Maybe it’s the water from the River Liffey or the way that Irish bartenders pour their stouts. Whatever the reason I have become one of those curmudgeons who grumbles that Guinness tastes best in Ireland.
When I’m in Ireland, I’ll down pint after pint of this smooth, dry brew. Hardly unusual—one out of every two pints consumed in Ireland reputedly is a Guinness. Yet, when I’m back at home, I’m more apt to empty it into a pot and cook with it than I am to drink this Irish beer. Drained from a bottle on American soil, it just doesn’t provide me with that wonderful richness and effervescence of the Irish original.
Because my friends are generous and unaware of my finickiness, I have received many, many 6-packs as well as the occasional case of Guinness. Remember 2009, when the 250-year anniversary stout was released? That was a banner year for beer-based dishes.
What do I make with all that booze? Well, after sampling a bottle and confirming that I’m still a major fusspot, I use it to create sauces, stews and fondues. I also steam mussels and clams in it. I might mix it with lemonade for a shandy. Replace the lemonade with champagne and I’ve got a decadent Black Velvet.
One of my favorite ways to use Guinness is in a cake from Nigella Lawson’s Feast cookbook. I make her chocolate Guinness cake for St. Paddy’s Day and any other time when I have an extra bottle of stout in the house.
CHOCOLATE GUINNESS CAKE
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s “Feast” (Hyperion, 2004)
Serves 8 to 12
for the cake:
1 cup Guinness
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup light sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
for the icing:
8 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream, plus more as needed
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter and line a 9-inch springform pan.
Place the Guinness and butter in a large saucepan and heat on medium until the butter has melted. At this point whisk in the cocoa and sugar.
In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Add 1/3 cup of the beer mixture to the eggs. Stir together and then pour the eggy mix into the saucepan, stirring to combine. Add the flour and baking soda to the pan and whisk until blended.
Pour the batter into the greased pan. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the cake on a cooling rack and cool completely before removing from the pan.
Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Sift in the confectioner’s sugar and beat again until combined. At this point the icing will be extremely thick and stiff. Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream to the icing and beat again. If the icing still seems too thick, add a little extra cream to make it spreadable.
Remove the cake from the pan and place on a large plate or cake stand. Spread the icing over the top of the cake so that it resembles the frothy head on a pint of Guinness. Serve with Irish coffee.