For an aspiring food blogger, I am always behind the 8-Ball when it comes to posting recipes before each "National Fill-In-The-Blank Day" or holiday season. Epic timely fail. I think it's because I become absorbed into researching what I want to make for my own family. By the time I actually make the recipe, edit the photos and write the recipe post, the holiday is over.
With this cake, it doesn't matter that St. Paddy's day was yesterday. This cake is good any time of year, and the towering presentation, the contrasting billowy Italian meringue, with a coating of Belgian chocolate ganache truly makes a "Ta-Da" statement.
Glazed Pork Chops or Lamb Stew. Guinness in desserts? I admit that I was highly skeptical. This St. Paddy's Day, I decided I'd risk combining this Irish beer with Dutch chocolate-- Ireland, meet the Netherlands, if you will. (Italy and Belgium will join the cake party later on in the recipe.)
This does make a lot of batter! Instead of using two 9-inch cake pans, I used three of them. For insurance, I used plenty of Baker's Joy non-stick spray and pre-cut cake pan sized parchment paper.
I need to buy another set of cake baking bands,(you can see them on the front pan).
The suggested baking time for two 8-inch pans is 50 minutes. I checked the cakes at 30 minutes, since the batter was divided into three cake pans. Perfect! Can you see the difference between the "banded" pan (front) versus the non-banded cake pan in the back? See that dome? I truly do believe that the cake bands make a more evenly baked cake. These need to cool for about ten minutes before removing them from the pans onto a cooling rack. Let the cakes cool completely (or make them the day before).
Two of my favorite cake baking tools are a cake leveler and a giant spatula. Because one layer had that dome, I needed to make it level. Sure, I could use a serrated knife, but this inexpensive tool ensures that I don't create a cake layer that resembles the leaning tower of Pisa. The giant spatula gives me a guarantee that I won't break a cake layer while transporting it to a cooling rack or cake stand. Trust me, I've broken a few cakes, and I've had to use a lot of frosting to hide it!
Let's talk about the cake, since I had some cake scraps, I was able to taste the cake before frosting it. Yum! You can choose to frost it with a simple buttercream, or make a fancier Swiss Buttercream. I decided that I wanted to go with the Italian Meringue and chocolate ganache. So, I chopped up some quality 72% Belgian chocolate and got the mixer ready to whip up the egg whites.
CAKE TASTING NOTES: Moisture factor-- spot on! The cake has a very tender crumb. Can I taste beer? Nope! Not one bit. So, it's true that Guinness beer has some chocolatey notes to it. My other theory is that the carbonation adds a little extra tenderness to the cake-- similar to the Perfect Pound Cake (that has 7-Up in it). Who knew?
I've never made a Italian meringue, but I did finally conquer my fear of making marshmallows-- which is similar. With an Italian meringue, you make a simple syrup that is slowly poured into whipped egg whites. There's no gelatin nor corn syrup involved with this. You definitely need a dependable candy thermometer, because you don't want the simple syrup to boil beyond "softball" stage of 234-240F.
Owning a stand mixer makes this frosting very easy to make. Once the egg whites become fluffy, you very slowly pour the hot simple syrup down the sides of the bowl...
...and let that motor and wire whisk work for several minutes--until you can feel the side of the bowl becomes nice and cool. The frosting has the silky, yet sticky, texture of marshmallow creme.
WARNING: Be sure that you have your cake layers ready to be frosted. This frosting sets up reasonably fast.
I could eat this by the spoonfuls.
The Italian meringue is fun to work with. An off-set spatula just glides as I frosted all three layers. I had to step back and admire how tall this cake would be! I am a self-confessed non-lover of dark chocolate. I know, I'm in the minority. I much prefer milk chocolate. If this had been my own birthday cake, I would quit right here and call it a day. However, I was baking this cake to bring to a dinner party. So, I decided to add a Belgian Dark Chocolate ganache, gambling that most people would love this.
Chocolate ganache is very easy to make. It's hot heavy cream, poured over chocolate. Once you allow it to sit, for about 30 seconds...
My only regret is that I had less heavy cream, on hand, than I thought. So, the ganache was a tad thicker than I would have liked. Oh well...
The cake was chilled for a couple of hours, which allowed the ganache to set.
TASTING NOTES: I would, definitely, make this cake again. It's incredibly moist with a rich notes of chocolate. There is no trace of molasses or hops or any kind of beer after taste. I absolutely loved the Italian meringue, because it's not super sweet, as most buttercream frostings are. I picked off the ganache, when it came time to eat dessert with our friends. Later, I noticed the chocolate ganache pieces had disappeared from my dessert plate. My husband had a guilty smile on his face, but I was pleased he liked it.
IMPORTANT: I strongly suggest that any leftover cake is refrigerated, and the frosting does not keep well after a day. In fact, the meringue begins to deflate and will reabsorb itself into the cake. Not a bad thing, but just fair warning.
Overall, this cake really wasn't too fussy to make. The batter comes together quickly. You just have to wait for the cakes to cool, completely (at least an hour, or more). It's a beautiful cake, and I thank the blog "My Man's Belly" for sharing her recipe so that I could make it and share it with all of you.
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