St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, and people across America will use this day as an excuse to get rip-roaring drunk, dye everything green, wear weird little leprechaun hats, and (hopefully) do jigs.
Personally, I’ve never participated in the bar-hopping that traditionally accompanies the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in the United States. Mostly because it seems a little racist to appropriate an Irish religious holiday and boil it down to the stereotype that the Irish are all a bunch of drunken slobs. Buuut, that’s just me, right?
Last year I ran into some issues with making an “Irish Car Bomb” cupcake, which is a bit offensive (the Troubles, anyone?). And when researching this cupcake, I found out that the Irish frown upon the name “Black and Tan” for the beer cocktail because it’s the nickname of the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force (mean dudes who attacked Irish civilians).
Don’t get me wrong, I love stereotypes as much as the next minimally Irish person, and they can be super funny! But I’d rather not offend a whole segment of the world, you know? Especially when Ireland has kind of been through the wringer, and there are innocent deaths involved. Call me a people-pleaser.
THAT BEING SAID, the Irish totally (probably?) drink this beer cocktail, they just call it a half and half! So, in the interest of authenticity and cultural sensitivity, here’s the Irish Half & Half Cupcake. Traditionally, this is made with Smithwick’s Ale and Guinness draught, with the Guinness on top.
So that’s exactly what I did! We have a Smithwick’s cupcake on the bottom, and a Guinness Italian meringue buttercream on the top. I love, love, love putting booze into dessert. I don’t know why. Maybe because that’s about as subversive as I get. WALKING ON THE WILD SIDE, PEOPLE.
I just replaced water with Guinness in the sugar syrup (and in my life), then added a couple tablespoons more to the finished buttercream for even more flavor. It’s not super strong, but it has that bitterness that Guinness has, and that’s what I was after.
A final note: don’t mispronounce Smithwick’s and look like a square. Say it with me: Smi-dicks. I mean, you can use that soft “th” sound instead of a “d,” but this way you get to say dicks. Everyone’s happy.
- 1½ cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1¾ cups (350 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup Smithwick's ale, plus more for brushing tops (1 bottle will be enough)
- ¼ cup milk
- 1¼ cup (250 grams) granulated sugar, divided
- ¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons Guinness draught
- 5 egg whites, at room temperature
- pinch of salt
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 cups (454 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- black and brown gel food coloring, if desired
- St. Patrick's Day or green sprinkles, if desired
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners (24 total)
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and butter, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs, beating after each addition, scraping down sides of the bowl as necessary. Add vanilla.
- In a liquid measuring cup, combine Smithwick's and milk. With the mixer on low speed, add a third of the flour mixture to the mixing bowl, followed by half of the beer mixture. Repeat, then finish by adding the last third of the flour mixture.
- Distribute batter evenly among cupcake liners (should be about two-thirds full). Bake for 18 minutes. A cake tester or toothpick should come out clean. Place on a cooling rack, and using your cake tester or toothpick, poke 6-8 holes in the top of each cupcake. Pour the remaining Smithwick's beer into a small bowl, then brush the tops of the hot cupcakes with the beer using a pastry brush. Remove cupcakes from tins and allow to cool completely on the rack while you make the frosting.
- Combine 1 cup (200 grams) of sugar and ¼ cup of Guinness into a medium saucepan and set on stove. Do not turn on heat yet.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt until the begin to froth. Sprinkle in cream of tarter and beat until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, pour in ¼ cup (50 grams) sugar and beat for 30 seconds (stiff peaks should form).
- At this point, turn the stove on to medium-high heat and make your sugar syrup by heating the mixture to 245°F. At some point, this will get really frothy because of the Guinness, so make sure you use a large enough pan that the froth won't spill over!
- When sugar syrup reaches 245°F, turn on the mixer to low and carefully pour the sugar syrup into the egg white foam, taking care to avoid getting syrup on the sides of the bowl and on the whisk. Once the syrup is all added, gradually increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whisk until the bowl has cooled somewhat (5-10 minutes).
- Start adding your cubed butter, a few pieces at a time. The mixture will deflate and get very liquidy and sloppy. Keep beating! Then the mixture will look curdly and gross. Keep beating! Eventually, it will come together and be smooth. At this point, add 2 tablespoons of Guinness and vanilla extract, with the mixer on low speed. Scrape down the side of the bowl if need be. Add food coloring to make the frosting a dark brown color and mix until uniform (this gives the cupcake the contrast you get in a half and half). You may need to use a rubber spatula to get all of the food coloring incorporated.
- Load frosting into a piping bag and pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Add sprinkles if desired.