Top o' the mornin' to you! -- or whatever time of day it is you happening 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 like 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!


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