Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Shamrock Fest and St. Patrick's Day Cupcakes

Ah, St. Patrick's Day. The one day of the year my red hair is hailed as a gift instead of a curse. Also, everyone pretends to be as Irish and cool as me and there's also lots of drinking. Basically there is nothing not to love about this holiday.

Every year in DC there is a huge party called Shamrock Fest with great food, music, and beer (of course). I've never really been one for music fests (so crowded and porta potties are not my thing), but some of my friends were organizing a big group and I figured, "why not?" Especially when the headlining performers are my favorite band, Carbon Leaf.

So on Saturday, March 16 (the day before actual St. Patrick's Day) we all put on our best green and Irish duds and headed out on the metro to RFK Stadium. We met up early for some pre-partying and I might have been a wee bit tipsy by 10:30 in the morning, but that's all part of the fun, right?

Things didn't end up as crowded as I had feared (probably because of the threat of rain) and we had a grand time wandering around the festival grounds, dancing in the DJ tent, getting beer and cider, and waiting for Carbon Leaf. When the band took the stage at 4:30 there was a brief rain shower, but their one hour set was fantastic, with a great mix of old and new songs. Carbon Leaf has always had a bit of a Celtic rock flair and I was able to score a spot in the front row--for the first time!

By 6:00 I was wiped from being on my feet, drunk, and out in the elements all day, so I called it an early night. But Shamrock Fest proved more fun than expected and I look forward to going back next year.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I also decided to try a new homemade Guinness Chocolate cupcake recipe! I know many of you hear "homemade" and "cupcakes" in the same sentence and panic, but trust me that these are super easy. There is also a certain amount of pride that comes from making something from scratch rather than out of a box. These got rave reviews from my friends--they bake up to a dense, chocolatey cake that isn't too heavy. And the beer doesn't really influence the flavor, it just adds a certain depth and keeps the cake moist. Top off the cupcakes with the Bailey's Irish Cream frosting and you are good to go for all your St. Patty's Day needs!

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup stout beer (Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk (I used a buttermilk substitute--2/3 cup milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice that you let sit for 5 minutes)

• Prepare muffin tins with liners.
• Simmer together beer and butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.
• Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
• Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend.
• In bowl of mixer fitted with beater, beat eggs and buttermilk to blend.
• Add cooled stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine.
• Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Batter will be very dark brown and thin.
• Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, about 18 minutes.

 Baileys Irish Cream Frosting 

1 lb (4 cups) confectioner's sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (soft but still cool)
3 ounces (6 TBL) Baileys Irish Cream*
(I also recommend dying the icing green for that perfect Irish touch)

• Beat butter on medium-high until smooth, and fluffy.
• On lowest mixer speed, add confectioner's sugar one cup at a time, incorporating fully before adding more.  • Once all sugar is added, beat about one minute. Incorporate Baileys Irish Cream one tablespoon at a time. Beat until light and fluffy. If too stiff or dry, add more Baileys as necessary.

Rockin out in the DJ tent

 Me and some random dude in a kilt.


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