Now I might only be 1/4 Irish, but like any good lass I enjoy a festive St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Thankfully, now that I have joined the ranks of the 21+, my festivities involve a bit more than wearing green and pinching all you unfortunates who always forget to don your emerald hues.

But before we cut into that corned beef and pour the Lucky Charms I thought it best to take a moment and honor one of Ireland’s most esteemed beverages…

No, not Guinness.

I’m talking about Irish coffee! This classic, whiskey-spiked beverage was born in Foynes, Ireland – a port town used as a major transfer point between the U.S. and Europe back in the day. One night in 1942, the catering staff at the Foynes terminal restaurant, realizing how chilly the passengers appeared upon disembarking from the ships, decided to provide a warm, Irish  welcome in the form of coffee mixed with brown sugar, whipped cream and whiskey. The story goes that upon sipping his drink, a passenger asked, “Is this Brazilian coffee?” to which restaurant chef Joe Sheridan replied, “No, that’s Irish coffee!”

The drink made its American debut in 1952 at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco, which is now world famous for the brew. Today, the city of Foynes holds an annual Irish Coffee Festival where bartenders the world over come to attend the World Irish Coffee Championship. But in the event you are not planning a trip to the Emerald Isle this summer you can either whip up your own Irish coffee or just bake a batch of these delectable cupcakes.

I chanced upon this recipe in this month’s Martha Stewart Living and, being the good Irish girl I am, thought it proper to give them a try. They contain all key ingredients of a classic, Irish coffee including the whiskey!

The assembly process is a bit more involved than your average cake in a cup.  Instant espresso powder is mixed with water/milk then added to the batter in alternating batches with the dry ingredients. This is an important process that helps the batter retain a smooth consistancy. It also limits the amount of gluten in your batter. Too much gluten = sad, dense little cupcakes.

The batter alone could make you break out in an Irish jig. It’s deliciously creamy and tastes like melted coffee ice cream. The resulting cupcake is soft, moist and scented with rich espresso.

But everyone knows that a cupcake just isn’t a cupcake without frosting. This batch gets a bit tipsy with the addition of whiskey. To stick with the theme, I chose Bushmills, an Irish brand. This was whipped together with heavy cream and just a touch of powdered sugar to make a light-as-air frosting which added just the right amount of cool, creamy flavor to the warm, coffee cupcake below.  

So whether you plan on enjoying a warm Guinness at the neighborhood pub,  frolicking like a leprechaun in your all-green ensemble or just baking a batch of cupcakes, I hope you and yours have a happy St. Patrick’s Day!

And, as the Irish say, sláinte!


Irish Coffee Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine, March 2010

These cupcakes possess all the components of a good Irish coffee. A tip: Be sure scrape down your bowl with a spatula after each flour/espresso addition to the batter  (see step 5 below). I recommend a good Irish whiskey such as Jameson or Bushmills for your frosting. Also, the espresso powder used to garnish the cupcakes is rather bitter. Go for a light dusting if you’re not a strong coffee fan.

For the cupcakes, you will need:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup boiling water
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
1/4 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter; room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

For the frosting:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ tbsp whiskey
instant espresso powder for the garnish


Preheat oven 350.

Make cupcakes: whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Pour boiling water over espresso powder; let cool. Combine espresso with milk.

Add the butter and sugars to a bowl. Beat until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each.

Add flour mixture to the batter in three additions, beating after each, alternating with the espresso/milk. (I.e. flour first, then espresso, then flour, then espresso etc.)

Fill 12 cupcake cups 3/4 full in a muffin tin. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, 20-22 minutes. Let cool, turn out cupcakes from tin.

Make the frosting: Whisk together cream and confectioners’ sugar until medium peaks form. Add whiskey, whisk until slightly stiff peaks form.

Top each cupcake with 2 tbsp frosting, dust with espresso powder.

Yield ~ 12 cupcakes