Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Guinness Icing

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Guinness Icing

Nearly every summer, I look forward to my birthday.  There are a variety of reasons, one of them being that I still have romantic notions about the "perfect" birthday where everything goes just as planned.  Another reason I love my birthday is that it gives me a chance to make myself a birthday cake.

Well, this last weekend was my birthday.  And it did not go according to planned.... But that's OK because it was better than I imagined.   

See, I've been spending this summer teaching kids how to bake, and last week I taught cake decorating.  Teaching a classroom full of 16 kids ages 8-11 has been a very rewarding experience, but also extremely draining!  By the time the weekend came, I lost any desire at all to make myself a cake....  Instead, I opted to go to Peninsula Grill in downtown CHS with A (who came to visit as my birthday present) to eat their famous coconut cake.

iPhone pic of the coconut cake

The cake was delicious!  And huge!  I got my birthday cake fix, and I didn't even have to make it myself (or clean up the dishes).

There is a small part of me that is sad about not making cake this year.  So, I am going to share a beloved cake recipe instead.  Chocolate Stout Cupcake with Guinness Icing.

It truly is one of my favorite cake recipes, and probably my favorite chocolate cake recipe.  I'm not a beer drinker myself, but there's just something really lovely about the combination of a good dark beer with chocolate.  The beer enhances the chocolate flavor and makes it more "chocolaty."

I last made this recipe while visiting A in Texas in May.  He IS a big beer fan, even starting to brew his own beer.  Perhaps one day I'll make this cake with beer he has brewed.  I usually ice this cake quite simply with just some chocolate ganache.  But A asked if I could try to make a Guinness icing to intensify the beer flavor.

I didn't want to just add beer to the icing.  The amount of liquid necessary to add enough flavor might compromise the texture of the icing.  So, I decided to start reducing Guinness to make a "Guinness Syrup" to add to a plain Swiss Meringue Buttercream icing.

The results were amazing!  Though, it did take several tries to get the syrup just right.  I totally burned the first batch of Guinness syrup....  Answered a phone call during the boiling process and completely forgot about the pot on the stove.  Boiled the syrup away to nothing but a black, caked-on mess.  So, I started again with another bottle.  Once it reduced from an entire bottle of liquid to about 2 tablespoons of syrupy goodness, I added it into the Swiss Meringue.

We tasted it.  And it was good.  But A wanted it to have a more bold beer flavor.  So I reduced a second bottle.  For us, 2 bottles seemed to be the correct amount.  Adjust as necessary for personal preference.  And make sure you don't burn the syrup :)


Chocolate Stout Cakerecipe can be found here on the Epicurious website. The only change I usually make is that I never make more than a half recipe.  Even the half recipe made over a dozen generous cupcakes!    Oh, and I also microwave the butter and stout instead of melting it on the stove.

Guinness Icing  & cupcake assembly
4 oz Egg Whites
8 oz Granulated Sugar
12 oz Unsalted Butter, cold & cubed
Guinness Syrup, as needed to taste, (see recipe below)

1.  Combine the egg whites and granulated sugar in a double boiler.  Whisking constantly, heat the mixture to 140 F, making sure the sugar crystals all melt.

2.  Remove from the double boiler and add to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Turn the mixer on high.  After 30 seconds of whipping, start adding the butter, cube by cube.  Do not add it too slowly, or else there will be lumps of butter that are not fully combined!  Continue whipping until a thick, glossy icing is achieved.  Swiss Meringue icing always goes through an "oh crap" stage where it looks curdled... Do not be alarmed!  Keep whisking and it will eventually come together!

3.  Add the Guinness syrup & whisk to combine. Taste and add more syrup as needed.  

4.  Pipe onto cupcakes and garnish with chocolate jimmies.  Enjoy!

Guinness Syrup
1 to 2 bottles of Guinness (or other stout beer)
Granulated sugar (1 tbl per bottle of beer)

1.  Pour the Guinness into a small, heavy duty sauce pan.  Stir in 1 tablespoon per bottle of beer.

2.  Bring to a boil and cook, without stirring, until the mixture reduces to 1-2 tablespoons of liquid.  Do not forget it on the stove!  I suggest setting a timer.

3.  Add to icing.  Taste and repeat process if more syrup is necessary.


  1. Oh, I've been wanting to make this kind of cake so much! Too bad Guinness is twice as expensive here as in the states, but I think it might be worth a try. Especially since we had these at our wedding so I'll make the excuse that I'm a nostalgic pregnant woman who needs cupcakes, no matter what the cost.

  2. Oh my goodness, Laura! This looks incredible! I'm soooo thankful you shared the recipe! I'd love to try it! :) I love reading your blog - it inspires me to bake :)

    -Beth Goetz

  3. Liz: I think any excuse for a cupcake is a good one, especially being a nostalgic pregnant woman :) You'd only need a couple bottles, so it might not be too bad priced?

    Beth: Glad to inspire! Let me know how it goes if you try the recipe :)

  4. Happy belated birthday, Laura! So nice of you sharing that special moment with posting this wonderful stout cupcakes! I have been thinking about baking this cake but haven't got the right moment to actually do it until now....

    Very wonderful photography, just please my eyes so much! Wish you many successful snfd wonderful years to come for your blog and whatever you are pursuing....

  5. I recently made an Ice Cream recipe using Guinness and the texture was a bit icy, thus I googled "reducing Guinness" and found your blog. I wonder how long it takes to reduce the Guinness to a syrup?

  6. How much does the frosting recipe yield? I'll be using the full cake recipe

  7. @PapaG I am so sorry, but since I made this recipe 2 years ago I do not remember the exact timing on it. It greatly depends on how much beer you are reducing at a time & how high you turn the stove on. I do remember how much a pain it was to clean the pan when I forgot it on the stove, so learn from my mistake & set a timer :) Hopefully that helps with your icy-ness. Perhaps also try one of the recipes from "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams" too, as her recipes are known for producing excellent texture.

    @Unknown. I'd probably double the recipe or make two batches, just in case. I hate running out of icing! Plus, you can always freeze leftovers, if you need to.

  8. How much Guinness is in a bottle? We only have it in cans near me.

    1. I think there are 12 fl oz in a bottle? But I don't have any on hand at this moment to make an exact confirmation. Cans would work just as well.