The title says it all with this one: Everything is better with beer. I got challenged to make something sweet and delicious using the impeccable Samuel Adams Boston Lager as a main ingredient. Now, as someone who has never found a bad day, a good day, or a cut of meat that beer didn’t make better (obligatory always drink responsibly), I literally jumped at the chance. I also punched Bo lovingly in the arm in excitement, let out a giant whoop, then covered that up as a cheer during Oliver’s T-ball game. Class act right here folks.
So, when I set out to make these cupcakes, I decided I wanted them to be the most decadent ones I’d ever made, combining my favourite things: chocolate, salted caramel, and beer. What I ended up with were super moist chocolate cupcakes full of the maltyness I can’t get enough of, then hit with a bit of espresso to really fill out the chocolate flavour (something I do to just about every type of chocolate cake I make). Then I made a salted caramel and beer sauce that I pumped into the center of the cupcakes. On top, I took that same beer and salted caramel sauce and whipped it into my favourite Swiss meringue buttercream.
And then there were pretzels. Because nothing is better with a beer than a pretzel, and because no one was around to stop me, I drizzled those babies with some chocolate and caramel too.
Hands down, these are up there with the best cupcakes, or cakes, that I have ever made. Summer is already half way over, it’s time to have that BBQ you’ve been meaning too, and there is no better way to blow your guests minds than with these cupcakes.
First up, whisk together your beer, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla.
Next, you whisk in the eggs (one at a time), then the sour cream.
In another bowl whisk together the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet, if you go and beat this like mad you’ll make the cake too dense.
Pour the batter into the cupcakes liners.
Now, these rise, but not like crazy, so you’re good to fill them up to just a bit below the top, like here, and toss them in the oven.
At this point, your house is smelling incredible, and you’re doing everything possible not to just eat the cupcakes.
This adorable creature was keeping me company while her big brother and sister napped. She’s too damn cute!
On to the caramel sauce. Now, you need 1 cup of beer, but when you measure it out it’ll foam up (it is beer after all). Make sure you let it all settle to get the right amount.
Put the beer and sugar into a pot. Give it a gentle whisk to incorporate, turn on the heat to medium high, and then leave it (but keep your eye on it). Don’t stir it, don’t fiddle with it, caramel does its own thing just fine.
First it will foam up.
Then it will bubble. You’re going to let it keep bubbling for a while, until it turns a deep amber colour.
Here’s that perfect amber colour (see the difference from the pic above!). When it hits exactly 350℉ (a candy thermometer, or instant read thermometer, is almost essential here, especially if you aren’t used to making caramel). Turn off the heat and drop in your butter. It will fizz and bubble like crazy. Get that butter whisked in as quickly as you can, then slowing pour in the heavy cream, continuing to whisk as you do. There’s no pics of this because it happens too fast.
Here’s your finished sauce!
Now, you’ve got to set aside the caramel to cool. I doubled the recipe, because I’m going to make some macaroons on the weekend, and I’ll need more sauce for those. If you separate the sauce out into smaller bowls it will cool faster. You can throw it in the fridge too. It MUST be no warmer than room temperature when you add it to the cupcakes and the buttercream. This is a great reason to make the sauce ahead of time.
Last step is to make the buttercream. Put the sugar and water into a pot, whisking gently to distribute, then set over medium heat. You’re only cooking this to the soft ball stage, 235℉-240℉, so it won’t take too long. Side note: If I ever with the lottery, I will pay someone to clean my stove top once a week, because I hate doing it, so it’s always dirty 🙁
Whip your egg whites to soft peaks. Soft peaks are when you flip a whisk upside down, the tips will fold over. Stiff peaks will hold their shape.
Now, part of this you don’t see because I needed both hands. With the mixer running on high, you pour the sugar mixture between the whip and the bowl in a thin stream. You then let it keep whipping until the side of the bowl is cool to the touch again (room temperature). This will take a few minutes, and when it’s done the meringue will be thick and glossy. Don’t rush this, if the meringue isn’t down to room temperature it will melt the butter when you add it, and your buttercream will be ruined. Trust me.
Next up, add your softened butter a couple of tablespoons at a time.
At first your buttercream with look “curdled”. This is normal, just keep whipping it.
In no time it turns back into a smooth and silky texture. As a basic Italian meringue buttercream, you can whip in any flavour you want at this point. Another favourite of mine is pureed strawberries or raspberries.
Lastly, just whip in your salted caramel. This is just to taste, so add a bit, taste it, and keep going to get the flavour you want.
Time to assemble! Fill the center of the cupcakes with about a tablespoon of the caramel sauce. I have a cool piping tip to do this, because I love filled cupcakes, but you could just poke a hole down the center with a wooden spoon, or cut out a bit from the center (a melon baller works good for that too, if you have one).
I mean, come on.
Ice the cupcakes.
For the pretzels I put some of the caramel sauce in a bag, and some melted chocolate in another. Cut the tiniest little bit of the corner off, then drizzle over the pretzels.
Yep, they taste as good as they look.
On the tops I dusted just a little bit of cocoa powder, then swirled some of the caramel sauce (using the same bag I did for the pretzels).
Should I eat this one?
FYI – Cupcakes with buttercream freeze for up to three months. Pop the frosted cupcakes into the freezer, uncovered, for 3 hours (to make sure the buttercream is frozen solid). Then take out, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze for up to three months! Just remove and defrost on the counter for three hours before serving!
Here’s your printables: