For me, St. Patrick's Day isn't just an excuse to drink Irish whiskey and Guinness. It's also an excuse to bake with them!
Not too long ago, I had an idea to bake a chocolate cake spiked with Guinness, then topped with a whiskey glaze. The affinity between the chocolate and the Guinness was amazing.
When I created the recipe, I started with my aunt's chocolate pound cake, which my mother had remembered as spectacular. My aunt's basic cake was good, but tastes have changed and I thought it was a bit reserved. I wanted this cake to be luscious and moist and very chocolatey! So I increased the cocoa to a whole cup, substituting an additional 1/2 cup of cocoa for an equal amount of the flour.
For additional richness, I mixed Guinness with an equal amount of half-and-half. And to tie all the flavors together — a hint of freshly grated nutmeg. You don't really taste it, but it highlights all the other flavors.
The first time I made the cake, I made the Irish whiskey glaze and it was good. But I thought that it was wasteful to have to buy both Guinness and Irish whiskey if you didn't already have it on hand. So I changed the glaze to a Guinness glaze. You can buy a single can of Guinness in almost every grocery store, and having Guinness in both the cake and the glaze is not only delicious but economical, as well.
The glaze is an essential part of the cake, as you poke holes in the cake when it is still warm and slowly spoon the glaze over the cake until the holes are filled with it. That way, once the cake is cooled and sliced, each piece has rivets of deep chocolate glaze set into the top of the cake.
For anyone who is nervous that the cake will taste like beer... It does not. The Guinness adds a stouty richness that makes the cake the best chocolate cake you have ever eaten. It is so good that I had to make it three times when I visited my sister and her large family because each time I made it, it was gone before everyone could have a slice. This is the best way I know to celebrate St. Paddy's Day, the Ides of March, or anytime you want a great piece of chocolate cake.
Chocolate Guinness cake with chocolate Guiness glaze
Start to finish: 2 hours (15 minutes active)
For the cake:
1 cup cocoa powder, plus extra for the pan
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup Guinness, room temperature
For the glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 tablespoons Guinness
2 tablespoons half-and-half or heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
Heat the oven to 325 F. Coat a 12-cup Bundt pan very well with cooking spray. Sprinkle in a bit of cocoa powder, turning to coat evening, then overturning to discard any excess.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the 1 cup of cocoa powder, the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, stir together the vanilla, half-and-half and Guinness.
With the mixer running on low, alternate adding the liquid and dry ingredients to the sugar-butter mixture, mixing just until everything is mixed and smooth. Transfer to the prepared Bundt pan, tapping it gently on the counter to release air bubbles. Smooth the top, then bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean.
Meanwhile, prepare the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients until smooth. Set aside.
When the cake is done, let it cool in the pan for 25 minutes. Set a wire cooling rack over the pan, then invert it so the cake stands on the rack. For ease of cleanup, set the rack over a rimmed baking sheet or a sheet of kitchen parchment. Use a tooth pick to poke deep holes all over the top of the cake.
Spoon glaze over the top of the cake and wait until it seeps into the holes. Spoon more glaze into the holes, then wait 10 minutes. Spoon the remaining glaze all over the top so it covers the holes and drizzles down the sides.
Nutrition information per serving: 500 calories; 180 calories from fat (36 percent of total calories); 20 g fat (12 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 115 mg cholesterol; 190 mg sodium; 76 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 50 g sugar; 7 g protein.
Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including "Taming the Flame."