A friend of mine brought a dark chocolate Guinness cake to afternoon tea at my house a couple of years ago, and I found myself once again having a craving for that ultimate moist chocolate cake. But it’s Christmas, so I wanted make sure it looked like the holidays, with some piped chocolate trees and deer to make my mini cakes look like tiny Alpine mountains covered in fluffy snow to give one the sense of a winter wonderland.

I put this idea together with the Wilton cake pan I picked up at Joann’s recently – intended for cake pops apparently. Though from my perspective, it looks more like the shape of a slightly too-tall English pudding – but, perfect for making mini mountain cakelets!

My cake recipe came from Lola’s: A Cake Journey around the World book, her Stout Cake from Ireland. I’ve included both the metric and imperial measurements in the recipe; I mostly weighed my ingredients to be as accurate as possible. I also pretty much followed the recipe as it is.

A good bit of this cake is mixed on the stove – butter and Guinness together, then the sugar, malt and cocoa whisked in, followed by the sour cream, at which point you can take it off the stove. I poured my mixture into a large mixing bowl.

Once your mixture is in a bowl, you can whisk in the rest, first eggs and vanilla, then baking soda, and finally the flour.

Just spray the pan with a cooking oil to prepare it; there is NO need to flour it (plus then you don’t get that white flour look on your baked mini cakes).

When I’m making mini cakes, I use some measure to ensure I get close to same-sized cakes as much as possible – for this one a heaping tablespoon was about right (ignore the flour on this photo! the next batch I used only the spray cooking oil and it worked much better).

Also, this time I made two dozen mini cakes, then used the rest of the batter to make a small 6-inch round version as well. This, I ended up layering so I had the lovely marshmallow frosting in between each layer, as well a raspberry sauce that added great flavor to the cake. In fact, next time I need to find a way to add it to the mini cakes as well, as it was really lovely with the added raspberry!

Guinness Chocolate Cake

  • Servings: 3-4 dozen mini cakes, or one 8-inch layer cake
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

  • 50 ml/3 1/2 Tbsp. Guinness, or favorite dark Irish stout
  • 250 g/2 1/4 sticks butter
  • 400 g/1 c. white sugar
  • 100 g/1 c. Dutch processed cocoa powder (regular cocoa powder is fine; Dutch processed gives a deeper, darker chocolate flavor)
  • 30 g/3 1/2 Tbsp. malt powder (like Horlicks in the UK, or Carnation malted milk drink in the US, original or chocolate)
  • 150 ml/3/4 c. sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 275 g/2 c. plain/all-purpose flour
  • Raspberry liqueur, if desired, for brushing on the outside of the cake, or each layer
  • 1 batch of marshmallow frosting (recipe below)
  • Sparkling sugar for sprinkling on at the end
  • Piped chocolate trees, deer or any other decoration desired

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Add the Guinness and butter to a large saucepan and heat on low; you don’t want it to boil, just to let the butter melt into the liquid.

Add the sugar, cocoa and malt powder to the warm butter-Guinness mixture and whisk gently to remove any lumps. Then add the sour cream and whisk it in. This will cool the mixture enough so you can add the eggs, then the vanilla extract. Continue to mix until all the ingredients are completely incorporated.

Add the baking soda to the mixture and whisk it in completely. Then add the flour, little by little, stirring each time to fully incorporate.

If making mini cakes using the Wilton cake pops pan, prepare the pan by spraying with butter-flavored cooking spray. Measure out one heaping tablespoon of batter to fill each of the cavities in the cake pan (this will keep them consistent in size). Bake for 15-20 minutes or just until a toothpick comes out clean (may vary slightly depending on oven). Turn them out on a cooling rack and let them cool completely before icing and decorating.

If you are making one sheet or multi-layer cake, use cooking spray to coat the pan, then add the mixture to the pan, smoothing out the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes; a toothpick should come out clean when it is done. Turn it out, and allow the cake to cool completely before finishing.

For mini cakes, use a small offset spatula to apply the marshmallow frosting. Top by sprinkling some of the sparkling sugar, and setting your piped, chocolate trees/deer, or other decoration you wish on top, and serve.

For an 8-inch multi-layer cake, cut into three layers, and apply the frosting between each and on the top, allowing it to run down the sides according to your taste. You may create a dam in the two inside layers and add raspberry sauce for additional flavor, taste. Top with sparkling sugar and chocolate or other decoration, as desired.

For the frosting, I took inspiration from a recipe for “Old-fashioned Snow Peak Frosting” at Allrecipes.com. I gotta say, while the frosting stays a little sticky like the marshmallows that are in it, I loved how light it was, how it kept the look of snowdrifts however I applied it (with a small offset spatula).

And the best part – it was not overly sweet – which seemed a bit amazing, given the ingredients! But even through a chocolate Guinness cake may be more often seen with a cream cheese icing (not my favorite, if I’m honest), I thought this light frosting paired perfectly with the deep chocolate, moistness of the Guinness cake.

This frosting also involves using the stove – heating the Karo to boiling, then melting the marshmallows in it. This gets carefully added to egg whites that have been beaten just until soft peaks have formed. A little vanilla, a pinch of salt and you’re good to go.

Billowy Pillowy Marshmallow Frosting

  • Servings: yields 1 1/2 cups of frosting
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 c. light corn syrup (like Karo in the US)
  • 1 1/2 c. miniature marshmallows
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (you could use clear vanilla if you want to keep the frosting ultra-white)

Directions

Using a stand or hand mixer, blend the egg whites in a bowl on medium speed just short of soft peaks forming. Add in the salt and continue blending until you have soft-peak consistency.

Add the corn syrup to a small saucepan and bring it to a boil, then turn off the heat, add the marshmallows and stir until they’re all melted. (If you’ve started this and then started mixing the eggs and salt, just watch for when it gets to a boil so you can turn off the heat and finish it up.)

When both mixtures above are ready, raise the mixer speed to high. Very carefully, pour the hot syrup in a slow, steady stream at the edge of the egg mixture as you keep beating. Keep beating until the mixture is completely added, and integrated, and cool enough to touch. Then add in the vanilla extract and mix until just incorporated.

Makes enough to frost a 9×13 sheet cake or an 8-inch multi-layer cake. The frosting keeps its form well (and is slightly sticky like marshmallow), even if you make it a day ahead.

To prepare the chocolate trees and deer, I first did an online image search for “pine trees” and “stag” or “deer” and found some I could print out, and reduce in size so they were small enough for mini cakes. Then just slide them under acetate on my baking pan, melt chocolate and put it in a tipless piping bag to pipe it out. I usually put mine in the freezer so it really sets up, though that does sometimes result in the chocolate losing its gloss. If you temper your chocolate before piping it, you might be able to avoid that.

Then it just comes down to assembly! For the mini cakes, it’s easy. If you wish, a little raspberry liqueur brushed on each peak adds a little something. Then just apply frosting using a small offset spatula, sprinkle some sparkling sugar on it for extra sparkle, and add whichever combination of trees and deer you like to each cakelet.

For the layered cake, I’d really recommend adding some raspberry or some other fruit sauce for an additional flavor. Same thing – brush some raspberry liqueur to each layer, then apply frosting, and do that twice. I went for the natural look around the outside – I just smoothed out whatever frosting leaked out from the layers, but didn’t cover the sides completely. Then applied ample frosting on the top so it would drop strategically down over the sides.

Then some sparkling sugar, and chocolate decor. Though I think my layered cake decoration wasn’t quite as successful – it ended being quite the hodge podge of trees and deer placed higgledy-piggledy all over the top! Still, it tasted quite good, if I say so myself.

And that’s essentially it. There’s something about the Guinness, the malt flavoring and sour cream that really adds something to the moistness of this cake. And with this kind of decor, it works well for a festive, holiday tea table!

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