So I didn’t know it until this year, but it turns out I know a lot of people with September 13th birthdays. Like a scary number of people. Weird, huh?
But this year there was only one who was lucky enough to get a homemade, you pick it, fresh from the 990 square kitchen birthday cake. Or in actuality, a whole bunch of cupcakes, but you get the idea. It was my good friend Tony G–can I just take a moment to say it, I LOVE TONY G–of usual suspects fame.
Tony picked a classic for his birthday–the chocolate stout cake. I’ve made this cake several times since 2007 (wow! have I really been baking that long?!) when it debuted for my dad’s birthday. You wouldn’t think a dark thick beer like Guinness would be good in a cake, but together with chocolate it makes the perfect dark, rich, chocolate cake. I think I’m just as in love with this cake now as I was then, because it’s just that good every time. It was even good that one time it stuck to the bundt pan and I had to make it into a last minute trifle with cool whip and sour cream.
But wait! Tony ordered his version of the cake up with a twist–one thought of by smitten kitchen in all of her cleverness. Instead of just having a Guinness cake, why not make a baked confection that replicates one of the most famous Guinness drinks of all time–the pint of Guinness with a half shot of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey and a half shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream. This combination simply ups the tastiness factor of the cake (who can resist Irish Cream flavored buttercream icing?) and creates a perfect adult treat that thankfully doesn’t curdle like it’s inspiration.
Stout, Whiskey and Bailey’s Cupcakes
adapted from smitten kitchen and elsewhere
This is sort of an involved recipe, what with the cutting out of the centers of the cupcakes, filling them with ganache, and then icing them, but it is soooo worth it because people go crazy over these. Just make sure you set aside plenty of time to let the cupcakes fully cool before you try to cut out the centers, and then more time to let the ganache set up in the fridge after filling the centers.
Want a version of this recipe without the alcohol? Well, you’re out of luck on the cake front, because I don’t have an acceptable substitute other than non-alcoholic stout (but most of the alcohol does cook out during the cooking/baking process). For the ganache, just skip the Jameson’s, and just use milk instead of the Bailey’s in the icing. Don’t have time for all of this fuss, but still really want to try the cake? This cake also makes an excellent bundt–I like it dusted with powdered sugar or drizzled with chocolate ganache.
For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
- 1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup sour cream or yogurt (I used my homemade whole milk yogurt and we couldn’t tell the difference!)
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I like to use chips, since they’re easier to melt)
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)
- 3 to 4 cups confections sugar (I used just 3 and the icing was plenty sweet!)
- 1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter
- 3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)
Special equipment: paring knife and a ziploc baggie
Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat (make sure you use a large one or you won’t have room to whisk–the one shown in my pictures is NOT large enough). Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream/yogurt in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way (I find that a 1/4 cup measure is great for filling cupcakes). Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.
Make the filling: Place chocolate in 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 put it in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time until it melts. Just don’t do this if you’re using a metal bowl!) Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.
Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your paring knife, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. Pop the center out with the tip of the knife. Put the ganache into the ziploc baggie and cut off a corner. Squeeze the ganache out of the baggie to fill each center to the top.
Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons (or 1/8 cup) at a time. When the frosting looks thick enough to spread and is beginning to clump, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.
Ice and decorate the cupcakes. They will keep in a covered container in the fridge for several days, but bring them to room temperature before serving.
Serve to your adoring friends while joining them in making a big fuss over Tony G’s birthday all day long.