knife or spatula, gently ice the cake making sure not to push the icing over the edge of the cake. Be generous with the icing, creating a thick, high layer of creamy froth, the idea being that the finished cake will remind you of a perfectly poured pint of Guinness.

1. the icing can be made a few hours in advance and kept in the fridge until required. Even just a chill in the fridge for 15 minutes or so will firm it up if it’s a bit runny and you’re struggling to get it to sit nicely on the cake without running over the edge.
2. always ice from the centre outwards, using a gentle, light pushing motion.

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