Think you need to eat green this Saint Patrick’s Day? Think again.
Come Saint Patrick’s Day, few desserts can stand up to the mighty Guinness Chocolate Cake – until now. Irish Red Velvet Cake is as cheery as a wee leprechaun’s cheeks and as fiery as his beard. The crimson batter contains a dusting of cocoa and is bound with buttermilk – both characteristics of a traditional Red Velvet Cake, popular in the American South. But a few glugs of O’Hara’s Irish Red Ale gives this otherwise ordinary cake Celtic edge.
This delightful Irish-American fusion makes an ideal dessert for the 40 million Irish Americans who celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day every year. (And, since Saint Patrick’s Day is more widely celebrated by Irish Americans than the Irish, this fusion turns out to be quite apropos.)
What is an Irish Red Ale?
Irish Red ales are reddish-brown in color and full-bodied. In the case of O’Hara’s, toasted malt sweetens the drink, while a bit of hops deepens the finish.
Too much of the bubbly brew can give the Irish Red Velvet Cake a yeasty, bread-like flavor – a modest 1/2 cup does the trick. Cutting back on the buttermilk to accommodate the Irish Red ale causes the cake to lose some richness but what is lost is more than made up for in festivity. The cake remains ultra moist and – according to one friend – irresistible, particularly when paired with a fluffy spread of Bailey’s Buttercream.
Note: The booze cooks off, so this cake is suitable for children, too. The Bailey’s in the buttercream is no different than adding vanilla extract.
Origins of Irish Red Velvet Cake:
One blustery day this winter I decided to organize my cookbook collection. Food and Wine had just come to the house to do a photo shoot promoting my new book and had made a half dozen stacks with my cookbooks for a photo feature. As I put the books away, I sorted and edited the collection with fresh eyes.
In the chaos I stumbled upon a beer guide I’d long-since forgotten about. The glossy pages fell open revealing an assortment of Irish beers. A formidable pint of Guinness caught my eye, reminding me of the Guinness Chocolate Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream my family enjoyed back when we first cooked Ireland.
Then my eyes drifted across the page to the Irish Red ales. Somehow the notion of a red ale and a beer-infused cake became transposed. My brain decided, (with alarming urgency) “I must make an Irish Red Velvet Cake.” A quick Google search turned up empty: as far as I could tell no one had attempted such a thing. Until now.
A few decorating tips
For perfectly white, crumb-free buttercream use a “crumb coating.”
It sounds fancy but just means that – after you bake and…
… stack the cake layers…
… you spread a very thin layer of buttercream over the entire cake.
Next, refrigerate until the buttercream chills and is firm to the touch (about 30 minutes). The hardened buttercream traps the crumbs so that the next (thicker) layer of buttercream remains pristine as fresh snowfall.
For the final coat, I like to dab frosting strategically around the cake and then use an offset spatula to smooth it out evenly.
It’s really scientific.
Your stove top travels await….
Take a moment, where ever you are, to enjoy your cake with a sense of adventure and imagination.
Perhaps in in an Irish castle…
… or an Irish Pub in… America!
Either way, you’ll be on your way to very sweet and very lucky day.
Or at least an interesting one…
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!