Turning Cupcakes into Pubcakes

Cooking with Beer by | Apr 2011 | Issue #51

Photos by Sean Z. Paxton

Everyone is crazy for cupcakes these days. Sure, I love a great cupcake, but what’s the big deal? To figure out what all the fuss is about, I started playing around with cupcakes and, of course, adding beer spins to some nostalgic flavors. It was then that I actually started to understand the excitement. In addition to thinking about the possibilities of the traditional sweet cupcake, I dove even deeper, creating a savory version that fills a void in the typical cupcake lineup. I hope these recipes stir up creativity and nostalgia for the classics, packaged a little differently: in the form of a cupcake.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes
Nut Brown Ale peanut cupcakes with a Framboise jam filling and Framboise frosting. Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned PB&J? In this sandwich, the bread and peanut butter is the cupcake base, the jam fills the core and the frosting brings it all together. This cupcake is just a tad sweeter than the sandwich, but a sour Framboise adds depth and sophistication.

Makes: about 20–24 cupcakes

Nut Brown Ale Peanut Cupcake Ingredients:
4 oz. butter, unsalted, room temperature (1 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, light, packed firmly
2 tbsp. peanut butter, smooth
2 tbsp. malt powder
2 each eggs, large, room temperature
1 cup Nut Brown Ale
2 tbsp. milk powder, organic, nonfat
1 cup flour, all purpose
1 cup peanut flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Nut Brown Ale Peanut Cupcake Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the muffin tin(s) with either cupcake liners or by spraying a nonstick spray into each mold.

Place the butter in the bowl of an electric or hand-held mixer. Add the sugar, brown sugar, peanut butter and malt powder; beat on low until the ingredients are combined, then increase the speed to medium high to fluff the butter and sugar. While this is happening, measure out the beer and mix it into the milk powder with a small whisk or fork. The mixture will foam. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter mixture, mixing until each is fully integrated with the mixture. Turn the mixer off when done.

In a medium-size bowl, add the flour, peanut flour (finely ground, lightly toasted peanuts, but not made into peanut butter), baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a whisk, mix the ingredients together until combined. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and add the beer/milk powder mixture. Mix on low speed until the batter comes together, about 45–60 seconds; no lumps or bits of flour should be noticeable. Do not over-mix.

Portion out the batter into the muffin tin molds, filling each 2/3–3/4 full. Place into the oven and bake for 20–22 minutes. The internal temperature for perfect goodness is 205°F. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes, or until completely cool.

Framboise Jam Filling Ingredients:
12 oz. raspberries, frozen
1 cup Framboise Lambic
3 cup sugar
1 pinch kosher salt

Framboise Jam Filling Directions:
While the cupcakes are baking, start by placing a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the raspberries, beer, sugar and pinch of salt. Using a heat-proof spatula, stir the mixture to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a simmer, adjusting the heat if necessary, and cook the jam. The jam will foam up and the liquid will evaporate, concentrating the flavors. The jam is done when it coats the back of a spoon, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the jam cool to room temperature.

Framboise Frosting Ingredients:
4 oz. butter, unsalted, room temperature
3 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp. Framboise Lambic
1 pinch kosher salt

Framboise Frosting Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, place the butter and the powdered sugar. Mix on low until the two ingredients come together, then increase the speed to high. Slowly drizzle the beer into the butter/sugar mixture and add a pinch of salt to pop the flavors. Once finished, scrape the frosting into a piping bag and have ready to top the cupcakes once cooled.

Cupcake Assembly:
First, remove the cooled cupcakes from the muffin tin. Using an apple corer or grapefruit spoon, hollow out the center of the cupcakes, making a small hole for the jam. Repeat until all the cupcakes are prepared. Using a funnel, add the jam to each hole in the cupcake, filling to the top of the cake. Repeat. Finally, garnish each cupcake with a swirl of frosting on top. Plate, serve, and enjoy the nostalgia of a classic PB&J.

Savory Black & Tan Meatcakes
These lamb Stout and rosemary meatcakes are topped with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes made with caramelized onion and Sierra Nevada’s Glissade Golden Bock. Cupcakes do not have to be sweet; savory cakes have been around for centuries. These meatcakes put a creative spin on the traditional cupcake. Instead of frosting, mashed potatoes dress up this meatloaf-like cupcake.

Makes: 24 meatcakes, feeding between 6–10 people (2–3 per person for an entrée serving)

Lamb, Stout, and Rosemary Meatcake Ingredients:
1/4 cup roasted garlic olive oil
2 each onions, yellow, large, peeled and sliced
3 each bay leaves, preferably fresh
6 each garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 each eggs, large
12 oz. Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout or other roasty Stout
2 tbsp. rosemary, fresh, chopped fine
1 tbsp. thyme, fresh, leaves only
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper, cracked fresh
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (2–3 slices fresh bread pulsed to crumbs in a food processor)
1/2 cup cracker crumbs (pulsed in a food processor)
2 lb. lamb or beef, ground coarse

Lamb, Stout, and Rosemary Meatcake Directions:
In a heavy-bottom pan, placed over medium-high heat, add the roasted garlic-flavored olive oil and the prepared onions. Season the onions lightly with salt and add the bay leaves. Toss to coat the onions in the oil and caramelize for 15 minutes. Over the cooking time, reduce the heat to prevent burning the onions. The last 2–3 minutes, add the garlic and mix well, letting it infuse the onions. Check the seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Remove from the heat and let cool.

To create the panade (a thick paste that binds other ingredients together), place eggs in a bowl and whisk until fluffy. Add the Stout, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper; mix well. Add the fresh bread crumbs and cracker crumbs to the egg/beer mixture, and combine. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow the mixture to absorb the liquid. Add 2/3 of the caramelized onions (reserving the remaining third for the mashed potatoes) and combine with the panade. Next, mix in the ground meat to make a uniform meat mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the muffin tin(s) with either cupcake liners (preferably ones with aluminum foil) or by spraying a nonstick spray into each mold. Portion out the meat mixture into each muffin mold, filling each about 3/4 full. Place into the center of the oven and bake for 22–25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 170°F according to an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.

Mashed Potatoes Ingredients:
2 1/2 lb. potato, Yukon Gold, cut in quarters
2 tsp. kosher salt
12 oz. Sierra Nevada Glissade Golden Bock
1/2 cup cream, heavy
1/4 cup Sierra Nevada Glissade Golden Bock

Mashed Potatoes Directions:
Before the meatcakes enter the oven, peel the potatoes and quarter them, then put them in a large pot. Add the salt and a bottle of Glissade, topping with enough cold water to cover the potatoes by about an inch. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender, but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander. Put the potatoes through a ricer, or place them back in the pot and mash with a potato masher until smooth.

In another bowl, add the cream, beer and remaining caramelized onions, mixing well. Add the mixture to the mashed potatoes and check the seasoning. Transfer the finished mashed potatoes to a piping bag. To serve, once the meatcakes have cooled slightly, remove them from the muffin tin and place on a serving platter. Using the piping bag, top each meatcake with a swirl of the mashed potatoes. Serve immediately, and enjoy!

Chocolate Malt Cupcakes
With dark chocolate ganache and mini malt balls. Chocolate on chocolate, on more chocolate, with malt… does it get any better?

Makes: 24 cupcakes

Chocolate Malt Cupcake Ingredients:
4 oz. butter, unsalted, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, brown, light, packed firmly
1/2 cup malt powder
2 each eggs, jumbo, room temperature
12 oz. Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merlin
3 tbsp. milk powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 cups flour, all purpose
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. kosher salt

Chocolate Malt Cupcake Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the muffin tin(s) with either cupcake liners or by spraying a nonstick spray into each mold. Place the butter in the bowl of an electric or hand-held mixer. Add the sugar, brown sugar and malt powder; beat on low until the ingredients are combined, then increase the speed to medium high to fluff the butter and sugar.

Separately, measure out the 6 ounces of beer, add it to the saucepan over medium heat, and mix in the milk powder with a small whisk or fork. Bring to a boil and add the cocoa powder to the warm Stout, blending to combine. Add the remaining beer to cool the mixture down. Meanwhile, add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter mixture, mixing until each is fully integrated into the butter/sugar mixture.

In a medium-size bowl, measure out and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a whisk, mix the ingredients together until combined. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and add in the Stout/chocolate/milk powder. Mix on low speed until the batter comes together, about 45–60 seconds; no lumps or bits of flour should be noticeable. Do not over-mix.

Portion out the batter into the muffin tin molds, and fill each 2/3 full. Place the cupcakes into the oven and bake for 16-18 minutes. The internal temperature for perfect goodness is 205°F. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes, or until completely cool.

Dark Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:
4 oz. chocolate, dark, preferably 60-percent or higher cacao
2 oz. cream, heavy
2 oz. Chocolate Stout
3-4 oz. Valrhona Crunchy Dark Chocolate Pearls

Dark Chocolate Ganache Directions:
Place a small metal bowl over a small saucepan filled with 2 inches of water, creating a double boiler. Add the chopped chocolate, cream and beer to the bowl. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat, melting the chocolate. Let sit for 5–7 minutes, until the chocolate looks melted; then, using a whisk, blend the chocolate with the beer and cream, creating a rich, velvety frosting.

To use, dip the cooled Chocolate Malt Cupcake into the warm ganache, rotating the cupcake to evenly coat the top, then pull out and twist the cupcake to help even out the ganache. Next, dip the coated top into a bowl filled with the Chocolate Pearls (or broken up regular malt balls), flip over and repeat. Allow the cupcakes to sit at least 30 minutes to allow the ganache to set.

Alternatively, the ganache may be chilled, then transferred to an electric mixing bowl and whipped until light and fluffy, about 4–5 minutes. Then, fill a piping bag with a star tip and garnish the tops of the cupcakes, sprinkling the mini malt balls over the top.

Cupcake Tips

• If cupcakes are a household favorite, invest in an ice cream scoop/dasher, sized the same as 2/3–3/4 of one muffin tin cup. The scoop helps to proportion the batter equally in each cup, which will ensure that the cupcakes (sweet or savory) cook evenly. The scoop also helps prevent over-filling.
• Resist the temptation to over-fill the cupcake molds. By filling between 2/3–3/4 the way up the side of the mold, the resulting cupcake will have a nice dome, and not flatten out on the top of the muffin tin.
• Cupcake liner or nonstick spray? Cupcake liners are nice, as they aid in cleanup, provide some decoration and keep the cupcakes fresh longer.
• If the oven has a convection bake setting, use it. If not, place a rack in the center level of the oven and plan on rotating the muffin tin halfway through the cooking time to brown the cupcakes evenly.
• Instead of a timer, check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer to make sure the cupcakes don’t over- or under-bake.
• Calibrate your oven! Just because the dial says 350°F, doesn’t mean the temperature is 350°F.
• When possible, organic ingredients are preferable.