This decadent chocolate stout cake is topped with swirls of browned butter cream cheese frosting. With only 15 minutes of effort, it will likely take up a permanent spot in your dessert rotation.
Adapted from Vedika Luthra | 52 Weeks, 52 Sweets | Mango Publishing, 2021
This recipe gives everything one could possibly want in a chocolate cake and more, and yet the star ingredient isn’t just chocolate; it’s also stout beer. Yes, perhaps an odd ingredient for a dessert, but hear me out: the stout adds an earthy undertone that enhances the flavor of the chocolate more than anything else and adds a bit of flair. It’s also perfect for St. Patrick’s Day, which takes place in March. While I have a version of a stout chocolate cake on the blog, this recipe is new and improved, making for a devilishly dark and rich chocolate cake, enhanced by the stout. The frosting has a nutty caramel flavor, courtesy of the brown butter, which works wonders for this dessert. This cake has actually won an auction, it’s so good. And a little bonus is that it doesn’t require eggs.—Vedika Luthra
Chocolate Stout Cake FAQs
What can you substitute for stout in this cake?
If you are avoiding alcohol, you can substitute strong coffee or hot water for the stout. One of our testers even used a combination of red wine and espresso with great success.
Can you freeze chocolate stout cake?
Yes. Let the unfrosted cake cool completely, then wrap it well in plastic. It will keep for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge or for a few hours on the countertop before frosting.
Chocolate Stout Cake
For the cake
- Cooking spray or butter for the pan
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 cups dark stout such as Guinness, or strong coffee
- 1 stick (4 oz) butter cubed, or 1/2 cup (4 oz) mild vegetable oil
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus more for the pan
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
For the cream cheese frosting
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) full-fat cream cheese cold from the fridge
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (optional)
Make the cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray or butter a 9- to 10-inch (24- to 26-cm) springform pan or a 9- by 13-inch (23- by 33-cm) rectangular cake pan. If using the springform pan, line the bottom of the pan with a parchment circle, spray or butter the parchment, and then lightly dust with cocoa powder. Wrap the outside of the springform pan tightly in foil to prevent the thin cake batter from leaking through.
- In a small bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the stout or coffee with the butter cubes, stirring until the butter has completely melted. (If substituting vegetable oil, stir with the stout or coffee over medium heat until warm.) Remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Whisk the cocoa powder and sugar into the liquid mixture until well-combined. Using caution in case the mixture bubbles up, slowly add the vinegar, followed by the flour mixture, and stir until smooth.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. The batter may look foamy but it will settle as it bakes. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Let the cake cool completely. Once cooled, remove the sides of the springform pan, if using.
Make the cream cheese frosting
- In a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat, melt the butter, swirling occasionally as it begins to boil and crackle. Continue cooking and gently swirling until the butter turns a light golden color and releases a nutty aroma, 4 to 8 minutes.
- Pour the butter into a large heatproof bowl and let it cool completely. (You can pop it in the fridge to help speed things up.)
- When the butter has cooled, use a whisk or electric hand mixer to blend in the cream cheese. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, a little at a time, beating until the frosting is smooth and thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract, salt, and lemon juice, if using. (If the frosting is too soft, chill it until thick enough to use.)
- Spread a single layer of the frosting atop the cooled cake. Use an offset spatula or butter knife to make small, decorative swirls.
- If using a springform pan, transfer the cake to a serving plate, if desired. Slice generously and serve, preferably with a cup of tea or a tall glass of cold milk. The cake will keep for several days, covered, in the refrigerator.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This recipe for chocolate stout cake will satisfy any chocolate lover! I was so pleasantly surprised when I took my first bite and was overwhelmed with deep rich chocolate and nutty cream cheese frosting. The stout beer definitely adds depth to this cake enhancing the cocoa flavor. Browning the butter first then adding it to the cream cheese frosting is what makes this cake so special. The rich nutty flavor really shines through the cream cheese icing! The stout, chocolate, browned butter, and the cream cheese all work together so well to create a delicious flavor combination you will never forget!! This would definitely wow a crowd for St. Patrick’s Day!
This cake is very good and satisfied my craving for chocolate cake. I didn’t have stout on hand and opted for coffee as the recipe suggested, and I had no qualms with switching the liquid element. I also substituted a combination of dutch processed cocoa powder (75g) and black onyx cocoa powder (25g) for the unsweetened cocoa powder called for in the recipe, as I didn’t have unsweetened cocoa powder on hand. As a result, I had no problems with my cake rising or with it’s flavor. The flavor of this cake reminds me a lot of a Hostess cupcake and I love myself a Hostess cupcake so that’s not a dig.
The brown butter cream cheese frosting isn’t very noticeable, unfortunately, when eaten with the cake, but rather more complex on its own. This could be from my cocoa powder choices though, as my cake is quite rich in chocolate flavor. I imagine that if you used natural unsweetened cocoa powder the brown butter frosting would shine more. This is an easy chocolate cake recipe that comes together very quickly and can yield delicious results even if you have to make substitutions like I did. Go ahead and make it for your next sweet treat.
Using an unusual ingredient in my cooking is a pastime, and I honestly love keeping people guessing at what it is. I never have a lack of taste-testers, because they know I like to try unexpected things, and it’s become a friendly challenge for them to figure out what the secret ingredient is.
This chocolate stout cake recipe caught my eye, and I have to admit I’m not a beer drinker, so I took this one in a different direction. The description indicated that it could be made non-alcoholic, but where’s the fun in that? I decided to substitute Merlot wine for part of the liquid, and included 1 teaspoon espresso powder with 1 cup water for the remainder of the liquid.
This took only 20 minutes to prepare and 45 minutes to bake. During the bake time, I was able to prepare the frosting. The one thing I noticed about this recipe was that the cake did not get the traditional ‘mound’ in the center—it came out flat—no need to trim at all. For the cake batter, I used the butter instead of the oil, and Hershey’s regular cocoa. I was rewarded with nice rich flavor, with hints of merlot, and a very moist cake. For the frosting, I made 1.5 times the recipe, but did not increase the amount of lemon juice as I did not want any lemony aftertaste. That amount worked just fine. The richer frosting complemented the cake perfectly without being too heavy.
I love a chocolate stout cake and this one had pros and cons. The biggest pro was the cream cheese frosting. It was other worldly delicious! The browning of the butter made such a profound difference. It was perfection. The cake, on the other hand, was just good. It had a nice texture and crumb, but the flavor was oddly missing. I did use a neutral oil in place of the butter, as allowed. I felt like the cake could have benefited from some espresso powder and maybe some more vanilla. The flavor was surprisingly one-note and I was expecting more depth of flavor. The frosting was a cake savior!
Originally published March 10, 2022
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
I’ve tried a few chocolate stout cakes and have never been totally sold on them, but this one has won me over! It reminded me a bit of a red velvet cake. It’s moist, chocolatey, not too rich, and has just the right frosting-to-cake ratio. The brown butter in the cream cheese frosting is a surprising addition that I loved, it adds a caramelly-ness that goes very well with the cake.
As far as cakes go, it’s easy and un-fussy. No layering, no crumb coating, just plop the frosting on top and swirl it around. Another plus – nothing needs to be brought to room temperature, so no eggs in bowls of hot water or sticks of butter tucked in the waistband of my pants like I usually end up with because I can never remember to plan ahead before I bake! This is a great cake for people who want something indulgent, delicious, and impressive looking, but less complicated than a traditional layer cake.