High Altitude Baking: Guinness chocolate cake with Irish cream frosting (recipe)
June 20, 2016
Editor's note: High altitudes makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Want a double dose of St. Patrick's Day cheer? Try this chocolate cake made with both Guinness stout and Bailey's Irish cream. The Guinness provides complexity to the dense, moist cake, and the Bailey's flavors the smooth, tangy cream cheese frosting. It's quite a pairing!
The tastes are so rich that I use the frosting on only the top of the cake and between the layers. If you want to cover the sides as well, the recipe will yield enough to cover them.
When you measure the Guinness, pour it into the cup slowly, wait until the foam subsides and add more, if necessary, to get a full cup of liquid that's foam-free.
Guinness chocolate cake with Irish cream frosting
(Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and higher. Make in two 8-inch metal cake pans with 2-inch sides.)
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2 ¼ cups bleached all-purpose flour (spoon and level)
1 ¾ cup superfine sugar, preferably Baker's
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup Guinness stout, no foam
1 cup unsalted butter
¾ cup Hershey's Special Dark or Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 large eggs, room temperature
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons sour cream
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur
3 to 4 cups confectioner's sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the center position. Grease the pans with a flour-vegetable oil spray, line with circles of parchment paper and spray the paper. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl, and whisk to blend completely. Set aside.
Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan, cut the butter into eight pieces, add them, and heat the mixture over low to medium heat until the butter melts. (This can also be done in a microwave; place ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and heat at medium temperature until butter is almost completely melted.) Remove from heat (or microwave oven), whisk until combined, add the cocoa powder and whisk again until thick and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the eggs and sour cream until smooth and thoroughly mixed. Add the cooled Guinness mixture, and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture, and use low speed to mix until blended. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and if any flour is visible, mix a little longer. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and beat for 1½ minutes.
Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans (I use a scale to do this). It should fill them about halfway. Place them on the oven rack, several inches from the oven's sides, with several inches between them. Bake until the tops (which will dome) spring back when lightly pressed, the sides start to pull away from the pan and a tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 32 to 37 minutes. Place on a rack to cool for 15 minutes, and then remove from the pans and let cakes cool completely on the rack. At this point, the cakes can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to a month.
Trim the domes of the cake layers so the tops are flat.
Make the frosting: Cut the cream cheese into six pieces and the butter into 12 pieces; add to a mixing bowl with the Irish cream. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar, on medium-low speed, until the frosting is thick and smooth. If necessary, refrigerate it to firm it up further (I find it is necessary if I'm piping the frosting).
Place one layer, cut side down, on your serving plate or a cardboard cake disc. Spread with about 1½ cups of frosting (less if you plan to frost the sides of the cake). Top with second layer, cut side down, pressing it gently into the frosting. Spread or pipe the remaining frosting on the top (I piped it into rosettes with a large closed star tip) and, if desired, on the cake's sides. Refrigerate, covered. Serve at room temperature.
The cake recipe is a variation of one from King Arthur Flour. Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbook "Cookies in the Clouds" and "Baking Above It All," is a chef instructor with Colorado Mountain College's Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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