I don’t like beer.
I was absent the night in university when my friends went to the grungy student pub, bought a pitcher and sat down, determined to acquire a taste for the stuff.
No idea where I was–I like to think I was responsibly studying somewhere–but it seems my decision means I will never really love beer the way I might have if I had sat in that smoky room with them.
Around St. Patrick’s Day, food bloggers were raving about cupcakes that included a rather unexpected ingredient: Guinness. Given my distaste for beer, I passed those entries by.
Frankly, the only thing that intrigues me about Guinness is the hypnotic rolling where the head meets the dark liquid in the pint glass just after it’s been poured. But I kept thinking about the recipes.
I think I was intrigued because they were so boldly unusual. Beer and chocolate? Really? Would the taste of stout be overpowering?Would it mellow into the background to add a perhaps unidentifiable richness? Or would it just be a chocolate cupcake with a good storyline?
It should come as no surprise this recipe comes from a British chef — Nigella Lawson — considering the other culinary oddities that have sprung from the United Kingdom. I mean, consider the blood sausage.
Her version makes an entire cake, though, and I prefer the idea of cupcakes, I suppose, for their portability. It is also much easier to pass them along to friends than a slice of cake. Leaving an entire cake in my fridge is not an option.
And she has paired it with a cream cheese icing, which creates a sort of play on the stout itself, with its creamy white head balancing atop the velvet dark drink.
I don’t believe in skimping on the icing. The original cream cheese icing recipe suggested adding more whipping cream to thin it out, but I reined in the extra liquid to ensure I had a nicely thick, spreadable topping. As a result, I also didn’t have enough. Given that I ate two cupcakes before even making the icing (quality control–OK, that’s a lie, I was dying of curiosity) and I still had four cupcakes left at the end that went unadorned, I suggest doubling the icing recipe. That way, there will be more than enough to coat all of the cupcakes.
The original recipe called for a half cup of whipping cream. I only used two tablespoons. If you’d like a thinner icing, feel free to add more cream.
My first bite made me realize –again–that Nigella certainly knows her stuff. These cupcakes are rich and dark with only a hint of their secret ingredient –certainly not enough to turn me off the idea of eating several more. Combined with the icing, the Chocolate Guinness cupcakes were heavenly. The icing, perhaps ironically, cuts some of the darkly chocolate flavour.
A friend graciously offered to buy the remaining five bottles of Guinness from me, knowing full well they would simply gather dust next to my wine rack. But, having given these a shot, I think I will hang on to them. After all, I think I’d like to make the cake version next. Apparently, all it took for me to like beer was to add chocolate.
Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
Excerpted from Feast by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion Books, $39.95, 2006)
- 1 cup (250 mL) Guinness
- 4 oz (1/2 cup or 125 mL) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 3/4 cup (175 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (175 mL) sour cream
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla extract
- 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
- 2½tsp (12 mL) baking soda
- 8 oz (250 g) cream cheese
- 1 cup (250 mL) icing sugar
- 2 tbsp (25 mL) whipping cream
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.
Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan, add butter and heat at medium-low until melted. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar, then remove from heat. In a small bowl, beat together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Pour into the slightly cooled Guinness-butter mixture. Whisk in the flour and baking soda.
Spoon batter into cupcake pan, so each liner is about three-quarters full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
Once completely cooled, make the icing.
Beat cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth. Add the whipping cream and beat again until it is thoroughly mixed and spreadable. Add more cream if you want a thinner icing. Spread onto cooled cupcakes.
Makes 24 cupcakes.
This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit CalgaryHerald.com/life.