I made: Irish cream cupcakes with italian buttercream

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day and I got together with some friends and family, so I was excited to make these cupcakes!  They were pretty involved and I made three silly mistakes.  But one of the things I love about baking is that even if you make mistakes, you can usually keep going and figure out a way to make it work anyway.  Sometimes the mistakes even taste better than the “correct” version.

These cupcakes have two components: the cake itself and then the frosting.  The cake wasn’t too complicated, but the Italian buttercream frosting was tricky, at least for a first-timer!

Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350F and line a cupcake tin.  (It ended up being enough for 24 mini cupcakes and 5 regular cupcakes.)
  • Mix 1.5 cups cake flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup room temp butter, 2 eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/8 cup chopped dark chocolate.  Blend in the mixer for about a minute.
  • Combine 3/4 cup brewed coffee with 1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur and mix into the other ingredients.
  • Scoop into the cupcake tins and bake for 10-12 minutes for mini cupcakes, 15-18 minutes for full size.
  • Cool and core out the centers.  Now they’re ready for the next step.

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Frosting:

  • Okay so making an Italian buttercream is really complicated.  The recipe for the cupcakes wanted me to use something called “meringue powder” which sounded very silly, so I found another recipe instead.  Unfortunately, I forgot to save that one, but I’m pretty sure it goes like this:
  • Separate 4 eggs and put the yolks away for another day.  Put the whites in a big mixing bowl, add 1/3 cup sugar, and get ready to mix with whisk attachment.
  • Meanwhile, set up a small saucepan with 1/3 cup water and 1.5 minus 1/3 cup sugar.  Attach a candy thermometer to the side and set to “soft ball” setting.

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  • Start the mixer at medium speed and the saucepan at medium height at the same time.  You’ll want to get the egg whites to soft peaks and the sugar syrup to 240 degrees F.  Don’t stir the sugar.  This will probably happen at about the same time but if not just turn off whichever one gets done first.
  • Slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites while beating.  Don’t pour it right on the beaters, just to the side.  Continue whipping for 10-15 minutes until firm peaks form and bowl and beaters are cool.  Add a pinch of salt.  Congrats, this is Italian meringue!

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  • However, it isn’t buttercream yet.  To make it buttercream, gradually add in FOUR STICKS OF BUTTER (!!!), cubed.  Then 1 tsp vanilla extract.  The structure of the peaks may change at various times but just keep going.
  • Okay so the next step is to divide the buttercream and flavor it with two different flavors.  To fill the cored cupcakes, make an espresso flavor buttercream: mix 1 cup of the frosting with 1/2 tsp espresso powder dissolved in 1 tbsp water.  (This actually wasn’t quite enough frosting to fill my cupcakes; I would suggest doing 1.5 cups frosting instead and adjusting the other ingredients accordingly.)
  • Lastly, make Irish cream flavor frosting: 2 cups frosting with 2 tbsp liqueur.  (Again, this wasn’t quite enough for me.  3 cups/3 tbsp should do it.) Frost the cupcakes as you like and decorate!

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OVERALL:

  • Well like I said, this was a very involved process.  My husband helped at the buttercream stage because I was nervous about screwing it up.  The buttercream was the one aspect I didn’t mess up though!
  • Mistake #1: I forgot that I had cake flour and googled “how to convert regular flour into cake flour” and spent 10 minutes sifting together flour & cornstarch.  Oops.
  • Mistake #2: I completely forgot to add the cocoa powder.  The good news is that as I was mixing the batter, I kept thinking “this is such a wet recipe, this seems so weird.”  The bad news is, I didn’t follow that instinct enough to re-check the recipe.  Luckily, it tasted fine even though it wasn’t chocolatey!
  • Mistake #3: I kept screwing up separating the eggs.  I ended up going through 10 eggs just to get 4 clean egg whites.  I usually don’t have a problem with this, I was just careless and then I kept psyching myself out.  So I have a lot of leftover egg yolk to make a custard tomorrow!

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  • Another baking blog gave me the idea to make a custom sprinkles mix, which was super fun!  I really like how these ended up looking.  I’m still not getting QUITE the results from piping the frosting that I wanted, but I’m getting better at it!
  • Oh, I also figured out a better technique for distributing batter into the mini cupcake tin.  The last time I made mini cupcakes this process was extremely annoying.  So instead of trying to spoon them individually, I simply poured the batter into my glass Pyrex measuring cup with a spout, then poured the batter into the cupcake wells from there.  It was much easier and less messy.  I wouldn’t recommend it for a batter that had big chunks, but since this one was mostly smooth with only tiny chocolate shards, it worked well.
  • These cupcakes were really rich and super tasty.  I can’t say I would go to all the effort to make the Italian buttercream all the time, but for special occasions, it’s worth it.

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NEXT TIME:

  • Although they were really good as they were, I’d like to try it with the cocoa powder.
  • I also am not sure what’s the point of making two different flavors of the buttercream.  Instead of doing that, I think it would make just as much sense to mix the espresso & Irish cream together and then use that as the frosting.
  • Oh, I guess the reason is because the espresso powder makes the buttercream darker, so if you use that as the filling and then cover it with the Irish cream flavor frosting, it still looks very bright white against the cupcakes.  Ehhh I don’t think I care that much about that, though.
  • Honestly these were great.  The process was a little involved, but I think that’s more a matter of practicing it than anything else!

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