Grown Up Birthday Cake: Chocolate Guiness Cake

I’m amazed at the number of times in the past week that people were surprised I was going to bake my own birthday cake: “Someone else isn’t going to bake it for you?”


“Do you want me to bake a cake for you?”

No, not really.

Are you sure? It’s too bad you have to bake your own cake.

I really don’t think it’s too bad. And I don’t need to bake my own cake, I want to! Baking cake is fun! Making food for your friends and the people you love most to eat is fun! Why would it being a birthday cake make it less fun too bake, or too bad that I’m baking it? I understand the nice sentiment put behind one of your special people baking a cake for you to eat (hopefully not the whole thing unless it’s a cupcake), but it was my birthday and I had a plan. I was going to make a grown up birthday cake.

I wanted it to be chocolate, which many very good cakes are. I wanted it to be not overly sweet (though the reicpe does call for a good deal of sugar), perhaps a little bitter from the chocolate. A deep chocolatey taste that would separate it from the not-grown-up birthday cakes of years past. This cake was perfect.

The Guinness in the cake quite successfully made the cake feel grown up. Not only is it a cake with beer (I know, it sounds weird but it is so good!), the Guinness lends the malty, slightly bitter, woodsy, chocolate, a little bit citrus everything I was looking for to my ‘grown up cake.’

The process of making the cake is really interesting too. The batter is hot! It starts to come together on the stove top!  It sounds bizarre, but Nigella, the domestic Goddess herself, is rarely if ever wrong. Try this cake; it is just that good.

Chocolate Guinness Cake

(adapted from Chocolate Guinness Cake in Nigella Lawson’s Feast.)

1 cup Guinness stout

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup sour cream

1 tbsp vanilla

2 cups flour

2 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp kosher salt

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan.
  • Pour the Guinness into a saucepan and add the butter, stirring to melt. Then, whisk in the sugar and cocoa.
  • In a bowl, beat the eggs and then mix in the sour cream and vanilla.
  • Pour some of the chocolate beer mixture in with the sour cream mixture, whisking to temper, and then add in the rest.
  • Whisk in the flour, soda and salt.
  • Pour the lusciously warm batter into the prepared pan, and place in the oven, immediately turning it down to 300° F.
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 45 minutes to an hour.

Not-too-Thick Cream Cheese Icing


1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup cream cheese

2 1/2 tbsp whipping cream

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 cups icing sugar

  • Beat together the butter and cream cheese until fluffy.
  • Add in whipping cream and vanilla, beating for a minute or two until everything starts to fluff up.
  • Slowly add the icing sugar. Depending on the humidity and your taste, you may need a little more or a little less.

This is my perfect cream cheese icing. Most of the time, I find cream cheese icing too loaded with icing sugar, too thick, and just overwhelming. The whipping cream added in makes the icing just right, almost runny, easy to spread, but it still holds to the cake and doesn’t drip anywhere. Yum!

When the cake has cooled, remove it from the pan and ice the cake. In Nigella’s original recipe, she ices the deep brown cake with the fluffy white icing only on top, giving a cake reminiscent of a pint of Guinness. I iced the whole cake so I wouldn’t have a bowlful of icing left over. Here is my birthday cake, pre-lighting the candles:

The cake disappeared quite quickly at the party, with only a teensy weensy little piece left on the tray. My grown up cake was a success, but being a person who still regularly refers to what I might be when I grow up, I don’t know that this truly excellent cake suits how not grown up I tend to feel. I think maybe next year I’ll make the perfect still-not-quite-grown-up birthday cake.

Happy eating!

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