When it comes to Irish food, savory favorites like tender corned beef with cabbage, hearty potato dishes, flavorful seafood chowders and rich stews may come to mind. But there's also a sweeter side to the cuisine of the Emerald Isle — and the delicious baked goods go way beyond soda bread.
Each March 17, to celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, Irish communities across the globe come together in honor of all things Irish. Celebrations include everything from music and dancing to festive parades to religious ceremonies and, of course, plenty of traditional Irish dishes.
After all the food, drinks and merriment, it's a perfect time to wrap up the party with a little something sweet. Many St. Patrick's Day desserts include classic Irish beers and spirits like stout and whiskey (what could be better than cake with a boozy bite to keep the party going?). But, with grown-up spiked sweets and family-friendly confections from Irish chefs and frequent TODAY guests Donal Skehan, Catherine Fulvio and Clodagh McKenna, there is something for everyone.
So, this St. Patrick's Day, don't just add a few drops of green food coloring to frosting and call it a day. Go beyond the basics and explore a variety of Irish desserts, from the fun and creative to the time-honored classics and everything in between. Make some St. Patrick's party desserts that really (sham)rock!
Skehan loves this dessert recipe because it's a decadent, moist cake with booze! Who doesn't love that? "It's really a showstopper at any function and it's guaranteed to disappear within minutes of serving," he says. "I recommend making and serving this cake same day while it's still super moist. But if time is an issue you can definitely bake the cake in advance, wrap very well and freeze a day or two ahead of time and frost it the day you serve."
Fulvio is the third generation on her family farm in county Wicklow, Ireland. "My mother opened our bed & breakfast in our 19th century farmhouse, over 50 years ago, she says. "This was one of her signature desserts and I learned to make it from her. It is still much-loved by all the visitors to our home and to our cooking school all these years later. It's a quintessential Irish dish, with our beautiful grass-fed butter, Guinness and Irish whiskey in it — what's not to love? It is the ultimate comfort dessert for me. It's a very flavorsome cake (served warm) that literally 'goes for a swim' in the whiskey toffee sauce. You'll also see this dish on menus in pubs in Ireland. My twist is the addition of the whiskey to the sauce. I hope you agree that I made a good choice there!"
Gur cake is an inexpensive but delicious cake popular throughout Ireland. The outer layers are most often comprised of thin layers of pastry. The filling is different in each bakery, depending on the baker's choice of spices or the type of leftover cakes used in the mix that day.
A crumble is one of Skehan's favorite desserts. "Here I've used apples, but no matter what fruit you use, this elevated crumble cake takes that classic and transforms it to a true showstopper and real centerpiece for special occasions."
McKenna makes this cake traditionally every year for St. Patrick's Day. "It's majestically dark but surprisingly light and velvety in texture," she says. "I adore how it looks, like a pint of Guinness! Make sure you use regular cream cheese (and not the low-fat variety) because you want the icing to be creamy."
These little cupcakes might look innocent, but they are laced with good Irish whiskey! They're a perfect St. Patrick's Day sweet treat for grown-ups. The cake has a hint of espresso that gives them a delightful coffee flavor.
This recipe is so festive and very customizable. Up the flavor factor by adding a few drops of mint extract to the white chocolate. Make this treat even more colorful and dye the white chocolate green with some food coloring. The crushed potato chips and pretzels add extra crunch and a hint of salt but can be omitted for a strictly sweet treat.
What better way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with than with chocolaty Irish stout cake? Chocolaty Irish stout cupcakes, of course! Individually sized cupcakes make these easy to transport, share and enjoy at any celebration.
According to popular lore, this drink dates back to a stormy winter night in the 1940s when a group of air travelers became stranded in a small port town in Ireland. A resourceful bartender provided a double-dose of just what these weary people needed by adding whiskey to coffee, and a classic was born. This drink remains perfect for the nighttime, especially in the winter months when the temperature drops and the weather calls for something that warms from the inside out.
Guinness caramel brings a fun Irish twist to an originally Italian recipe. The delicious depth of flavor makes it a great dessert to serve on St. Patrick's Day. Try making the tiramisu in individual cocktail glasses for personal-sized portions. The best bit is it can be made the night before.
These little apple cakes are a real mix of retro puddings and modern desserts. "I love the comforting apple sponge cake," says Skehan. "But the addition of the salted caramel sauce truly makes all the difference."
This DIY take on McDonald's Shamrock Shake only requires five ingredients. Instead of waiting all year for the tasty treat, make it at home. Get sweet satisfaction in just minutes and skip the trip to the drive-thru.
These adorable leprechaun hats are surprisingly easy to make. They only require five ingredients and are great for a festive holiday teat. Kids will love making them just as much as eating them!
Everyone loves chocolate mousse, and this one has a wonderfully light and airy texture. It is quick and easy to make and is best served the day after it's made. It's a perfect dinner party dessert as it can be made in advance and it only takes a handful of ingredients to create something dark, delicious and decadent. What's not to love?
Tiny balls of foil are the trick to making clover-shaped cupcakes. Just roll small pieces of foil into tiny balls and then put them between the filled liners and the cupcake tin before baking to shape them into clovers. Use three foil balls per cupcake. To make the recipes easier, use store-bought cake mix and frosting. Be sure to test one cupcake first to ensure you use the correct amount of batter for each cupcake.
Can't get enough Guinness? Rich, heavy chocolate Guinness cake and a gorgeous Guinness frosting taste better than finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Assembling the layered dessert in Guinness glasses makes them even more cheerful.
Skip the stout and enjoy a festive boozy milkshake. Crème de menthe loads this sipper with delicious minty flavor. A topping of whipped cream and sprinkles add the finishing touch to this fun grown-up treat.
These cupcakes get sweetness and a deep color from a surprising ingredient: beets!
This ode to chocolate combines a deeply rich, moist chocolate cake (made with chocolate stout!) with smooth chocolate pudding and dark chocolate frosting. We wouldn't be mad at you if you decided to sprinkle the top with chocolate chips, too!
This is McKenna's go-to dessert when she has very little time to make anything but still wants to give everyone a treat. These take just 15 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to chill, and you can make them a day ahead.
Guinness beer is the missing ingredient you never knew your brownies needed. The Irish stout ensures they're moist and deeply flavorful.