Being long passed the first flush of youth and the heady days of puppy love, red roses and mushy billets-doux, every year I try to think of something that will appeal to Michael’s romantic side without resorting to red underwear which would now probably reduce him to laughter, or tears, for all the wrong reasons.
Long, long ago I remember coming home from work on Valentines Day to be met by Michael, beaming with pride as he presented me with a plate of homemade truffles he had been busy making as a declaration of his love and affection. The immediate rush of joy and gratitude was quickly displaced by something else when I saw the state of the kitchen which looked like the aftermath of a chocolate fight between a class of hyperactive five year olds. But the thought was there and many years later I still fondly remember those truffles, although I have noticed that all further chocolate gifts have been very much of the shop bought kind. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have mentioned the messy kitchen, gift horses and all that.
Over the years Michael has surprised me on various occasions with foodie offerings, most memorable was the day he nearly burnt the house down when he decided to deep fry me some pig ears for a treat. Oh, I remember it well, the flames, the smoke, the swearing, the cries for help and the smell that lingered in the kitchen for days to come.
My husband has a penchant for very pungent tasting food and whilst on the whole we do share a very similar palate, both liking bold and earthy flavours, his various bacalao dishes which surface every couple of years have never sent me into raptures no matter how hard he tries to convince me I am missing out on one of life’s little delicacies and likewise his signature dish of kidneys in red wine has never managed to wheedle its way into my list of favourites.
However, without his passion to try foods that some people find, shall I say, unusual, I probably would not have delved into the weird world of tripe. Cooked with plenty of garlic and paprika, Callos a la Madrileña is a hearty Spanish tripe recipe I would recommend anyone try, even if they have turned their noses up at this much maligned offal over the years. The sublime, slow-cooked oxtail stews and cassoulets, cooked over days rather than hours, are very much his domain and I count my blessings that my man enjoys his food and cooking as much as I do.
His tastes in the baking department are quite surprisingly plain. It may come as a shock to some that he does not possess a sweet tooth and will avoid anything overly sweet or sickly. His all time favourite cake is the very homely Victoria Sponge which I will always make for his birthday, which happens to be quite near to Valentines Day. This leaves this other significant annual occasion requiring something a little more on the adventurous side.
This year I have plumped for this Guinness and Chocolate cake with cream cheese icing. There are so many extremely similar recipes for this in books and on the internet that I honestly do not know who to attribute the original to. I shall plump for the Hummingbird Bakery version as I happen to have their Cake Days book but I swapped the buttermilk for sour cream and added a few drops of vanilla essence to the frosting. And used 2 8″ tins instead of one 9″ tin. If you are not a great fan Guinness do not despair as the cake does not taste of Guinness at all, more like a soft moist chocolate cake with a lovely dense texture.
To be perfectly honest I think anyone would be hard-pressed to guess it was made with Guinness but the name gives it a certain ‘manly’ quality, making it a wonderful treat or gift for a gentleman on any occasion, whether it be Valentines Day, a birthday or any other reason to make someone a cake.
As this will be our first Valentines Day together as husband and wife (after an incredibly long courtship) I am expecting something rather special. Hopefully not fried pigs ears.
- 250ml Guinness
- 250g Unsalted Butter
- 80g Cocoa powder
- 400g Caster sugar
- 2 Eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp Vanilla essence
- 140ml Buttermilk (I used sour cream which worked well)
- 280g Plain flour
- 2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp Baking powder
- 50g Unsalted butter
- 300g Icing sugar
- 150g Cream Cheese (Philadelphia)
- (I added a few drops of vanilla essence to mine)
- Preheat oven to 170c (325F)
- Grease and line the tin.
- Put the Guinness and butter in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted.
- Take off the heat, add the cocoa, sugar,vanilla, eggs and buttermilk and mix well.
- Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
- Add the Guinness mixture and mix until smooth and lump free.
- Pour into the tin.
- Cook for approx. 45 minutes until baked through, until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- Leave in the the tin to cool before removing it, make sure it is completely cold before icing.
- To make the icing, beat the butter and sugar together then add the cream cheese and whisk until light and fluffy.
- Ice the cake how you like, either all over or just the top. Sprinkle with a little cocoa powder if you like.