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!


Campari + IPA Spritzer

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Usually, the word spritzer is enough to scare me away from a drink. It’s a word usually accompanied by some combination of the words white wine and cranberry/rasberry/strawberry and sometimes even vodka. All of which are things pretty low on my list of drinks of choice. I’ll drink a stout or a red ale over a merlot any day. And if it’s going to be a mixed drink, it’ll probably involve whiskey, won’t get any sweeter than ginger ale and definitely won’t be pink with an umbrella and a sugar-rimmed glass. My taste in drinks leans much more heavily towards the bitter and sometimes unusual. Basically, I’m a dude when it comes to drinks.

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Although bright red, this drink is not fruity or sweet or one of those that makes you go, “Is there alcohol in that?”. It’s bitter and strong and complex and boozy. The IPA (my favorite of all) is of course bitter, but so is Campari, in a different way. Yes, we’re mixing bitter on bitter here, with nothing to balance it, but it works. It’s great. Trust me.

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I got this recipe from The Kitchn, which calls it a summer cocktail. It was indeed refreshing on a 100-degree July day, but I think it’s a perfect winter cocktail too. This isn’t your goes-down-easy summer shandy. Not that it’s hard to get down (totally isn’t) but it does take a little getting used to and a bit more work to enjoy (don’t worry, it’s worth it), and would be a great way to kick-start your getting-out-of-your-comfort-zone New Year’s resolution before the clock strikes midnight.

Campari + IPA Spritzer

Recipe from The Kitchn

Makes 1 (Don’t be fooled by the pictures. I made this for myself a couple days after moving to a new town and since I had to use the whole bottle of beer I went ahead and doubled it…it was kind of a lot. The recipe is plenty for one.)

1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) campari

1/2 bottle (6 ounces) IPA

lemon twist for garnish (optional)

Fill a glass with ice (I know your beer is cold, but you definitely want the ice) and add the campari. Slowly pour the beer over it. If using lemon, squeeze the peel over the drink to release its oils, and rub the peel around the rim of the glass. Leave the lemon peel in the glass and serve.


Dark Chocolate and Orange Tart with Toasted Almonds

ImageLast week was one gigantic sugar-coated, caramel-filled, chocolate-dipped Christmas treat extravaganza at my office. We had a potluck one day, and the 40+ people who work there couldn’t even finish all the desserts. I definitely had a little more WAY more than my fair share, just at the potluck. There were countless cookies, rice krispie treats, chocolates, Hershey kiss and m&m topped pretzels….

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The day of the potluck, I ended up at work until almost midnight. The plus side was that while I was working, I got to snack on the leftovers. A couple cookies at 8:00, leftover salad at 9:30, and at 11:00 another sliver of this tart, which was my potluck contribution. Don’t ask me how it didn’t all get eaten during the day. Who picks too-sweet but still tasteless store-bought cookies over something rich, chocolatey, homemade, and a little boozy? Beats me. I’d pick this tart over something from a grocery store bakery any day, but I was glad to have some late at night.

This tart is rich and very chocolatey, with a nice citrus flavor, a hint of booze, and a little spicy kick from the cinnamon. We start by candying some orange peel.

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Then we’re mixing butter and cocoa powder and sugar and cinnamon and a little flour and salt.

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Crust gets rolled out and baked.

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Then, the orange peel gets chopped up and some chocolate gets melted.

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Orange peel and almonds go in the crust.

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Melted chocolate gets poured in, and the tart chills for a bit in the fridge. And then we get to feel really fancy while we eat it.

ImageThis tart is a little labor-intensive, but completely worth it. It’s worth your weekend afternoon, both for the taste and for the oohs and ahs you’ll get from your family when you show up at Christmas dinner with it. Have a wonderful holiday!

Dark Chocolate and Orange Tart with Toasted Almonds

From Bon Appétit, March 2003

Serves 12-16

Candied Orange Peel:

1 orange

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

Crust:

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

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Filling:

1 cup slivered almost, toasted, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup heavy whipping cream

8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liquor

For the candied orange peel:

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel (orange part only) from the orange in strips. Cut strips into pieces the size of matchsticks and place in a small saucepan. Cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Cook for 30 seconds and drain. Rise the pan, add 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and peel. Over medium-low heat, stir until sugar dissolves. Simmer until the peel is translucent and the syrup thick, about 20 minutes. With the tines of a fork, transfer peel to a plate to cool. Peel can be made 1 day ahead. Cover it and store at room temperature.)

For the crust:

With an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the cocoa powder. Add in the four and beat until dough comes together in moist clumps. Form the dough into a ball; flatten the ball into a disk. Wrap dough in plastic and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Roll the crust out between sheets of waxed paper to an 11-inch round. Remove the top sheet of paper and invert the dough over a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Peel off second sheet of paper. Gently press the dough into the pan, pressing the overhang in to form double-thick sides. Pierce dough all over with a fork and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake crust until the sides look dry and the bottom looks bubbly, about 14 minutes. Transfer crust to rack. If the sides of the dough are falling, use the back of a spoon to press them up. Cool crust completely.

For the filling:

Toss the almonds, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Chop all but 2 strips of the orange peel. Sprinkle the chopped orange peel over the bottom of the prepared crust, and then sprinkle the almond mixture over. Place the cream in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Add the chocolate and whisk until chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the Grand Marnier. Pour the chocolate mixture into the crust. Refrigerate tart until filling is firm, at least 3 hours. Garnish with the remaining 2 orange peel strips. Tart can be make 1 day ahead. Keep covered loosely with foil in the fridge.

To serve, gently loosen the crust from the sides of the pan with a sharp knife. Cut tart into wedges and serve cold.


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.