Ode to the Emerald Isle: Chocolate Irish Cream Cupcakes

Chocolate Irish Cream Cupcakes

I have a love affair with Ireland. Anything Irish– people, history, folklore, language, music– something about this culture resonates in my soul. It’s been that way since I was a teenager, when I attended college in Boston and worked for a small company of Irish pubs. Boston itself has a rich Irish history and character, and there was something about it that I connected to on a profound level, even though I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in my body. During my time working at the pubs, I worked alongside many native Irish people who had come over to work in America, and I fell doubly in love with the Irish. Their beautiful Irish-Gaelic names (Ailish, Caitrin, Fiona, Aisling, Ruairí…), lyrical Irish brogues, and zest for life– I found it all so enchanting, and that affection has stayed with me since my college days. I’ve always thought it would be cool to give my future children Irish names, just because, you know, they RULE. A few years later, I was studying abroad in Paris and had the opportunity to visit Éire (the Irish-Gaelic name for Ireland) with one of my good friends… It was everything I thought it would be– truly magical. It really felt like you might find that pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow, and there *might* in fact be a naughty leprechaun trying to steal your treasure! The vastness of the green is breath-taking– it’s called the Emerald Isle for good reason. Life in rural Ireland is from another century; things move at a slower pace, there are sheep loitering about in the middle of the dirt road, and a melancholy mist lingers in the air… It is the stuff of Lucky Charms dreams. (I bet even the marshmallows in Ireland taste like magic.) I found the Irish people to be among the friendliest, jolliest, warmest people that I’ve met in all the places I’ve been lucky enough to travel to. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for the accent. 😉 I have such fond memories of those four days in Ireland, and I really hope to get back someday soon. *sigh*

Ireland 2000-2

Now, I should probably correct my earlier statement– I said that I love “anything” Irish. Well, that’s not quite true; despite all of the elements of Irishness that I embrace, one thing that I’m not crazy about is... booze. I know, of all things that are so integral to Irish culture! I’ve never been a big drinker– I just don’t like beer (bitter, bitter, bitter!) and definitely no whiskey shots for me. However, there is one Irish spirit that I adore: Bailey’s Irish Cream. This affinity probably dates back to my trip, when I enjoyed a glass of Bailey’s on the rocks with my dear friend in a Galway pub…

Naturally, I wanted to incorporate Bailey’s into some St. Patrick’s Day baking projects. I looked for recipes, but most of them only had Irish Cream in the frosting, not the cake– that just wouldn’t do! I developed this recipe based on a recipe from Kara’s Cupcakes that I learned in a cupcake “bootcamp” class at San Francisco Cooking School a few months ago. I changed a number of ingredients and procedural steps, plus added the liqueur, so I feel like I’ve made it my own now, but nevertheless, it started there. This is a “dry-to-wet” method, which creates a soft dough when you add the eggs to the dry ingredients. It will then loosen up and become a normal cake batter once you add in the other liquids. The cupcakes are like a boozy devil’s food, though the Bailey’s is a light essence, not a strong punch.

The frosting, on the other hand, tastes like eating a shot! I had to adjust the recipe slightly, as the original quantities resulted in a runny and way-too-boozy mixture that was neither pleasant to eat, nor conducive to pretty decorating. The third element of these cupcakes, the chocolate disks, are something that I’m very proud of. They are inspired by the designs of Butch Bakery, a New York City cupcakery that makes “cupcakes for dudes”– no pink frosting swirls and the like. The disks are made by melting chocolate and applying designs from chocolate transfer sheets. They are actually quite easy once you get the hang of using the transfer sheets, and it’s an incredibly versatile decorating technique for any occasion.

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Chocolate Irish Cream Cupcakes
Inspired by Kara’s Cupcakes
Makes 18 cupcakes

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ cup boiling water
  • 1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (such as Valrhona)
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled (I recommend using Irish butter!)
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup Bailey’s (or other brand) Irish Cream liqueur

Preheat an oven to 325°F; place a rack in the center. Line 2 standard muffin pans (one will be half-full) with cupcake liners (preferably festive green ones!) and set aside.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the paddle attachment to the mixer.

Place the cocoa powder in a small heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water into the cocoa and whisk until completely smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

Chocolate Irish Cream Cupcakes 4

Add the eggs to the dry ingredients one at a time, beating each one on medium-low speed until fully incorporated and scraping down the bowl after each addition. (Total mixing time will be approximately 2-3 minutes.) The mixture will start out looking crumbly, but it will resemble a soft dough after mixing in the third egg.

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Beat in the melted butter and vanilla extract until just incorporated; scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the cocoa mixture into the batter and beat on medium-low until completely combined. Your mixture should now look like a smooth chocolate batter of a medium-thin consistency.

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Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat in the Irish Cream on medium-low until just combined. Scrape down the bowl and give the batter a final quick whirl to make sure everything is evenly combined. (Don’t forget the bottom of the bowl, as you may end up with yellow batter streaks in your chocolate.)

Fill the cupcakes liners in your first pan about ¾ full. I find it easiest to use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop for this.

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Bake the cupcakes for about 20-22 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. A cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake should come out with a few moist crumbs attached and the tops should spring back when lightly pressed. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Remove the cakes directly to the rack to cool completely before frosting.

Repeat the filling and baking process with your second muffin pan.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the Irish Cream frosting.

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Irish Cream Buttercream
Adapted from Butch Bakery
Makes about 3 cups

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus ½ – 1 cup more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons Bailey’s (or other brand) Irish Cream liqueur
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch fine sea salt

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add half of the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed. Gradually increase the speed to medium once the loose sugar has been absorbed and beat until incorporated. Add the Bailey’s, vanilla, and salt, and beat until combined. Add the remaining sugar and beat on low at first, then increase to medium until all the sugar is fully mixed in. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat the frosting on medium for a few seconds to make sure everything is incorporated. If your buttercream is too liquid, add more confectioners’ sugar ½ cup at a time and beat on medium. If it’s too stiff, add a few drops of Bailey’s or vanilla.

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Chocolate Disks
Inspired by Butch Bakery

To assemble the cupcakes, top each one with your desired amount of frosting, either by piping with a pastry bag or spreading with a small offset spatula. Place a chocolate disk on top and press down gently to adhere to the frosting.

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Admire your festive St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes and share with your fellow merry-makers– Slàinte! 🙂

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© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2013.

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