Well, apparently the last full week of March was a big food week for me. March 28 was the Day of Guinness Cupcakes. I felt the end of March needed to be commemorated, and I thought a St. Patrick’s Day-inspired treat would be appropriate. Plus, I’d been wanting to making Nigella Lawson’s Guinness Cake for awhile. Chocolate. Beer. How bad can that be? The answer: not bad at all.
I followed Nigella’s recipe for Guinness Cake found in her book “Feast.” Instead of the spring form pan she calls for, I used a cupcake pan with liners. I’ll admit I was a little weary about the final products since this is a pretty wet batter and is supposed to yield a rather moist cake. There were no real problems with the cupcakes, although the ones from the darker pan did come out with little dimples in their centers. Not entirely sure why that was, although the cupcakes from that pan usually have a little more color than my other pan. I attribute that, again, to the darker color and finish on the pan. A couple of the cupcakes in the other tin suffered the same fate, although it wasn’t as pronounced.
They almost look like thumbprints, huh? Well, they’re not. Unless, of course, there are little stove gnomes hard at work messing with my mind.
While the little guys were cooling I whipped up some frosting. I followed Nigella’s suggestion for a cream cheese frosting, but I thought why not add a little more Guinness? I had another thought to add some Bailey’s instead of the Guinness, but since a Guinness was already open… I found myself having to add more than I thought of the stout to get a discernible flavor in the frosting, but my advice is start off with a teaspoon or two and adjust to desired taste and consistency. I think my frosting came out a little runnier than I had anticipated because of the additional Guinness, but I don’t think it was any worse for it. Actually, I was rather pleased with the frosting – beautifully cream in color and oh-so-glossy.
I couldn’t be bothered with properly applying frosting to all the cupcakes – or even one for that matter – before tasting, so a cupcake was lifted out of the tin and eagerly bitten into by yours truly. Very moist, pretty light, and provided an almost gooey-like (but totally cooked) satisfaction. The beer definitely came through and, to me, it lent slightly floral undertones to the cupcake. It had an almost flowery and yeasty scent from the Guinness. I always like to taste the cake in its pure state, the frosting in its pure state, and then the combination. So, finally, a sizeable dollop of frosting was plopped onto the cupcake with a bite out of it. Wonderfully squishy indulgence all around. Don’t forget, the frosting has cream in addition to the cream cheese. Creamy, dairy goodness.
I know that’s not the best photo technically, but I find something about it so appealing. I think I liked the way the frosting is slowly drooping down the bite mark just glistening there, inviting another bite…
I’ll confess I’m not gaga for cream cheese frosting – I don’t think I ever will be – but this was a good application. Grapefruit cupcakes with grapefruit cream cheese frosting also hit a happy spot. Maybe I’m a sucker for flavored cream cheese frostings. Being gaga for chocolate like I am, I think these would be good with a dark chocolate frosting too. Maybe chocolate cream cheese? Or chocolate Guinness? Experiments will have to be conducted.
And to give you an idea of the finished product…
I really think the posh paper towels I lined them up on make all the difference, don’t you? ;)
Recipe From “Feast” by Nigella Lawson
1 cup Guinness
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar (I used regular sugar.)
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
8 oz. cream cheese
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream (I added a little Guinness to this.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and/or line a 9-inch springform pan or 2 cupcake tins. (I got 19 cupcakes total.)
Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter – in spoons or slices – and heat until the butter’s melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the pan and finally whisk in the flour and baking soda.
Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. (I started checking at about 40 minutes.) Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.
When the cake’s cold, sit on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the frosting. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sift over the confectioners’ sugar and then beat them both together.
Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. (I added the Guinness at this point.) Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.