Trouble With Toast

Chocolate Guinness Cake, aka EPIC FAIL | April 1, 2009

Here at TWT, we try our darndest to post only the most delicious, satisfying, and failsafe recipes.  However, even a food blogger can come across a dud.  But THIS food blogger, ladies and gentlemen, is really committed to her craft.  I tried this POS of a recipe not once, but twice–all for your amusement and education.  And because I’m stubborn.  And because my fiance really wanted cake.

I saw this recipe in the Washington Post (but it originally came from Nigella Lawson) and was intrigued–I like cake, but I’m not a gifted baker, so my creations often come out less than stellar.  But this version had beer in it!  And it was a one-pot wonder!  And it had beer in it!  And it was supposed to be moist and delicious!  And did I mention it had beer in it???

On my first attempt, I followed the instructions to the letter and poured the copious amounts of batter into a 9″ round pan.  It came milimeters from the rim, and I said to my hunny, “Honey, it’s going to spew out onto the floor of the oven and burn!”  Guess what it did?  Yeah.  At least my kitchen stunk like burnt beer.

On my second attempt, I poured the batter into a 9 by 13 rectangular sheet pan, and everything seemed to be going according to plan.  My kitchen smelled sweeter and more like a dessert I might actually like to eat.  Nothing was spewing or burning.  The recipe specifically said to wait till the cake was cold to remove it from the pan, so I did.  Lo and behold, the damn thing stuck to the pan anyway (note: I did not have parchment paper, so that could explain some of the sticking, but I really greased the pan well, so it shouldn’t have been as bad as it was).  No matter, I’m used to ugly baked goods by now.  I dove into a piece of the cake, waiting for the beery revelation.

I made it through one bite and one bite only before I threw the piece into the trash.  It was dry as a fart and tasted like burnt freakin’ beer.  The cream cheese icing was tasty, but it didn’t cover up the flavor of failure and self-doubt.  Fiance confirmed that he was just not that into the cake.  When beer can’t save a dish, you know it’s time to move on.  Perhaps to just drinking beer on its own instead of trying to incorporate it into desserts.

Here’s the recipe, in case you are morbidly curious or want to test your mettle by trying it out yourselves.  If you do the latter, please let me know how it turns out.  Clearly, I won’t be adding it to my “signature dessert” list anytime soon.


  • 1 cup Guinness stout (not the whole can)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (I substituted Earth Balance shortening seamlessly), sliced
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (superfine, if possible)
  • ¾ cup sour cream (I substituted plain yogurt without a hitch)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking soda


  • 8 ounce cream cheese
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

Pour Guinness into a large saucepan, add butter and heat until melted. Whisk in cocoa powder and sugar. In a small bowl, beat sour cream with eggs and vanilla and then pour into brown, buttery, beery mixture and finally whisk in flour and baking soda.

Pour cake batter into greased and lined pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack.  When cake is cold, gently peel off parchment paper and transfer to a platter or cake stand.

Place cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in a mixing bowl, and whip with an electric beater, until smooth.  Add cream and beat again until you have a spreadable consistency.  Ice top of cake, starting at middle and fanning out.


Posted in Recipes
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  1. I always say, “I’ll bring anything but a dessert.”

    Comment by barbara — April 1, 2009 @ 12:49 pm

  2. Eh, we all have our misteps. I still think the one on Smitten may work for you if you want to give it another go.

    Comment by Lemmonex — April 1, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

  3. I’m sorry to say this, but I blame Nigella. I have tried several of her recipes and none have worked. Because I am not a total spaz in the kitchen, I feel guilty, yet confident that the trouble lies with her. Perhaps it’s British ovens are really different from American ones?

    Comment by HP — April 1, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  4. Wait, wait… the amount of batter being too much for the specified pan is a mistake, though one you easily spotted but failed to remedy. But you’re complaining because YOU overbaked it?

    Baking times in recipes are all just general guidelines, and are descriptive of the writer’s particular experience baking that item, not prescriptive of how long you should bake it. The implied final baking instruction for every baking recipe is “bake until done.” Anything else is just a way to approximate doneness. Maybe this is an awesome cake if baked for 35 minutes. Maybe your oven runs hot. Maybe the back of your oven runs hot. You must try it a third time.

    Comment by Barzelay — April 1, 2009 @ 11:21 pm

  5. Betty,

    You know I don’t often agree with Barzelay, but in this case he is correct. Ovens and even atmospheric pressure and humidity can cause a baking time to vary. I’ll wash my clothes while doing other things, but stick close to the oven when baking so I can frequently test when to take it out.

    Comment by Mom — April 2, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

  6. Barbara: I generally agree, though I do have one or two dessert recipes that are winners. Guess I should stick with them!

    Lem: The one at Smitten seems to include more butter, which is always a good thing. Perhaps that would make it a little moister?

    HP: I had never attempted any Nigella recipes until this cake, but it didn’t make me a huge fan, for sure. What sorts of recipes have you tried?

    Barzelay: You’re right that I should have remedied the too-much-batter-for-the-pan situation, but you know that I always follow a recipe to the letter the first time around. I vehemently dispute that I overbaked the second cake. I am fully aware that baking times are approximate, and my oven does run fairly hot, so I checked the cake at 30 minutes to see how it was coming. By my estimation, it was not done enough at that point. I went to 45 minutes and the toothpick came out almost clean (I prefer cakes a little underdone). The cake SEEMED moist at that time, but when it was totally cooled, it was super duper dry. Also, I just didn’t like the flavor, which I’m not sure can be remedied by adjusting baking times. I don’t think a third attempt is in my future.

    Mom: See above. I really don’t think cooking the cake less would have made it better. I’ll stick with key lime pie.

    Comment by bettyjoan — April 2, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

  7. I am not a big fan of beer (gasp! yes, it’s true). So chocolate and stout, just doesn’t pass the common sense test for me, kinda like a recipe I saw once for black bean brownies, not good.
    Peace –

    Comment by Amy Stillwell — April 3, 2009 @ 8:15 pm

  8. Amy: The combo itself isn’t the problem, methinks. It’s just that the recipe I used wasn’t perfect. I’m told there are others out there that are worth trying.

    Comment by bettyjoan — April 5, 2009 @ 6:44 pm

  9. Guinness and chocolate mmmmmmmmmmmmm 🙂 try a different recipe and you’ll get better results

    Comment by Chicken fried Gourmet — April 14, 2009 @ 12:23 am

  10. CFG: Yeah, I think so. The combination really SHOULD work.

    Comment by bettyjoan — April 14, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  11. I’ve made this cake and it was delicious.

    If yours was dry and tasted burnt, I think your oven is getting hotter than the temperature gauge is registering. Try using an oven thermometer to test whether you’re getting accurate temperatures.

    I know mine would read 20 – 30 degrees lower than the actual temperature, which I only really began to notice while baking- it’s not such a big deal with cooking.

    Good luck!

    Comment by Kat — April 24, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  12. Thanks, Kat. My oven does run hot, I think. Maybe the key isn’t decreasing the baking time, but instead LOWERING the baking temp?

    Comment by bettyjoan — April 28, 2009 @ 12:38 pm

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