Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Best St. Patti's Day Dessert: Thoughts on Parties and Celebrations

Not too long ago I found myself thumbing through an old magazine.

I stumbled on to an ad depicting a party scene.

I can’t remember what the ad was trying to sell, what struck me was the source of the celebration: a rogue sock found.

At first glance the cause for celebration seems trivial but the ad resonated with me. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

In America we have much to celebrate and too often we take everything, from the food in our fridge to the gas in our car, for granted. When I look at European nations that think breathing is a good enough reason for a glass of wine, I’m convinced we may be missing something.

One of the things I love about food is not only its potential for unifying, but also its ability to help us remember. Beyond fresh flowers at a party, most people will forget all the effort put into decorations. They may event forget the venue or the occasion.

What people remember at parties is the food.

When my husband, Jason, turned thirty we had a Cigars, Coats and Cocktails party. The menu centered on "man-food". We had incredible ham and Swiss sliders smothered in a delectable sauce, the kind that runs down your arm and makes you thankful for it. There were my Asian inspired cocktail meatballs, an exceptional cheese spread, and unlimited cocktails among other things. It was a night of dancing under the stars and enjoying some of life’s finer things and everyone left satisfied.

Every year we host a Cinco de Mayo party complete with Jason’s famous steak fajitas, guacamole and margarita recipes. Add in cilantro lime rice, refried beans, and Mexican-inspired cheesecake and no one leaves hungry and everyone remembers the meal.

When I turned thirty I planned the party for nearly a year. But I most looked forward to the menu I had orchestrated with a caterer friend. There was Mediterranean chicken complete with plums and olives, duchess potatoes, an overflowing bread basket and the kind of salad that makes you go back for seconds. Top that with a white sangria perfect for a summer party in Florida and a dessert bar, and you have a meal that I found myself dreaming about months later.

Unfortunately, bad food helps you remember too. That restaurant that was once good but didn’t live up to the standards of the early days of opening. The overpriced place down the street with the fancy wording and nothing to back it up. Or there was the year of the Super Bowl party with what may have been the worst menu of all time. There were were roughly 20 people with food for 5 at the most, and the majority of it had come from the microwave. It was the first year I’d not made some of my game day standards and I still regret it to this day. The blow of a rough game can be eased by an expertly crafted panini. And the joy of a win always tastes better with a cocktail in one hand and a bacon wrapped date in the other. 
I’ve been looking at life differently lately. Recognizing that there’s much to be celebrated. Even in the mundane.

If I were to choose a core value for my home it would be to “Celebrate Often.” 

I want to celebrate big wins like promotions, marriages, new homes, and births. But I also want to celebrate reaching the end of a long week, waking up with breath in my lungs, and yes, finding that lost sock.

Years ago on St. Patricks Day I had a cupcake from a local bakery that was a game changer as far as cupcakes go. I’ve been dying to recreate it ever since. I adapted the recipe below from Irish Central and infused flavors of that delightful little cake into a single layer cake for a crowd. The cakes itself is definitely a chocolate lover’s dessert, high on cacao and only moderately sweet (if you’re looking for a sweeter cake substitute granulated sugar for the coconut sugar).  Coupled with the sweet and boozy buttercream you’ll be able to please most every dessert lover in the room.

This cake is the perfect accompaniment to your St. Patrick’s Day feast. But you can also make it because it’s Tuesday, and you want to celebrate.
(Adapted from: Irish Central)

Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream


- 1 bottle Guinness Draught
- 1 stick butter, cubed
-1 ½ cups coconut sugar
- 3/4 cup dark baking cocoa
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2/3 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½  teaspoons baking soda
- ¼ cup mini chocolate chips


1 stick butter, softened
1 ½  cups powdered sugar
¼ cup Bailey’s

For Cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9” springform pan.

2. Heat Guinness and butter in a pan until butter is melted.

3. Remove mixture from the heat. Whisk in sugar and cocoa until blended.

4. Combine the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla. Whisk into beer mixture.

5. Combine flour and baking soda.  Whisk into batter until smooth.

6. Pour half of batter into pan. Sprinkle with half of chocolate chips. Pour remaining batter into pan and sprinkle with chocolate chips.

6. Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

7. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and level (if desired). Cool on wire rack completely before frosting.  

For Buttercream:

1. Beat butter lightly for about 30 seconds.

2. Add powdered sugar and cream until smooth.

3. Add Bailey’s until just incorporated.

4. Spoon butter cream over top of cake and frost.

Serves 12


  1. These were PERFECT at the party! Thank you so much for this recipe!

    1. You're welcome! I'm so very happy you enjoyed it.