Chocolate Stout Layer Cake
Be still my little mouse heart: This is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made.
I know. That’s a bold statement. Especially from someone who bakes a fair amount of cakes. But, I mean, look at this thing:
And, it gets better. This cake also includes one of my other favorite things on this planet: Guinness stout.
If you know me, you’re probably saying something like: Oh, god, chocolate AND Guinness? She must be out of her mind!
You’d be about right.
So tell us about the cake, Mouse
I thought you’d never ask!
First, you make two round, moist and tender chocolate cakes infused with a hefty amount of butter and a good drink of stout, which deepens the chocolate flavor. Split and sandwich them between layers of billowy chocolate whipped cream—then drape the whole business in a whisper-thin layer of fudge glaze.
If there were more of the glaze, it would be too much. But there’s not. There’s just enough.
Like I said: Perfection.
Thank you, Hubert Keller
I can’t take credit for this recipe. It’s from Chef Hubert Keller, cookbook author and owner of Fleur de Lys in San Fran. It found its way into my kitchen via my dear friend Mrs. Toast, who has a good eye for spotting spectacular cakes.
So this cake is on the fancier end of cakemaking for me, which means that it has a fair amount of steps and take a while to make.
You can’t just whip all the ingredients together in a bowl, like with my Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake. (Don’t get me wrong, I love that cake, too. It’s my Oh-Noes-I-Have-Unexpected-Company-And-Need-To-Feed-Them-Something-Like-Pronto cake.)
Let’s face it: There’s just something about a layer cake that’s totally happymaking.
This cake is worth the time and effort. If you’re skeptical, I offer this proof: Ever since I made this cake, The Angry Chef—who is incredibly fussy and discerning about desserts—has been asking me to make another.
Oh, and not only is Keller an acclaimed chef, but he also knows how to write a good recipe (the two don’t always go hand-in-hand). His instructions were clear, concise, and accurate. I followed them to a T, and the cake came out marvelously.
Here’s the original recipe. And here’s how to make it.
Chocolate Stout Layer Cake
Recipe by Hubert Keller
1 cup stout (I used Guinness)
1 cup butter + more for greasing the pans
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 Tbls. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. water
1 Tbls. light corn syrup
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Makes 1 (9-inch) cake with 4 layers
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Make the chocolate Guinness cake batter
Crack open the stout. Measure it out and put it into a heavy-bottomed pot with the butter. (Crack open another for yourself while you’re at it. Cake-making is thirsty business.)
Set the pot on the stove over medium heat and cook until the butter melts, stirring occasionally.
When the butter has melted, toss in the cocoa powder and whisk it until it’s uniform. (Hello, steamy camera!) When the mixture is uniform, take it off the heat and cool to room temperature.
It will look like a glorious pot of buttery, molten chocolate. Mine broke a tiny bit as it cooled. (I either had the heat too high, or I didn’t whisk it enough.) But it didn’t matter one bit that I could tell.
While you’re waiting for the mixture to cool, grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment. Set them aside.
Put the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk to combine until uniform. Set it aside for a minute while you deal with the eggs.
Put the eggs and sour cream in the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl if you’re mixing by hand). Beat them together until well combined.
By the time my chocolate/stout mixture was room temperature, it had completely separated. I whisked it back together until it was uniform, and kept going. I don’t think it mattered much in the end.
With your mixer running on low, drizzle the chocolate-stout mixture into the egg mixture until well combined.
It should look about like this (see, it was just fine that that mixture separated):
Add the dry ingredients until the batter *just* comes together.
Remove the bowl from the stand and fold it once or twice with a rubber spatula to ensure you got all the dry ingredients at the very bottom of the bowl.
Don’t stir too much (only enough to ensure the batter’s smooth). The more you stir, the more you’ll encourage the gluten in the flour to develop, which can make the cake tough.
Divide the batter equally between your two prepared cake pans.
Smooth the surfaces down so they’re fairly even.
Pop the pans into your pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the tops spring back when pressed gently with a finger (and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center).
When they’re done, yank them out of the oven and let them cool on a rack for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, run a knife around the inside edge of each pan and turn the cakes out carefully.
Let them cool on a rack until room temperature.
A quick note on Cake-Removal Ballet
If you crack your cake when you take it out of the pan, don’t fret. I’ve done it a bunch of times. (I’ll admit that I cried the first time it happened. And maybe the second, too.)
Remember, you’re going to fill and frost it. So, unless it’s smashed to bitty pieces, you can usually patch the cake back together reasonably well. No one will be the wiser unless they bust out a protractor and measure your layers. (And please, who would do that when there’s cake to be eaten?)
It may be a tad wonky, but it’ll still be delicious.
Slice the cake into layers
No matter how hard I try, my layers always come out a little uneven. You can use a serrated bread knife to do this. Or you can use one of these contraptions. It’s a cake slicer meant specifically for cutting layers, and if you bake a lot, it’s one of the best twelve bucks you’ll ever spend. (Get yours here.)
Position the cake cutter over the cake. Ensure that the slicing wire is set to the middle of the cake (so you have even layers).
Slice away with a gentle sawing motion.
And, voila! Two even cake layers. Handle them gently. They’ll be flimsier now that they’re thinner.
Repeat with the other cake. You should have four cake rounds. Set them aside while you make the glaze and filling.
Make the chocolate glaze
Put the butter, chocolate chips, and water in a medium-sized pan on the stove over low heat.
Stir constantly until they melt and are well combined.
Drizzle in the corn syrup. Stir to combine. Take it off the heat and set it aside to cool to room temperature.
Make the whipped cream filling
While the glaze is cooling, make the chocolate whipped cream filling.
Put the powdered sugar and cocoa powder in the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl if you’re mixing by hand) with the beater attachment on. Beat to combine.
With the mixer running on low, drizzle in the heavy cream. When you’ve added all the heavy cream, turn the speed up to high and beat until the cream is thick, light, and fluffy.
You want it to look about like this. Add the vanilla and beat briefly to combine. Resist the urge to jump in the bowl and swim around.
Assemble the layer cake
It’s finally time to put the cake together. Put one of the layers onto a large plate. (Use the plate or platter you intend on serving the cake on. You won’t want to move it once it’s assembled and glazed.)
Put about a third of the chocolate whipped cream on the cake.
Spread it around (right to the edges) evenly.
Set a second layer of cake on top of the whipped cream. Add a third of the chocolate whipped cream on top. Spread it around evenly.
Repeat with the last layer. You should be looking at a glorious stack of cake and whipped cream.
At this point, your glaze will likely be at room temperature. Pour it over the cake, in the center, so it spreads fairly evenly.
With a spatula, spread the glaze around a little on the top of the cake, pushing it to the edges and then over.
Slice and serve immediately, or pop it in the fridge to let the glaze set up.
Layer Cake Love!
Annelle from Annelle’s Table recently made this cake and loved it. Check out how even her layers are!