A sweet toast to St. Patrick’s Day — and springtime

Originally Published March 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 13, 2013 at 11:41 a.m.
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Top o’ the mornin’ to you! — or whatever time of day it is you happen to be reading this. Saint Patrick’s Day is coming this weekend. And its day of arrival this year, being a Sunday, offers a particular challenge to those of us who love to celebrate the holiday with more than a touch of the blarney.

You know what I’m talking about. Yes, the Feast of Saint Patrick, observed each year on March 17, the anniversary of the death of Ireland’s patron saint in 461 AD, is often marked with traditional foods such as corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, soda bread and potatoes. There are parades through cities big and small wherever people of Irish heritage, or those who consider themselves Irish for the day, may live. Church services are held. Everywhere, people wear green, whether it’s the color of their clothing or of special ribbons or shamrock-shaped cutouts pinned to their lapels or of the cheerful leprechaun-style hats they don.

But there’s also the opportunity Saint Patrick’s Day offers to indulge. In Irish-themed pubs, food coloring gives beer a special green color for the day. And, of course, Irish whiskey is on offer for those wanting something harder.

With this year’s holiday falling on a Sunday, however, those of us who like to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in a, well, spirited fashion, face the fact that there’s work or school the next morning — not to mention the crucial need always to drive responsibly. We want to provide ourselves and fellow revelers a way to balance the good times with the desire to wake up feeling bright and fresh on Monday morning.

So, in a spirit of moderation, I’d like to offer a special recipe you can serve at your own Saint Patrick’s Day party, or bring to one at the home of a friend. Something all adults present will enjoy, it’s a dense, intense chocolate cake distinctively flavored with a touch of Irish whiskey, but no more than a couple of teaspoons per serving. You might say that, thanks to the recipe, you’ll be able to enjoy your whiskey responsibly and eat it, too.

Of course, for some, whiskey alone may not be enough to make this cake appropriate for March 17. That’s why, like the shamrocks so many people will be wearing this coming Sunday, each serving of the cake sports its own touch of green: a dollop of lightly whipped, lightly sweetened cream colored and flavored with minty green creme de menthe.

That final, verdant flourish also makes this dessert appropriate for yet another occasion that comes just three days after Saint Patrick’s Day: the first day of spring, on Wednesday, March 20. Begorrah!

IRISH WHISKEY FUDGE CAKE WITH CREME DE MENTHE WHIPPED CREAM

Makes 1 cake, 8 inches in diameter, 8 to 12 servings

Irish Whiskey Fudge Cake:

1 1/4 cups pastry flour or cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

10 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small chunks

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

4 large cage-free eggs, separated

1/3 cup Irish whiskey, warmed slightly over low heat

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Creme de Menthe

Whipped Cream:

1 cup whipping cream, well-chilled

2 tablespoons green creme de menthe

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place an 8-by-2 1/2-inch ring on it. Wrap an 8-inch cardboard round with foil, and set it aside.

In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda. Set it aside.

In a double boiler or a metal bowl placed over simmering water, melt the chocolate. Remove from heat, and keep it warm.

Meanwhile, with the paddle of an electric mixer on medium speed, or in a mixing bowl using a hand-held electric mixer at medium speed, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Still beating, gradually pour in 1 cup of the granulated sugar; then continue beating until fluffy. (Make sure the mixture is light and fluffy to give the cake the desired consistency.)

Beat in the egg yolks 1 at a time. Then, beat in the whiskey and the vanilla. Stop beating, and with a rubber spatula, scrape in the melted chocolate. Continue to mix until well combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer, if using, and, with the spatula, fold in half of the flour mixture. Then fold in the remaining flour.

With a clean whisk or beaters and clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks that droop slightly when the beaters are lifted out. Still beating, gradually sprinkle in the remaining granulated sugar and continue beating until the whites look shiny and firm but not yet stiff. Stir 1/4 of the whites into the batter to lighten it; then fold in the remaining whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake ring and bake for 1 hour. Using pot holders or oven gloves, immediately and carefully invert the cake onto the foil-covered cardboard round and run a sharp knife around the sides of the cake to loosen it from the ring, but do not remove the ring from the cake. Leave on a wire rack to cool completely. Then carefully lift off the ring. Leave the cake at room temperature or chill in the refrigerator.

Before serving, dust the cake with the confectioners’ sugar, spooning the sugar into a small wire-meshed sieve and tapping it over the cake.

For the Creme de Menthe Whipped Cream, put the whipping cream, creme de menthe and confectioners’ sugar in a clean chilled bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. With a clean whisk attachment or clean beaters, beat at medium speed just until the cream forms soft, slightly drooping peaks.

To serve, use a sharp knife to cut the cake into wedges, dipping the knife into a glass of warm water after each cut. Transfer to individual serving plates, and garnish with whipped cream.

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