If you’ve found yourself on The Hop Press, chances are you like appetizing, tasty beers. And if you’re American, statistically speaking, you probably like appetizing, tasty desserts. Now, cooking or grilling with beer is a common and fun practice, and a profitable enough venture to make whole cookbooks about them. But when it comes to baking, for some reason the whole notion gets pigeonholed to some amalgamation of Guinness cake. Lame. Cliché.
Think of all the recognizeable flavors in most craft beers: cinnamon, vanilla, banana, toffee, caramel, molasses, chocolate, coffee, and all manner of fruits from Belgian yeasts or actual fruits. These are dessert flavors too! And who the heck doesn’t like cupcakes?
For me, it all kinda started when Odell Brewing Co. released Friek, and to celebrate the taproom release, a cherry cupcake was served to pair it with. Knowing my out-of-state friend was coming to visit soon, I decided to make a cupcake of my own to pair with my bottle of Odell Friek to share with him. A week later, my creative juices created 17 recipe ideas.
With a bit of disposeable income and a free weekend, I made my first mistake: using a boxed cake mix. But, lesson learned, and now I’m still baking, and still coming up with new asinine combinations. So when I have enough new creations and I’m lacking something else more important to write about…I present to you, Beer Cupcakes.
“Smitty”: Oatmeal chocolate cupcake, made with Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. Made by preparing some oatmeal with the stout, and some mini chocolate chips in the batter, which really bring out that mild chocolaty tone that got lost in the baking. With less sugar than a standard cupcake recipe might call for, the dry finishing roasted malt twang comes through in the final swallow.
“G’Knight Kiss”: Red velvet cupcake made with Oskar Blues G’Knight Imperial Red. Includes a Hershey’s Kiss baked into the middle. This took me three recipe attempts to get right; you’d be surprised how little cocoa powder and sugar you need to overshadow even an 8% beer. But once I got the hang of it, that delicious resinous floral dry-hop came through, and I’m in my happy place. What it turned out to be was not so much the cupcake form of the beer, but a new creation with some red ale goodness.
“Brother Honoré”: Blackberry cupcake made using North Coast Brewing’s Brother Thelonious and blackberry puree in the batter. Named for Saint Honoratus, the patron saint of bakers and confectioners. Why blackberry? Read the link. The abbey ale truly brings a smooth dark fruit nuance to an otherwise too-tart cake, while the dry-ish finish in the beer also makes its way into the finished product, while remaining sweet as a whole. Beery flavors get masked by the whole-blackberry garnish, so I chose to eat the garnish first.
“Freak”: The cupcake idea that started it all, and inspired by the Odell Friek release party mentioned earlier. The cake batter is slammed with a cherry/raspberry puree, and a big amount of Kasteel Rouge, topped with some beer an’ cream cheese frosting and a raspberry (to offset all that kriek). The cake itself came out outstanding containing the sweet fruit tones from the actual fruit, while still displaying that slight medicinal cherry cough-drop flavor from the beer. It was ever so slightly tart, but made even more tart when the icing got involved. The icing added a creamy tart cherry coating for the raspberry undertones to play on. Fittingly, it actually paired better with the Odell Friek than the Kasteel Rouge, providing the perfect balance/counterpart to that particular beer’s tart and sour tones.
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