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In January, it’s my habit to revisit old Golden Spoons, and when I read that this Saturday is National Chocolate Cake Day, I figured it was destined that I drag out one of my tried-and-true favorites, chocolate stout cake.

Not at all that hard to make, a dense, dark chocolatey concoction that never fails to bring on the oohs and aahs. In fact, it’s downright decadent.

Topped with chocolate ganache frosting — another delightfully easy recipe — this is a cake that will make your knees weak and your New Year’s diet resolution fly out the window.

Although there’s nothing tropical in this recipe, I think of this as my Hawaiian cake. I picked up the recipe nearly 10 years ago while vacationing on Kauai. A member of the group I was with was touting his cake and I prevailed on him to share.

Share he did. I’ve since laid claim to it and am not ashamed to revel in the resulting accolades.

If you don’t like chocolate — can’t imagine such a thing — or don’t like to bake, you can quit reading right now. However, for the rest of us, here’s a recipe you just have to try. Offer it up the next time there’s a birthday in your family or circle of friends. Spend a little time in the kitchen, then relax and accept the raves. This one is stellar.

I’ve always used Guinness, although any dark stout could do just as well. The beer gives the cake an intense, not-too-sweet, somewhat-yeasty flavor and enhances its chocolatiness. Is that a real word? If not, it should be.

The Portuguese also have a beer cake, not chocolate, not baked in layers and not iced with ganache; nevertheless, I’m intrigued. I’ll let you know when I give that one a try.

For now, without further ado or apologies, here’s another repeat, one that once tried, will be a forever favorite.


2 cups stout (such as Guinness)

2 cups (four sticks) unsalted butter

1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon baking soda

1½ teaspoons salt

4 large eggs

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1⅓ cups sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 9-inch-round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring stout and butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout/chocolate mixture to eggs and sour cream. Beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack or racks for 10 minutes before removing from pans to racks. Make following ganache, then frost when layers are completely cooled.


2 cups whipping cream

Dash of salt

1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 teaspoons vanilla

Flake salt for top

Bring cream and salt to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and vanilla, then whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about two hours. Place one cake layer on plate. Spread ⅔ cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread ⅔ cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle top lightly with flake salt. Makes 12 servings.

Longtime Valley resident Elaine Revelle can be reached at