The Expert?

2015-03-19 14.53.33I was recently invited to be a panelist at a local food conference. My fellow dias food wonks included successful specialty food company CEOs, a food scientist (yup, they exist), service providers and the like. What was I doing there? Well, according to the convener of this tasty gathering, I was the “recipe development expert”. I’ve been to my share of conferences over the years, many of which I produced during a former life in trade association management. I was most often the introducer, occasionally the moderator but very rarely the ‘expert’.

Let’s face it, ‘expert’ is a title best bestowed by others, especially if you want it reasonably believable. Self-inflicted expertise, at least in my view, seems a little narcissistic and always a bit suspect. The minute someone tells me they are an “expert”, I can’t get the vision of George Castanza standing there uttering ” the sea was very angry that day, my friends” out of my head. Being called an expert myself made me a bit uncomfortable.

Yet there I was on the dias, and as it became my time in the spotlight I could sense the audience’s anticipation of the finely honed pearls of wisdom this ‘expert’ was going to spew. Was there revelatory commentary? Earth-shattering insights inspiring frenzied note taking? Burning bush proclamations? Nope. I simply told folks what I had learned by doing the thing I was supposedly expert at. Most important, I relayed the discoveries I made through missteps and mistakes. After all, isn’t that what expertise is anyway? Something you’ve learned by getting your hands dirty, trying it, failing, and trying it again until you get it right.

I suggest the next time someone tells you they’re an expert, you ask them about their biggest mistake. If they really are expert, they’ll probably tell you, and I bet it’s the best thing they say.

2015-03-18 20.55.54This week, gentle readers,  you get two dishes for the price of one!  The first, Guinness Chocolate Cake with Whisky Glaze was the intended confection. The cake is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Guinness Chocolate Cake, and the glaze a miracle of butter, brown sugar, cream and whisky. Put the two together, and OH HELL YES!!

The second recipe is the result of a mistake that has likely happened to every baker out there. See that lovely cake in the pan at the top of the picture?  Pretty, isn’t it? It was, until it decided to fall apart when released from its pan. However, having been around this block before, and knowing full well there was no way I was going to toss an incredibly moist and wonderful pile of chocolate goodness, the Whisky Cake Trifle was born. The best things are discovered by mistake!

2015-03-18 21.32.27-1

Guinness Chocolate Cake with Whisky Glaze

(Inspired by Nigella Lawson, and a bottle of whisky)

Makes one 9-inch cake, or four 4-inch mini cakes.


  •  Butter for pan
  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 10 TBSP (1 stick plus 2 TBSP) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare the pan: Butter a 9-inch springform pan, or four mini-springform pans. Since someone, somewhere decided new springforms need a waffled bottom, I always cut a piece of parchment the size of the bottom, butter it, and line the pans. Saves trying to pick cake out of all those waffled nooks and crannies. I also wrap the pans with foil just in case, having learned that one from watching batter flow out of too many springform pan bottoms.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and  Guinness together. Whisk the cocoa, sugar, and espresso powder together in a medium bowl. Once the butter melts, remove from heat, add cocoa mixture and whisk to blend.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Add flour and baking soda and salt and whisk again until smooth. Pour into buttered pan, bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to an hour depending on your oven. Cool cakes completely before removing pans (trust me on this and learn from MY mistake.) While you are waiting for the cakes to cool, make the glaze.

2015-03-18 20.40.13FOR THE GLAZE(Great on the cake, great on ice cream, great on a spoon!)

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso power
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 TBSP bourbon or your favorite whisky
  • 1/2 tsp salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, espresso powder, and brown sugar together. Add cream and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat, and whisk in sugar and salt until smooth. Stir in the whisky and let cool.

When the cake(s) are cool, remove pans and pour glaze over the top so it covers and drips down sides. If the glaze is too thick, pop in the microwave for a few seconds to heat and thin a little. Let cakes sit on a rack until the glaze has firmed up again. You can serve immediately or make these ahead – they last a few days, if you’re let them! 😉

2015-03-19 14.55.26Whisky Cake Trifle

(Happily created from the outcome of a mistake!) Serves 8 – 10

  • 1 recipe crumbled Guinness Chocolate Cake
  • 1 recipe Whisky Glaze
  • 1 recipe Tangy Bourbon Cream (see below) 

Tangy Bourbon Cream: Beat together the following until thick (this won’t get as stiff as regular whipped cream): 1/4 cup sour cream, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 TBSP Bourbon. Fill 8 stemmed dessert dishes or wine glasses 2/3 full with crumbled cake. Spoon some cream over the cake, and a few tablespoons of whisky glaze over the cream. Add spoon, and ENJOY!

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  🙂


8 thoughts on “The Expert?

  1. I see you still have your tendency to overestimate the number of servings. You confidently say your newly created trifle will serve 8-10, but if it’s like most things you make it won’t go further than 6 at most.

    Nice recovery.


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