Irish cream cupcakes – just in time for St. Patrick's Day

Friday, March 13, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 11

All the rage these days, when it comes to sweets, is cupcake stores. They are popping up everywhere.

These cute stores with eye-catching little names lure you inside to take a look at what’s creating that heavenly aroma. Once inside, that wonderful smell overtakes your senses, and you just have to have one. Or maybe two.

However, here’s the hard – and the expensive – part. There are so many tempting flavors to choose from, it’s almost impossible to get just one.

I mean, I guess you can, but it takes the utmost willpower. Myself? I usually will choose one flavor for now and one for later. But wait! I don’t dare go home with a cupcake for just me – so I choose a few more for the rest of the family.

By the time I walk out, I have a half-dozen or so cupcakes in my hand, and my wallet is minus $20 – for six cupcakes.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a bit pricey for me.

But, yes, I’ve done this. The convenience was really nice, but I walked to the car shaking my head and vowing to never make that mistake again.

Really, I can buy a lot of cake mixes at the store and make tons of cupcakes for the price of those mere six, even though they might not have the six inches of icing and the cute little decorations piled on top.

And that’s exactly how they are – they’re not for eating with your hands because you can’t work your way around the frosting. You have to have a plate and a fork to eat them. Seriously, the icing is three-fourths of the cupcake.

These sweet cupcake stores do have a purpose, and I don’t mean to knock them.

I remember one time when I was in Memphis and I picked up my oldest granddaughter after school. I took her and the other grandchildren to one for a special treat.

Irish Cream Cupcakes

If you’re looking for a grown-up cupcake, give these a try. You’ll have a hard time limiting yourself to one.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Irish cream liqueur
Frosting
1/3 cup butter, softened
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
6 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur
4 cups confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until crumbly, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in applesauce and vanilla (mixture may appear curdled). Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with liqueur, beating well after each addition.

Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350° for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

For frosting, in a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in liqueur. Add confectioners’ sugar; beat until smooth. Pipe over tops of cupcakes. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: two dozen.

That was an expensive after-school snack, especially when you factor in drinks, but it was a special little treat. However, we have just as much fun, if not more, staying at home and making cupcakes.

So, you really have to pick and choose your reasons for going to a cupcake store. At least I do.

I made some delicious cupcakes the other day – red velvet with cream cheese frosting. Although they didn’t have the sky-high piled on frosting, they were very good.

And I’m sure much better for us than the ones with six inches of frosting.

When I was frosting them, I poked a hole in the center of the cupcake and filled it with some of the frosting. That made them special.

In honor of St. Paddy’s Day – of which some peeps in my family take full advantage (even if they are part Italian!), I have a recipe for some Irish cream Cupcakes.

These are the adult version, but you can easily alter the recipe and frosting so children can eat them, too.

I found the recipe in my current Taste of Home magazine, and although I’ve not tried these yet, they sound wonderful. If you don’t have any Irish cream liqueur on hand, you can substitute with milk.

I’d probably buy a small bottle for the cupcake and use milk or half-and-half for the frosting. Or maybe use just three tablespoons of the Irish cream liqueur and the rest milk.

If you’re planning on sharing them with young children, I wouldn’t use the liqueur in the frosting.

Using it in the cupcakes will be fine because the alcohol will cook out as they’re baking. But please be mindful of the frosting. I’m sure they’ll taste just as good either way.

Kay Bona is an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at kay@dailydata.com.