Guinness Chocolate Cake

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I think the thing I like least about working in an office, or at least one of the things that is really hard to get used to after spending the entirety of my pre-office life in school, is: no breaks! I mean seriously…I honestly believe our productivity and morale would skyrocket if we had a company-wide 2-week winter break, week-long spring break just when it starts to get warm, and at least a 2-week summer break. I mean really, it’s in the company’s best interest.

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But no. Instead, we have to work work work until we save up enough vacation days to take a 5-day weekend, calculate whether we’ll have enough vacation days left to go to our friend’s wedding over the summer….the struggle is neverending. Anyway, about a month ago I decided I was in need of a spring break. And today I got up at 2 in the morning to drive to the airport and by the time I normally would have arrived at work, I was already 1200 miles away from my little corner of the office and the few hundred emails that await me every morning.

Yesterday, because I knew I wanted to make something delicious to bring to work for St. Patrick’s Day but I wasn’t going to be back to work by then, I brought in this Guinness chocolate cake. I made this cake last year too so I already knew it was a total winner. And let me tell you, this cake is a dream. Perfect way to eat your Guinness and drink it too this weekend.

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This Guinness chocolate cake is rich but not too sweet, super moist and chocolatey, and the Guinness adds just the right amount of a little savory, yeasty touch. The cream cheese frosting is the perfect complement, adding some sweetness without overpowering the magic of this cake.

I was planning on putting green sprinkles on top, but I forgot to buy them, of course. I do think it would be a great touch though.

Also…two cakes in a row. Oops 🙂

Guinness Chocolate Cake

From Feast by Nigella Lawson, via Shutterbean.com

Makes a single layer 9-inch cake

1 cup Guinness stout (this means you’ll have leftovers to drink while it bakes!)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, sliced

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups superfine sugar (I used granulated, it works just fine)

3/4 cup sour cream

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment. I don’t have a springform pan and was also out of parchment, so I just used a normal 9-inch pan, buttered it very liberally, and the cake came out of the pan just fine.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the Guinness and butter until the butter is melted. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar and then remove from the heat. In a small bowl, beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla (you can do it with a whisk). Pour the Guinness mixture into a large bowl, and add in the sour cream mixture. Whisk together until combined. Add the flour and baking soda and whisk until completely combined. Scrape the bowl with a spatula to make sure you get all the flour.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the center of the cake comes out clean. Mine was actually done at about 41 minutes, so definitely keep an eye on it. Remove from oven and let cool. If you’re not using a springform pan, run a butter knife around the edge of the cake and turn it out onto a plate when the pan is cool enough to touch, Then invert again onto whatever you’re going to serve it from so it’s right-side up.

Cream Cheese Frosting

by Garrett McCord on Simply Recipes

I was afraid this was going to be too much frosting for a single-layer cake, but I think it was a perfect amount.

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2-3 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

With electric beaters or in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese together until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and beat for another 15 seconds or so. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Add the powdered sugar little by little, until the frosting reaches the desired sweetness and thickness.

Once the cake is cool, spread the frosting on top with a spatula, starting from the center and working outwards to make it look like a nice frothy pint of Guinness. Top with green sprinkles if you want to be even more festive. Or you could add green food coloring to the frosting!

Have a great weekend!


Magic Custard Cake

ImageIf you’re anything like me, the name of this cake – magic custard cake – will bring out the skeptic in you. Can this cake really be magical? Like real-life, it-will-disappear-in-less-than-a-day magical? There’s nothing incredibly special about everyday non-cake custard. Can this cake really be that much better?

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And the answer is…yes. This cake is indeed magical. Somehow, the time in the oven makes a thin cakey layer on top while the bottom of the cake remains creamy and custardy and wonderful.

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This custard cake is all the magic you’ll need to make it through your Monday and the rest of the week. It doesn’t take too long to make and you can keep it all week, eat it for breakfast. Even at the risk that the cake is so good, your day might only go downhill from there.

Magic Custard Cake

From White on Rice Couple

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 cups milk

4 eggs, separated

4 drops white vinegar

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon water

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

more powdered sugar for the top

Preheat oven to 325 F and lightly butter an 8×8-inch baking dish.

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Heat the milk to lukewarm and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites and vinegar until stiff peaks form and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and falls in a ribbon from the beater. Add in the melted butter and water and beat until fully incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Mix the flour into the egg yolk mixture until fully incorporated. Slowly mix in the milk 1/2 cup at a time by had with a spatula. Mix in the vanilla.

Fold in 1/3 of the eggs whites until mostly incorporated, and repeat with the remaining 2/3, 1/3 at a time. Mix gently, without deflating the egg yolks, until fully incorporated and there are no more big lumps.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden. I took mine out at 45 minutes and I think it was a tiny bit overdone, but I’m pretty sure the heating mechanism in there is pretty much uncontrolled. Give the cake a gentle shake, it will still jiggle slightly when it’s done. Allow the cake to cool completely before cutting. You can put it in the fridge to expedite the cooling. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. The cake will last for a few days in the fridge, but let it come to room temperature before serving.


Chocolate Peppermint Yule Log

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Here’s what happened while I was making this cake. The eggs were all separated and ready to go at room temperature. The parchment paper was buttered and floured. All the ingredients were measured and set in their own containers at my fingertips. The bowls were ready. The beaters – which belong to my roommate – were plugged in and reporting for duty. The sugar was in the egg yolks, I was ready to go. And then, I turned on the beaters.

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Level 1 speed: they give a little kick, start spinning reeeeaaaallll slow. No cause for concern, right? I’m only at level 1. Turn it up to level 2. They give a decent effort to speed up but it’s not going to happen. Hmmmm. Turn the speed up to level 3. The beaters don’t even try this time. They sputter a little, and weakly plug along at a glacial pace. Up another notch to 4, and they actually slow down. And start emitting the same weird and highly unpleasant smoky smell that the really high pitched spinning drill/cleaner thingy at the dentist has. Just one more notch to go. Level 5, and the beaters are totally out of gas. Except they don’t run on gas, so I can’t just fill them up. But it’s pretty clear they’re done for. So at about 8 pm, I bundle up and head out in the 20-degree night and iced-over roads in search of beaters. And find them tucked in a corner among a beautiful forest of brightly hued Kitchen Aids and high-tech juicers and almost-industrial food processors (I can dream, can’t I?).

ImageI bring my new beaters home, take the already-separated eggs out of the fridge to come to room temperature again, and finally get down to business. And let me tell you, this cake was worth the extra trip and $30 for beaters. And the waiting while the eggs warmed up. And everything else. It’s light and fluffy (even though it totally doesn’t look like it) and pretty and impressive and delicious.

What makes this cake light and fluffy? EGGS. Beaten yolks. Beaten whites. And no flour. It’s gluten-free! The peppermint goes right into the whipped cream, so it’s a big flavor in this cake. Not hiding behind the chocolate at all.

If you’re not a peppermint fan, this cake would be wonderful with a myriad of other flavorings. I think I’m going to make it with Grand Marnier for my family at Christmas, and candied orange peel on top. It would of course be great with Kahlua and cinnamon and chocolate covered espresso beans for garnish. I think Kirschwasser could be tasty, too. Raspberry liquor. Hazelnut liquor. Some kind of coconut situation? Endless possibilities with this one.

Ingredients:

ImageFirst we beat the yolks with sugar until they’re the palest of yellows.

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Meanwhile we’re melting chocolate, and then mixing it in the egg yolks.

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Then we’ll be the egg whites. At first they turn frothy.

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And then they turn into a dreamy white cloud that I want to curl up in forever. See those peaks? That’s how you know they’re ready.

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Then the egg whites get gently folded into the yolk-chocolate mixture.

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Cake goes in the oven, comes out and gets slathered in whipped cream.

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And now, we roll.

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Those cracks? Totally cool. No one can tell once it’s all rolled up.

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And then we cover it in ganache, because why wouldn’t we. And put some candy cane on top, because we’re fancy like that.

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This cake is a perfect holiday dessert. Gorgeous and satisfying, but light enough that you won’t have to loosen your belt after a big dinner.

Chocolate Peppermint Yule Log

From Joy of Baking via Joy the Baker

Makes 1 roll cake, enough to serve about 8

For the Cake:

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chopped fine (I measured 4 oz chocolate chips from the bulk section)

6 large eggs, separated

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

For the Whipped Cream Filling:

1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, cold

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or scrapings from 1 vanilla bean

1-2 teaspoons peppermint extract or your preferred flavoring (start with 1 and add more to taste)

For the Ganache:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces (I used chocolate chips again)

2/3 cup heavy cream

Make the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place a rack in the upper third of the oven. Grease a 17×12-inch baking sheet with butter or vegetable spray. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper (don’t use foil). It should overhang the sides of the pan about an inch. Grease and flour the parchment.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites while the eggs are cold. After separating, allow them 20 minutes to warm to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a medium bowl with hand beaters, beat together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar at medium-high speed until the yolks are thick and pale in color. This will take about 5-7 minutes. (It took me a bit longer with my hand beaters.) You’ll know it’s been beaten enough when the mixture pours from the beater in a thick ribbon.

While the eggs are beating, melt the chocolate pieces. (Since I have to hold my beaters, I melted the chocolate in the microwave in a small glass measuring cup, and then sat it on the back of the stove where the preheated oven would keep it warm and melty.) You can melt the chocolate in the microwave with low heat for a few seconds at a time, stirring every once in while. You can also use a double boiler, or makeshift one. Place a few inches of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Place chocolate in a large heatproof bowl – this bowl will eventually hold everything – and set the bowl over the boiling water. The bowl should not touch the water. Stir the chocolate until it is melted completely. Remove from heat, and remove the bowl from the water. Let the chocolate cool a few minutes.

Place the chocolate in a large bowl if it isn’t already. Add the beaten egg yolk mixture to the chocolate. Gently stir until just incorporated. Stir in the vanilla. The mixing will thicken the egg yolks even further, and the chocolate will appear fluffy. Set aside.

Clean the mixer bowl and whisk attachment or beaters. Dry to ensure that no yolk is left. Add the egg whites to the bowl. With the whisk attachment, beat on medium speed until the whites are frothy, about 2 minutes. Add the salt, and gradually add the cream of tartar. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. There will be peaks when you lift the whisk out of the whites, but they won’t hold their shape. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar while beating. Beat until stiff peaks form.

Grab your chocolate-egg yolk mixture in its large bowl. Place about 1/3 of the egg whites in the bowl and gently fold to combine. Using a light hand, sweep the egg whites up and under through the center of the chocolate mixture. Fold until just incorporated. Large egg white and chocolate streaks will remain. Add another 1/3 of the egg whites and continue to mix in the same manner. The batter will be fluffy and glossy. The fluffiness creates the spongy cake texture, so try to deflate the egg whites as little as possible. Fold in the remaining egg whites and fold gently until entirely incorporated.

Immediately transfer the batter to the prepared baking sheet. Carefully smooth into the pan, making sure there’s an even thickness. Don’t mess with the batter too much. The more you do, the more it deflates. If the batter won’t reach the ends of the pan, no big deal. Just try to make an even rectangle.

Bake the cake 15-17 minutes. When done, the top will be dry and it will have a spongy, bounce-back feel. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the whipped cream and ganache.

Make the Whipped Cream:

Place the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and peppermint extract in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, or if using beaters, in a medium bowl. Beat until there are soft peaks. It should hold its shape but still be soft and spreadable. Let rest in the refrigerator.

Make the Ganache:

Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in a small sauce pan until it’s almost boiling. It will be steaming hot. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand 1 minute. Whisk into a smooth and glossy sauce. Let rest in the fridge about 30 minutes, until thickened slightly.

Assemble the Cake:

Once the cake has cooled completely, use the overhang of the parchment paper to remove it from the baking sheet. Spread with a thin layer of whipped cream filling. It does not need to be a thick layer, but I did use all the whipped cream.

Place the cake so the 12-inch side (the shorter one) is facing you. We’ll roll from this side.

Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake. It doesn’t need to be tight. Roll the cake gently, removing the parchment as you go. The first roll or two will probably crack, but that’s okay. It will crack less as the roll gets larger.

End with the seam side down and gently lift the cake onto a serving board or plate. Let rest in the fridge about 30 minutes.

Remove the cake from the fridge and pour the chocolate ganache over it. Let chill until you are ready to serve it. Garnish with a crushed candy cane just before serving. If you garnish early, the candy will ooze and color will seep out a bit.

The cake will last, wrapped and refrigerated, for 3 days.


Whiskey Peach Upside Down Cake

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And suddenly, it’s fall. It’s in the 40s at night and today was the first sunny day we’ve had since the rain came back with a vengeance over the last month after being left neglected in the back of the closet with our boots and scarves for the summer. For a few weeks, I completely ignored the signs – the foggy mornings, intermittent downpours, and abrupt appearance of pumpkin spice everything. Or rather, I didn’t ignore the signs. They were there as I stubbornly rode my bike to work without gloves. I just told myself it wasn’t fall quite yet – I could still ride through town without getting a single goosebump! Still summer, right?

Wrong. Fall is here. I can’t convince myself (or anyone else) otherwise anymore. Weekends have passed completely sunshine-less. I bought my ski pass. I drink more tea than water. Muddy boots clutter the doorway. The office football rivalry is in full swing.

And now I find myself feeling like I’ve cheated fall a little bit by ignoring its first few weeks. I defiantly turned a sunburned shoulder to it and ate my less-than-juicy, slightly out-of-season peach, when really, I should have put on my long sleeves and tossed an acorn squash in the oven. Oh well. Football season’s not even halfway over yet, the leaves still have a lot of color-changing to do, and the cast iron pot has been dusted off and commissioned for a stew. There’s plenty of fall left to enjoy.

This cake is my official farewell to the summer that left three weeks ago and my no-longer-hesitant to the fall that has been impatiently knocking on the door ever since. It’s a perfect cake for this in-between season we’re in. Light and sweet enough for summer, but complex and caramel-y enough for winter (thank you, whiskey). Just right for fall. And an excellent use for those mealy peaches that just aren’t as good as they were a month ago, no matter how much you wish they were.

First make a whiskey caramel sauce, pour it in the pan, and arrange some peach slices in it. (Put more in the middle than I did, they separated while it baked and left an awkward blank spot.)

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Then the cake batter will go in. It’s light, there’s whipped egg whites!

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A while in the oven, and your coping mechanism for transitioning to fall is here.

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Whiskey Peach Upside Down Cake

Very slightly adapted from the Baked: Elements cookbook

Yield: One 9-inch, single-layer cake

For the Whisky Cake Topping:

3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons good-quality whiskey

1 lb fresh peaches, cut into 1/4- or 1/2-inch slices

For the Whiskey Cake

3/4 cup cake flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large egg yolks, plus 2 large egg whites, divided

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk

2 tablespoons good-quality whiskey

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Make the Whiskey Cake Topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position the rack in the center. Butter the bottom and side of a 9-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment, and butter the parchment.

In a small saucepan over medium-low head, melt the butter. Whisk in the brown sugar and whiskey and cook until the sugar is melted and the mixture is foamy. Remove from heat, pour into the prepared pan, and swirl the mixture to coat the bottom of the pan.

Arrange the peach slices in a circle directly on top of the sugar mixture to cover the bottom of the pan. Do not try to overload the pan with peaches and don’t be concerned if you have some left over. Set the pan aside.

Make the Whiskey Cake

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks, oil, and vanilla, and beat until just combined.

In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and the whiskey. Add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.

In a medium bowl (or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment), whisk the egg whites vigorously for 1 minutes. Sprinkle the cream of tartar over the whites and continue beating until soft peaks form.

Gently fold one quarter of the egg white mixture into the cake batter until almost combined. The mixture will begin to lighten. Fold another quarter of the egg white mixture into the cake batter until nearly combined. Finally, add the remaining egg white mixture to the cake batter and fold in gently until completely combined.

Pour the batter over the peaches (since this is an upside down cake, the peaches will become the topping when you flip the cake over later). Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until the cake is very brown (but not burnt) and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake (not all the way through to the sticky topping) comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake and carefully invert onto a serving platter. Let the cake cool to almost room temperature and serve with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired (you can add whiskey to the whipped cream, too!).

This cake is best the day it is made, but it can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with a cake dome or in a cake saver for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

*NOTES: If you don’t have a mixer, don’t fret! I did this all by hand (even the egg whites) and it turned out just fine. Also, the whiskey topping of mine boiled over a little while it was baking. Put some foil or a baking sheet on the rack under the cake to keep it from making a mess in your oven.