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 Cake: recipe 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!
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.