By now you should be very familiar with Smitten Kitchen and her glorious Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes. If not, you may be living under a rock or are not seeking enough creative ways to get your daily servings of booze. Both are unacceptable. I was first introduced to Smitten Kitchen and her boozy cupcakes at a friend’s St Patrick’s Day party. I’ve never done an Irish Car Bomb. After dropping in a shot of Jameson and Bailey’s, you need to quickly chug the beer before the Irish Cream curdles. Considering my idea of downing a beer still takes a good half hour, while others have already moved onto a second round, I don’t think the concept would work too well. Nevertheless, when my friend added cupcake to the end of the description, I was already in love.
Just as there are three basic components to an Irish Car Bomb, there are three parts to the cupcake. A Guinness based cake, a Jameson whiskey infused chocolate center and a Bailey’s Irish Cream icing. The beer in the cupcake pretty much cooks off, depending on what kind of stout you use, but the whiskey and Irish cream are added in off heat so they remain pretty potent. These cupcakes are definitely best suited for an adult only gathering rather than a child’s birthday party.
Over the years I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, testing the limits of how much alcohol I can use, reducing sugar levels and localizing the ingredients. I’ve never been a Guinness fan, though I will agree that it is better in Ireland (or Europe as a whole), so instead I go with Brooklyn’s Chocolate Stout. The alcohol may burn off but the beer’s flavor remains strong. Rather than a typical brown cake, you’re left with an intense almost purple-black shade.
As a kid I used to love sneaking those little chocolate alcohol bottles (yes, I started young) so when I first made Smitten Kitchen’s ganache, I was underwhelmed with the almost nonexistent whiskey flavor. I learned that by reducing the level of cream you could
double triple the amount of whiskey, without the chocolate getting too runny. And as for the icing, I’ve never had success with a straight buttercream. It always ends up almost chalky sweet in order to reach the right consistency. I find that by always adding a bit of cream cheese, you’re able to reduce the amount of sugar, sometimes significantly. The recent edits of using homemade Irish Cream and local McKenzie Whiskey helped localize the recipe even further.
Car Bomb Cupcakes (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen) Make 20 cupcakes
FOR THE CAKE
- 1 c Irish or Chocolate Stout (I used Brooklyn Chocolate Stout)
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 c unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/3 c sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 c sour cream
FOR THE GANACHE
- 8oz dark chocolate (at least 70%), chopped
- 1/2 c heavy cream
- 2 tbsp butter, room temperature
- 2 tbsp whiskey (I used McKenzie Pure Pot Still Whiskey)
FOR THE FROSTING
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 8oz cream cheese
- 5-6 c confectioners sugar
- 8 tbsp Irish Cream
MAKE THE CUPCAKES: Preheat Oven to 350°F. In a medium saucepan, bring stout and butter to a simmer, making sure butter has completely melted. Whisk in cocoa powder until smooth. Let cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In stand mixer beat eggs and sour cream until creamy. Pour in stout mix and continue mixing until well blended. Keep mixer on low and gradually add flour mixture until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to completely combine mixture.
Fill lined cupcake tray using an ice cream scooper. Each cup should be about 3/4 full. Bake cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Cool cupcakes completely.
MAKE THE GANACHE: In a small bowl over low heat bring cream to a simmer. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Add butter and whiskey and continue whisking until completely smooth. Cool to room temperature, whisking ever 10 minutes or so to keep chocolate smooth.
MAKE THE FROSTING: Cream butter and cream cheese in a standing mixer on medium speed until fluffy and glossy. Meanwhile SIFT powdered sugar. Powdered sugar is extremely susceptible to humidity and tends to form clumps. I’ve used everything from store brand sugar to organic fair traded sugar and come across the same problems. Sifting the flour guarantees you a smooth rich frosting.
Add powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time until it looks thick enough to spread.
Add Irish Cream and mix well. Add extra sugar if frosting becomes too thin. I also cool the icing in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so until ready to use.
ASSEMBLE THE CUPCAKES: Use a 1 inch round cookie cutter or paring knife to cut out the center of cooled cupcakes.
Fill center of cupcakes with ganache, almost to the top.
Cut the bottom off the cupcake centers, so you only have about a 1/4″ thick piece to cover the ganache. The rest are your tasters (we don’t let anything go to waste here!). Cover the ganache and ice cupcakes as desired.
NOTE: Once assembling the cupcakes they should be eaten almost immediately or they’ll start to dry out. If storing for a day or so, keep in the refrigerator. Make sure to take them out at least 30 minutes before serving so the icing and ganache has a chance to warm to room temperature.