Irish Cream Cupcakes: Bring the ladder, we're going top shelf


In the past few months, I’ve been making quite a dent in a certain section of the test kitchen pantry.

No, not the chocolate section although I do spend plenty of time there.

No, not the drawer of cheese in the fridge.

Think higher up. Think top shelf…

Behold, the pantry liquor shelf. Home to flavors both homey and exotic. Wines, whiskeys, and everything in between.

So, you ask, why the sudden urge to bake with booze?

I have no specific recipe or baked good that I can link it to, but I’ve seen some incredible-looking recipes and goodies online that feature a little of the hard stuff here and there.

I know working on the Fruitcake Fridays blog in the fall certainly brought me closer to the bottles, as I kept a liter of brandy on my station for a month to soak fruitcakes. Believe me, there were plenty of jokes bandied about regarding how tough my job must be if I have to keep a bottle at hand. It was all in good spirits though. (*groan* couldn’t resist the pun!).

What I learned was that spirits can really lend a depth of flavor and a layer of sophistication to your regular baking. You don’t need to use a gallon, just a splash in a filling or a glug in a batter.

It makes your tasters sit up and say “Hmm, what is that flavor?” Or better yet, ” I love what you’ve done with this recipe.”

For instance, let’s take a regular chocolate cupcake and make a couple of small changes. Out goes the milk and in comes Irish coffee: nice strong coffee with just a tipple of Irish Cream liqueur added in. Add coffee buttercream filling and an Irish cream buttercream topping, and you’ve got a sophisticated international cupcake treat on your hands.

Let’s make Irish Cream Cupcakes.

In the bowl of your mixer, place 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend, 1/2 cup King Arthur All-Purpose Cocoa or other natural cocoa, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Blend the dry ingredients on low speed for 1 minute to combine. Here I’ve also added 1 ounce chopped bittersweet chocolate for some texture. Put it in or leave it out, your choice.

Add 1/2 cup room temperature butter, 2 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Blend 3/4 cup black coffee and 1/4 cup Irish Cream liqueur together, and pour half into the bowl.

Mix the batter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup Irish coffee and beat again on medium speed for 1 more minute.

Divide the batter among 12 paper-lined wells of a cupcake or muffin pan, and bake at 350°F for 15 to 18 minutes. A cake tester will come out clean and the tops will be dry to the touch.

Remove from the oven and transfer the cupcakes from the pan to a wire rack to cool.

When the cupcakes are completely cooled, it’s time to core and fill them. I adore this little plastic cupcake corer. It cuts to the same depth each time and the core of cake can be popped right out by pressing the plunger.

If you don’t have a special cupcake corer you can use an apple corer, or any round tube. Just be sure you don’t core all the way through the cupcake. That could get pretty messy.

For the filling, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of espresso powder in one tablespoon of water. Stir or swish in the bowl until you can’t feel any graininess.

Pour the strong coffee concentrate into 1 cup of prepared buttercream icing. It won’t want to mix together at first (that whole oil/water thing), but keep stirring and it will come together.

Place the coffee icing in a disposable pastry bag or a zip-top bag, and snip off a fairly large hole. Pipe the filling into the cored cupcake just even with the top.

To top the cupcakes, pour 2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur and 1/8 teaspoon Irish Cream flavor into 2 cups prepared buttercream icing.  Again, it will take a little stirring to get everything to combine.

If you prefer not to use the liqueur, use 1/4 teaspoon of the flavor, or to taste.

The final touch? A sweet swirl of buttery-rich, extra-creamy icing.

These cupcakes were a huge hit here at King Arthur, and no one lamented when I had to make a second batch for photos. My good friend Tara, a customer service team leader and fellow hotline baker, was inspired by the cupcakes to try the new Irish Cream flavored coffee from our machine in the break room. Poor girl, she grimaced and declared, “I should have stuck with the cupcake!”

So, how do you feel about baking with spirits?  I’ve really been into the “boozy baking” lately, but I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak, so let’s hear what you have to say. Just keep it clean and respectful, and hopefully humorous.

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Irish Cream Cupcakes.

Print just the recipe

Enjoy more cupcake recipes.

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. Doug

    What size tip are you using for piping the final icing?
    Hi Doug,
    I just went to check on the tip size in the kitchen and Sue has taken it on a trip with her, so I don’t have the exact size. The next closest one still on the board is an Ateco 825, so something close to that should work out just fine. I’ll re-post when she gets back with the exact tip. ~ MaryJane


    Love the way you think Mary Jane! If only Bailey’s was vegan, I’d be right on these. Preparing a St. Pat’s meal for some family, but the group will include one vegan. Not sure what I’m doing for dessert yet.

    But, on the boozy baking subject, I have a great success story. I was inspired my PJ’s post a couple years ago: “Grilled chocolate: a new take on a comfort-food classic”. I found a pound cake recipe and adapted it to Grand Marnier pound cake. It is spectacular in the grilled chocolate “panini”. Hmmm, breakfast?
    Oh, my goodness that sounds wonderful. Not enough people, especially people in my household appreciate the chocolate/orange combination, but it sounds delish to me! ~ MaryJane

  3. footballmomnva

    These sound wonderful and I can’t wait to try them. If I make these with the mini-cupcake pan, do you think they will come out the same? I realize that I will have to use something smaller to core the mini-cupcakes. The smaller cupcakes seem to go over better in my office since people can grab one from the pantry, pop it in their mouth and still run off to their meeting!
    I see no reason why you can’t do a mini version, though you it may take some patience to fill them. You might be able to core them with a larger straight pastry tip, using the wider end. ~Amy

  4. ebenezer94

    My favorite Christmas cookie recipe is one that was published in Cooking Light magazine many years ago. It’s a bar cookie with dates, pecans, mini chocolate chips and whiskey. I’m not a fan of whiskey, but it really makes these cookies special. I agree that liquor in baked goods really gives them that special something. I LOVE Irish cream and dark chocolate, so I imagine that would make these cupcakes to-die-for!
    I totally agree. The nutmeg logs we love have just a touch of rum in the icing, but without that extra burst of flavor, they just aren’t the same magical cookie. Thanks for sharing! ~ MaryJane

  5. marcin

    What does Irish Cream liqueur taste like? I’ve never tried it but always wondered about it. It sounds elegant, but I generally don’t care for the rum or brandy flavors in baked goods.
    Irish Cream is a combination of whiskey, cream and coffee flavors. It is more mellow than rum or brandy. If you like drinks like Mudslides or White Russians, you’ll probably like Irish Cream. You can find it in little tiny bottles by the checkout counter at the liquor store, if you want to give it a try before investing in a larger bottle. It is lovely over ice or ice cream too. ~ MaryJane

  6. gaitedgirl & MJ – I agree – more people need to know and appreciate the wonderful combination of orange and chocolate! So yummy!!!

    I don’t like using coffee/espresso in my baking. When I bake with them, all I taste is the coffee (*bleck*). Can I substitute more Irish Cream or water in the cupcake recipe? I’d probably use a basic vanilla for the frosting and add a touch of the Irish Cream, as stated in the recipe. I’d love to make these for my husband, who is a Bailey’s fanatic, but I’d like to eat them too! Help a girl out here :)
    GG, I’m pretty sensitive to the coffee taste too, so I’d say water the coffee down by half. It should still give the chocolate that extra boost, but not taste like coffee. If you just aren’t into it, yes you can use all water.
    ~ MaryJane

  7. victorias

    Mary Jane, what is a nutmeg log? I searched the site for a recipe and couldn’t find one and they sound delicious!
    The nutmeg log is a recipe from my neighbor, my “Gramma Coppolino” . Her daughter was one of the founders of the Wellsley MA Cookie Exchange, and Gramma Christine would make them every year. They have been on my blog list for a year+ now, I just haven’t gotten them done.
    They are a light butter cookie with a touch of nutmeg and a rum icing on top. The icing is streaked with the tines of a fork to make “bark”. I don’t know if the recipe is available somewhere online, but I believe it is the Wellsley Cookie Exchange cookbook. ~ MaryJane

  8. biobaker

    Both my grandmother and my mother routinely toss “a little something” into their baking, so I grew up stealing dribbles from the bottle of whiskey or Kahlua or whatnot in the cabinet for my baking projects. This here — chocolate Irish cream with coffee — is one of my favorites, but I also redesigned a gingerbread recipe to incorporate my favorite triplebock (dark beer) and that one might have to, ahem…take the cake.

    For the person baking vegan, I’d recommend substituting Jamison’s Irish Whiskey for the Irish Cream. The Jamison’s is vegan but will still give a distinctly “Irish” flavor to these cupcakes. It’s a bit stronger than the Irish Cream so you might want to reduce the quantity a bit if you prefer mild flavors but, honestly, it’s probably the way that I’ll try making these cupcakes first. The substitution saves me a trip to the liquor store, and isn’t the marvelous thing about baking with liquor that you can mix and match?
    Thank you so much for sharing about the whiskey. I hadn’t even thought of suggesting that. Bravo baking community! ~ MaryJane

  9. HMB

    I’m always using liqueurs and fruity booze in place of extracts, which are mostly alcohol anyway, mainly for flavoring fillings and frostings, but also in sauces and glazes. I use Chambord (black raspberry) and triple sec (orange) a lot, but also cherry and ginger liqueurs, Midori (melon), amaretto (almond), Frangelico (hazelnut) and Kahlua. St-Germain (elderflower) is a lovely addition to whipped cream and fruit salad, and I want to try violet liqueur — I’ll bet that is also good in whipped cream and might lend a nice taste to simple shortbread cookies. Not to forget rum, mainly for soaking raisins, and kirsch, used a lot in my Swiss baking.
    The elderflower sounds like a delightful and very different addition to fruit salad. I’m definitely adding that to my next shopping list. Thanks so much for sharing. (tee hee, Midori and I have a checkered past, don’t ask! :) ) ~ MaryJane

  10. cartvl219

    These are a MUST-TRY!!
    A number of years ago I had become the “birthday cake baker” where I worked. A couple months before her big day, I asked my boss what she might like for her cake. Her reply was that she wanted to combine her favorite two flavors – chocolate and scotch whiskey! Ooooo-K! I checked in every book I had, the KAF website, various cooking magazines I subscribed to and saved. Nothing. One day while I was searching Epicurious I found a Q&A/discussion site and posted a request. In an amazingly short time, someone came back with a link to a recipe at It was a chocolate cake with raisins that had been soaked in scotch plus the scotch added. So you thought you were biting into chocolate cake and then bit down on a raisin and “Wow!” My boss was thrilled (but I still didn’t get a raise) and fairly floated back up to her office and completely forgot to come back for the leftovers to take home. The only really odd ingredient in the cake is finely ground almonds that give it a slightly gritty texture that I don’t much care for. But the overall taste is wonderful though not recommended for a group that includes children.
    Wow, that sounds like one heck of a cake! You should have gotten that raise! ~ MaryJane

  11. waikikirie

    These look yummy!! Maybe I can make them Thursday for Friday. How would you hold them overnight so I can share at work the next day?? OK…gotta ask (especially since you said don’t) What’s with you and the Midori??? Come on MaryJane…you’re amongst friends. I bet that would get a whole different thread of conversation going…teehee xoxo
    These are super moist cupcakes, so they’ll be fine overnight. They were good for at least 3 days, but didn’t last any longer than that.

    All I will say about the Midori is that it does NOT mix well with green popcorn, no matter what you think late on St. Patrick’s Day. :( ~ MJ


    Mary Jane – If you are ever in Maryland, I’ll make you the Grand Marnier – chocolate panini! That’s a promise.
    I will SO take you up on that! ~ MaryJane

  13. undeadQ

    Kahlua original is also vegan (and gluten-free). That could lend a chocolate-coffee flavour.

    These sound like great cupcakes to steal the spotlight from the Irish soda bread at a St. Patty’s Day party!

  14. "Trudy H."

    Is it necessary to take the core/plug of muffin out? Could you use something like is used for filled doughnuts to put the icing in the middle? Or make a decorator tip and just insert it? I’m thinking specifically of the mini-muffins rather than the regular sized ones. Just a thought. Now if only we could take the carbs out of these wouldn’t that be great!
    If you don’t remove the core of the cupcake , the filling will not have anywhere to go. Cupcakes don’t have an airy open crumb like a doughnut and would not work the same way. ~Amy

  15. CMJ

    I am a recovering alcoholic so the days of straight booze in cooking are over for me. Our mother’s line that it cooked away is not quite true. While extracts are mostly alcohol, there is little enough used to be far less of a problem, and I have found a source in an unlikely place – flavored coffee creamers. Not the same, no, but a passable substitute when paired with the right extracts and flavored oils. If nothing else it is a challenge to my ingenuity. :)
    Congratulations to you CMJ, on a hard won battle. You have my deep admiration. Yes, flavored coffee creamers make wonderful additions to your baked goods. The powdered kind can be mixed right in with the dry ingredients, and definitely add a richness to the cupcakes. Best, ~ MaryJane

  16. lmstephenson80

    Does this recipe double well or should I make two separate batches? Only one dozen cupcakes will not make a class full of Marines happy! Thanks in advance.
    It shouldn’t be a problem to double this recipe. ~Amy

  17. dgcbooth

    Looks wonderful. Any ideas for going gluten-free on this? I’m new to gf baking. Can I just sub in kaf gf all-purpose flour, add a tsp of xanthum gum and proceed as per the recipe??? thx!

    Nope, it takes more than GF flour blend and xanthan gum to transform a recipe. But you can totally make cupcakes from our Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake recipe and go from there with the frosting and filling. Enjoy! PJH

  18. rabbit07

    Do you think, these awesome cupcakes will look good in Green Shamrock leaves paper cups? i am baking them tomorrow to share at work!

    I think they’d look great in green shamrocks – but then, chocolate looks great in anything, doesn’t it? :) PJH

  19. "Teresa F."

    These sound so delicious and such a nice alternative to stout chocolate cakes. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve made and enjoyed stout chocolate cakes. But the Irish cream and chocolate combo sounds even tastier. Thanks!
    Tee hee, definitely give it a try Teresa. I don’t care for the stout cake personally, but if you do like it, this would be another great addition to your recipe box. ~ MaryJane

  20. ceramabead

    Maybe using flavored coffee instead of the liqueur or coffee creamer would also work, tho I would make it a extra strong brew.
    I did try one batch with the Irish Cream flavored coffee. I didn’t notice a big difference in flavor, but the cupcakes were still as tasty. ~ MaryJane

  21. NJC

    Yum…I would really like to make these cupcakes for a gathering but I am wondering if I different frosting could be used? The Italian buttercream is not a favorite of mine.
    Absolutely! You can use any icing you like. You Da Boss! ~ MaryJane

  22. LukePF

    Irish cream buttercream is SUCH a good thing. Paired with a chocolate stout cake you’ve got the dessert equivalent of the (rather offensively named) Irish car bomb cocktail… That aside, I’ve found that a pronounced, accurate Irish cream flavor can be obtained with: vanilla (1 tsp), espresso powder (2 tsp), almond extract (few drops), and Irish whiskey (2 tsp). Mix it all together so the powder’s all dissolved and add to a batch of buttercream. No need for special flavorings!
    Thanks so much for sharing your homemade version of Irish Cream. I checked my cupboard at home, and I only have a few drops left, so I might just give this a try. ~ MaryJane

  23. Aaron Frank

    Hmmm… What do you do with the left over cores? Did I miss that?

    Could you make a little extra buttercream and layer the cores and the buttercream and make a sort of trifle? Or is there not enough for that.

    I just hate to see good cake go to waste.
    Sure! The leftover cores are perfect for dipping and snacking! You could make a trifle layered with custard and liquor also! ~Amy

    If you check out the Pistachio cupcake blog, you’ll see a cute idea to do with the cores. Bakers treats! ~ MaryJane

  24. juthurst

    Amy, I respectfully disagree…
    Trudy H,
    YES, you *can* use a decorator tip and insert it in the top of a soft cupcake and squeeze a soft filling right into the cupcake without “coring” it.
    Rules were made to be tried and sometimes we find out that they can be broken without any disastrous after effects- except to my waistline when I found out how *easy* it is to fill light cupcakes this way and now make them more often than I should, lol…

    I do it all the time- it’s fast and easy- I usually make Italian meringue buttercream (whatever flavor) and use that.
    So where does the filling go- into the cake, which makes the top puff a little and if you fill it too far it will crack a little on the top.
    But who cares, you’re just going to frost over the top anyway, right?
    And any cracks are certainly a lot smaller than the hole that corer thing makes…

    My favorite: a dark chocolate cupcake make with KAF espresso powder, filled with soft Vanilla Bean Crush Italian Butter cream and topped with dark chocolate ganache which I pour into a candy making squeeze bottle and drizzle the tops to cover any slight cracking.
    And no wasting cake cores means bigger cupcakes to enjoy :)
    They don’t last long anyway…

  25. Barbara

    I would love to make this recipe as a cake for my daughter’s college graduation next week. What size pan and cooking time would you suggest? Thanks much.
    This recipe will make one nine inch round pan which you could either split into two thinner layers and fill, or you could double the recipe for two larger layers or a 9 X 13 pan. ~Amy

  26. Kinjia

    I do not have the KAF cocoa that is specified in the recipe. I’m a little unclear about what is equivalent – natural or dutch process or a combination of the two? Please advise. Thank you.

    A dutch-process cocoa should work fine!-Jon

  27. D.Waver

    I’m trying these tomorrow. Do you flavor the buttercream as the recipe says (with vanilla) and then add the favors for this recipe – or do you skip the vanilla when making the frosting? Thanks!

    I think we just spoke, but MJ did indeed add the vanilla to the butter cream.-Jon

  28. Dawn

    Wow, awesome! I followed both the buttercream recipe and the cupcake recipe exactly and they turned out perfectly! I doubled the batch and it made 30 cupcakes (24 remaining after taste-testing by me and my two baking assistants). My only tiny change was to add green gel food coloring to the coffee frosting to make a little St. Patrick’s Day surprise inside! I made them for my office and they look and taste completely professional! Thanks, KAF!

    1. PJ Hamel

      Oh, good idea, Dawn, that green “treasure” in the middle – thanks for sharing. Glad they were a hit! PJH

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