Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

I don’t like beer.

I was absent the night in university when my friends went to the grungy student pub, bought a pitcher and sat down, determined to acquire a taste for the stuff.

No idea where I was–I like to think I was responsibly studying somewhere–but it seems my decision means I will never really love beer the way I might have if I had sat in that smoky room with them.

Around St. Patrick’s Day, food bloggers were raving about cupcakes that included a rather unexpected ingredient: Guinness. Given my distaste for beer, I passed those entries by.

Frankly, the only thing that intrigues me about Guinness is the hypnotic rolling where the head meets the dark liquid in the pint glass just after it’s been poured. But I kept thinking about the recipes.

Cupcakes in profile

I think I was intrigued because they were so boldly unusual. Beer and chocolate? Really? Would the taste of stout be overpowering?Would it mellow into the background to add a perhaps unidentifiable richness? Or would it just be a chocolate cupcake with a good storyline?

It should come as no surprise this recipe comes from a British chef — Nigella Lawson — considering the other culinary oddities that have sprung from the United Kingdom. I mean, consider the blood sausage.

Her version makes an entire cake, though, and I prefer the idea of cupcakes, I suppose, for their portability. It is also much easier to pass them along to friends than a slice of cake. Leaving an entire cake in my fridge is not an option.

And she has paired it with a cream cheese icing, which creates a sort of play on the stout itself, with its creamy white head balancing atop the velvet dark drink.

Three whole cupcakes

I don’t believe in skimping on the icing. The original cream cheese icing recipe suggested adding more whipping cream to thin it out, but I reined in the extra liquid to ensure I had a nicely thick, spreadable topping. As a result, I also didn’t have enough. Given that I ate two cupcakes before even making the icing (quality control–OK, that’s a lie, I was dying of curiosity) and I still had four cupcakes left at the end that went unadorned, I suggest doubling the icing recipe. That way, there will be more than enough to coat all of the cupcakes.

The original recipe called for a half cup of whipping cream. I only used two tablespoons. If you’d like a thinner icing, feel free to add more cream.

My first bite made me realize –again–that Nigella certainly knows her stuff. These cupcakes are rich and dark with only a hint of their secret ingredient –certainly not enough to turn me off the idea of eating several more. Combined with the icing, the Chocolate Guinness cupcakes were heavenly. The icing, perhaps ironically, cuts some of the darkly chocolate flavour.


A friend graciously offered to buy the remaining five bottles of Guinness from me, knowing full well they would simply gather dust next to my wine rack. But, having given these a shot, I think I will hang on to them. After all, I think I’d like to make the cake version next. Apparently, all it took for me to like beer was to add chocolate.

Bitten and whole

Bitten profile

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Excerpted from Feast by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion Books, $39.95, 2006)

  • 1 cup (250 mL) Guinness
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup or 125 mL) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) sour cream
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 2½tsp (12 mL) baking soda


  • 8 oz (250 g) cream cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.

Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan, add butter and heat at medium-low until melted. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar, then remove from heat. In a small bowl, beat together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Pour into the slightly cooled Guinness-butter mixture. Whisk in the flour and baking soda.

Spoon batter into cupcake pan, so each liner is about three-quarters full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Once completely cooled, make the icing.

Beat cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth. Add the whipping cream and beat again until it is thoroughly mixed and spreadable. Add more cream if you want a thinner icing. Spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit

You may also like


  1. i cannot wait to try these. i was just at a relatively new restaurant in new york called vinegar (which was pretty yummy) and they served this cake with this same name for dessert and i thought it was fantastic. funny that it goes back to nigella whose dishes i have tried though not that many, but now i am inspired to try again. thanks.

  2. My boyfriend is Irish so he loves Guinness and also loves chocolate cake…I’m making these at this very moment and cannot wait for him to try them…I don’t plan on telling him what is in it until after he tries them. LOL

  3. Eeks – just tried these and they were a complete flop! They all overflowed the muffin cups, and the middles were totally sunken in, and even after 18 minutes they were still not cooked through. :S

    Just referenced the original recipe that was posted in the NY Times, and it called for 10 Tbsp. (instead of 4) butter.

    1. I’m so sorry this recipe isn’t working for you. I just went and looked and there are several versions of this recipe hanging around the Internet. The original Nigella Lawson recipe calls for 250 grams of butter. However, other versions appear to call for 10 tbsp.(NY Times) and another one said it takes 1 stick (1/2 cup=8 tbsp.) of butter, which is what I used.

      Since I haven’t tried recipes with more butter, I’m not sure what went wrong here. The missing butter may make some difference, but I know a friend of mine also used this exact recipe with no ill effect.

      Is it possible the cups were too full? I’ve had problems with that sometimes….

      I wish I could help more!

      1. Alison, I’ve had the same problem, once using regular flour and once using gluten-free (rice and millet) flours. The gluten-free batch I made today looked like potholes.

        Here are my thoughts:

        * This is a really dense cake. It doesn’t puff up like a muffin; it tends to be more like a hockey puck. Today’s batch was the gluten-free, for a neighbor. I thought the millet flour might make it lighter. Instead, it’s like it couldn’t support the bubbles. Wonder if turning down the temp and baking longer would keep it from erupting like that.

        * Since the last batch was concave, I thought I’d fill up the muffin cups all the way. I should have done the opposite – stay at about half. The batter expanded during cooking and overflowed like crazy, then contracted. It’s like the batter couldn’t support itself during baking- see above.

        * Interesting that most recipes call for more fat. I substituted yogurt for sour cream both times – and maybe that made it fall below some critical level. I’ll try the additional butter.

        * Any food chemists in the house? It seems like a lot of sugar for a cake. I also wonder if another egg would shore it up more. Time to dig into Bakewise or Ratio. Shirley Corhiher has some interesting things to say over here: .

        Miss Patent, I love this recipe. The combination of flavors is great, and I look forward to try, trying again.

  4. I made a batch of these this afternoon and sampled one (well, split one with a friend) and I cannot WAIT to have more after dinner.
    I also pimped your blog out to some ladies in the baking aisle today ;)

  5. I have noticed you don’t monetize your site, don’t
    waste your traffic, you can earn extra bucks every month because you’ve got hi
    quality content. If you want to know how to make extra
    $$$, search for: best adsense alternative Dracko’s tricks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *