I love talking about food, as you may have noticed. Tell me about a great new avocado salad dressing you’ve tried, or the way that a squeeze of lemon brought your cassoulet to life. Drone on for hours about the best harrisa paste or the lack of ancho chilis in British supermarkets. Lay it on me.
However, I draw a line somewhere. Talk of food being ‘naughty’ or something to feel guilty about is the dullest, least useful topic in the world to me. It makes me sad how much brain energy gets wasted on beating yourself up over it.
Food is food – work out what is your optimal combination to make you feel good with the amount of exercise that you do, and go for it.
And this cake feels gooood. You might be surprised to see such unapologetic ‘treat’ food on a running blog, but everything in moderation.
This cake is tweaked from a Nigella and is absolutely foolproof – I’m no baker, and I make it every couple of months at least. I’ve got the timing down to a fine art. I’ve tried to share my little quick tips with you in the recipe – I can literally go from zero-to-cake-in-the-oven in 15 minutes on a good day. There’s no creaming or folding whatsoever, just lazy stirring and whisking.
It’s not just an easy cake to make, it’s also absolutely delicious – just the right amount of moist and chocolatey, without being cloying. The dark stout adds a tannic depth of flavour, but you’d never know it was in there. I brought this in to the office for my birthday and got asked about it so much that I had to bring another one in for everyone on Valentine’s Day.
And so I give you the perfect chocolate cake recipe: Bruce Bogtrotters of the world, rejoice! Just please please don’t talk to me about how naughty you are being, as I most certainly won’t be listening.
When you do something actually naughty, can’t wait to hear about it.
Note: Make sure you find a stout that doesn’t use fish in its clarification process. Guinness is vegetarian in North America, but not Europe. A great example is Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, which you can buy in bottles from their pubs.
250ml Dark Stout Beer
250g unsalted butter (one foil-wrapped pack)
400g light brown sugar
150ml sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla essence or extract
275g plain flour
3 tbsp bicarbonate of soda.
To grease tin
2 tbsp cocoa
For the icing
The rest of the tub of sour cream
1/3 tub of vanilla frosting
Serves: Makes about 16 little slices in a 23cm springform tin. Serves 2-16, depending on appetites!!
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/ gas mark 4
1) Measure the beer in a measuring jug. It’ll get a really frothy head on and be hard to measure – I generally let it subside for half a minute, then make sure the top of the liquid is up to just under the 250ml mark.
2) Pour the beer into a pan over a low heat, then add the butter, sliced into pieces.
3) While that’s heating, use the paper from the butter to grease the inside of the 23cm springform cake tin. Sprinkle a little cocoa all over the inside surface, and shake about to get an even coating. Turn upside down over the sink and bash the bottom to get rid of the powdery excess.
4) Measure the sugar and cocoa out in the same bowl on the scales. When the butter in your pan has melted, whisk them in carefully. As the grains are quite large in demerera sugar, keep whisking for a minute to dissolve into the fragrant liquid.
5) In the beery measuring jug, mix together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla and tip into the pan, whisking. I generally eat a couple of spoonfuls of the mixture at this point* – it’s absolutely delicious. My mouth is watering writing it.
6) Measure and mix the flour and bicarbonate of soda in the same bowl you used for the cocoa earlier. Add to pan and whisk again.
7) Make sure your springform tin is clicked 100% shut and pour in the mixture, fizzing from the bicarb like a Sherbet Dib Dab and smelling like a dream.
Bake for 40 minutes, but start checking it at about 32 mins. Press the top with your fingers – if it feels springy , it’s done. If you want to be really certain, insert a skewer to check. A clean skewer says you’re ready.
While the cake is in the oven, do your washing up, cleaning out the cocoa from the sink first and make the icing.
1) Put the rest of the tub of sour cream in a bowl. This should be around 150ml, but however much you have is fine. Beat together with the bought frosting. The sour cream combats the cloying sweetness and makes the whole thing taste a lot more grown-up.
If you’d prefer not to use bought frosting, try the frosting on this link. The cake is perfect lovely un-iced too. Quite grown-up with just a dusting of icing sugar and some creme fraiche on the side.
Remove cake from oven, and tin, allowing it to cool before icing the top with the luscious, slightly runny white icing. Add sprinkles if you want to give it some extra oomph.
*There’ll be a little raw egg in the mixture, don’t do this if you’re preggers/infirm etc.