A Weekend in Chocolate

Dan Lepard's Chocolate Custard Muffins

Dan Lepard’s Chocolate Custard Muffins

I had many reasons to celebrate this weekend, which was the perfect way to lift the gloom of a difficult and exhausting week. 

First up was my friend Jonny‘s birthday at Jack’s Bar on Friday night.  A few double Americanos had given me the boost I needed to power myself through the final Friday afternoon at work and get myself out for a drink.  Despite being tired, I was rather in need of gin and company.  Plus, I had made a cake for the occasion.

Inspired by a lone can of Guinness I found in a box of beer out on my balcony, I decided to make Jonny one of my favourite cakes: a chocolate Guinness cake.  Adding Guinness to a cake, at first, seems a little strange but the two work perfectly together.  In fact, I cannot stand the taste of Guinness as a drink, but I love the effect it has when it is added to food.  The first few times I made this cake, the Guinness merely added a subtle tang in the background – strong enough to know that there was something added to the cake, but not strong enough to give it a positive ID.  This time, I upped the amount of Guinness and the flavour was much more pronounced.  The texture is much like that of a flourless chocolate cake, although it does contain flour, and is quite dense and heavy.  You could eat it on its own, but I rather like it topped with a simple cream cheese frosting, particularly as it makes the cake look like a pint of Guinness with its white top.  A small helping will definitely suffice.

I was also lucky enough to visit some friends who recently had a gorgeous baby girl.  Many parents have told me that often the best gift for a new family is food – in the first few chaotic weeks there is never enough time to prepare or cook dinner.  Ideally, I would have liked to have made them a meal that could be frozen and heated up at a later date, but the journey from my flat in East Dulwich to their home in north-west London is a bit much for even the sturdiest of lasagnes, so instead I made them some muffins. Much easier to transport.  The recipe I used was Dan Lepard’s Chocolate Custard Muffins which, unsurprisingly, is one of the best chocolate muffin recipes I have ever found.  The name is ever so slightly deceiving as on first glance I thought this would be a muffin with an oozing custard centre, alas it merely describes the method with which the batter is made: starting with a custard and gradually turning it into a cake mix.  You could fill these with custard, I suppose, but that would be a project for another day.  The linked recipe makes 12 muffins: I took six to the new parents and six to Will and Claire‘s new flat as a housewarming present.

Who doesn’t like a gift of chocolate?

Chocolate Guinness Cake

Chocolate Guinness Cake

Chocolate Guinness Cake

For the cake:

  • 300ml Guinness
  • 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 85g cocoa powder
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 90g natural yoghurt
  • 50ml whole milk
  • 280g plain flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder

For the frosting:

  • 50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 350g icing sugar, sifted
  • 150g full-fat cream cheese
  • Cocoa powder, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 175ºc / 350º f / gas 4.  Grease a 9-inch springform cake tin and line with greaseproof paper.

Place a saucepan over a medium heat and add the Guinness and butter, stir together until the butter has melted.  Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes.  Stir in the cocoa powder and sugars until fully incorporated.

In a separate bowl, gently whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, yoghurt and milk and add this to the mix.

Transfer the mixture into the bowl of a freestanding mixer and sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder.  Using the paddle attachment, mix on a medium speed until all of the ingredients have been incorporated.  Scrape into the prepared cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 45 minutes, until risen and the sides have shrunk away from the cake tin.  Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, whisk the butter, with a handheld mixer or in the bowl of a freestanding mixer with the whisk attachment, until light and fluffy.  Add the icing sugar and continue to mix until there are no lumps.  Finally, add the cream cheese and whisk until the frosting is light and fluffy.  Using a palette knife, cover the top of the cooled cake with the frosting.  Dust with cocoa powder.

Adapted from a recipe by The Hummingbird Bakery