Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Hubby’s birthday cake: chocolate cherry beer cake

on May 22, 2011

I was searching for birthday cake inspiration for my husband’s birthday cake. I don’t always make him a cake, in fact, I rarely do, but we can’t afford to go out for dinner at the moment so I thought it would be nice to make him a birthday tea and as I was going to do that, I may as well make a cake as the pudding.

Riding on the back of the success of the chocolate guinness cake I was inspired to think about beer cakes. And as I had some cherries in the fridge, left over from the cherry cheesecake, I started to look for cherry beer cakes. And I came across one that was a chocolate cherry beer cake. It seemed perfect. And then when I read that you also add walnuts to it, and that it didn’t require many strange American ingredients I couldn’t get hold of, I decided this was the cake to make.

This cake is nice. It’s lovely. But it’s not the chocolate guinness cake. It needs more guinness and more cherry juice I think. And maybe more chocolate. And less icing. But if you hadn’t already eaten the chocolate guinness cake, you would be enraptured with this cake and it makes an excellent birthday cake and is much easier to make, transport and keep than the chocolate guinness cake.

I started by making the cake with the quantities in the recipe, but after I weighed out the flour, it looked like an insane amount an I didn’t want an enormous cake, so I halved it. The result was that the cake isn’t quite as chunky as you may like a cake to be, but if you’re also considering not turning into a heifer, this may be a good thing!

So it’s one of those recipes – successful in and of itself, and very delicious but somehow not quite living up to the high expectations I had based on other recipes.

Here’s the original recipe

I pretty much kept to it, but having now made it, I wonder if I wouldn’t have more beer and cherry juice in it and less buttermilk. Or just leave out the buttermilk all together and replace with a couple of tablespoons of milk.

I had no idea what buttermilk was either, but found out pretty quickly from the internet. And also found out it was easy to make and easy to replicate. Buttermilk is the waste product from making butter, its the milk that remains when you’ve made the butter. And that’s not as complicated as it sounds. Basically, get some double cream, whisk until stiff then keep whisking until it starts to go yellow and break up somewhat. Then turn the whisk down low and keep whisking and you’ll start to see a milk substance appear – that’s the buttermilk. Keep whisking (periodically removing the buttermilk if it’s easier) until no more emerges, then seive through the buttermilk. Retain the butter, rinse under the tap to remove the buttermilk left on it (it will turn it sour quicker) and store in the fridge.

You can also make it (but it will take a bit longer) by half filling a jar with cream and shaking it vigorously until you have butter and buttermilk. I found a whole pot of cream made about 100g butter (which I then used in the icing) and 100ml buttermilk. You can also replicate it by adding 1/2 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar to 100ml milk.

I’m giving you the quantities I used – but you can either double them for a larger cake (or make two halves and put the icing in between them as well as on top), or instead use 170ml guinness or other beer, 60ml cherry juice or sauce and 2 tbps milk for the liquids and keep the rest of the ingredients the same. This will make it a lot more beery, damper and more cherry flavoured. The downside to this is that cooking it will be trickier and you’ll need to adopt methods similar to the chocolate guinness cake to ensure good cooking but not overcooking.

I didn’t use fresh cherries either – I already had a jar of them and I couldn’t be bothered with removing the seeds. You can use frozen too. I just rinsed the canned cherries to remove the excess sauce, halved and and used the sauce in the jar for the cherry juice in the cake.

The icing need a lot less icing in general and less sugar in it too. I reduced the amount of sugar but still the quantity and the sweetness was insane. I added 2 tbsp lemon juice just to balance out the sweetness somewhat. And I overloaded the cake with icing and still have about half of it left in the fridge (going to make cupcakes with it). So I’ll adjust these quantities for the recipe.

As the recipe also says, you don’t need to use Guinness or a stout – but depending on the beer, you’ll get a different kind of cake. A lager will make it a lot lighter and paler and the guinness much darker and damper.

Chocolate cherry beer cake

Serves about 12 (double quantities if you want a double layer cake)

  • 185g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 45g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), melted – I would increase this to 60g if you want it really chocolatey
  • 125ml beer (or 160ml if not using the buttermilk)
  • 80-100ml buttermilk (or whatever you get out of a pot of cream) or equivalent
  • 30ml cherry sauce or juice (or 60ml if not using the buttermilk)
  • 125g cherries (tinned, frozen or fresh), stones removed & halved
  • 60g chopped walnuts

For the icing

  • 60g butter
  • 1/2 egg (keep the other half in case you decide the icing needs it or there’s not enough of it)
  • 70g dark chocolate (at leat 70% cocoa solids) melted
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp milk
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice (add as needed)
  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Grease a round cake tin, approximately 23cm in diameter, preferably spring board.
  2. Sift the flour, salt and bicarb soda together.
  3. In a separate, large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth and pale. Then add the egg and chocolate and mix well.
  4. Collect up the beer, cherry juice, buttermilk (if using), and flour and place next to your bowl. Add a spoonful of flour, to the cake mix and mix well until combined. Then add a splash of beer, mixing well again. Then follow with another spoon of flour, and then with cherry juice – alternate between the flour and the liquids until they’re all combined in the mixture.
  5. Mix until smooth and then add the cherries and walnuts.
  6. Pour the cake mix into the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for about 45-60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean from the middle of the cake.
  7. Allow the cake to cool in the tin and then turn out onto a wire rack.
  8. To make the icing combine the butter, sugar, melted chocolate, egg and milk until thick and smooth. Taste and add lemon juice if it’s too sweet.
  9. Smooth over the top of a completely cooled cake. Add some walnuts to the top if you like (or cherries, or whatever).
  10. Serve with a pot of tea, or to the sound of people singing ‘happy birthday’ 🙂

One response to “Hubby’s birthday cake: chocolate cherry beer cake

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