Okay, so I haven't been 100% honest with all of you. Remember how I spent all of August cooking healthy, vegetarian food? Well the vegetarian part I was very dedicated to. The healthy part...
August 13th marked Will's 26th birthday, and what was I supposed to do, hand the boy a dish of hummus with a candle in it? Birthdays require cake. Yummy cake. And I'd be damned if he wasn't going to have some. The original idea was simple, instead of a cake that has layers that must be stacked and must be carefully wrapped if not eaten at once, I would make cupcakes. So easy to store! So easy to assemble! So how exactly did it end up a 4 hour process?
The trouble started when I decided, instead of just picking a very simple cupcake recipe from America's Test Kitchen and a very simple frosting, I would just look at the Smitten Kitchen archives, just to peek. That's when I found the holy grail of grown-up cupcakes. A cupcake with such wonderful ingredients so perfectly arranged, all I could think was that I could not be responsible for them not existing. I could not have on my conscience that I had known of these cupcakes and walked away. I discovered the Irish Car Bomb Cupcake.
Guinness cupcake. Whiskey ganache. Bailey's buttercream icing. I stared at the computer screen with my mouth agape. Will needed that cupcake.
The real complication here is that 3 separate parts must be made from scratch, and then you actually have to gouge a hole in the cake, stuff it with ganache, and then ice the whole thing without smearing the ganache into the icing and making a streaky mess. I don't do baking like this. In fact it has only been about a year now that I've even attempted baking that wasn't from a box labeled "Sara Lee". My eating a can of frosting days are not all that far behind me, but Will deserved something a bit fancy, especially after I made myself a Maderia Almond Cake for my own birthday in February.
I was a bit late getting started. Having bought Will tickets to a Phillies game that night at Citi Field, we had friends meeting us at the apartment at 5:00. "If I start before 1:00," I thought, "I'll have over 4 hours to bang these guys out." Somehow it was 1:15 before I had the first ingredients on the stove.
- 1 cup stout (you know, Guinness)
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 350°. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture a little bit at a time and beat at slow speed. Once all flour is added, use a rubber spatula to fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes completely.
It took me a little longer then 17 minutes, probably more like 19. You want to be completely sure the cupcakes aren't mush, they need to have a bit of structure for the next step. The cooling completely also got to me, as time ticked by I got impatient. I may have rotated the cupcake tins into the freezer to expedite the process...
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons Irish Whiskey (Jameson would be most traditional, I used a brand from Clontarf)
Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate you can pop it in the microwave for 20 seconds) Add the butter and whiskey and stir it until combined.
Cool the ganache until it is thick but still soft (putting in the fridge for 10 minutes speeds this along). Use a 1" cookie cutter or apple corer (finally, a use for my apple corer) cut the center out of the cupcakes. You want to go 2/3 of the way down. Smitten Kitchen suggests using a small spoon or grapefruit knife to help get the centers out, I found a fondue fork worked pretty well. Put the ganache into a piping bag, or if you are like me and don't own one, a gallon ziplock bag with the bottom corner cut out. Fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.
- 3-4 cups confectioners sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 Tablespoons Baileys
Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes until light, fluffy, and creamy. Turn the mixer to its lowest speed and slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.
When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys and whip it until combined. It this makes the frosting too thin, beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.
By this point it was after 4pm, and I was getting nervous. The poor birthday boy had to help me ice the cupcakes, half because of time constraints and half because I flat out sucked at it, constantly getting the ganache whipped up into the frosting in dark streaks. We developed system, Will would put a giant blob (about 3 Tablespoons) directly on top of the hole with the ganache, and then spread it down the cupcake top. At this point he would hand it off to me and I would drag a spatula around the top to make it smooth and pretty. We finally got them all iced and arranged with 5 minutes left on the clock. Just enough time to wipe the sweat from my brow and shove my hair under a Phillies cap.
On Smitten Kitchen Deb writes: Do ahead: You can bake the cupcakes a week or two in advance and store them, well wrapped, in the freezer. You can also fill them before you freeze them. They also keep filled — or filled and frosted — in the fridge for a day. (Longer, they will start to get stale.)
I probably should have worked ahead on these, unless it's a really rainy chilly day (like St. Patrick's Days can tend to be) I probably wouldn't make these all in one day again. As a treat though, they killed. Everyone who ate them raved, and a coworker who took one home to her boyfriend came back to report I had received a proposal of marriage. Seriously, these are compliment garnering cupcakes. The guests seemed a little tipsy after eating. And the birthday boy seemed happy they did not contain eggplant.