Cocoa-Guinness cupcakes.

This recipe is adapted from one at smitten kitchen, which is the best-looking food blog I’ve ever seen. The photographs are simply amazing. The recipes are nearly all taken from well-known magazines and cookbooks, slightly modified and rewritten. (This, by the way, is completely legal; you can’t copyright a recipe, although you can copyright the specific text used to describe a recipe.) She does do some things that make me nuts, like measuring baking ingredients by volume rather than weight or “discovering” something that’s not that new (as with the rebrowning step in her short ribs recipe, describing a technique that’s been in Joy of Cooking for at least ten years), but it’s one of only four or five food blogs in my RSS reader because the photos inspire me and every once in a while there’s a recipe I want to make. Like these cupcakes.

I made the cupcakes for company this weekend, skipping the ganache filling step because of time constraints and using a Kahlua/cream blend in lieu of Bailey’s in the frosting (which isn’t actually buttercream since it lacks eggs). The results were very, very good – dark, moist chocolate cakes with that intense flavor you only really get from cocoa, cut nicely by the coolness of the frosting. I’m probably going to experiment with this further, but for those who saw my twitter about these cupcakes and asked for the recipe, here you go. I’ve rewritten this to measure the dry ingredients by weight, added vanilla extract to the cupcakes, and made the aforementioned change to the frosting. Oh, and I don’t use cupcake-pan liners. Who the hell uses liners? It’s 2009. Buy a nonstick pan and some baking spray.

For the cupcakes:

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil (such as canola)
80 g (about 3/4 cup) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
300 g (about 2 cups) all purpose flour
400 g (about 2 cups) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (about 175 C). Prepare two 12-slot cupcake pans with baking spray or with nonstick spray and cocoa powder*.
2. Combine the butter and stout in a medium saucepan and bring to a bare simmer over medium heat. The goal is to melt the butter, work the carbonation out of the stout (we’ll add lift chemically), and combine the two. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder and oil until smooth. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.
4. In the work bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl suitable for a hand mixer), combine the eggs and sour cream and beat with the whisk attachment until more or less blended. Add the vanilla and sugar and blend further.
5. With the beater(s) running on low speed, slowly pour in the warm cocoa-stout-butter mixture. Increase the speed and whisk for thirty to sixty seconds until combined.
6. Add the flour in two to three installments, beating thoroughly after each addition until the mixture is homogeneous.
7. Pour or scoop the mixture into the prepared pans, filling each compartment about ¾ full. A #20 disher gave me 20 cupcakes.
8. Bake 15-17 minutes, switching and rotating the trays at the eight-minute mark. Remove them from the oven when a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake (not one on the edge of the oven) comes out just barely clean. A few crumbs clinging to the toothpick would be ideal. Cool thoroughly on a rack before frosting.

* Baking spray is regular spray oil with flour mixed into it. If you don’t have it, spray the pan with regular canola-oil or vegetable-oil spray, and put a little cocoa powder in each compartment, tilting the pan to cover the bottom and sides of each compartment. Yes, a nonstick pan should release the cupcakes anyway, but why take chances?

For the pseudo-buttercream frosting:

About 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
1 Tbsp heavy cream
2 Tbsp Kahlúa® or other coffee-flavored liqueur

1. Combine the cream and liqueur in a small measuring cup and set aside.
2. Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, beat the butter for about two minutes or until thoroughly broken down into a smooth paste.
3. Add the sugar one heaping tablespoon at a time, allowing each to be mostly integrated before adding the next spoonful.
4. When the mixture starts to stiffen, add about half of the liqueur/cream mixture and beat in on low speed. If the frosting is still too stiff to spread or pipe, add the remaining liquid until you reach the desired consistency. Use immediately, because it gets stiff quickly even at room temperature.


  1. If the recipe calls for butter, you can rub the pan with the butter wrapper. Keith, what kind of brand cooking spray you use? I’ve heard that some has silicon in it. I use Pam from Costco.

    By the way, what if we can use real cocoa-infused beer instead of Guinness? Recently I drank local beer Terrapin’s seasonal Cocoa-Infused Porter; wasn’t impressed as I am IPA guy, but it will be interesting. As far as I know, there are more cocoa or chocolate infused beer around. I think I will give it a try soon.

  2. Damn – no pics, money?

  3. Keith,

    Have you ever tried “blooming” the cocoa powder in boiling water/coffee before using? I’ve heard it brings more flavor out of the cocoa, but I haven’t tried it yet.

  4. Keith, checked out the website and you are right – those pics are very vivid. The ones of the fudge boiling in the pot made my mouth water.

  5. Keith,

    thanks for the link…can you please let us know what other food blogs you have on RSS, and other subscriptions, if you’re interested in sharing?

  6. Brian - Laveen, AZ

    You should try making these with Chocolate Stout…such as Young Double Chocolate or Southern Tier’s Choklat…I bet that would be great!

  7. Benjamin Jeffers

    Think of how delicious these cupcakes would be if they were made with European Guinness. The thought alone makes me get the shakes and instantly gain 3 lbs.

  8. I’m confused as to why measuring in volume is bad – I’ve never seen measurements any other way.

  9. Certain ingredients, like flour, can pack down in the cup to such varying degrees that “one cup of flour” can weigh as little as 3.5 ounces and as much as 5.5 ounces. The degree of the grind can also affect the volume. Flour should always be measured by weight. So should powdered sugar and cocoa unless you’re using a tiny amount.

    It is true that most cookbooks and recipes measure all ingredients by volume, but it’s also true that most sportswriters and announcers measure all pitchers by won-lost records.

  10. Daniel,

    In addition to Keith’s notes, it’s usually easy to find volume-to-weight conversion charts (in ounces and grams) online. King Arthur Flour has a decent list on their site, although it is built around their products.

    Also, many of my cookbooks list items like flour and sugar by weight. It’s worth the $30 or so it costs for a digital scale. And it also saves you the time of additional measuring cup cleaning.

  11. I’m making my gf make these (she’s baking anyway). We’re substituting heavy cream for sour cream and omitting vanilla due a lack of both. We’ll see how it goes

  12. Turned out great! We used an Anchor Porter instead of Guinness.