Quirky and (some might say) eccentric, Dave Walters is no stranger to Lowveld circles. He has been the MC for countless events, is a radio talk show host, the head of production at Rise FM, an itinerant bagpipe player and a beer aficionado.
Traditionally, October is beer fest time, but with current circumstances being what they are, celebrations will be kept to a minimum and the beer might not flow quite as voluminously as we may like. That doesn’t mean we need to abandon the idea altogether, we will just need to scale down a little (in some cases a lot) and bring the Oktoberfest home.
“It’s important to keep up appearances, and not let anyone set the tone for the new normal for us,” says Dave. “Personally, I think I will invest in a couple of interesting imported brews, Leffe Blond being a particular favourite, if Belgian, and break out the Schweinebraten, Würstl and some Knödel, maybe with a touch of sauerkraut,” he muses. “We shall imbibe with our masks on, we shall drink at a distance, we shall take shots in the fields and in the streets, we shall have Schapps in the hills – we shall be merry, but we will never surrender!”
Dave’s great love of Guinness recently led him to investigate the makings of a rich and lovely chocolate cake, which he heard about via an old friend. “I’d read reports of this mythical Guinness chocolate cake and assumed it to be something purely from the realms of fiction, but after a few recent attempts at baking, I figured it might well be worth a try,” he says. Adapted from one of Nigella Lawson’s recipes, arguably the queen of decadent desserts, the cake is as dark and delicious as can be expected. “And the beauty of it is you don’t need a mixer or any fancy machines; I made this cake entirely by hand. So, gentlemen,” laughs Dave, “get your aprons on, ‘cause it’s baking time again! It’s easier than you think, will turn out better than you hope, and it’ll make people look at you and go ‘… dude …!’ So make a note of this lot and then get yourself off to the shop!”
Guinness chocolate cake
For the cake
250ml Guinness (get a bottle – the stuff in the cans tends to get very bitter); 250g unsalted butter; 75g cocoa; 400g caster sugar; 1x 142ml pot sour cream (odd, they don’t sell 142ml pots in this country; get a 250ml and guess from there); 2 eggs; 1 tbsp real vanilla extract (I used the little bottle of vanilla essence. Not sure how “real” that is. Turned out okay, though.); 275g plain flour; 2 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the topping
300g Philadelphia cream cheese (Kraft does a local version. It’s in a silver container; find it in the fridgey/cheesy section of the supermarket); 150g icing sugar; 125ml double or whipping cream
What to do
Preheat your oven to 180ºC.
You’ll also want to butter and line a 23cm springform tin. I didn’t have one of those, so I buttered and lined (with wax paper) a bread-baking tin, and my loaf of cake worked out fine for me.
Now the fun starts. Grab a large saucepan and pour in the Guinness. Best if you bought an extra one to gently sip while you’re doing this. Add the butter and heat until it melts. Whisk in the sugar and the cocoa. Round about this time you’ll start realising that you’re in the presence of something special.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, sour cream and vanilla together and pour into the pan of beery, chocolatey goodness in front of you. About now you should see some faces peering
around the kitchen door going “What IS that…?” Whisk in the flour and the bicarb; a bit more elbow grease than I anticipated, but hang in there, it’s going to be worth it.
Your cake batter is now complete. Get it out of the saucepan before it gets to be too sticky. Put it into your greased, lined pan and get it into the oven where it’ll stay for the next 45 minutes to an hour. The general test is to stick a thin knitting needle into the thickest
part of the cake and pull it out. If it makes it out without bits sticking to it, it’s done.
Take it out and let it cool completely. The cake is so moist, it’ll be almost impossible to handle unless it’s completely cool.
The icing is pretty straightforward
Whip the cream cheese until it’s smooth and then chuck in the icing sugar.
The correct way of doing it is to sieve it in, but I don’t have one, so I didn’t – it turned out fine. If you have one of those food processor jobs, you can start with the sugar and beat it till all the lumps are gone before adding the cream cheese.
Either way, your next step is to add the cream and to beat it into a spreadable consistency. Use this to ice the top of your cake. It’s designed to add the visual appeal of the head on a pint of Guinness and the taste to offset the deep, dark, delumpsch moistness of the cake.
Dave’s most recent jaunt into the world of Guinness and chocolate has led him to adapting this marvellous recipe into cupcakes. To make the cupcakes, change the baking time to between 25 and 30 minutes, and only fill the cupcake cases up to the halfway mark.
Adorn with grated chocolate and a scrummy cherry. Sit back, enjoy, and let the compliments flow.
Photographer: MATTHYS FERREIRA