Have you ever had an Irish Car Bomb? It’s a (terribly named, I’m realizing especially strongly as I type it out) drink, consisting of a shot of Baileys and whiskey dropped into a pint of Guinness, and downed before it has a chance to curdle. Not something I’ve ever been drawn to, but when I came across a recipe for chocolate whiskey and beer cupcakes on smitten kitchen, I felt like I had hit the jackpot. Inspired by a chocolate stout tres leches cake that Laura and I had shared way back in January 2011, I had been on the hunt for a Guinness cake to serve at Hal’s birthday party (which suddenly and excitingly turned into a his birthday + our engagement party!!! Ahem). Just a Guinness cake would have satisfied, but stout cupcakes filled with whiskey ganache, to celebrate the birthday of a gent whose autocorrect writes WHISKY instead of whiskey? Now we’re really talking.
These cupcakes have a lot going on, but it all works. The chocolate batter is flavored with stout (the original recipe calls for Guinness, I used Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, because that’s what we had), a bit of cake is carved out of the center of each cupcake and replaced with a whiskey flavored ganache, and the whole thing is topped off with Baileys buttercream frosting. I was a little skeptical, especially since I already have a chocolate cupcake recipe that is near and dear to my heart, but I shouldn’t have worried. These are seriously delicious. Rich, yes, but balanced: the chocolate in the cupcake isn’t too heavy, and is cut nicely by the slightly bitter stout flavor. The ganache has a definite kick to it, which mutes the sugar punch of the buttercream frosting.
A word about that kicky ganache. The original recipe calls for Irish whiskey, but I had a special birthday request to sub in a Scotch instead. Actually, two Scotches: Balvenie 12 Year Doublewood and Lagavuilin 16 Year Old (clearly, I had to be reminded about the names). They made for some strong ganache, but it went over big. I think if I were making these again for someone less Scotch obsessed I’d stick with Irish Whiskey, but there’s clearly room to happily experiment with your booze of choice.
I do not have the pictures I wish I did of these cupcakes. My lovely and talented friend Sarah helped me carve out the cupcake centers and squeeze in ganache, and I so wish I had documented the messy fun we had. But, I planned a little poorly and didn’t put these together until our party was in full swing, at which point I was definitely not stopping to document. This happens to me during almost every party I hostess. For this particular shindig I also made devils on horseback, deviled eggs (sensing a theme?), mini cheese balls, and pumpkin chocolate chip squares that, along with these cupcakes, have already received repeat requests. Do I have pictures of any of these? Nope. Ah well.
I stuck really closely to the recipe, and so won’t bother to type it all out, but I do have a couple of additional notes. The original recipe calls for a one inch round cookie cutter or apple corer to scoop out the middle of the cupcakes–I just used a small knife, and it seemed fine. I also may have added a leetle more Scotch than called for in the ganache (what can I say, it was called for in my house), and so definitely had to chill the mixture a bit to get it back to “thick but still soft enough to be piped.” I didn’t need to stir it, as Deb recommends, because I had put each batch into a small ziploc and just smooshed it around periodically. I also didn’t try out her tip of adding sugar to the frosting just a few tablespoons at a time, because by the point in the party that I finally got around to making the frosting I was just ready to eat a dang cupcake. Other than that (and the switch of Scotch for whiskey), I followed the original recipe to the letter.