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Chocolate Stout Cake 009

Sometimes you make something that is a disaster but simultaneously wonderful. Kind of like a lot of things in life, right? You almost fail out of school, then meet your future husband because he offers to tutor you. You lose a job, but then are finally forced to go do what you really love. You get a scary diagnosis but it wakes you up to the need to start taking really good care of yourself.

Life. Messy. Miraculous.

And because so much of my life involves cooking, I have had many disasters/miracles in the kitchen. In fact, some of my favorite recipes have evolved from really screwing something up and needing to figure out how to fix it on the fly. And if I can’t fix it, deciding how to save the meal before my 10 guests arrive.

And sometimes that means ordering pizza or plying guests with wine while I come up with a Plan B.

Again, just like Life, many problems are solved with a phone call for help and a good glass of wine. Remember that.

This cake recipe started out promising enough. I’d seen it in various iterations through the years, regularly making a mental note that I really needed to bake this cake and then promptly forgetting about it. I even bought the Guinness Stout three times, specifically for this cake, only to leave it unattended in the fridge too long. Beer in the refrigerator is considered fair game in my house. Tim couldn’t care less if it is earmarked for a cake.

“Beer cake? That sounds weird. And a little gross. I think I saved you from making something disgusting by drinking that Guinness.”

And then I’d have to remember to buy the beer again, and the process would start over. See the recipe, buy the beer, forget about the beer, beer gets drunk, I get mad, yell at Tim. Repeat.

But finally, this weekend, all the pieces fell into place. I had the Guinness. I had the time. I was craving chocolate cake. Check. Check. Check.

And then I made the cake. It smelled heavenly. I ran on the treadmill while it was baking, anticipating my first slice to be eaten as I ran around my kitchen. I’m an ultrarunner. I have to eat while I’m running. It’s a rule, right? And if I ate a slice while I was running, then it wouldn’t really count, would it? I could have another one after I was done running. That is called training, people.

Finally, after many miles minutes, it was time to take the cake out of the oven. I tested it with a toothpick and it seemed a little underdone. I’d had the oven guys out the day before because my oven temperature was reading seventy-five degrees low, but the tech assured me it was only thirty degrees off, not enough to mess with – just adjust. And I trusted him. He had a fancy schmancy sensor and all I had was my little dangling oven thermometer. Surely he was right.

But this cake didn’t seem to be cooking correctly with the thirty degree adjustment. I cooked it for five more minutes. I checked it again, and then got nervous that I was going to ruin this cake if I overbaked it – and there was no way I was going to ruin it after all the beer drama it had already survived.

So I took it out. It looked beautiful, all bundty and beery. Now it just needed to cool. I ran some more. I checked on it every few miles. I believed it was smiling at me, telling me we’d finally outsmarted Tim and achieved baking greatness.

And then finally, it was cool. Time to flip it out, and more importantly, eat my first slice.

Plate on top, flip, tap. Nothing. No movement whatsoever.

I took a knife and went around the edges.

Plate back on top, flip, tap. Still nothing. What?

Time to use all my culinary skills – I shook the crap out of it.

And all hell broke loose. Or rather, all parts of my cake broke loose. Except for the full half of the cake that stayed completely stuck inside the bundt pan. I stared at my mess, briefly trying to decide if there was some way I could squoodge it all back together. Um, no. This cake was done for. Tim was right, I had made something disgusting. And wasted his Guinness Stout.

But then I tasted it.

Hello, Mr. Cake. Where have you been all my life?

Yes, even in its huddled masses repose it tasted damn good! Amazingly good!

I ate a few more bites, forgetting completely about the treadmill whirring away in the garage. It was time for a full piece of cake. Or rather, pieces, because there were no chunks big enough to qualify as a legitimate piece of cake. But who cared? I just took my fork to the plate and ate it like it was my own personal serving instead of a whole cake that was in shambles.

Then I remembered the ice cream I had made a few days before. I had saved some of the vanilla base (just leave out the peppermint extract and the peppermint candies, or mix the cake with the peppermint ice cream – yum!) in case I wanted to mix in Reese’s cups, or something. What about cake?

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Topped with some freshly whipped cream, we had Chocolate Stout Cake Parfaits for dessert that night and Tim didn’t say a word about wasting his beer.

Yes, life and cooking are messy. But working with the disasters sometimes yields the best results. Or at least parfaits.


Chocolate Stout Cake

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Epicurious)

1 cup Guinness Stout

2 sticks unsalted butter

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups AP flour

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sour cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease, spray or butter bundt pan. Set aside.

Melt butter with Guinness in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to simmer, add cocoa powder and stir until blended. Remove from heat and cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.

Chocolate Stout Cake 005

In another large bowl, beat together the eggs and sour cream until just blended.

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Slowly add the stout/butter/cocoa mixture, stirring to combine. Slowly beat in the flour mixture until just blended, then fold the mixture with a rubber spatula until fully combined.

Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool COMPLETELY before attempting to release it from the bundt pan. Loosen edges (including the center) with a knife and flip out of the pan.

Frost or, if you screwed up the removal, break into pieces and layer with ice cream and whipped cream.

Eat it while remembering one of your husband’s perfectly good beers sacrificed it’s life so you could have chocolate cake.




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Peppermint Ice Cream 1 006

Yeah, I know, we haven’t even made it through Thanksgiving and I’m already onto Christmas desserts. I’m like Jingle Bell Rock in September at the mall. I get it, I get it. But I don’t care because Thanksgiving desserts are so…meh. I mean, come on, the signature dish is a pie made out of a vegetable! As if.

No, in my world, after the Halloween candy is all gone, we just skip right over Thanksgiving desserts and go straight to the good stuff: snowball cookies, sticky buns in the shape of Christmas trees, toffee, fudge, iced sugar cookies and peppermint ice cream.

Christmas baking has officially begun, chez moi. Fa la la la la, la la, la, la!

Peppermint ice cream always seems to catch people off guard and make them smile, even if they claim to not like mint ice cream. I’m guessing it’s because it’s pink. Pink food immediately takes us back to the days of pajama-clad cartoon watching and a lot of food made with Cream of Chicken soup. Pink food = happy food. And the fact that this pink food is made with heavy cream and sugar just makes you want to put on your footie pajamas, grab Mr. Snufflekins, and snuggle up with your favorite book, The Westing Game. Oh, wait, sorry. I was having a moment.

Back to the ice cream. This stuff is dynamite plain, but it is out of this world if you add a few semi-sweet chocolate chips to it – kind of like Ande’s Mint ice cream. Trust me on this one. If you don’t want to commit to a whole batch of Chocolate Peppermint Ice Cream, just put out a bowl of chocolate morsels and let your guests top off their scoops, if they so choose. Or just serve the ice cream plain and eat all the chocolate morsels yourself after they’ve gone home/gone to bed. I didn’t see anything, I promise.


Peppermint Ice Cream

This is the base recipe that can be used in whatever ice cream maker you have. I use a Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt – Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker which is super easy and QUICK (in fact, it would make a great Christmas present – and I have no financial interest in this product or company, I just love my ice cream maker! There. I gave you a recipe AND helped you with your Christmas shopping! Merry ThanksChristmas!).


2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon peppermint extract (Be careful with this, it is very strong. You can always add more if you want to.)

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 drops red food coloring

15 peppermint candies, crushed, plus more for garnish


Heat milk and heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it almost boils. Reduce heat to low.

Peppermint Ice Cream 022

While milk/cream is heating, beat the egg yolks, sugar, mint extract and vanilla extract in a separate bowl.

Add 1/4 cup of the hot milk/cream mixture to the egg mixture to temper it. Slowly, pour the egg mixture into the milk/cream mixture, stirring constantly to keep from cooking the eggs (no scrambled eggs, please!). Cook on low for four minutes, until mixture thickens slightly.

Remove from heat and cool completely. I put my saucepan in an ice bath for 30 minutes to speed this process along, but if you’re more patient than I am, just stick the whole pan (covered) into the freezer.

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When mixture is cool, churn away! In the last few minutes of churning, add red food coloring and chopped mints.

Peppermint Ice Cream 1 003

Start singing Christmas Carols at Thanksgiving dinner just to drive everyone crazy!



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