Guinness Chocolate Cake is made incredibly rich & flavorful thanks to a combo of Guinness and brown butter. It’s topped with the creamiest brown butter Guinness frosting. This easy cake recipe is perfect for any celebration – especially St. Patrick’s Day!
This recipe was originally published in March of 2019 but I’ve just updated it in March of 2023 with new photos, more tips & tricks, a way to prevent the cake layers from sticking, and a few slight tweaks to the recipe.
Even if you don’t like beer, you’re sure to love this cake! The Guinness adds a depth of flavor and enhances the chocolate flavor. Although the cake looks impressive, it’s relatively simple to make – and the frosting is too. Let’s make it!
Why you’ll love this Guinness Cake recipe:
- Rich Chocolate Guinness Cake – This cake is full of rich chocolate flavor, and is almost fudgy – and not dry in the slightest!
- Double the Brown Butter – We’ve got this magic elixir in both the cake and the frosting, which amps up the flavor so much!
- Guinness & Chocolate Pairing – Chocolate and Guinness are the perfect pairing, as the notes of coffee & chocolate in Guinness enhance the chocolate flavor of this cake.
- Butter – I always use salted buter for the best flavor, but feel free to use unsalted butter if you prefer. We’re using this instead of vegetable oil in this cake to add extra richness!
- Guinness – Use a fresh bottle of Guinness.
- Sour Cream – Use full fat sour cream at room temperature for best results.
- All-purpose flour – Spoon & level your flour for best results, or use a scale. Scooping the measuring cup directly in will lead to too much flour.
- Eggs – Use large eggs, at room temperature.
- Dairy-free – Use your favorite dairy-free products to make this recipe dairy-free.
- Gluten-free – I haven’t tested a gluten-free version of this recipe, but let me know if you do try it!
- Other Beers – Any dark stout with a similar flavor to Guinness will work in this recipe.
- Greek Yogurt – This will work in place of the sour cream in a pinch.
How to Make this Guinness Chocolate Cake Recipe Step-by-Step:
Step 1: Brown the Butter. This is an easy step that only takes a few extra minutes. Melt your butter in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium heat, and stir until it gets bubbly, then foamy, then starts to turn golden brown.
Step 2: Make the Cake Batter. Whisk the Guinness into the brown butter, then whisk in the remaining wet ingredients, and then the dry ingredients. It’s that easy to make this batter!
Step 3: Bake the Cake Layers. Divide the batter between your two prepared pans and bake as directed in the recipe card below. Let cake layers cool completely on a wire rack.
Step 4: Make the Frosting & Frost the Cake. Brown the butter for the frosting, then beat it with the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, salt, and guinness. Use about 1 and 2/3 cups of frosting between cake layers, and on top.
Serving + Storing this Recipe:
Once the cake is frosted, slice and enjoy! If the frosting seems weepy, stick the cake in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes to set things up a bit so it slices nicely. Store leftover cake in an airtight container, with plastic wrap pressed over the sliced areas to keep them from drying out, in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Expert Success Tips:
- Don’t Over Bake – As always, follow the doneness cues given in the recipe card below for best results. An oven thermometer also helps ensure a successful bake – not all ovens are calibrated correctly, and they can become off over time.
- Don’t Over Mix – Whisk the dry ingredients in just until they’re combined and the batter smoothes out.
- Kitchen Scale – A food scale is the best way to make sure your flour is at the proper weight, since the amount you get will vary SO widely based on how you measure it, and the measuring cup you use, as they are not standardized.
I’d recommend multiplying it by 1 and 1/3 instead of by 2x, so you get a 3 layer cake. If you really want a four layer cake you could double it to yield four, 9-inch rounds.
Yes, you can halve it to make one 9-inch round cake layer.
I tried making these as cupcakes once a number of years ago and I remember it going poorly. I haven’t tried it again since then, but if you want cupcakes I would recommend my Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting instead. I am working on a fix for these as cupcakes in the meantime!
I fear that it’s so moist it would stick in the bundt pan.
You can taste hints of guinness, but no the cake doesn’t just taste like straight beer. It enhances the chocolate flavor and even non-beer drinkers have raved over this cake!
Yes, you could substitute milk (try 2%) for the guinness in the same quantity in the cake. You can simply leave the guinness out of the frosting, or swap in heavy cream.
Yes, you can freeze the baked, cooled cake layers. Wrap tightly in saran wrap and freeze for 1-2 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight before frosting and serving.
- Chocolate Frosting – A chocolate cream cheese frosting or your favorite chocolate buttercream frosting would be delicious if you decide to skip the brown butter. Use the frosting from my Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes.
- Cake Pans – These are my absolute favorite 9-inch cake pans! I’ve had them for 6+ years and use them for every cake recipe, and they are still in great shape.
- Offset Spatula – Offset spatulas make frosting a cake so easy! They can also be used for spreading cake and brownie batters evenly.
- Cake Turntable – If you make at least a few cakes a year, a cake turntable makes the frosting process a breeze!
More St. Patrick’s Day Recipes to Love:
- Beer Braised Short Ribs with Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
- Bacon Cheddar Chive Scones
- Mom’s Irish Stew
- Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
- Baileys Irish Cream Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache
- Guinness Lamb Stew
- Skillet Irish Soda Bread
- Classic Beer Bread
Did you make this recipe? Snap a photo and leave a comment!
Guinness Chocolate Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
For the Cake
- 1 cup salted butter 16 tbsp, 2 sticks, or 226 grams
- 1 and 1/2 cups Guinness or similar dark stout beer
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 and 1/2 large eggs See note below
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp full fat sour cream
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, spooned & leveled 195 grams
- 3 and 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp espresso powder
- pinch of salt
For the Frosting
- 1 1/4 cup salted butter
- 12 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
- 5 and 1/2 cups to 6 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp Guinness
- Prep: Grease two 9-inch cake pans with shortening and place parchment paper rounds in the bottom. Grease those as well, then flour the pans, tapping out the excess. If you skip any part of this, the cake will stick. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 ° F.
- Make the Cake: Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium high heat. Once melted, turn heat down to medium and cook, stirring, until it browns. It will first bubble up, then get foamy, and then it will turn golden brown. The foam hides the color change sometimes, so make sure to stir it around well, pushing the foam out of the way, to make sure you don't overcook it. Make sure to stir well, scraping up any little brown bits from the bottom of the pot. As soon as it's golden (see photo above) remove from the heat, and pour into a large bowl.Whisk the Guinness into the same bowl. Add the sugar and cocoa powder, and whisk until well combined. Add the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla, and whisk until well combined. Add the flour, baking soda, and espresso powder and whisk until well combined.
- Bake: Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake 17-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs on it (not wet batter). Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then run a dull knife around the edge and invert onto cooling racks. Let cool completely before frosting.
- Make the Frosting: Melt butter in a medium pot over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium once melted, and cook, stirring, until it begins to brown. It will bubble up, then get foamy, then it will start to turn golden brown. Pour into a clean bowl and set in the fridge or freezer to chill for 10-15 minutes. It just needs to be room temperature – not hot. Meanwhile, beat the softened cream cheese in a large mixing bowl on high speed until creamy. Add the slightly cooled butter and mix – the mixture will look lumpy at first, but it will smooth out after a minute or so. Mix in the powdered sugar, 2 cups at a time, mixing between each addition. Mix in the Guinness and vanilla extract last. Taste, and add a little more powdered sugar to your taste.
- Assemble: Frost your cooled cakes. Drop a large blob of frosting in the center of the cake, and use an offset spatula to work the frosting outward. Repeat for second layer. I left the sides naked on this cake so you can go heavy on the amount of frosting between layers and on top!
- Serve + Store: If the cake has been out at room temp for a bit, you may want to chill it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes before serving, so it holds its shape when you cut into it. To store cake, stick some toothpicks in the top and in the sides to prevent sticking, then cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Leftovers keep well for up to 4 days in the fridge.
- Make Ahead Tips: Frosting can be made 1-2 days ahead. Cover tightly and store in the fridge. Let it come to room temp a bit before frosting, and mix it again to get it spreadable. Cake layers can be made 1-2 days ahead. Let cool completely, then place each layer on a plate, stick 2 toothpicks in the top of each layer, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. The top of the cake is so moist, so the toothpicks will prevent sticking. Store at room temp overnight, or in the fridge for 2 days.