Up with this sort of thing

Here’s a pint of Guinness. Now, slán go fóill, y’all, because I’m off to Ireland!

Well, not immediately. (And why yes, I did bake a cylindrical Guinness chocolate cake and carve it into the shape of a pint glass and top it with Guinness foam. Because Guinness cake has been done a million times before so it was time to take it up another notch. BAM!)

But I leave in a bit under two weeks to go and work with collaborators in Dublin for a couple of weeks to analyse the data I’ve been collecting over the past 16 months. Could I have even hoped for better-located collaborators? I think not. After that, my boyfriend Chris and I will be hanging around in Ireland for a few extra days before hopping over to London and taking in as much of the UK as we can over the course of several weeks.

So, any suggestions for particular places we should go? Seriously, anywhere in Ireland or the UK is up for consideration, especially if there is food involved. Leave a comment or e-mail me with suggestions, as they will be greatly appreciated.

Also, since we’ll probably be, you know, hopefully, sort of, kind of busy, it means that once I leave I probably won’t be updating the blog very much until I’m back next year. I’ll do what I can, but alas – I can’t make any promises. I won’t be blogging about my travels since I think of this as more of a food/science blog than a personal blog (if I do come across anything particularly amazing in terms of food and/or science, I’ll certainly try to post it).

However, if you want to follow along with my travels, leave a comment or send me an e-mail to let me know and then when I start uploading photos to the online photo album I use, I’ll send you the link. Last time I was overseas, in April this year, I was pretty good at uploading photos every day.

Pint-of-Guinness cake
This is just the slightest tweaking of Nigella’s chocolate Guinness cake

250ml Guiness
250g unsalted butter
75g cocoa
400g caster sugar
150g sour cream
2 eggs
1 tbs vanilla paste or extract
275g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (yep, 1 1/2, you want this denser than Nigella’s cake)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a cylindrical baking tin (approximately 10cm diameter, 21cm long) with butter. Cut out a circle of baking paper to fit on the base and stick it in place (the butter should hold it). Cut out two rectangular pieces of baking paper, both 2cm longer than the length of the tin and about 1cm wider than half the circumference of the tin. Insert one into the tin to line half the inside, grease its surface with butter, then insert the second piece of baking paper to cover the rest of the inside, overlapping slightly with the first piece. Grease its surface again, as well as that of the circular piece of paper on the base, and smooth all the paper down, making sure it’s well attached to the tin with butter.

Put the Guinness in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat. Add the butter and let it melt, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar and cocoa. Combine the sour cream, eggs and vanilla in a jug, beat with a fork, then add into the Guinness mixture and stir to combine. Pour the Guinness mixture through a sieve into a large bowl. Add the flour and bicarb and stir until everything is combined.

Pour the cake batter into the cylindrical tin so it is about 3/4 full (if you have a bit left over, use it to make cupcakes). Put the tin on a baking tray and place it on the lowest rack in the oven (the cake will rise a fair bit and you don’t want it hitting the upper element in the oven – keep and eye on it and if it does rise too much, you might need to slice the upper inch or two off the cake during baking). Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester or skewer or knife pushed into the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Once the cake is completely cool, remove it from the tin, cover it in cling-wrap, and place it in the fridge overnight. When you are almost ready to prepare it, place it in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours – this makes it a lot easier to carve. Then just get a sharp paring knife and carve it into the shape of a pint glass – it really helps to have a pint glass handy for reference. Shave bits slowly off the side, checking to make sure that you aren’t taking too much off by holding it up to the pint glass (e.g. compare the base of the cake to the size of the base of the pint glass to make sure you’re not taking too much off the lower half).

Keep the cake off-cuts as you can use them to make a dessert of your liking – I mixed the shaved-off bits of Guinness cake with beaten ricotta and finely chopped dark chocolate. Nice.

Whipped Guinness
1/2 cup Guinness (flat, if possible)

Using a stick blender, blend enough xanthan into the Guinness that it has the consistency of thickened cream. Weigh the mixture and put it in the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle in 1.25% methylcellulose (e.g. Methocel) or 2% Texturas Metil by weight, then whisk on high speed for 5 to 10 minutes. The mixture will expand and go foamy.

Cut a sheet of acetate (an overhead transparency) into a band about 3cm wide and the full length of the sheet (the length will be trimmed later, it just needs to be long enough to go around the top of the cake). Fix this in place around the top of the cake (it should be very tight), so that about 1cm of the top of the cake is inside the circular band of acetate, and acetate rises up about 2cm above the top of the cake. Trim the length of the acetate so that it overlaps itself by about 1cm, and sticky-tape the end in place. Spoon the Guinness foam on top of the cake, so that the acetate holds it in place like the edges of a glass. Make sure to press the foam down with the back of the spoon, to get it firmly attached to the cake and firmly pushed up against the sides of the acetate. When the foam is about 0.5-1cm thick, place the cake in the freezer for at least an hour to freeze the foam, then take the cake out and carefully pull the acetate band off, leaving the foam in place on top of the cake, as if it was the head of the Guinness contained within an invisible glass. Serve… somehow.

  52 comments for “Up with this sort of thing

  1. November 21, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Ha, very amusing! Both the cake and the mini interview!

    I wonder if you can bake the cake in a robust pint glass? Probably not…

    • Jess
      November 21, 2010 at 9:30 am

      I did think about baking the cake in a pint glass, but because the pint glass I have has a wide bulge then a narrower top, I’d have never been able to get the cake out of the glass. But if you had one that didn’t have any bulges in its side, I reckon it could be done!

  2. November 21, 2010 at 2:48 am

    Oh girl I am so totally going to miss you during your time abroad! But I know you will have an AWESOME time and eat lots of delicious food and maybe get a paper or two out of the whole thing. yeah?

    That guinness cake is really too much. I love it!

    • Jess
      November 21, 2010 at 9:33 am

      The skills I’m going to pick up will let me analyse all my EEG data, and because the study I’ve been conducting has a lot of different aspects to it (my participants do multiple cognitive tasks and I’m manipulating neurotransmitters with multiple drugs), I should hopefully get quite a few papers out of it. Hurrah! PhD thesis by publication, here I come!

  3. November 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    1. Love the questionaire. Wonderful answers, and if that’s you being selfish? Well, I want more selfishness :)

    2. Squee! Both for the cake and the plate of scraps. Oh, how I want that plate of scraps.

    3. Have an amazing time travelling! You know I’m in for travel photos, always :) And go knock those Irish collaborators’ socks off with your neuro-brilliance!

    • Jess
      November 22, 2010 at 8:26 pm

      If I wasn’t a thousand kilometres away from you, I would have gladly given you the entire plate of scraps. You could have had the cake too – I had a bit of cake batter left over, made cupcakes, ate some of the cupcakes, and somehow completely overdosed on Guinness cake that way. I took a piece of cake to work and just stared at it at morning tea time because I knew I should want to eat it, but I didn’t actually want to eat it.

      An amazing time is guaranteed, I’m just about sure, and I will send you the link to my wee collection of photos!

  4. November 22, 2010 at 12:37 am

    You are awesome in so many ways.

    Firstly, I could get used to being called sovereign. Please continue to do so.

    Secondly, this carved pint glass is incredible. I am in awe. I’m a little confused though… you just did the peking cakes for my sister, and now again you are doing something for my sister. Can you move onto another family member please? She’s already the easiest one to get gifts for.

    Thirdly, I love every single one of your answers, but am filled with sorrow that my regular sporting venues do not serve stuffed grouse. Unless of course you ask for a pie and sauce, and that’s the secret code for stuffed grouse? Could this be possible?

    I could go on forever but it’s late and I’m tired and I want to go dream of Franz Ferdinand all wearing bike pants.

    • Jess
      November 22, 2010 at 8:30 pm

      How about lemons? Who in your family likes lemons?

      You’re going to the wrong sort of sporting events, clearly. The correct ones probably involve badminton, and everyone present has names like out of a P.G. Wodehouse story. That’s how I imagine sporting events to be.

      I’m not sure if I approve of Franz Ferdinand wearing bike pants, although I’m sure they would totally, as the kids say these days, work said pants.

  5. November 22, 2010 at 1:47 am

    The cake is brilliant!

    • Jess
      November 22, 2010 at 8:31 pm

      Why thank you!

  6. November 22, 2010 at 7:43 am

    You are my new girl-crush. Your cake is a-freaking-mazing, and I love your wit. That being said, if you have the time on your trip, you should totally do a driving tour of Western Ireland, from the Burren down & around back up to Dublin. (I assume you’re flying out of Dublin). The Burren is gorgeous and amazing; Galway is a lot of fun – great cheesemongers and bakeries; Doolin is fun – 3 pubs, good food, great music. There’s also a castle outside of Doolin (I think it’s technically in Ballyvaughan) that’s a B&B. Nothing is really terribly far away from anything else, but if you rent a car, watch out for the narrow roads and the sheep. Cheers!

    • Jess
      November 22, 2010 at 8:41 pm

      You’re too kind! Thanks for the suggestions – even though I’ve not been to Ireland before, I know it’s all sorts of fantastic, so it’s just a matter of packing the most fantastic aspects into a neat parcel of ultra-fantasticness in the time I have there. So any guidance about places to go or things to do is well appreciated.

      I’m a bit reluctant to drive a hire car while I’m over there, just because I have no idea what to expect with the weather and the resulting driving conditions (I see myself skidding sideways for several hundred metres due to patches of ice before gently ploughing through a farm gate and coming to rest in the middle of a field – best case scenario), so I’m hoping to see a fair bit of the country courtesy of trains. I don’t know if that’s terribly lame, but I’m quite fond of train travel and I’ve found some promising day-trips (in combination with other modes of transport) to places like the Aran Islands for a good price, so I’m keen to give them a go.

      I look forward to the sheep!

  7. Marinka
    November 22, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Absolutely great.

    • Jess
      November 22, 2010 at 8:43 pm


  8. November 22, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Genius. Brilliant. Mind-bogglingly awesome! I made up a word just for this amazingness. I posted a link on my other site, ediblecrafts.craftgossip.com. (I hope that’s OK!)

    • Jess
      November 22, 2010 at 8:44 pm

      Haha my site stats did point to an explosion of traffic coming from your site – glad you liked my post and thanks for the link!

  9. November 22, 2010 at 11:07 am

    What an amazing idea, Jess! That first memory sounds a bit traumatizing hehe, but it seems like you’ve had no lasting trauma ;p. Will miss you during your travels!

    • Jess
      November 22, 2010 at 8:44 pm

      Maybe I would be a completely different person if I hadn’t been through that trauma – who knows? ;)

  10. November 22, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    I love the idea of a pint glass shaped cake. I haven’t thought about carving a cake before, but I think I’ll have to try it out someday.

    Oh, and I can’t believe that I never knew about your blog until today. I love reading about the science behind food/eating :D .

    • Jess
      November 22, 2010 at 8:47 pm

      As long as the cake is dense enough, it’s a candidate for carving! Can’t say I fancy doing anything too complicated, though – cake is not the easiest sculptural medium to work with.

      I hope I can provide you with interesting food-science-kind-of-stuff from today on, then!

  11. Natasha
    November 22, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Your first memory perhaps explains your attitude toward the jumping castle we saw recently? You suddenly make much more sense [strokes chin in the fashion of a psychologist]

    • Jess
      November 23, 2010 at 8:27 am

      Oh god you’re right. Or maybe it was something to do with the jumping castle giving birth to a festschrift-having, retina-researching almost-retiree? *shudder*

      Although I’ve just in the last few days realised that I have many memories from when I was 3 (thank you, Expo ’88, for allowing me to pinpoint the year of my memories of you, including seeing a guy dressed as a magpie put twigs in my mum’s hair as part of his “performance art”) and I have absolutely no idea which one would be first. Still, obviously the inflatable maze thing is the most salient one.

  12. November 23, 2010 at 12:50 am

    Love it! So creative and fun!

    • Jess
      November 26, 2010 at 4:32 pm

      Thanks. :)

  13. November 23, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    oh wow i absolutely love this idea of carving! The scraps can always be used to make cake pops! Hee.

    • Jess
      November 26, 2010 at 4:44 pm

      Those scraps are surprisingly versatile, I have to say.

  14. November 23, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    This is amazing! So cool. :)

    • Jess
      November 26, 2010 at 4:44 pm


  15. Sam
    November 23, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    This is simply divine. So great and imaginative. I have a whole bunch of Guiness lovers I’m going to try it out on. Have you read/seen Clare Crespo’s books? She wrote a book called “Play with your Food” or something like that that might amuse you/inspire you.

    • Jess
      November 26, 2010 at 4:46 pm

      Haven’t heard of Clare Crespo at all before but I’ve just looked up her site and I’m liking it a lot. :)

  16. Scarie
    November 25, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Love your recipes, only found your site today. Just in terms of train travel in Ireland- be prepraed that it is expensive. however if you want a gorgeous , not too dear trip, when in dublin get the dart from connolly to killiney or dalkey. or if you want a longer journey get the train from connolly to drogheda, both are coastal journeys. In dublin usual tourists spots are trinity college and the book of kells, the guinness storehouse. just be warned also that ireland is going through a tough economoic time so there will be a few protests on around Dublin on saturday. also the news and papers are very depressing at the moment! enjoy my lovely country though!

    • Jess
      November 26, 2010 at 4:50 pm

      Thanks for the info. I’ll actually be working at Trinity College so I guess that’s a convenient chance for me to be quite the tourist! Speaking of the papers, I enjoyed this bit of reporting immensely. Très subtle.

  17. November 25, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    LOL – this is a very cool cake. Have fun in Ireland (I have not been so can’t help with places to go).

    • Jess
      November 26, 2010 at 4:51 pm

      One can’t imagine not having fun in Ireland, surely!

  18. November 26, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Be sure to eat at Wagamamas!! x

    • Jess
      November 26, 2010 at 4:53 pm

      We’ve got Wagamama here in Australia. ;) Just looked up the Irish one’s menu and it’s pretty much identical. But that’s good news! I’ll know where to go in Dublin if I want a quick and relatively cheap meal of Japanese food. Excellent.

  19. November 26, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Haha, nice one!

    • Jess
      November 26, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      Cheers. :)

  20. Kerry
    November 27, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Hi Jess,

    RE: Places to visit when you’re in the UK; are you planning on coming up to Scotland? If so, and you’re staying in Edinburgh at any point, I’ve got a few suggestions as a born-and-bred Scot :) . The National Gallery of Scotland, on Princes Street at the end furthest away from Waverley train station, is a really good find; entry to the main gallery is free, the coffee shop’s not too expensive, and it’s just next to the beautiful Princes Street Gardens. If you’re into your history, then the National Museum of Scotland (not far away on Chambers Street) is also good, and the wee side streets off the Royal Mile and the Grassmarket have a lot of independent shops, as opposed to the chains you get on Princes Street. As for food,
    If you get the chance, it’s only an hour to Glasgow by train from Edinburgh, and Glasgow city centre is lovely; all the museums and galleries run by the City Council have free entry too. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has just been redone and it’s easy to get there by ‘Clockwork Orange’ (subway)-you can get that from Buchanan Street too!
    The last place I’d recommend is St Andrews. Although it’s a train and a bus away from Edinburgh, it only takes about an hour and a half all in, especially if you can get an express train. The ride itself is really pretty, as is St A itself. I’m at uni here, and it’s so pretty I’ll be sad to leave the view when I graduate next summer :) There are actually a lot of really good, keenly-priced restaurants and cafes here: the ‘House’ restaurants (three separate ones that serve Mexican-, Italian- and French-inspired food respectively) all do two-course lunch menus for under £7, and the NorthPoint cafe (literally ten paces from a gorgeous view of the North Sea) does a happy hour on weekday afternoons. There are three beaches (two sand, one pebble), a castle ruin (complete with underground passages) and a cathedral ruin. The Lade Braes walks and the university itself are also lovely-as long as it’s not raining….!

    • Jess
      November 29, 2010 at 8:27 am

      Ahhh thank you so much for those recommendations – I actually will be in Edinburgh (have wanted to visit for so many years) and I’m there for Hogmanay and a few days either side so hopefully I’ll get to check everything out (and hopefully not too many places will be closed). Can’t wait. :)

  21. Kerry
    November 27, 2010 at 12:49 am

    Also: Franz Ferdinand are AMAZING. I can’t actually rate them highly enough. Plus, ‘Turn It On’ and ‘Can’t Stop Feeling’ are just funky. Funky funky music, perfect for dissertation writing (or paper-writing?).

    • Jess
      November 29, 2010 at 8:28 am

      I will never get over Franz Ferdinand. Have you seen the video for Can’t Stop Feeling? I couldn’t stop laughing the first time I watched it. Brilliant.

  22. Scarie
    November 27, 2010 at 3:29 am

    Aww i went to college in Trinity, loved it there! Have a fab time :) Yeah the government are a shower of ” useless feckin gobshites!

  23. November 29, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    How sad that I just discovered this blog today and you are going away love your guiness cake and your questionnaire.

    re questions about where to go in Ireland and UK, I can tell you not to try the food in Cork Hospital – really not great! And I can recommend the dublin viking tour if you feel like roaring at tourists or the Edinburgh Mary Kings Close tour (under the council chambers opposite St Giles Cathedral) if you want to go underground. If you are in Edinburgh and have money the Witchery is an amazing place to eat and their chocolate tart is amazing but if you are feeling poor I recommend haggis nachos at the last drop pub in the grassmarket. ( my posts on Edinburgh are listed at the bottom of this page – http://gggiraffe.blogspot.com/p/reflections-and-reviews.html if you are up that way). That’s probably enough for a first time visit – enjoy your trip

    • Jess
      December 1, 2010 at 10:06 pm

      Haggis nachos… that sounds phenomenal. Definitely going to try that! Thanks for the recommendations. :)

  24. November 30, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    just one more suggestion I thought of – there is a restaurant in Cork (I think) called Paridiso run by Denis Cotter who had a couple of cookbooks – I have one and would visit the restaurant because his food is great and his attitude to food is amazing – and seeing that you bake maybe you could look up cafe in central Dublin called Queen of Tarts if it is still there

    • Jess
      December 1, 2010 at 10:10 pm

      I just looked up Queen of Tarts and it’s about a one-minute walk down the road from my hotel. Excellent! And judging by the website, I think I’ll be spending a whole heap of time there…

  25. December 1, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Collaborators in Dublin? Can I be on your project too? :) I love the photo of you (or someone else?) holding the cake like it’s a pint glass – sounds like you’re ready for Ireland. Have fun on your trip!

    • Jess
      December 1, 2010 at 10:12 pm

      Haha that’s my boyfriend holding the cake-glass. Not recommended unless you want very sticky fingers. I ended up eating pieces of the cake with a fork because it was so dense and sticky.

      I shall definitely have a whole lot of fun! Cheers.

  26. August 30, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    A carved cake is great, a Guinness cake is even better.

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