Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Guinness Chocolate Cake for Bloomsday

On Saturday night I had dinner with my friends Kathleen and Mook, and I said I would bring a cake. I decided to take a Chocolate Guinness Cake because it was Bloomsday.

I was fortunate enough to be in Dublin some years back on Bloomsday (16 June). For the uninitiated, James Joyce wrote Ulysses about a day in the life of Leopold Bloom on 16 June 1904. The novel gives such a detailed description of Dublin that over 100 years later it is still possible to trace Bloom's steps through the city, and that is one of the ways that Dubliners celebrate the day. I was able to enjoy readings on O’Connell St Bridge, in a pub and in a bookstore. I haven’t read the novel – it is reputedly long and difficult, albeit rewarding. In fact, most people I met in Dublin on that Bloomsday hadn’t read it so I didn’t feel so bad but I hope I will read it one day.

Ulysses was first published in Paris in 1922 by Sylvia Beach, ex-pat American and owner of Shakespeare and Company bookstore. She spotted genius and innovative use of language in the book but he was not the easiest person: on one occasion she described him as a Napoleonic figure who’d grind his fellow beings’ bones to make his bread. Luckily for Joyce, his books have overshadowed his personality. And if you want to see the sort of food Leopold Bloom ate, check out the Old Foodie.

Instead of the likes of kidney fritters, we had Mediterranean Pie and Chocolate Guinness Cake. Much nicer and seemed appropriate given Joyce’s European and Dublin connections. Kathleen made a wonderful pie filled with tender, well seasoned eggplant, capsicum and olives stuffed within a homemade buttery short crust pastry. I don’t like making pastry and always admire anyone who does it well. And there was garlic bread too, followed by the Guinness Chocolate Cake, cherries and cream.

When I browsed the Guiness Chocolate cake recipes on the web, I was interested to see that both Nigella and Delia have published recipes for this cake which shows it is quite trendy. Quite a lot of recipes had sour cream but I opted for a dairy free recipe I wrote down years ago – I think it was from The Age newspaper.

Every recipe I found had cocoa rather than chocolate, but once I started following the recipe, I understood why. The chocolate and cocoa are mixed together to form a pleasing sludge – it was so like mud, it made me want to step in it barefoot and feel it ooze between my toes! Instead I was adult and used it to make the cake dark and rich. My cake wasn’t quite cooked in the centre but the goo was enjoyable. It is that sort of rich moist cake – although it is a rich version of a butter cake rather than decadent in the fashion of a mud cake or flourless chocolate cake.

I toyed with the idea of a white chocolate ganache to imitate the frothy head of the Guinness. Nigella did hers with a cream cheese frosting. But I felt it was rich enough without icing and had some new icing stencils to test out. The icing sugar stars looked great and the cherries and cream were a pleasing accompaniment.

Chocolate Guinness Cake

110g butter or margarine
250g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
175g plain flour (1 generous cup)
Pinch baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
200ml Guiness
55g cocoa (generous ½ cup)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line 20cm round cake tin.

Cream butter and sugar in medium bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. The recipe says to sift flour, baking powder and baking soda together three times but I never sift flour if I can help it.

Mix together Guinness and cocoa in a separate small bowl or jug. It makes a wonderful muddy sludge. The recipe says it might foam a lot so I was a bit disappointed not to get much foam. Add this mixture to the butter and sugar mixture alternatively with the flour. The mixture will be quite moist and light..

Bake in oven 45 minutes or til a skewer comes out cleanly. Cool in tin 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. It is a moist cake that can be served dusted with icing sugar, with cream and shaved chocolate or with a chocolate ganache. (Nigella even does a cream cheese frosting).

On the Stereo:
Sound of White: Missy Higgins


  1. Johanna, my saviour. The grubs turned out superbly! Oh, the relief.
    Have posted the recipe for them on my blog today and included a link back to your site.
    Hope that's ok.
    A million thank yous. :)

  2. Bloomsday cake - it would have to use Guinness! That pie sounds rather good too.

    My partner, the Artist, is the only person I know who has read Ulysses from beginning to end.

    I know I'll never read it, but am pleased that someone I know has done so - however agonizing it may have been!

  3. I have a copy of Nigella's Guinness cake recipe - I was putting its heavy looks off until winter and am glad to be reminded of it now. :-) Yours looks great without the frothy icing!

  4. What a post, a history lesson AND that cake that looks so wonderful... Good post, thank you.

  5. This sounds like a great chocolate cake! :)

    I have started to read Ulysses... Now I just need to find the time to concentrate and appreciate it. This is not a book for casual reading!

  6. thanks Wendy - glad the suggestion was helpful - isn't it amazing how childhood recipes can produce great results again and again! Hope they were enjoyed by all :-)

    Lucy, not everyone can read Ulysses but it is nice to know someone who has - am glad you have the Artist in your life to share his Ulysses vibes - am pleased that one of my ex-housemates read it, so I shared some of his delight in it. I was interested to discover there are even people working in the James Joyce Centre in Dublin who haven't read it so I think those who have read it are in a select group.

    Cindy, I actually don't think the chocolate guinness cake is that heavy - not in the way I love in mud cakes but it is quite rich, and feel appropriately wintery.

    thanks Kleopatra - I studied Sylvia Beach and James Joyce many years ago so am glad you enjoyed me sharing a little of my knowledge of them - I think Sylvia Beach is a great woman in history and that period in paris in the 1920s was fascinating.

    Anh - I am impressed you have even started the book - maybe it is one that you will dip in and out of whenever you have the headspace - I really enjoyed hearing bits of it on Bloomsday readings in dublin and have thought it would be an interesting read.

  7. Oh my! This looks just amazing! I love the pattern on top.

  8. thanks truffle - I was pretty impressed with my stencil. I often don't want to ice cakes but they look a bit dull without icing - this might be the answer

  9. Oh, Johanna, this scrumptious cake makes MUCH more sense than stream of consciousness. Anyone for a Finnegan's Wake Cake? THAT one should be baked with Jägermeister.

  10. thanks susan - perhaps it could be called a stream of scrumptiousness cake in honour of mr joyce :-) And I like your finnegan's wake idea!

  11. Thank you for that recipe. It was a scrumptious cake, indeed!

  12. Thank you for the recipe. I don't know if I will be able to replicate the yumminess of this cake, but I will certainly have fun trying.

    Let me know if you would like the pie recipe - the pastry instructions are straight forward and easy to follow.

  13. thanks Kathleen - I would like the pie recipe - probably would have it with less eggplant because E is not so keen on it but would like to try making the pastry.

  14. I'll email it to you. I've been thinking of doing it again but substituting half to 3/4 of the eggplant with potato. M doesn't like eggplant either.


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