Kitchen Lab: Chi-rish Cupcakes That Did Not Bomb

Even while I was bartending, I thought the idea of a shot named the “Irish Car Bomb” was a little… rude. Offensive. Insensitive, at least. “Har har, all of these ingredients are Irish, and you drink the shot in a way that’s called a “bomb,” and those Irish folks are always blowing each other up with cars! HAR!” Now granted, being from Detroit, I may be a bit sensitive to jokes of this nature… No, I’m not in a gang, I’ve neither shot anyone nor been shot, and my answer to an ignorant question like “How many cars have you stolen?” is usually “Yours is nice.” But DUDE. Let’s not give drinks jokey names (TW) like that, eh?

HOWEVER, this does not detract from the deliciousness of Guinness, Bailey’s, and/or Jameson. It’s hard to get offended by a cupcake, and cooking with booze is never wrong. And so, I present to you a most fantastic concoction that consists of the following:

  • Guinness chocolate cupcakes, with
  • Bailey’s butter frosting, and
  • Jameson dark-chocolate ganache inside.


I got this recipe from a coworker, who mentioned her plan to make them for the weekend’s festivities despite having given up sweets for Lent. As I had conveniently given up religion for Lent a number of years ago (actually, I never had one to begin with but I wanted to fit in to the spirit of the season), I had no such quandary. And as an added bonus, Saturday was Smashley‘s Birthday (Observed), so I had a fine reason to try out the recipe my coworker promised to email me.

Ok, so she didn’t email it to me, she forgot so she wrote it on a sheet of paper.

And forgot to write down the instructions for putting the cupcakes together.

Including how long the cupcakes were supposed to bake for.

a handwritten recipe for cupcakes, frosting and ganache on yellow lined paper

…so basically I had a list of ingredients and a line to “bake at 350F.” BUT! Your intrepid Kitchen Labber is not averse to experimentation! And this ain’t my first rodeo. (OMG rodeo cupcakes!) I know you should generally mix the wet stuff together separately from the dry stuff, then mix ’em together. I’ve made cupcakes before. Okay, I can do this.

Here’s my list of ingredients for the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1.5 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream

Ok. Preheat the oven, done. Now butter. I was starting pretty late at night already, so I didn’t want to wait for as long as it would take to soften at room temperature. So I put the butter in the microwave for… 20 seconds, I think? Enough to kinda melt the edges and soften it up a bit. Then I thought the cocoa powder would be good, since chocolate butter can’t be all bad. Smoosh that all together so it’s well-mixed. It’s unsweetened cocoa, though, so I’m kinda breaking the “dry separate from wet” rule here by adding in the sugar next, but so what? Then the eggs. Ohey, then Guinness! Only a cup? There’s all the rest of the can that I can’t possibly let go to waste! Shucky-darn.

a series of four photos depicting the process of mixing up a batch of chocolate cupcake batter

…and then it looked kinda like chocolate oatmeal. Hmm. Well, Irish, right? Moving right along…

I gave the flour, baking soda and salt a little fluff together in a separate bowl, then added it in to the oatmeal. Now it’s looking a bit more like cupcake batter, phew.

a bowl of chocolate cupcake batter

Muffin tins, put in the little crinkly paper things, scoop batter into each cup, try to kinda even it out between all 24 cups. It’s inexact, and rather than fiddle with taking tiny spoonfuls out of each cup to fill up the last one I just gave up and went with 23. Then I texted my coworker for the missing details.

ME: “Hey, how LONG do I bake these things for?”
SHE: “Oh! About 17 minutes. Until a knife comes out clean but that’s usually how long it takes. Whoops!”
~brief pause~
SHE: “Crucial detail”

Great! Set timer for 17:00, stick the cupcakes in the oven, go clean up a bit before making frosting. Doot doot doo…

Oh, what’s this unopened tub of sour cream doing out… oh.

TIMER: 11:37

Hmm. Welp, guess we’ll see!

Now: Frosting. With Bailey’s. YES.

  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 Tbsp Bailey’s

This, I had instructions for. And it’s only three ingredients. And it’s frosting. I think I’ve got this.

I had already cut up the butter-stick into smaller chunks to see if it would soften faster, but it kinda didn’t work as fast as I would have liked. So I zapped it for a few seconds, just enough to soften it but not melt. DON’T melt butter for recipes where it calls for “softened,” it won’t work the same. Sometimes you can get away with it, but you often want the texture of the somewhat-solid butter, not liquefied popcorn topping.

First instructions: “Mix up butter for several min till smooth.” Doesn’t say how, and though I know it’s generally a good (and easier) idea to use a hand mixer to beat the crap out of (or “cream,” which I think makes no sense but nobody asked) butter for frosting, I’d already softened it a bunch and I thought it would be okay to just smoosh it around a bit until it was all creamy. So I did. “Slowly add powdered sugar until thick,” easy enough. I did it a cup at a time, which seemed to work out okay. “drizzle in Bailey’s until combined.

I thought it looked like ice cream, om nom nom:

a bowl of buttercream frosting with Bailey's poured on top

So I mixed it all in and it smelled FANTASTIC. Yay! But I think I’ll wait until the cupcakes have cooled to put together the Jameson ganache, there’s a double-boiler involved and I’m pretty sure I don’t want it cooling and solidifying before I’m ready to use it. So this is the boring part that I don’t include because I’m off doing laundry or checking Facebook or something, which is not really part of the recipe unless you count it into the “prep time.”

The cupcakes actually took closer to 25 minutes to cook, and I checked them so obsessively that probably half of them wound up with poke-holes in them as I tested for done-ness. So there’s my 23 cupcakes and frosting, two out of three parts all ready to go. Eeeeeeeexcellent.

Now I’ll make the ganache. What the heck is ganache, anyway? It’s French for fancy chocolate cream frosting, basically. According to Wikipedia:

Ganache is normally made by heating cream, then pouring it over chopped chocolate of any kind. The mixture is stirred or blended until smooth… Typically, two parts chocolate to one part cream are used for filling cakes or as a base for making chocolate truffles, while one to one is commonly used as a glaze. Cooled ganache can be whipped to increase volume and spread to cover a cake. However, if left to cool too much it can become too thick and unspreadable.

…and of course, I just looked that up NOW rather than before I made it, which just means I had no idea what I was doing at the time. Yep, I’m a keeper.

I have this fake double-boiler insert thingy that “fits” over a regular pot to turn it into a double-boiler. You put water in the bottom pot, heat it up, then melt whatever you’ve got in the top part. It’s supposed to spread out the heat and keep things from burning and sticking to the pan in a hot ugly scorched mess that nobody will want to eat ever. Other than the fact that my stupid self keeps wanting to grab the little metal handles bare-handed, it works okay and doesn’t take up as much room in a cabinet as a “standard” double boiler, which is really just a pair of nested stacked pots that most people will only use a few times a year anyway (unless maybe you’re Anne making wonderful and exotic things we’re all jealous of, in part because she makes it all seem effortless and I’m sure her kitchen looks nothing a hurricane came through afterward).

So here’s what goes into this fancy stuff:

  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (chopped up small)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp Jameson

Now, when I’d gone to the store to pick up the ingredients I didn’t have (mostly the sour cream I completely forgot to add to the stinkin’ cupcakes anyway), I was looking for something specifically labeled “bittersweet chocolate.”) Herp a derp, oh no, why is the only thing that says “bittersweet” a $4.50-per-4-ounce-bar? There’s gotta be something else. Fancy Ghirardelli, nope, eleventy-bajillion percent cacao… waaaaaaait. Bittersweet means dark chocolate. BOOM. I grabbed a bag of dark chocolate chips (no chopping!) and checked out to head home.

(I already had Jameson.)

The instructions for the ganache just say “Heat the cream in double boiler,” sure, but for how long? How hot should it be? Do I need to avoid boiling? Will it scald? I DON’T KNOOOOOOW okay there’s steam that’s good enough. “Then transfer in chocolate bits – stir till smooth.” So there’s my paranoid self, obsessively stirring this little puddle of chocolate and cream, wondering if I’ve even got the right temperature to not burn everything to a congealed mess of ew. It finally got smooth, so then I was supposed to “Add in whiskey/butter, stir till combined.” Which took rather longer than I’d expected, as the whiskey really wanted to hang out on the edges of the pot and not hang out with the chocolate at all. (My whiskey may be prejudiced, I’m not sure. I made them be friends. PEACE ON EARTH, GOODWILL TOWARD CHOCOLATE!)

The mix was super-liquid-y, and I needed to take the middles out of the cupcakes to make room for the ganache filling anyway, so I let it cool off a bit while I scooped out little chocolate-holes in all my cupcakes. (I saved the divots to eat later. Yes.) My coworker said I should leave about an inch of cupcake on the bottom, so I kinda only scooped out a big spoonful or so of cake from the middle of each one. I may have used a grapefruit knife to do this.

While the ganache cooled/solidified, the whiskey tried to sneak back out again, so I gave it a stir. It was really late at that point, so I just decided to start pouring in the still-rather-liquefied filling and hope for the best. I got a decent-sized serving spoon and tried not to overflow the cupcake-divots… they wound up looking a bit like those cookies with Hershey’s Kisses stuck into the top, if someone had put them in the microwave and melted the Kisses. And the cookies were actually cupcakes. Okay, maybe it didn’t look like that at all, but the important thing is that none of the cupcakes experienced a ganache blowout, possibly because I’d left them in the muffin tins. But now I had 23 chocolate-filled chocolate cupcakes, so I had obviously won at something.

Since the ganache filling was still pretty liquid-y, even inside the cupcakes, spreading on frosting in the usual way just wasn’t gonna work. I’d end up with a smeary mess of frosting and ganache and probably tears, and it was far too late at night for that sort of shenaningans. (Why do I always start making Kitchen Lab experiments at like 10pm?) I don’t have any fancy piping bag or other frosting tools, so I scooped all the frosting into a big Ziploc bag and cut off a corner. Then I squeezed the frosting out in a spiral on top of each cupcake, which had the added benefit of being somewhat prettier than smeared-on frosting globs.

About halfway through frosting the cupcakes, I realized that I had no idea how I was going to remove already-frosted cupcakes from the tins without messing up the frosting. Oops.

side-by-side muffin tins, one with frosted cupcakes and the other with un-frosted cupcakes filled with chocolate ganache

Luckily, most of the cupcakes I’d already frosted were NOT the ones that had spread out over the edges of their respective cups. I kinda levered them out with a knife, and no tragedies or loss-of-cupcake-life occurred. SUCCESS!

Chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting

They were quite popular at the party. There was a fez involved.

Kitchen Lab is a sporadic series in which I try to cook, bake, prepare, or otherwise assemble random foodstuffs, generally for the first time. Basically, I’m taking bad iPad photos of the process of making my breakfast and snacks I take to parties in order to encourage other people to try unfamiliar recipes, too. You should try making this stuff and let me know how it turns out, or how you did it better. Because it’s definitely possible, indeed incredibly likely, that you’ll be far better at this than me. Go experiment!

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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