Today, I’m excited to share with you this recipe for moist and delicious chocolate stout cake, which is one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes.
I got to make and serve this luscious chocolate Guinness cake to Anthony Bourdain, and it is the highlight of my professional cooking career.
Moist rich chocolate cake topped with barely sweet burnt caramel buttercream is a match made in heaven, and even though he was not a dessert lover, Anthony Bourdain said he enjoyed the cake.
I’ll take it.
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If you don’t want to read the Tony Bourdain story, click here to skip it.
Watch my best chocolate Guinness cake web story here.
The Time I Made This Cake for My Culinary Hero
In 2007, I was on the opening team at The Ravenous Pig, a gastropub in Winter Park, Florida.
One Saturday a month, we’d have a pig roast for lunch with a set menu including roasted pig (obviously), collards, cornbread, a pint of beer, and a small square of chocolate stout cake for dessert.
I was in charge of making the cornbread and the cake.
In March of 2008, we got wind that Anthony Bourdain would be the special celebrity guest at the Orlando Film Festival. We had already had a pig roast that month, but we decided to have another one specifically to lure him with the promise of whole pig with all the fixin’s.
It worked, too.
He showed up with a group of folks, including his then-infant daughter in a car seat.
We served his table family style, with large platters of pork and sides as well as a few extras like our house-made charcuterie (yes, Rhys Gawlak. Yes.)
I asked our chef/owner if I could please serve the dessert to their table, and he said yes. Huzzah!
I cut squares of the cake–dense, rich chocolate stout cake skimmed with barely sweet dark caramel buttercream–placed them on a serving platter, and took them to the table.
I stood right next to Anthony Bourdain, and said that I’d brought dessert and I would love for him to try a piece of the cake.
He said he really wasn’t too much into sweets, but I declared the cake to be magic. I touched him on the shoulder.
He took a bite. The man who had eaten his way around the world, dining in Michelin-starred restaurants and people’s homes in the poorest parts of the world, and accepted all he was served with grace and gratitude, ate the chocolate stout cake I made.
And declared it delicious.
And he signed my copy of his book.
Once he and his entourage finished eating, he then took the time to come back to the kitchen and talk to all of us for a few minutes. He told Rhys his Bratwurst was really fucking good.
That’s the highest praise anyone in the restaurant business can get.
That their food is really fucking good.
I know I didn’t have a personal friendship with Anthony Bourdain. I know he probably didn’t spare any of us much of a thought after he left the restaurant, but we were all such fans. And his taking the time to hang out with us meant the world.
So, in honor of what would have been Anthony Bourdain’s birthday, June 25, I offer this chocolate stout cake.
It’s really fucking good.
Does Stout Really Make a Difference?
Yes, the stout Most Definitely Does Something. Do you guys remember the Maillard Love Story I wrote awhile back?
Well, it was all about why chocolate and coffee go so well together. You might as well just throw stout into that story and make it a Manage a Trois.
Stout goes so well with both chocolate and coffee because it is based on roasted grain–deep, caramelized, malty goodness.
As we know coffee beans and cocoa beans are roasted as well. These three flavors have a natural affinity for each other because they share a lot of flavor compounds.
What stout tends to do in a cake is
- reinforce the chocolatey goodness of the cake, turning it more fudgy
- It can also give just a slightly bitter edge, cutting the sweetness of the cake by just a hair.
In layman’s terms, and to channel Martha just a bit, “Stout in chocolate cake? It’s a Very Good Thing.”
Yes, You Can Make This Cake Without a Mixer
For real. Stand mixers are great to have, but you absolutely don’t need one to make this Guinness cake.
All you need are a couple of different bowls for mixing Various Components, a rubber spatula, and a whisk.
Here’s the procedure for making this cake. If I had to categorize it as a particular mixing method, chocolate stout cake is made using the dissolved sugar method, which is the same method used in my Halloween chocolate cake.
The ingredients are pretty straightforward. Aside from the stout, you may already have everything you need:
- all-purpose flour: provides the structure for the cake. I wouldn’t use cake flour here, as the cake is already really moist. If you use cake flour, I think the cake would break apart
- white sugar: for sweetness and moisture
- brown sugar: for sweetness, depth, and moisture
- cocoa powder: provides the chocolate flavor. Cocoa powder is, ounce per ounce, more chocolatey than chocolate since it is made up almost entirely of cacao and has relatively little fat, no sugar, and no dairy in it
- espresso powder or instant coffee: underscores the chocolate flavor
- baking powder: for rise
- baking soda: to balance the acid in the brown sugar (molasses) and the beer
- salt: counteracts any bitterness from the stout and cocoa and brings all the flavors into focus
- butter: (not pictured) provides fat to carry flavor and tenderize the crumb
- eggs: adds structure, moisture, richness, and emulsifiers
- stout: the liquid in the cake. Adds depth of flavor and subtle maltiness
- vanilla: rounds out the chocolate and beer flavors
- sour cream: adds a touch of mellowness, a bit of extra fat, and milk solids to up the protein a bit. You can also use creme fraiche or Greek yogurt.
Making Chocolate Stout Cake, Step by Step
Note, this cake is made using the dissolved sugar method. It’s a safe bet that any cake that relies on hot liquid as part of the ingredients is made by the same method.
- Heat the beer and the butter until butter is melted.
- Add vanilla. (And salt)
- Add espresso powder.
- Add the sugars.
- Sift in the cocoa powder
- Whisk until smooth.
- Whisk the eggs and sour cream together.
- Stir that into the chocolate stout mixture.
- Add flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Whisk together until almost completely smooth.
- Pour/scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
- If using a push pan, set your pan on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven.
- Let it cool for a few minutes in the pan.
- Run a spatula around the inside of the pan to make sure the sides aren’t sticking. Set the pan on top of a small container of some kind–I used a glass, but a small bowl would work too.
- Press the sides of the pan down.
- Slide cake off the base and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cold.
Jenni Says: To turn this into a stout layer cake, feel free to bake in 2 8″ or 9″ pans, or you can cut this one thick layer in half horizontally once it cools completely.
Why Refrigerate a Hot Cake?
As a cake cools, some of the liquid evaporates. And that can lead to a dry cake.
Wrapping a hot cake tightly in plastic wrap keeps all the moisture in the cake where it belongs. Tada!
Another Frosting Option
If the burnt caramel buttercream seems too rich and not sweet enough, I have the perfect frosting for you.
My fluffy caramel frosting is a bit sweeter, doesn’t contain eggs, making it lighter, and is delicious to eat off a spoon.
A Note About Measurements
Don't let its small price and small size fool you. The Escali Primo is an accurate and easy-to-use food scale that I have used for years. It's easy to store, easy to use, has a tare function, and easily switches between grams and ounces/pounds for accurate measurements.
Chocolate Stout Cake Q & A
Here are answers to some questions you might have when making this cake. I hope you find them helpful.
If I’ve missed anything, feel free to email me. I’m happy to help!
Guinness and Murphy’s, both Irish stouts, are great choices for making a stout cake. But with the proliferation of craft breweries in this country, your choices are almost limitless. Consider a milk stout, which is nice and creamy.
Stout really is the best choice, but if you can’t find any, you could also use a dark porter.
If you don’t want to use beer, substitute a cup of strong coffee. You can leave out the espresso powder unless you want the cake to be more of a mocha cake. It won’t have quite the complexity of a stout cake, but it will still be one excellent chocolate cake.
Yes. Freeze it before you frost it. It will already be wrapped in plastic wrap from cooling it, so you can then wrap it in foil and freeze it for 4-6 weeks.
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Thank you so much for taking the time!
And to Anthony Bourdain, I am so sad you are gone, but I am so grateful you were here.
Chocolate Stout Cake Recipe
- 1 cup stout or other dark malty beer
- 8 oz. butter 2 sticks
- 2 eggs
- ½ c. plus 2 TBSP sour cream or creme fraiche
- 2 cups all purpose flour 9 oz
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ cup cocoa powder
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup dark brown sugar packed
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- Set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350F.
- Line the bottom of a 9" x 3" push pan or springform pan with a circle of parchment. Spray the parchment and the sides of the pan with pan spray. Set aside.
- Put the stout and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until the butter is melted. Stir and let cool slightly.
- Whisk together the eggs and sour cream. Set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
- Sift the cocoa powder into the stout mixture and whisk until combined and smooth.
- Whisk in the granulated sugar, the brown sugar, the vanilla, salt, and espresso powder (if using).
- Add the egg/sour cream mixture, and whisk well.
- Dump in the flour mixture and whisk/stir until mostly smooth. A few tiny little lumps are okay.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
- Bake for about 50 minutes, carefully rotating the pan after 30 minutes if your oven has hot spots.
- The cake is done when the top springs back when gently pressed, when the sides are just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan, and when the internal temperature of the cake reaches 200F.
- Remove to cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
- Turn the cake out (or take of the sides or push down the sides, depending on your pan), and wrap well in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate the cake until cold.
- Torte (split the layer in two) if desired and frost with dark caramel buttercream.
- Store leftovers in the fridge, but let the cake return to room temperature for serving so the frosting and cake will have the best texture.
Did You Make Any Changes?
Q & AWhat’s the best stout to use?
Guinness and Murphy’s, both Irish stouts, are great choices for making a stout cake. But with the proliferation of craft breweries in this country, your choices are almost limitless. Consider a milk stout, which is nice and creamy. We used Left Hand Milk Stout back when I made this for the restaurant. For this particular cake, I chose BearWaters Brewing Heavy Cream Stout, a North Carolina beer with a low ABV of 5%. This stout also features notes of espresso and chocolate, which made it perfect in the stout cake. What other kind of beer can I use?
Stout really is the best choice, but if you can’t find any, you could also use a dark porter. Stay away from hoppy beer like an IPA. It’ll make the cake read as bitter. I don’t drink beer. What can I use instead?
If you don’t want to use beer, substitute a cup of strong coffee. You can leave out the espresso powder unless you want the cake to be more of a mocha cake. It won’t have quite the complexity of a stout cake, but it will still be one excellent chocolate cake. Can I freeze my chocolate stout cake?
Yes. Freeze it before you frost it. It will already be wrapped in plastic wrap from cooling it, so you can then wrap it in foil and freeze it for 4-6 weeks. What frosting goes best with stout cake?
I have seen stout cake served with everything from just a dusting of powdered sugar to chocolate frosting to whipped cream to cream cheese frosting to Bailey’s frosting. Any of those options will work just fine. I do encourage you to make the dark caramel buttercream that I developed especially to serve with this cake. The frosting by itself is not very sweet and doesn’t necessarily inspire bowl-licking, but on this cake, it is heavenly.
Frosting OptionsI developed the burnt caramel buttercream specifically to go with this cake. You can find that recipe here.
For a more "approachable" buttercream, consider making my fluffy caramel frosting. You can find that recipe here.
Or let the cake do all the heavy lifting and frost with a creamy, not-too-sweet ermine frosting, which is more widely known as red velvet cake frosting. It also happens to be one of my favorite frostings for any chocolate cake.
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And there you have it, friends. An exceptional chocolate stout cake recipe. Truly.
Thank you for spending some time with me today. Take care, and have a lovely day.