A few years ago I was walking down the hall at work on St. Patrick’s Day, and I ran into my boss.
He said “You are in so much trouble.” Then he paused.
In that split second pause, I ran through a list of things in my head that he might be talking about. What had I done that I wasn’t supposed to do? How likely was he to know about each of those things? What was my average time surfing the net at work that week? Was there something I was supposed to do that I had forgotten about?
Then he said “You didn’t bring those cupcakes.”
After a sigh of relief, I explained that I would be happy to bake them and bring them in the next day.
Each year for St. Patrick’s day I make an Irish beef stew, soda bread, and cupcakes with some combination of Guinness Stout, Jameson Irish Whiskey, and Baileys Irish Cream. I have a strong Irish heritage, especially on my mother’s side. Her great-grandparents immigrated from Ireland. When my grandparents tried to get married by a Justice of the Peace, he refused based on the assumption that their extremely Irish surnames meant that they must surely be Catholic, and he didn’t want to face the wrath of their upset parents. Even despite assurances that we are actually protestant Irishmen.
I’ve used several different recipes for my cupcakes over the years. Usually a chocolate stout cupcake, brushed with whiskey, and topped with Irish cream frosting. And each year I’ve made minor improvements.
This year I recalled seeing a recipe that included a whiskey chocolate ganache filling, and I knew that was my next step. I did some Googling, and found a recipe at Brown Eyed Baker. Initially, I was excited to finally post a recipe that wasn’t from Smitten Kitchen or Cooks Illustrated, which are my go-to sites. Then I saw that the recipe was originally from Smitten Kitchen. So much for branching out.
I added my own twist to the recipe, of course, with the frosting. When I initially started making the cupcakes, I used an American buttercream with Baileys in place of the milk. But having discovered my favorite frosting, I knew creating an Italian buttercream with Baileys would be divine.
But before I get to the recipe, let me talk a little bit about the name. I have been struggling with what to call these cupcakes. The recipe is inspired by an American drink – the Irish Car Bomb. In case you aren’t familiar, and Irish Car Bomb is a half pint of Guinness, into which you drop a half shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream with a Jameson whiskey float. The recipient is then supposed to chug the entire drink before it curdles.
So while this might be a common drink for Americans on St. Patrick’s Day, many people consider the name to be offensive. While the bomb in the name may refer to the fact that dropping a shot into a beer and drinking it is commonly called a “bomb shot,” the name clearly also has an inspiration in the car bombings that took place in Ireland through much of the last half of the 20th century.
Deb from Smitten Kitchen originally called hers Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, but later changed the title of her post after a number of comments. Brown Eyed Baker still has the original name. And while I agree with some of the comments that insist that Deb shouldn’t be held responsible, since she clearly isn’t the one who named the drink in the first place, I would love to come up with a better name. So for now I’m going with Boozey Irish Cupcakes, but that may change.
I changed jobs last year, so I didn’t have to worry about my boss missing his cupcake fix. I brought them in to the new job anyway, and they were gone before lunch. Based on the feedback, I think I will be bringing these in every year.
For some of my closer friends, I also soaked the cupcakes with a little extra whiskey before adding the ganache. Fortunately nobody got sent to HR.
I basically followed the cupcake and ganache recipes from Smitten Kitchen, so I’m not going to reproduce them here. But the frosting was my own creation, so I recommend making the cupcakes, filling them with the ganache, and then topping them with this frosting.
Irish Cream Meringue Buttercream
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
6 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
5 sticks (1 and 1/4 lb) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Insert a candy thermometer so you can monitor the temperature.
While the sugar syrup cooks, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer, and using the whisk attachment, beat on low speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and increase the mixer speed to medium-high. Beat until egg whites are fluffy and stiff, but not dry.
When the syrup reaches 240°F (soft-ball stage on your candy thermometer), add it in a slow, steady stream to the egg whites with the mixer running. Pour between the whisk attachment and the edge of the bowl, so that hot syrup doesn’t splash onto the sides of the bowl and harden.
Let the mixer run until the mixture reaches room temperature. This can take anywhere from 15-45 minutes depending on the mixer, but you can speed it up by putting ice packs around the bowl. You want it to be cool enough that the butter doesn’t melt when you add it. I usually go for something around 80 degree.
Once the mixture has cooled, switch to the paddle attachment. Add the butter bit by bit and continue mixing until the butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles frosting. If it becomes soupy or curdles, just keep mixing.
Add the vanilla and Baileys and mix to combine. You can also add a little bit of gel food coloring at this point if you want to color the frosting.
To get the colored edge on my frosting, I put the frosting in a piping bag and then used a knife to spread a little bit of gel food coloring in a line down the inside of the bag.