Friday, March 29, 2013

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Irish Cream Buttercream Frosting


St. Patrick's Day is a particularly special day in our house, not just because of my darling husband's Irish heritage but also because 50% of the people in our household are named Patrick. So come mid-March, the Irish tunes go into heavy rotation, the Irish-style brews and corned beef fill our fridge, and my mind turns to chocolate stout (cup)cakes. 

This recipe by TrialAndErin is fantastic: the cake is incredibly tender and moist, and the frosting couldn't be easier to make. For the greatest enjoyment, turn a blind eye to the amount of butter you're using. Then again, it does make 2 dozen cupcakes so (amount) of butter divided by 24 is... never mind. 

I made a few adaptations to the recipe. First off, I have yet to make this recipe with Young's Double Chocolate Stout as suggested (though it is a terrific beer -- my gateway chocolate stout, in fact, twenty-some years ago). I have used Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and O'Hara's Irish Stout in the recipe -- both with great success.

Secondly, I have underage folk devouring these cupcakes so I substitute Baileys (non-alcoholic) Creamer (I call it "Faileys" for Fake Baileys) for the Irish Cream called for. Remember that unlike the beer in the batter, the frosting doesn't get cooked. It doesn't taste exactly like proper Baileys, but it approximates the flavor and is still pretty dang good. (I like to pour some in my midday coffee and pretend that I'm a bad girl.)

I have a little tweak for mixing the cocoa powder with the beer and butter that I think works a bit better at avoiding lumps than the original instruction. First off, it's imperative that you sift the cocoa powder. Next, rather than adding the cocoa powder to the simmering beer and butter, I very slowly whisk the beer and butter mixture into the cocoa powder. It will be very thick and paste-like when you start, but doing it this way minimizes any cocoa lumps. I also let the resulting mixture cool for 10 minutes (it's quite hot) before adding it to the egg mixture and proceeding with the rest of the batter, as I don't want to cook the eggs or activate the baking soda prematurely.

Lastly, I recommend that when you check the cupcakes for doneness, pull the cupcakes from the oven when there are a few crumbs remaining on the toothpick. If you wait until the toothpick is completely clean, the cupcakes with be overbaked and on the dry side. And remember to rotate your pans halfway through the bake time and check multiple cupcakes (in different areas of the pan) for doneness. If your oven is anything like mine, the heat (and cooking time) can vary in different spots.

Making green fondant shamrocks with a tiny heart cutter.

Cut a heart in half down the center and voilĂ ! A stem.

In summary: the whole clan LOVED these cupcakes! The stout lends a (predictably) yeastiness to the cake that's really pleasing and the frosting is sublime. I don't consider myself a cake person and yet even I was a wee bit weepy when they were all eaten. Confession time: there was a little extra frosting left after icing the cupcakes so a few days later I baked up a single-layer chocolate snack cake and slathered on the leftover frosting. When you're Irish, St. Patrick's Day never has to end. Erin Go Bragh!

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