I first made these cupcakes a couple of years ago when my sister and brother-in-law visited around St. Paddy’s day (Tip: don’t be a daft eejit and say St. Patty’s Day). I figured there was no better way to celebrate than with stout, whiskey, and Bailey’s Irish cream, all baked into one little cupcake. The baking of the cupcakes became quite the event and everyone, even my brother-in-law – no, especially my brother-in-law – pitched in to help. It’s amazing how some extra booze in the kitchen suddenly turns everyone into a helping hand and somehow there’s always an empty glass that needs filling.
That night remains one of my fondest memories with the four of us all together. Baking, chocolate, whiskey, beer, and family. What else do you need? So when my sister called up a couple of weeks ago to tell me she was coming the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, I knew I had to make these again.
This time around I did all the baking by myself and there wasn’t any sampling of the booze as the baking went on, so it was a much more subdued experience (and took about half the time!). Nonetheless, I was feeling a little more generous by the time I got to the Bailey’s Irish Cream buttercream frosting. I started off carefully measuring the Bailey’s by the tablespoon, but before long I was pouring a splash or two in, taking a quick taste test and then adding another dash or three. You know what? I didn’t get a single complaint about that frosting.
While Guinness would be an easy choice for these Irish inspired cupcakes, this time I chose a California brew, the Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout. While it’s not Irish, as you can guess from the name, this stout has some serious coffee notes that I thought would bring out the chocolate even better than just a regular stout. The bonus was that I got to finish off the bottle while I worked on the cupcakes. So I stand corrected. I guess there was some sampling going on during the baking of these cupcakes….
If I hadn’t finished off that stout, it would have been a lovely accompaniment to the finished cupcakes. But if you’re worried about the beer you’ve opened going flat before you’ll be serving the cupcakes (or any other excuse you decide on to validate drinking the leftover beer while you bake), a nice hot Irish coffee topped with whipped cream is quite lovely with these cupcakes.
These cupcakes would be great even without the whiskey ganache, so if you want to keep it a little simpler, you could just leave out that step. I’m temped to try it as a layer cake sometime – I’m thinking two or three layers of chocolate cake sandwiched with whiskey ganache and frosted with the bailey’s Irish cream. Maybe next year….
Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Whiskey Ganache Filling and Irish Cream Frosting
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I added way more Bailey's than the recipe originally called for. You can certainly get the message across with a quarter cup, but I really wanted the Bailey's to stand out and ended up around a half cup. If for some reason you want to keep these cupcakes alcohol free, you can. The alcohol from the stout will cook out of the cupcakes and you can leave the whiskey out of the ganache and use milk or cream instead of Bailey's for the frosting. You can also leave out the ganache filling altogether if you want to keep the cupcake simple (but still delicious!).
If you want to break up the steps, you can bake the cupcakes up to a week or two in advance and freeze them, wrapped very well in plastic wrap. Store the frosted cupcakes in the fridge, but keep in mind they start getting stale after a day or so.
For the Stout Chocolate Cupcakes:
- 1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
- 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
For the Whiskey Ganache Filling:
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)
For the Irish Cream Frosting:
- 3 to 4 cups confections sugar
- 1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup tablespoons Baileys
Make the Cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to a simmer in a heavy, large saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
- Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add the stout-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add the flour mixture and beat briefly on low speed. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until it's completely combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners, filling them two-thirds to three-quarters of the way. Bake the cupcakes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 16-18 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on a rack completely.
Make the Whiskey Ganache:
- Chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then whisk until smooth (if there are still pieces of unmelted chocolate after whisking for a couple of minutes, you can heat it over a double boiler, whisking constantly until it's completely smooth). 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 (you can put it in the fridge to speed up this process, but make sure to stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter, an apple corer, or a small sharp 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. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip (or a plastic bag with a corner snipped off) and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top. Technically, you're only supposed to fill the ganache to the top of the cupcake, but I allowed mine to peak, so it looked like a little hershey's kiss on top. I figured a little extra whiskey ganache didn't hurt.
Make the Irish Cream Frosting:
- Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes until very light and fluffy. 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. If the frosting is too thin, beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.
- Lastly, ice and decorate the cupcakes. I used green sprinkles to make it festive for St. Patrick's Day, but they're also pretty on their own.