Guinness Chocolate Cake

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It was Krystopf’s birthday last weekend, and, as I do for the fam-dambly, I take on the cake-making duties as a present – the birthday person gets to pick whatever one they want and I do my best. Krystopf picked a Guinness Chocolate Cake, which is a very grown-up sort of cake (he did turn 38 after all, so I *suppose* he’s a grown-up).

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For the cake:

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In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 cup butter.

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Then grab some Guinness.

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Pour 1 cup Guinness (or other stout if you prefer). Keep the rest for yourself. It’s never too early for drinking Guinness, especially if you’re baking.

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Pour the Guinness into the butter and stir it up.

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Allow that to come to a foamy simmer before removing it from the heat.

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Whisk in 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.

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Let that cool for a little bit.

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In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350°F and butter and flour a 9″ cake pan. This one is springform because I find with fancy cakes it just makes everything easier.

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Now, in a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, and 1 cup sugar.

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In a smaller bowl, beat up 2 large eggs and tip in 2/3 cup sour cream.

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Pour your no-longer-hot chocolate Guinness butter mix into the egg and sour cream mix and stir it up.

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Isn’t that pretty?

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My whisk has a much heavier handle than the whisk part and I always have to remember to take it out of the bowl when I let go of it. This ONE TIME, I forgot. That is chocolate all over my floor.

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Time for a new whisk.

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Now pour your chocolate goo into your flour and whisk until fully combined and smooth.

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Pour that in your cake pan and shove it in the oven. The recipe Atlas gave me said it would take 35-40 minutes, but I found it took closer to 60 minutes to cook all the way through.

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For the filling:

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While that’s on the go, you can make your filling. Slam 8oz bittersweet chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl and top with 2/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream and 2 tablespoons butter.

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Plop that over a pot of simmering water and melt, melt, melt!

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Set the finished ganâche aside to cool until it’s the consistency of pudding.

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For the frosting:

Now you can work on the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer, dump 1/2 cup room temperature butter and whip that until it’s pale and creamy.

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Slowly beat in 3-4 cups icing sugar.

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If it gets too stiff, add in 3-4 tablespoons Bailey’s or other Irish cream liqueur.

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I also found a little dribble of whipping cream got it to that perfectly creamy, spreadable consistency.

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Cake assembly:

By this time hopefully your cake is gorgeously baked and entirely cool. If not, then you’ll just have to wait a bit longer.

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When it’s ready, slice the cake in half horizontally.

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Take a small spoon to the bottom half and scrape away a bit of the inside.

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Use your fingers to press down, creating a shallow bowl.

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By now your ganâche should look like this.

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Pour that gorgeousness into the little bowl in your cake. I didn’t use all the ganâche here because otherwise I was afraid it would run over the sides when I put the top on. And it did that anyway, so in future I would use all the ganâche and purposely make it run down the sides.

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Put the top on the cake. You can see that the ganâche is already peeking out.

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Spread your icing thickly on top. It’s already pushing the ganâche out the sides so I decided to forego icing the sides altogether and just do the top.

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Then it kind of looks like a poured Guinness with a nice frothy head.

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The final touch was shaving a bit of bittersweet chocolate on top. Serve to your brother or your friends and family. They’ll all enjoy it!

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(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

The Pie is kicking butt and taking names with the Memorial University Geographical Society (MUGS) this term, and he volunteered me to be the official caterer for the group.  Last week MUGS held two open houses.  For the first, I whipped up a batch of Miss Awesome’s espresso cookies (because all undergrads need a little caffeine) and a batch of margarine chocolate chip cookies (with Caramilk inside each one, à la the Rolo cookies).  For the second, I decided to create two dozen of these cupcakes.

While chocolate and vanilla actually go quite well together, most people consider them to be opposites of each other.   As this is a geographical society, why not have the chocolate and the vanilla represent both poles on our planet?  Sure, it’s a stretch, I know, but bear with me.  Both of these batter recipes contain buttermilk, which is one of my favourite baking ingredients, and they both come from Baking Bites.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two muffin tins with cupcake liners.

For the Chocolate Cupcakes:

In a large bowl, whisk together 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together 1 egg, 6 tablespoons water, 6 tablespoons buttermilk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

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Alas, I forgot the melted butter in the microwave until it was too late.  It looks so sad and neglected.

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Pour your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk like crazy until you get no more floury bits floating around.

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Fill 12 of the muffin cups with chocolate-y batter. It’s easy if you use a spoon.

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For the Vanilla Cupcakes:

In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup room temperature butter until fluffy.

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Beat in 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract until the mixture is smooth.

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Pour in half your flour mixture and stir until almost combined.  Add in 1 cup buttermilk and mix again, then the rest of the flour mixture, and beat until all the ingredients are combined.

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Fill the other 12 muffin cups with that batter.

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Bake the cupcakes for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the centre cupcake comes out clean.

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Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before using a fork to remove them to a cooling rack to cool completely.  I wish now that I had used large cupcake liners instead of medium ones.  Ah well, what’s done is done.

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For the Frosting:

Nothing says holy-crap-this-frosting-is-awesome like ganâche (well, at least, if you’re ME because I’m weird like that), and for me this is the easiest thing in the world to do.

Start by chopping up about 6 ounces each of dark and white chocolate.

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Plop the pieces in microwave-safe bowls and pop them in the microwave.  Nuke ’em on medium power, stirring a few times in between, for about 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is smooth and liquid.  The white chocolate will likely melt long before the dark does, so keep an eye on it so as not to burn it.

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Stirring the whole time, add 1 cup room temperature whipping cream into each chocolate. The warmer your cream, the less lumpy your ganâche will be, but the longer it will take to set. Keep that in mind.

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Now, because I want something a little firmer than my usual ganâche, I’m going to add some icing sugar.  Start with 1 cup icing sugar and add more until you come to the consistency you like.  Chuck the frostings in the fridge for a bit to set.

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For the Writing Icing:

I was originally going to write on these cupcakes using store-bought piping gel, just because the results are easy and predictable.  It then occurred to me, however, that I’d purchased these gels to make a cake for the baby shower for a co-worker’s first child.  This was like three jobs ago, in a different province, and I think the little girl is five years old now.  It might be time to get rid of those.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Instead, I decided to make a sort of royal icing and pipe it on myself.  So I started with two small bowls filled with 1 cup icing sugar each, a few tablespoons water, and some food colouring.

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Add a little bit of the water to the icing sugar and stir until you get a good consistency. Likewise, add some food colouring to the mix.

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I think this looks so weirdly neat.

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Add more icing sugar or food colouring until you reach your desired colour and texture and set those aside.

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Remember that this type of icing is kind of like a non-Newtonian fluid, so its physical properties might not be exactly what you expect.  AHA!  SCIENCE!  I like to sneak in a little learning on you now and then.  Sorry.

Assemblage:

Start by smearing your ganâche on your cupcakes, dark for the chocolate, and white for the vanilla.  Or the opposite.  Whatever floats your boat.

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Grate a little bit of dark chocolate on the surface of the vanilla cupcakes, and a little bit of white chocolate on the chocolate cupcakes.

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Looks pretty, right?  Now we’re going to de-classy it a little bit.

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Spoon your coloured icing into a piping bag and start writing.

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You probably don’t want to write MUGS on your cupcakes.  Unless you do. In which case, why?

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Store them in the fridge to keep them fresh, and enjoy them as you will.  I think they look a little like Franken-cupcakes, but the Pie likes the look of ’em, and he’s the boss.  I have no idea how they taste, either, because there weren’t any extras.  But I can only assume that they are passably tolerable, just like everything else I do!

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Ivy Vanilla Wedding Cake – Day Two

First thing to do this morning is take the white chocolate frosting and the fondant out of the fridge to come to room temperature.  Don’t forget!

Right.  So when we left off, we had just set the gum paste ivy leaves out to dry overnight. Fortunately for me, they didn’t completely dry, so I was able to cut tiny sticks of floral wire and stick them into each leaf as a stem.  Had I known how rigid and brittle dried gum paste got, I would have done this the day before, when the leaves were still flexible.  Also, the thicker the leaf, the better it worked.My plan was to wrap these new “stems” around my green licorice whip “vine” and then drape the whole thing over the cake.Of course the leaves were pretty heavy and the licorice was pretty delicate so of course the vine broke.In any case, I got all the stems in and flipped the leaves over to dry completely.My next idea was to simply drape the licorice vine over the cake, pin it in place with a few concealed floral wire “staples”, and then stick the leaves directly into the cake in strategic places.  Of course I wouldn’t get to see if my plan worked until the following day.  The tension starts to build.The worst part of decorating the cake today was that I had a medical procedure scheduled for late in the afternoon, and I wasn’t allowed to EAT ANYTHING until after it was over.  You try icing a cake and not licking your fingers.

Now, when you make a tiered cake you need to give it support so it doesn’t sag.  Not to mention the fact that a three-tiered cake is tremendously heavy, so everything has to be strong and secure.

The entire cake rests on a cake board, which you can buy at any cake or craft store.  My lovely father decided he’d make one for me out of plywood, as a cake board is essentially just a board wrapped in foil.  In addition, you need cake circles, essentially made of cardboard (though my dad used matting board here) that are exactly the size of each of your upper tiers.  They will go on the bottom of each upper tier so that you can move them around and so cutting one tier won’t result in cutting all three tiers.  It’s really amazing the amount of hidden structural material goes into a wedding cake.Now, you want to keep your cake as cold as possible, so I worked in shifts, putting each tier back into the fridge when I was finished each step.  A cold cake is stiffer and less likely to come apart on you.  Of course, the fridge I was using was downstairs in the basement and I had to negotiate several hallways in between.  As the cakes became more and more complete, my mantra became “Don’t drop it don’t drop it don’t drop it …”

First you need to level the tops of your tiers.  Use a long serrated knife to remove the round bit at the top.  To ensure a perfectly smooth top, I flipped my tiers over so the natural “pan line” was the one that showed.  I had to work super hard to get the 16″ tier to come out level.

Use some royal icing or other stiff-drying frosting (which I also purchased) and plaster some on the surface of each cake circle.  This will be your glue, and will prevent the tier from sliding off when you move the cake.I did the same with the cake board, and placed the tiers on their respective surfaces, cut-side down.Then I wrapped up the ones I wasn’t using and put them back in the fridge. Don’t drop it don’t drop it don’t drop it …I’m sure I’ve spoken to you before on the importance of a crumb coat.  It is what it sounds like: a coating of icing designed to freeze all your crumbs into place so they don’t show up on the surface of the finished cake.  So, smooth a thin layer of white chocolate frosting all over the cake and try to keep it as even as possible.  Then chuck the tiers back in the fridge for at least fifteen minutes so the frosting can firm up.

I found the smaller tiers easier to decorate if I placed them on an upside-down plate on top of an inverted bowl.  Of course, if you have a rotating cake stand then you’re ahead of the game.And a handy tool like a fondant smoother is useful when you are trying to make your sides uniform.  And on your second coat of icing, be generous.  This stuff can hide many mistakes.  Chuck the tiers in the fridge again after the second coat.  Don’t drop it don’t drop it don’t drop it …As I mentioned earlier, this cake is no lightweight.  In order to avoid a Leaning Tower of Pisa thing, we have to provide adequate structural support for each tier on top of the bottom one.  We are going to create hidden support columns for our tiers, putting them inside the cake itself.  This next part is a little weird, but you gotta trust me on this one.

Enter the Slurpee straw.Let’s ignore the fact that I had to purchase a Slurpee in order to make off with all these straws.  The key to Slurpee straws is that they’re incredibly wide, which makes your support column all the more strong.  Another plus is that they come in lurid colours, so you are unlikely to mistake them for the substance of the cake and consume them by accident.

So, you take your bottom tier.  Rest the edges of the pan of the next tier on top for a second, just to leave a wee mark in the frosting where you want the next tier to go. 

Insert the straw into the centre of your guideline, pointing straight down, press it all the way to the bottom, and remove it.  You will remove a tiny plug of cake while you do this, but don’t worry, you’re going to put it back. 

When you pull it out you can see the line that the frosting has left on the straw.  Cut the straw at this point, then cut four more sections of straw to match this length.

Return the centre column to its original position in the cake and insert the other four columns around the centre one to evenly distribute the weight.  Repeat this straw process for every tier except the top one and put the cakes carefully back in the fridge.Now we are going to start on our fondant embellishments.  Slice off some fondant with a sharp knife and knead it with your hands to make it more malleable.I used a small amount of the icing colour we used to make the ivy leaves to create this pale green.I rolled it flat and used a pizza cutter and a metal ruler to cut long strips of the stuff.These are going to form bands at the bottom of each tier.Working carefully, so as not to stretch the fondant strip, place them along the bottom of each tier.  Because my fondant was a little on the dry side, I found it easier in the end to cut the fondant strips into sections and handle them with a fondant smoother.  You can see that I’m wearing gloves in this shot to avoid putting fingerprints on the fondant.

I used the smoother to provide support as I pressed the strip portions onto the cake.

Then, with a soft paintbrush, I gently brushed on some green lustre dust for texture.Not bad, not bad.  You won’t notice all the imperfections from a distance, once the ivy is in place.Next I rolled out some white fondant and got out the French curvesI traced the edges with a sharp pointed knife and pulled away the excess fondant.

Then ever so carefully transferred the shapes to the cake.  I used the biggest curves on the bottom tier.On the top two tiers I used used the smaller curve.Now put those all in the fridge and leave them there.  More on Monday, when we put this baby together!

Devil (‘s Food Cake) Made Me Do It

I have designated certain days in my life as chocolate cake days.  You know, those days where things tend to go wrong, and you end up with FLOOR PIZZAThat kind of day.  Normally I turn to the convenient comfort of cake-in-a-box (similar to garlic-in-a-jar but probably not quite as good for you), but recently I’ve been more interested in the process of making one from scratch, and doing it was way easier than I expected.  You, my lovely readers, get the benefit of my experience here.

Seeing as I had recently made an angel’s food cake, it was only fitting that I make a devil’s food cake as well.  You may not know this but traditionally the angel’s food and devil’s food were made concurrently, as the angel’s food used all the whites of the eggs and the devil’s food used all of the yolks.  Modern devil’s food cakes are much lighter affairs these days and generally use whole eggs (and less of them), but I think they would be a nice accompaniment to each other even without the egg symbiosis.  I still have the yolks from the other cake, but I’m going to make them into a masterful pudding sometime soon.

I got this recipe from David Lebovitz, and this is his American-in-Paris masterpiece.  I picked it because of his pictures of the icing on the cake.  I’m such a sucker for chocolate frosting, especially a ganache.  I also thought this recipe had an interesting improvement of putting coffee into the mix.  Coffee and chocolate are always a good combination.  His recipe calls for unsalted butter and salt, but I just use salted butter and I rarely add salt to anything.

Okie dokey (never really sure how to spell that).

Put your oven rack in the centre of the oven and preheat it to 350°F.

Butter up two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and place pretty circles of parchment paper (not to be mistaken with waxed paper, that would be a bad idea) in the bottom of each.  I used a compass because I have a good attention to detail (the Pie called me a nerd for doing so but HE’s the one who wrote a remote sensing exam today).  Put those pans somewhere and work on the other stuff.

Sift together 9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/2 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose because that’s what I had), 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder in a bowl and set that sucker aside for a spell.

In yer mixer, beat together 1/2 cup butter (or a stick, or 4 ounces) and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar until creamy and fluffy and stuff.

Add 2 eggs, one at a time.  Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl on occasion.

Mix 1/2 cup strong coffee and 1/2 cup milk together in a measuring cup (or some other form of vessel).

Add half your dry mixture to the creamy butter goodness in the mixer and stir.  Don’t forget to keep scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Add in the milky coffee and stir that up.

Finally, add the second half of the dry mixture to your bowl and mix that up as well.

Divide your batter between the two buttered and papered pans, smooth it flat, and bake for 25 minutes.

You can tell it’s done when you stick a toothpick in the centre and it comes out clean.  I found that mine took an extra five minutes.  Make sure the cake is completely cool before you think about icing it.  When removing from the pan, run a spatula around the edge to loosen the sucker. Due to time constraints, I actually made up the cake part the day before, then wrapped it tightly in plastic over night, and made the frosting the next day.

While it’s cooling (or sitting politely in plastic wrap) you can make your lovely ganache frosting.

In a double boiler or a bowl set over (but not touching) a pot of barely simmering water, melt 10 oz good quality chocolate (your preference for the type) in 1/2 cup cream.  Just so you know, an ounce of chocolate is one of those squares in the boxes of baking chocolate.

Be very careful removing the top of your double boiler, as escaping steam can burn.

Remove from heat and cut in 3/4 cup butter.  Whisk until butter is thoroughly melted and mixed in and the mixture is smooth and velvety.  Let your ganache cool until it’s spreadable, which could take up to an hour (your cake will take probably this long to cool anyway).  Be sure to give the cooled ganache a good whisk to fluff it up a little.

Pop your cooled cakes out of the pans and remove the paper. 

Put one half of the cake on the plate of your choice.

I made another modification here.  I took the leftover frozen glaze from the previous angel’s food cake and decided to put it on this one as well.  It seemed fitting.  All I did was defrost the glaze and whisk it up a little.  It was slightly lumpy after its time in the freezer but it tasted the same.

Smooth a generous amount of your cooled ganache over the top of the first cake. 

Plop the second cake on top of that frosted layer and go nuts covering the whole thing with luscious ganache (or, in my case, glaze it first, then go nuts). 

The cake was very moist and I didn’t do a crumb coat, so you’ll notice a few crumbs here and there in the frosting. 

I also decided to jazz it up a little by drizzling melted 2 oz white chocolate over it.

As with most cakes, you should eat it the day it’s made but it’s pretty good the next day as well.  And the day after that, and the day after that.  Just keep it wrapped up.  Om nom indeed.