Guinness cake is good for you
20th October 2011 - Gayle Lazda
The Hummingbird Bakery's third book, Cake Days, serves up another helping of diabetes-inducing treats from across the pond, this time themed by special days from throughout the year; some obvious (pumpkin cheesecake for Halloween, eggnog cupcakes for Christmas); some slightly less so (no matter how hard I try I just can't find a connection between Easter and coconut cream pie. Coconuts are slightly egg-shaped...? I'm just not sure.)
But flicking through these recipes, the last thing on my mind is the question of seasonal appropriateness - if you like cake, and of course you do, the Hummingbird Bakery will not let you down. Some recipes might involve seeking out unusual ingredients ("vanilla Marshmallow Fluff", I don't know what it is but I'm VERY EXCITED to find out) or extra equipment (I love the idea of a four-layer cake as much as the next glutton, but as my granny - expert cake-baker and all-around good egg - pointed out, no one owns four sandwich tins), but I'm certain the end results are worth the effort. And now to test this theory, with chocolate Guinness cake.
I begin by gently melting AN ENTIRE BLOCK OF BUTTER into some Guinness. THIS IS THE STUFF DREAMS ARE MADE OF. Once I've added the sugar (400g!) and cocoa, I am quite happy to stop cooking now and enjoy the amazing hot chocolate I've just created. But I manage to keep going, and add eggs, vanilla essence and buttermilk. Once the dry ingredients are mixed in, it's poured into the tin, and into the oven. Easy.
Or not. Overexcited by the indescribably delicious smells floating around my flat, I open the oven too soon, and instead of "bouncing back when lightly pressed," the cake sinks. I proceed to be in a grump for the rest of the afternoon.
I figure I may as well keep going, and try to hide my failure under a thick layer of frosting. This is definitely one of the advantages of the Hummingbird way, but a word of warning: it is entirely impossible to mix 300g of icing sugar into 50g of butter with an electric whisk without it going EVERYWHERE. My face, clothes, kitchen are immediately covered in a thin layer of white and it's only when I add the cream cheese that it starts to come together and resemble frosting. I quickly realise my icing skills are not up to the smooth even layer illustrated in the book, and downheartedly slap it on, ready to give the whole thing up as a bad job.
Luckily, I am surrounded by willing tasters who don't share my baking pessimism: one declares it "angelic", and another resorts to language that is probably best not repeated here. Suffice to say, in spite of the odd mishap, it's delicious; the Guinness keeps it moist and gooey and adds a chocolately depth that cocoa-only chocolate cakes often lack. It's not as pretty as it should be, but I just don't think I care.
Click here to read Gayle's blog on trying the perfect teacake recipe from Oliver Peyton's British Baking.
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