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3 Layer Guinness - Chocolate Cake

In Butter, Cake, Chocolate, Dessert, Irish, Recipe
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Guinness Cake Slice- Blog 453

A page is turned, a chapter ended.

Ever since I was a student at LCB and learned to make a Bûche Pistache, a delicious chocolate-pistachio log shaped cake, it has been Arthas’ choice of birthday cake.  I still clearly remember my initial shock when a few months after he had tasted the one I made and brought home from class, he asked that I make another for his birthday.  

You see, it’s not anything like a traditional American birthday cake in shape, and certainly a rather sophisticated flavor choice for a kid who was probably only 10 at the time.  It was a delicious 3 layer confection rich with pistachio paste, spiked with a generous bathing of kirsch, and wrapped in a thick layer of dark chocolate ganache.  It was a beautiful thing to be sure, but miles away from the simple chocolate layer cake that he was accustomed to getting at home.

J Piping GanacheArthas piping ganache on last year's Bûche Pistache

Pistachio 2008See what I mean....this is not your run-of-the-mill  birthday cake

Nevertheless, each December for the past 6 years, Arthas has called on me to create his favorite little “fancy” cake and dot it’s chocolate glazed top with the appropriate number of birthday candles.  So imagine my surprise when this year, as a matter of formality, really, I asked him if he was fired up for yet another Bûche Pistache for his birthday, and he said.....


He had given it alot of thought, and was very sweet in that he didn’t want the change to hurt my feelings (I only cried a little), but he was ready to try on a new cake for size.  Well, not entirely new, because we had made a Guinness cake together before for him to share with his classmates when they were studying “Ireland” in school.  He was such a fan that when it was time to retire his old stand-by, he asked for this one instead.

I’m not entirely sure, but I think some of the appeal has to do with the name, and now that he is 1 year closer to legal drinking age, he’s ready to ditch the cake where the booze is an unspoken stow-away (remember the kirsch), and adopt one where it’s writ large above the fold. Boys will be boys, you know.

Yup, this is the year my guy ordered his first Guinness......damn, they grow up too fast.

This is not the exact cake we made for his Ireland project because for the life of me I couldn’t put my hand on that recipe, but if I dare say (and I think Arthas would agree), this one is even better.  It’s a monster of a cake, a towering 3 stories high, the dense-moist layers a deep chocolate enhanced by the rich, smoky malt of the Guinness.  A dark chocolate ganache holds it all together, and really makes you stand up and take notice of this bad boy.

If I were a gambling man, I’d say that we just started a new birthday tradition for our young man, Arthas.  Anyone in your life ready for a new birthday cake?  If so, you need look no further than this Oui, Chef approved beauty.

Cheers - Steve


3 Layer Guinness-Chocolate Cake

by: Barrington Brewery, Great Barrington, MA - as seen in Bon Appetit September 2002

(Print Friendly Recipe)



for the cake:

  • 2 cups stout (such as Guinness)
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream

 for the icing:

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped



For the cake:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper.
  2. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans.
  4. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.

For the icing:

  1. Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours.
  2. Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top of cake.

Makes 12 servings


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"Oui, Chef" exists as an extension of my efforts to teach my kids a few things about cooking, and how their food choices over time effect not only their own health, but that of our local food communities and our planet at large. By sharing some of our cooking experiences, I hope to inspire other families to start spending more time together in the kitchen, passing on established familial food traditions, and starting some new ones. Read more...
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