Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Piece of Cake

Many, many months ago, I came across this pin on Pinterest:

Looks good, right?  When I clicked on the pin, it told me that this was a Guinness chocolate cake with Bailey's Irish buttercream icing.  Mr. Chick is a huge fan of both Guinness beer and Bailey's Irish Cream, so I've been saving this pin for months, waiting for his birthday to roll around.  I never actually looked at the specifics of the recipe until earlier this week, with Mr. Chick's big day fast approaching.  It turns out, the recipe for the cake is from Nigella Lawson, who I think lives in England, and she had some weird ingredients listed.  Have you ever heard of caster sugar?  How about plain flour?  Yeah, me neither.  Google informed me that caster sugar is a superfine sugar that's not as fine as powdered sugar, and it's probably hard to find in the United States.  The good news is that plain flour is good old all purpose flour.  Soldiering on!

Another problem quickly arose:  the original listing of ingredients was in metric measurements, and weirdly enough, the conversions were in ounces and not cup measurements.  Excellent.  How I was supposed to measure 10 ounces of plain flour, 14 ounces of caster sugar that I wasn't going to  be able to find anyway and three ounces of cocoa?  I was already tired and I hadn't even set foot in the kitchen.  I was also going to need to buy a 9" springform pan, because I didn't own one and had never even used a springform pan in any shape, size or form.  Despite these issues, I stayed the course because of how super thoughtful it was going to be to make a cake from scratch that includes not just one, but two libations that Mr. Chick happens to love.  It seemed meant to be.  Soldiering on!

I set out to the grocery store with list in hand and was actually pretty lucky to find something called 'extra fine' sugar, which was as close to caster sugar as I was going to get.  Sugar is sugar, right?  Right.  The grocery store also happened to carry springform pans but they were 10" pans, and being a stickler for the details, I was on the hunt for a 9" springform. I arrived at my holy land  Target, confident that I could procure the appropriately sized pan for my baking project.  Turns out, not so much.  Target also had a 10" springform pan, and a four pack of tiny springform pans, but no 9" springform pan.  No matter, there was a HomeGoods on my way home!  Surely they would have the elusive 9" springform pan, right?  Yeah, no.  Not only did they only have one 10" springform pan in stock, it was in the shape of a heart.  Honestly, I wasn't really sure why I even needed a springform pan when I had a perfectly good 9" round cake pan already.  But again, stickler, details, and all that jazz. Still, I had been to three stores already and had no interest in looking any further - one 10" heart shaped birthday cake, coming right up.  Soldiering on!

Once I had all my supplies, it was time to get baking.  Everything went swimmingly with making the batter, even though it looked pretty wet and runny to me.  I had read some comments on Nigella's website about the fact that it was a very wet cake, so I didn't worry.  That is, until I poured the batter into my brand spanking new (and lovingly procured) springform pan.  If you've never seen or used a springform, it has a release lever on the side that you open to release the edges of the pan from the bottom.  Suddenly, Guinness chocolate batter was oozing out the bottom of the pan and suddenly, the springform pan that I went to three stores to buy seemed like a huge joke that Nigella Lawson was playing on me.  Not to be thwarted in my efforts, I plopped that baby on a cookie sheet, put it in to bake and hoped for the best.  I had planned this cake for months people, and I would not be deterred.  One 10" heart shaped super flat cake it would be.  Soldiering on!

This is what my kitchen looked like after the cake went in to the oven so clearly, it was a hard fought battle (you can still see the chocolate ooze on the counter between the stove and sink):

While the cake baked, I kept an eye on it and noticed that more batter was oozing from the bottom of the pan on to the cookie sheet and instead of being somewhat flat like I anticipated, the cake was taking on a weirdly uneven ramp-like surface.  At one point, the ooze on the cookie sheet started to burn, and I thought the oven might even catch on fire.  Oh well, a 10" heart cake with a built in ramp system and added smoky flavoring it would be.  Soldiering on!

After the allotted baking time, I removed the cake and let it cool for a couple of hours in the pan.
When the cake had cooled enough, I popped the lever on the side of the springform pan and...nothing happened.  The bottom did not come loose as it was supposed to!  The stupid springform pan was just getting better and better.  Just then, I noticed that the edges of the cake had pulled away from the sides of the pan, so I figured I would just plop the cake out into my hand and set it on the cake plate.  I've done that plenty of times in the past, what could go wrong?  It turns out, a lot.  Remember when I said that this was supposedly a 'wet' cake?  Yeah, that.  I soon found out that a wet cake will just break all apart when you try to move it from pan to hand to plate.  I would show you a picture of my poor heart cake, but at this point, I was highly annoyed and not in the mood to document.  Just take my word for it when I tell you it was a broken heart.  I pieced my poor heart together the best I could and put it in the refrigerator in the hopes that further cooling might fuse some pieces back together.  One 10" broken heart cake with a  built in ramp system and added smoky flavoring it would be.  Soldiering on!

Are you tired yet?  I was, and now it was time to make the buttercream icing.  I've never actually made cake frosting that turned out any good, so I was pretty intimidated going in.  But really, it couldn't be any worse than my cake problems, right?  Right.  The ingredient list was pretty straightforward, egg whites, sugar, butter and Bailey's Irish Cream.  The icing was actually a swiss meringue buttercream so I had to actually build a meringue and then turn it into a buttercream icing.  Everything was going great - I whipped my egg whites and sugar to soft and pillowy peaks and when I added the butter it whipped in smoothly.  It was like Martha Stewart herself was cooking in my kitchen.  My last step was to add the Bailey's Irish Cream.  I added the four capfuls as instructed and...suddenly my smooth and creamy buttercream looked more like cottage cheese.  One 10" broken heart cake with a built in ramp system, added smoky flavoring and cottage cheese icing it would be. Soldiering on!

For a minute I thought 'I'm sure it's supposed to look like that, I did everything right.'  Then I stopped kidding myself, threw the mess in the refrigerator and quickly googled 'how to fix curdled buttercream'.  I quickly found a blog post someone had written previously which seemed to be written specifically for me, because not only was it on how to fix buttercream, but specifically how to fix swiss meringue buttercream.  Turns out, you take some of the frosting out of your bowl, zap it in the microwave for about 10 seconds, and slowly incorporate it back in to the rest of your icing.  It worked like a charm and in no time I had my creamy Bailey's Irish buttercream frosting ready to go.  At that point, I was ready to get the whole mess over with, so I unceremoniously dumped the entire bowl of buttercream on to my sad heart cake and smoothed it around trying to help with the 'fusing back together' part.  It didn't really work out, but all in all, I think the cake could have turned out much, much worse (and it doesn't have a smoky flavor either, so there's that).

It's a good thing I soldiered on.


  1. So??? How did it taste??? Cake that looks awful and tastes yummy is still a win in my book!

    1. His birthday isn't actually until Thursday, so I've only tasted a little of the cake and frosting, separately. I think if you like Guinness and Bailey's, this would taste good - if not, not so much. Full report after birthday celebration on Thursday! :)

  2. When I read Guinness chocolate cake with Bailey's Irish buttercream icing, I immediately thought my guy would enjoy this as well. And then I continued reading... You know what? I love him. But I don't love him that much.

    And I'm sorry, but I laughed out loud at your misfortunes. But please, we have to know! Did it taste good?

    1. His birthday isn't actually until Thursday, so I've only tasted a little of the cake and frosting, separately. Full report after the birthday festivities, promise!

  3. Haha, you're a solider for sure! Great post!

  4. And that is why I hate cooking. I tend to buy my cakes.

    Or make them from a box.


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