life is better with cake & beer: red ale & chocolate cake

When I first spotted Nigella’s recipe for Guinness cake I was excited. Surely this would be the cake to rival all cakes. But I kept putting it aside since I’m an IPA drinker and my husband will drink whatever is cheap (ie. pils). We just never have Guinness in the house. But then after a Boxing Day gathering, someone left a Chocolate Stout in our fridge. It was then I decided that I’d give that Nigella recipe a whirl as Cornelius’ birthday cake. But then, that stout was taken to a friend’s house for New Years and it was out of our life for good. So when yesterday rolled around, the illustrious day of my husband’s birth, all I had in my fridge was some deep red Maple Cream Ale from a local brewer. Maple Cream had to do and I whipped up the cake lickety-split!

This recipe makes a lovely cake because it’s tasty and it’s one of those one-pot wonders. Dump everything into a pot and it turns out awesome. Yes, the cake is super delicious, uber-moist (I think Nigella sighs over the word “damp”) and looked so frothy topped with a sturdy cream cheese-whipped cream head.

I’ve never really followed a Nigella Lawson recipe too closely. I’ve made her eggplant Involtini and a couple salad recipes, but I’ve never tackled a baking recipe. All of those grams and millilitres frighten even my metric ass! But I did purchase a kitchen scale last summer and decided to put it to use yesterday. Measuring out the ingredients was very satisfying and made me feel like the pro I’m not. The only thing that was a bit vague in her recipe was her directions for frosting. I don’t think she mentions to whip the cream, but I did. I wanted to be sure that the frosting that topped this showpiece would stand proud and after a stiff beating, it did. I had achieved frosting perfection.

Some modifications, of course. Besides the beer switcheroo, I used yogurt instead of sour cream. I also didn’t use the measurements for the frosting listed below. I used what I had….a 250 g tub of cream cheese, half of a large container of heavy cream and enough sugar to make it sweet but not too sweet. I also threw in some vanilla just to add a bit more flavour. For the cake pan, Nigella doesn’t specify what size, but I used 1 kind of small and 1 medium sized spring form pan. They filled up nicely and having 2 different sizes is great because, Cornelius and I can share the small one and the larger one can be transported to a friend’s house for a celebration there! 2 cakes for the price of 1!

53 comments to “life is better with cake & beer: red ale & chocolate cake”

  1. 1
    clairehelene7   January 3, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Oh hell yes. This looks awesome. I must make this. Thanks for sharing!

  2. 2
    Joanne   January 3, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Come to mama! That cake looks so awesome…and yes I do not like beer at all, but in a cake well, that’s a different story. The frosting looks amazing too. What did the cake taste like? Was it chocolaty? was it yeasty tasting like beer?

  3. 3
    Laural   January 3, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    This looks so exciting! I too am curious about what it tastes like. Does the beer just add moistness, or also flavour?

  4. 4
    Gretchen Noelle   January 3, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    This sounds rather good. I am trying this the next time I need a chocolate cake fix.

  5. 5
    Sara   January 3, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    I am a huge Nigella fan. Your cake looks perfect, totally perfect!

  6. 6
    Katie   January 3, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    Your cake looks wonderfuly, very moist and fluffy. I have been put off trying this recipe as I’m not a fan of Guiness but I might try it now.

  7. 7
    eatme_delicious   January 3, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    I took one of Nigella’s books out of the library a while ago but got scared by the measurements she used. I will be getting a kitchen scale soon though so I too can feel like a pro! The frosting on that cake looks perfect. I must save this recipe.

  8. 8
    Jen   January 4, 2008 at 2:27 am

    Looks fabulous! Curious to know if it tastes more like Guinness or chocolate – or maybe a bit of both?

  9. 9
    lobstersquad   January 4, 2008 at 2:28 am

    Nigella is simply the best, I´m sorry to be so bessoted but it´s just true. And I´m terrified of ounces and sticks of butter, too, so that helps.
    Happy birthday to Cornelius.

  10. 10
    hag   January 3, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    I have had Guiness cupcakes, with guiness icing…and they were great! I bet this tastes great too…looks very impressive. YUM!

  11. 11
    Rachael M.   January 4, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Now see…I think my husband would LOVE this cake, but OH NOES! We Americans don’t know metric!!!

    Someone be kind enough to point me in the direction of a fine conversion chart, please…

  12. 12
    kickpleat   January 4, 2008 at 7:12 am

    claire, it’s true: beer cake = awesome

    joanne, there is a slight tang to the cake, but it’s not necessarily beer-y. it’s just super delicious!

    laural, the beer certainly adds moistness but the flavour isn’t overwhelming. there is a slight delicious tang.

    hag, this is a great cake! we took it over to friends and they couldn’t get enough!! it was a hit.

    gretchen, give this a try, it’s amazing.

    thanks sara, i think so too!

    katie, i think even if you’re not a guinness fan, you’ll like this cake. plus you can sub in another good strong flavourful beer in it’s place.

    eat me, the scale is essential! you’ll be feeling like a pro in no time 🙂

    jen, definitely tastes more like chocolate!

    lobstersquad, ounces and sticks of butter freak me out too!

    thanks kennymah!

    fibre, this is truely a fantastic, simple cake. perfection!

    rachel, the link to the original recipe isn’t so original. it’s translated by the NY Times so that it’s all in cups, so no conversion charts required!

  13. 13
    Clumsy Cook   January 4, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Your cake looks gorgeous! I’ll have to try this one since I love cooking with beer and Guiness is always somewhere around my fridge, as it’s the only beer that my bf Jim likes (I’m a fellow IPA fan though)


  14. 14
    kennymah   January 4, 2008 at 3:08 am

    Love the deep red colour of the cake. Cornelius must have had a really happy birthday! 🙂

    Happy 2008!!

  15. 15
    Cookie baker Lynn   January 4, 2008 at 11:46 am

    This looks delicious! Good thing I’m not there or that frosting would have finger tracks all over it. I love your approach to baking – make it work for you with what you’ve got.

  16. 16
    Fiber   January 4, 2008 at 4:26 am

    Mmmmm…..Guiness cake. I had it for the first time in Cleveland and it was absolutely FANTASTIC! This looks awesome.

  17. 17
    Jen   January 4, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Oh my, this looks delicious! Beer + chocolate solves just about anything, no? I may have to add it to my list of recipes to veganize!

    I’ve just discovered your blog recently, and I LOVE it—especially since you sometimes include vegan recipes 🙂


  18. 18
    VeggieGirl   January 4, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    the cake turned out fabulously!! Nigella’s recipes are quite stunning-looking.

  19. 19
    Mallow   January 5, 2008 at 7:26 am

    Looks delicious! I saw another Guiness-chocolate cake recipe (bundt) that I was always curious about. But I might try this one instead!

  20. 20
    sweetsalty kate   January 5, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    Alright, I could not resist: it’s in the oven now, made for my son’s third birthday party.

    On second thought is that weird, for a roomful of toddlers, to make them a beer cake?

    Hmmm. Actually it might be just the thing, mellow them out a bit. 🙂 I’ll let you know how it goes!

  21. 21
    Lydia   January 5, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Life is better with cake? I need to steal that for my motto…or blog name…or business one day…or something.

  22. 22
    Joanne   January 6, 2008 at 9:28 am

    FYI – bon appetit magazine – February 2008 issue – get yourself a copy if you don’t already have one – LOL – just thought I’d let you know it’s full of culinary inspiration AND there’s a section on Portland, Oregon eateries, and much more!

  23. 23
    Cakespy   January 6, 2008 at 10:30 am

    I have had a cake made with beer and found it beautifully moist and decadent tasting, not “beery”. Very good. Yours looks gorgeous.

  24. 24
    dynagrrl   January 6, 2008 at 11:35 am

    I’ve been eyeing this cake in the cookbook for some time, I am definitely going to give it a go!

  25. 25
    Rachael M.   January 6, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Thank you for the heads-up on the original recipe. And thank goodness for the excuse to bake it for tomorrow!!! My husband came in while it was baking and said, “Ooo, that smells like brownie!”

    Making it had me wondering, though, what this might be like with a cup of strong coffee added instead of the beer…

  26. 26
    Aimée   January 7, 2008 at 11:47 am

    This looks like one chocolate cake that is not overrated. Fantastic! Happy birthday to your hubby!

  27. 27
    beth   January 7, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Wow, I’ve got a great story to accompany this recipe: I asked for Nigella’s Feast for christmas. I love Nigella, I love her simple, delicious cooking and I love her writing, and a I love her attitudes about food. Feast looked to be one of her best. I mean, the thing has a whole SECTION on chocolate cakes. How can you go wrong?
    Unfortunately I did not receive it. As you could imagine, I was pretty disappointed (although I did get the French Laundry cookbook to console myself with).
    Then, during my scavenging of the local thrift stores while visiting my boy’s hometown, I looked up on a shelf, and sitting there was a pristine, hardcover edition of Feast. For five dollars. Score!
    Needless to say, I was pleased.
    I was also particularly intrigued by the idea of a beer cake during my first read through. Chocolate stout would be amazing, but I love Guinness, so I think I’ll have to try out the original recipe.

  28. 28
    kickpleat   January 7, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Clumsy Cook, I’m sure with Guinness, this would be very fab!

    Cookie baker Lynn, you can hide the finger tracks!!!

    Veg*Triathlete, this shouldn’t be too difficult to veganize at all! Good luck!

    It did, VeggieGirl. I’m pretty impressed with the turnout myself!

    Mallow, ooh, a bunt version…I’m curious!

    Lydia, I think that is a perfect motto 🙂

    Awesome, sweetsalty kate!! How was the cake??? I’m sure it made a great cake for your 3 year old…you should make it again when he’s older and I’m sure he’d appreciate it more! ha.

    oooh, thanks for the tip, Joanne! I’ll grab it at the library!

    Cakespy, beer + cake…who knew!

    Give it a try, dynagrrl, you’ll love it I’m sure!

    Rachael M., I think coffee would be a fine substitute…better yet, a coffee stout!

    beth, great story! Finding a great thrift score is the best! Hooray.

    Aimée, I know what you mean about chocolate cakes being overrated…this one certainly is not!

    I think this is quite flexible recipe, Dawna!

  29. 29
    joey   January 8, 2008 at 1:16 am

    I don’t drink beer often, but when I do I like dark ones 🙂 This cake sounds heavenly…must try! Thanks for sharing this…your’s looks lovely with its white frosting standing high!

  30. 30
    Dawna   January 7, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    I’ve been keen to try this particular cake – and now even more so! It’s nice to know it responds well to recipe-manipulation!

  31. 31
    Rachael M.   January 8, 2008 at 7:29 am

    This cake was a HUGE success! The cake is so rich and dense and moist and the icing is lovely and sweet without being sickeningly sweet…everyone raved over how well the hint of Guiness flavor complemented the chocolate.

    Even my 3-year-old nephew said, “Thank you very much for the cake. It was delicious.”


  32. 32
    jenn   January 8, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    The cake looks fantastic! Bet it tastes fantastic too!!! Tell him happy birthday!!!

  33. 33
    Brilynn   January 8, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    That cake looks huge!

    I’ve also bookmarked guiness cakes to make in the past but still haven’t gotten around to it…

  34. 34
    Aria   January 8, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    I made this yesterday. It is FABULOUS!!! Thanks for the cooking inspiration which I am always desperately in need of.

  35. 35
    kickpleat   January 8, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    thanks joey, the frosting is pretty much perfect — i’m amazed that it stood so tall!

    rachael m, glad the cake was a hit!

    thanks jenn!

    brilynn, the cake pictured is actually the small cake! i made a larger version with the rest of the batter.

    aria, glad you made the cake!

  36. 36
    Grace   January 9, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    I came across this recipe and couldn’t help but to try it out. Had a couple of friends over for some Guinness and cake, not an incredibly common combination in my kitchen, but perhaps one I’ll come back to now.

  37. 37
    Sharona May   January 10, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Your cake looks fabulous. I love a good cream cheese icing.


    Sharona May

  38. 38
    Cooper   January 11, 2008 at 7:43 am

    I love Guinness and I love Nigella – why had I not seen this before???? Thanx for posting…

  39. 39
    Deborah Dowd   January 12, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    This sounds so delicious, and if it is as moist and rich as it looks… so much for the post-holiday diet!

  40. 40
    jules   January 14, 2008 at 11:33 am

    I baked this cake this weekend. It is delicious. Everyone at the office loves it. The frosting is amazing, much better than other cream cheese frostings I have tried!

  41. 41
    kickpleat   January 14, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    grace, glad you gave it a go! it’s a pretty amazing cake.

    sharona may, this cream cheese icing is the bomb. seriously! give it a try 🙂

    thanks cooper! nigella and beer, a great combo, for sure!

    yeah, you can forget that diet, deborah!!

    jules, glad it worked out for you! mmm, that icing is amazing!

  42. 42
    jesika   January 15, 2008 at 3:40 am

    im so psyched about this! my friends bday is next month and he is an irish boy who LOVES guiness. i am going to make this for him!!

  43. 43
    susankellogg   January 15, 2008 at 5:49 am

    Your cake looks so marvelous! Yummy-yummy. I wish I could make cakes!

  44. 44
    Meghan   January 16, 2008 at 6:44 am

    this looks awesome! i just want to bite a big piece out of it!

  45. 45
    marcie   February 3, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    this looks fanfriggintastic! can you make this in cupcake form?

  46. 46
    kickpleat   February 3, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    jesika, your friend will love this cake!

    susan, this recipe is pretty foolpoof…really!

    thanks meghan!

    marcie, i don’t see why not. just make sure to reduce the baking time.

  47. 47
    eggs mcgeez   February 4, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    This looks soooo good. I just came across your blog today (lucky me) and I am dying to try this recipe out with some Oregon porter.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  48. 48
    Karen   February 8, 2008 at 2:47 am

    I made this cake for a dinner party last night. This is my absolute favorite chocolate cake EVER. Damp is absolutely right. It is amazingly delicious. I also loved the frosting but I learned it’s better not to explain to the french that secret ingredient of cream cheese, they are all for cheese just not in frosting. It didn’t matter though they still loved it and I can’t wait for another reason to make this cake again! Thanks so much!

  49. 49
    cindy   March 25, 2011 at 9:46 am

    i made this cake for my guinness-loving son and posted about it in february. he LOVED it! i was wondering if it would work with any dark beer, since we seldom buy guinness unless it is for my son. glad you posted this, i will try it with another dark beer next time!

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