Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Guinness Cupcakes for my Baby's Birthday

No, it's not St-Patrick's Day, I know. But it IS my boyfriend's birthday and we are both stout fans, so when he chose this as his birthday cupcake, I was quite pleased.

Stout is a dark beer, made from malt or barley, and Guinness is the most famous stout in the world. It's dry, light and creamy, and has an almost cult-ish status. It must be served at a specific temperature, poured from the tap in what is known as a double-pour, in a specifically shaped pint-glass... Some researches have also shown that there are antioxidants specific to Guinness that slow down bad cholesterol deposits, hence the famous slogan "Guinness is good for you!".

Besides all the pomp and circumstance, another thing Guinness has been increasingly known for is it's culinary uses. The fad probably started in faux-Irish pubs that wished to give their menu a more authentic look by adding stuff like beef and Guinness stew on it, but it caught on. The smoothness of this stout and it's slight coffee aftertaste eventually led some creative cooks to add it to desserts, particularly the chocolate-based cakes.

This cupcake recipe is quite simple and makes a light, chocolate-y cake with all the richness of the stout. There are several ways to ice these babies, most infamously with Bailey's frosting (and sometimes whiskey ganache) to create an Irish Carbomb cupcake. A mocha icing would also be lovely if you want to intensify the coffee-chocolate flavors, but cream cheese is a big favorite. I personally think a white icing makes them look more like little beer-cakes, since the frosting can look like the creamy head of the beer. That and I'd eat a chair if it had cream cheese frosting on it...

1 (330 ml) bottle Guinness stout
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. In a large mixing bowl, pour the Guinness and give it a moment for the foam to settle, then add the milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the sour cream.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, and baking soda. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet Guinness mixture.

Fill the liner 2/3 and bake 25 minutes, until risen and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool for 5 minutes before removing the cupcakes from the tins and letting them cool completely on a wire rack.

This recipe was supposed to make 24 cupcakes, but I somehow wound up with 36... Don't ask me how that happened... The important thing is that they were delicious, light and fluffy, yet loaded with chocolate flavor and a little "je-ne-sais-quoi" of Guinness. Basically, if you closed your eyes and wished really hard that your beer was dessert, those cupcakes would be what you'd find when you opened your eyes again.

The taste of beer is not overwhelming at all, and I enjoyed these so much I am considering making them my default chocolate cupcake recipe. If you prefer cooking with butter, you can also replace the milk and oil with 1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter, melted and added to the wet ingredients. It was also my first time using organic cane sugar instead of ordinary white sugar (I recently attended a conference where a nutritionist explained how they make regular sugar, and let's just say it's pretty effing disgusting, so I decided to switch). The texture is the same and the taste is great, so I think cane sugar is totally worth hunting down and baking with.

And once more with feelings, here is my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe. It makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes, so double or triple it to go with the Guinness cupcakes!

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
2½ cups confectioner sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Using the whisk attachment of a mixer, whip the butter and cream cheese on high speed for about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl down as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Increase the speed to medium high and whip for a few minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary.

This is seriously the perfect frosting: the texture is perfect for piping or spreading, it's not too sweet with just enough of the tangy cream cheese taste, and it always turns out just right. It balances the rich sweetness of the Guinness cakes perfectly. I used a medium-flower piping tip to apply the frosting, and gave my cupcakes a light sprinkling of chocolate doodles.

I am very proud of how adorable and tasty they turned out! They were the perfect cute dessert for a simple and quiet celebration of my sweetheart's birthday.

Love you, babe! xxxxx

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