22 July 2008

A Cake Is A Cake Is A Cake Is A Cake Is A


Tim and I have been studying the sometimes-unapproachable poetry of Gertrude Stein in our American Lit class. I didn't know an awful lot about her before this, apart from the fact that she was namechecked in (a) an Anastasia Krupnik novel and (b) the La Vie Boheme number from Rent. (Interestingly, Langston Hughes, who we will be discussing in our next lecture, also had a glass raised to him in this song.) It would be pretty cruel of me to write this post to write this post in the style of Gertrude Stein, if I were to write this in the style if I were, if I were, if I were to write the style of, if I were to, would it, if I were, in the style, in the in the in the Gertrude Stein if I were, if I were to, would you if I were, would you throw your computer out the window and send me hate mail?

And would I even be writing in the style of Gertrude Stein or in fact of the publisher who archly rejected her? "Hardly one copy should sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one."

Anyhoodle, enough highbrow literary references - on with the cake!

I've made Nigella's Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake from Feast before, and her Chocolate Fudge Cake from Nigella Bites, and this cake above, the Chocolate Sour Cream Cake from How To Be A Domestic Goddess is in fact somewhere in the middle of the two. It disappeared quickly and is, like the others in the tripartite, a rather perfect cake. It's not overly rich, but moist and cocoa-y, and has lots of lovely, creamy icing which softly sandwiches the two layers together. It's also simple to make, the sort of thing you can knock together on the spur of the moment - as I did. A rose is a rose, but a cake is not just a cake, it brings joy - well, maybe the making of it only brings happiness to a food nerd like me, but the eating of it is something else altogether.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake (slightly adapted because Nigella seems to like using lots of bowls, which is all very well and good if you actually have a dishwasher)

200g butter
200g sugar
2 large eggs
40g best cocoa
150mls sour cream
200g plain flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1 1/2 t best vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 C, and butter and line two 20cm cake tins. Beat the butter and sugar together thoroughly, add the eggs, cocoa, and fold in the flour, raising agents and sour cream. For some reason the mixture was a little too stiff (hee) for me, I'm sure adding a tablespoon or so of milk won't harm anything. Spread between the two tins - and it will be stiff stuff - and bake for 30 minutes, allowing the cakes to cool thoroughly after. They will look woefully flat, but once sandwiched thickly with icing it will appear more pleasingly majestic.


150g dark chocolate
80g butter
125g sour cream
1 T golden syrup
Icing sugar

Melt the butter and chocolate together, and let it cool a little. Stir in the syrup and sour cream, and enough sifted icing sugar to create a deliciously spreadable mixture. Use it to sandwich an ice the two cakes, and then...lick the bowl.

Rather uncharacteristically, it was a two-cake week. Wherefore? Well, the local Glengarry bottle shop had a fire a while back and had only just re-opened...on a whim Tim and I went in for a look, I have to say the people that work there are always very polite to us and answer our questions very seriously (even if we're wearing those grey trackpants with elasticated ankles...both of us...) Before I knew it Tim had purchased some Guinness and implored me to make Nigella's world-famous-in-our-flat Chocolate Guinness Cake. I can't say no to a request like that.

I've made this before, several times in fact, and it is always astounding. The combination of dark, bitter beer and chocolate cake may sound like some kind of fusion-nightmare, but it is a ridiculously, rapturously good pairing. It has just occured to me that while I've blogged about this cake many times, I've never posted a recipe for it, I might as well change that right now. This page in Feast has become smudged with cocoa and smeared with batter; when I open the book a small dust-cloud of flour rises. Therefore it is with no small recommendation that I give you this recipe.

Chocolate Guinness Cake

By the way, I didn't mistype the amount of sugar. Yes, it's a scary amount, but...it's a big cake. And it's not overpoweringly sweet in the slightest.

250mls Guinness
250g butter
75g cocoa
400g sugar
145mls sour cream (one of those little yoghurt-tub sized, er, tubs)
2 eggs
1 T real vanilla extract
275g plain flour
2 1/2 t baking soda

Okay. So, set your oven to 180 C and butter/line a 23cm springform tin. First of all you want to get a big 'ol pan, pour in the Guinness and add the butter - cut into small pieces - and gently heat it so the butter melts. It shouldn't bubble, keep the heat low. Now, simply stir in the rest of the ingredients - I use a spatula - and pour into your tin. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on your oven. The kitchen will smell heavenly, I promise you.

Once cool, ice with a mixture of 200g cream cheese (NOT low-fat), 125mls whipped cream, and 150g icing sugar folded together.

This, like Dame Helen Mirren, only gets better with time. I would find myself making excuses to go to the kitchen to shave off thin slices...and I wasn't the only one, the cake swiftly shrank, chunk by chunk, getting denser and tastier and intensely more delicious with each day.

What's that noise? Oh yeah. It's your conscience, saying "mmmmaaaa-aaa-aake the chocolate Guinness cake..."

And finally, because like cakes, not all cookies are created equal, I bring you, erm, cookies.

These also make a very regular appearance, in fact I hardly even photograph them these days. However there was actually something resembling natural light outside yesterday (hey, it is Winter) after I pulled these out of the oven so I quickly started snapping. These cookies are amazing, as I said I make them lots, but the best thing about the recipe is that it's so forgiving, and...it contains oats. Much like lentils, oats have a special place in my heart (perhaps near the arteries, holding a cool, soothing hand to whatever their feverish forehead would be) and I love incorporating them into my food wherever possible.

This particular batch of cookies contain shards of intense, 80% cocoa dark chocolate, ground linseeds, poppy seeds and - oh yes I did go there - quinoa flakes. I realise this makes them sound like Little Patties of Earnest Nastiness, but they taste exactly like chocolate chunk cookies ought to, because all the extras just sort of melt into them. They are in fact, my favourite permutation of these cookies, and trust me there have been several varations on this theme.

And they're practically healthy. I mean quinoa. It pwns even lentils in terms of greatness and lets face it, a few nutty flakes of quinoa are more appealing in a cookie than a paste of cooked lentils. But really, as far as that 3.30pm-I'm-going-to-eat-everything-in-the-house feeling goes, you could do worse than to have one or two of these.

I wrote all of this before Outrageous Fortune but have just finished watching it now...what an episode! A flicker of promise between Cheryl and Judd and...we got to see Wolf's bum (swoon!)

Next time: I haven't the foggiest, to be frank.


  1. AnonymousJuly 23, 2008

    Your photography classes are paying off Laura, those pics are fab.

  2. Admittedly I've never tried Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake, so this might be one of those annoying unqualified opinions I'm always having, but Green & Black's Rich Stout Cake (which someone has naughtily but handily posted here is chocolatey-er, guinnessy-er and (very) marginally less sugary! More importantly it's absolutely delicious, though definitely rather an adult taste.

    Ohh, and I made the oat pancakes you posted the other day for breakfast this morning! Though I appear to have conveniently overlooked the part where you said the recipe served two. I cut out the sugar and most of the butter, then completely undermined this health-consciousness by drowning the pancakes in maple syrup. Mmmmmm...

  3. Well sweet chocolately awesomeness. We get TWO cakes today. It's like Christmas when you get both your pony AND your Rambo action figure.

    Both cakes look stunning, but much like your oats, sour cream holds a soft spot for me. I'm going to have to try that one out :)

  4. I have not tried the chocolate guiness cake. Now I have seen a slice of it (doesn't that make a difference?) I am going to do it.

  5. George: Why thank you :)
    Boffcat: Well, that cake *does* sound good...(I do like me some Green and Black) but this one is special, I assure you! Glad to hear you had success with the pancakes :):)
    Adam: Pony AND Rambo? Woohoo! You should def. try the cake, the icing's pretty spesh.
    Granny: Hope it goes well for you :)

  6. Chocolate cake looks divine; biscuits look similarly awesome. And, I'm sure biscuits could travel well in the post- if carefully wrapped and packaged...
    Bought some quinoa and tried to sneak it in the family dinner as a rice substitute. Mark and Julian were not fooled and while one ate it stoically the other tidily abandoned it on the side of the plate. The jury (my tastebuds) are still out on quinoa as a rice substitute. You couild possibly look forward to a third-used packet of said grain arriving by courier one day soon. However, quinoa biscuits could be a most satisfactory way of using the remainder.

    Glad to see that the wine shop is opened again - having seen it in its charred glory when visiting you.

  7. My kind of post Laura, chocolate overload and those cookies(and the picture) look fab!!!! I want to make that chocolate guiness cake....I am gooiinngg toooo maaaaake the caaaake!:)

  8. Wonderful job! I really need to experiment with quinoa soon.

  9. Ha I ALMOST tagged you... but you've done enough of them already :)

    Enjoy Batman... let me know what you think.

  10. i love the photos, bring out the details lol - more for cravings! love the blog :) your cakes looks delicious

    hope to hear from you soon,

    Monika ♥

  11. You made two cakes, TWO. TWO! God, you're a bloggess. Wow that was some great food porn. I can't say anything else right now, speechless...er...writeless...

  12. Hello,
    My name is Zo and I've been following your culinary concoctions regularly for the last few months - I love the studenty-ness of your blog and just linked to you at my blog (http://twospoons.uber.com). If you have a moment please feel free to give me some feedback!

    It's so exciting to see another New Zealander around who measures butter in grams! *hugs*

    Happy Cooking.

  13. Two chocolate cakes! They both look great! I have been wanting to try a chocolate guinness cake for a while now.

  14. I'm dying to try the Guinness Cake! And the other one looks great, too. What to do, what to do...make both?
    And the cookies, too? ok, you twisted my arm.

  15. Your cakes look very delicious. I must give the chocolate guiness cake a try