Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Patrick's Day: Car Bomb Cupcakes

Since I didn't make anything in honor of the last major holiday, Leap Day, I knew I had to go all out for St. Patrick's Day. To maximize awesomeness, I called up frequent baking collaborator Nancy, the most Irish person I know (Ok, not really, but her last name is O'Connor, which qualifies her.). This ambitious day would consist of two desserts and one entree to make sure we were properly fed before truly celebrating the most sacred and serious holiday there is. Would our Irish Tacos, Car Bomb Cupcakes and Chocolate Mint Bark make everyone green with envy, or would we be forced to drown our sorrows in green beer? We'll start with the most important part of any meal- the cupcake course.

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Food Network
Previously Seen in Beer Pairing Night
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Time: 40 minutes

Inside the new superhot oven.
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt
1 bottle of Guinness (12 fl. oz.)
1 stick butter, melted
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
Bailey's and Jameson Chocolate Filling (recipe follows)
Bailey's Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
Fondant (recipe follows)
Moist, bouncy and uber-chocolatey cakes
  1. Put on green then open and drink a Guinness.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  3. Whisk the cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Mix the Guinness, butter and vanilla together in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. 
  5. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time until fully incorporated.
  6. Add the sour cream and combine until smooth.
  7. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients in three separate additions at low speed. Be careful not to overmix.
  8. Fill lined cupcake tins 2/3 of the way with batter and bake for 18-22 minutes or until the toothpick test comes back clean.
  9. Let cool on a wire rack.
  10. Remove the centers with a knife and fill with the Bailey's and Jameson's chocolate filling (recipe follows).
  11. Frost and garnish.
For the base of our triply alcoholic cupcakes inspired by everyone's favorite St. Patrick's Day mixed drink (no, combining green food coloring and beer does not count), I turned to an old recipe from October when Kevin, Jaime, Dennis and I had a beer pairing night. I fondly remembered it as a nicely moist chocolate cake, but I also knew there were ways in which it could be improved. At the beer pairing, we matched it with Saint Arnold's Pumpkinator, and it formed a spectacular union with the heavily spiced brew. As a result, I decided to add some cinnamon to this batch, which really ended up adding a whole new dimension of deliciousness. Additionally, the Guinness served as a far better beer than Left Hand Milk Stout and truly emphasized the chocolate. But I wanted to ratchet up that chocolate, which is where our alcoholic filling came in.

Bailey's and Jameson's Chocolate Filling
From We Are Not Martha
Servings: Enough for 30 cupcakes
Time: 10 minutes

8 oz bittersweet chocolate (shoot for 60-65% cacao)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Bailey's Irish Cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tbsp Jameson's Irish Whiskey

Alcohol and chocolate, you are my friends.
  1. Cut the chocolate into small chunks.
  2. Scald the cream in a saucepan. This means take it to the point where it's steaming and the sides are bubbling but it's not boiling.
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for a minute. Stir until melted. If it doesn't melt, you can make a double boiler to finish it off.
  4. Mix in the Bailey's, butter and Jameson's until smooth. 
It's like a shot in the middle of the cupcake.
Before getting to the taste, I want to point out that the filling smelled amazing. And our mouths only confirmed what our noses were telling us. This definitely isn't a kid friendly cupcake as the Bailey's and Jameson's really pack a punch, but it all is in perfect harmony with the lovely chocolate and the holiday spirit. It reminded me of a very alcoholic version of filling you'd find in a Valentine's Day box of chocolates (one of the good ones that you'd eat after poking the bottom with your thumb).

Bailey's Cream Cheese Frosting
Servings: Enough to frost 30 cupcakes
Time: 5 minutes

1 cup butter, softened
16 oz cream cheese, softened
5-6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3-4 tbsp Bailey's Irish Cream
Green food coloring

You can never go wrong with cream cheese.
  1. Cream the butter using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed then add the cream cheese and cream again until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time and mix at low speed (to avoid the crazy cloud of powdered sugar) until fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Mix in the vanilla extract, food coloring and Bailey's then ramp up the speed to medium.
  4. Ruin at least 5 cupcakes trying to figure out how to decorate them then finally hit your stride just in time to save the batch.
After ruining 5, I finally got a design down. I miss Alexis' frosting gun.
I previously made a Bailey's buttercream that was tasty but a little too thick (and may have broken Alexis' first frosting gun). It only seemed right to convert it to a smooth cream cheese frosting, and this proved to be the smart call. The Bailey's really got to shine as it almost didn't taste like a cream cheese frosting (which somehow wasn't a bad thing). It's a good thing it tasted so incredible because our decorating abilities needed some serious work thanks to our lack of skills with piping bags (and my hands overheating the frosting waaaayyyy too much). Luckily, we had some fondant at the ready to cover up our early missteps.

The greaser cupcake was by far my favorite. Excellent work, Nancy.
Almond Fondant
Servings: Enough to decorate 24 cupcakes
Time: 10 minutes

1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup shortening
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
2 lbs powdered sugar, sifted
Green food coloring

The 2 lbs of powdered sugar brought my total for the day to 3 lbs (sadly not a record).
  1. Stir together the corn syrup and shortening using the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer.
  2. Mix in the salt and almond extract then slowly add the powdered sugar.
  3. Add food coloring until you reach the desired green.
  4. Roll out on a flat surface until it's 1/8 inch thick or thinner then cut or roll into the desired shapes (or just edible amorphous blobs).

The hat looks kind of like a ninja turtle. I'll take it! (They weren't all this bad, but they weren't good enough to warrant a second pic).
Let's be honest. Fondant is not the tastiest thing in the world. It's pretty much purely for decorative purposes. I managed to make it slightly better than bland by adding almond extract instead of vanilla. The fondant was easy to work with but almost a little too malleable, so I would recommend refrigerating it first to make it a little harder.

Dennis tries to fit the entire cupcake in his mouth.
We had three outstanding components, but did they all synch together to form a cupcake worthy of the most bastardized holiday this side of Cinco de Mayo? The early consensus in our townhouse was a resounding "yes" muffled by cupcake being devoured.
But would drunk people approve?!?
The true test was still ahead of us, though. I ended up bring some to brewer roommate Dennis' Saint Arnold's St. Patrick's Day party. If drunk people enjoyed them then surely they could be called a success. Much to my relief, the partygoers had nothing but rave reviews, with several calling them their favorite cupcake ever (and one person mistaking the filling for uncooked cupcake). The cupcakes even managed to garner a hugely positive response from Nancy's far rowdier reading group. Despite being in my top three cupcakes, these still didn't steal the show for me. That lofty distinction fell on the soon to be posted Irish Tacos.
Coming soon: Find out how potato tortillas (read: pancakes), kale, whiskey marinated rib eye, whiskey sauce and Irish cheddar come together to form the Irish Taco.

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