double ipa chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting
You might be wondering why I’m so obsessed with salted caramel since in the two months I’ve been blogging, I have now done as many desserts (this and salted caramel brownies) and I made reference to a third that is one of my absolute favorites. It might have something to do with salty-sweet being the “hip” new thing but I’m guessing it’s more related to the fact that I’m just borderline obsessed with the brilliant flavor combination. Even Hershey’s holds a special place in my heart for inventing this gem.
Thus, when I offered to make cupcakes for a friend’s engagement party, I was hunting around for some fun and different new recipes that might capture the bride’s spirit. I stumbled across this recipe for beer chocolate cupcakes and I knew it was the perfect choice. She loves chocolate, she loves beer. Oh and throw in the salted caramel frosting which made me want to try what sounded like a magical combination. The recipe suggested using a chocolatey stout or porter but being nearly summer in DC, dark beers are not super prominent in the grocery stores and the liquor store around the corner (named “Good Libations”) had one dark beer, a double IPA, and alas we had a winner. Certainly you could do any dark beer you might enjoy or one you don’t and then end up with 5 more beers in your fridge that you will never drink. On another note – if anyone wants 5 free cans of double IPA, give me a shout. Now…on to the recipe:
Cupcakes (makes 22-24):
1 cup flavorful dark beer (I used this)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (or instant coffee if needed)
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Combine the beer and butter in a medium or large saucepan and melt over medium heat (make the pan big enough to hold all of the above ingredients). Once melted, remove from the heat and whisk in the cocoa, sugar and espresso/coffee powder. I used instant coffee because I have never been able to find instant espresso powder – the goal with it is to bring out the chocolate flavor and I promise it doesn’t make it mocha. My favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe also uses the instant coffee in it and it’s fantastic.
Whisk the sour cream, eggs and vanilla together and add them into the chocolate butter beer. Seriously read that last sentence again and tell me how these cupcakes could ever be bad. I dare you. Sift the flour and baking soda into the batter and fold it all together. I admit I did less folding and more whisking by the end of it all. Pour into a cupcake pan (3/4 of the way full) and bake for 25 minutes. Cool completely on a rack. I baked these a day ahead of frosting them.
Ok we’ve made this once before with the brownies so we’re all pretty familiar with the techniques, right? Right! Cook sugar and water till caramel colored, add everything else and stir it up and you end up with salty sweet caramel perfect for flavoring some frosting.
Fine fine…I’ll break it down a bit. Combine the water, sugar and corn syrup over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon which won’t conduct heat and cause crystallization (for serious – I just googled it). Once the sugar is dissolved, turn the heat up to medium/medium-high and cook the sugar until it is caramel colored. You shouldn’t stir the pot at this point – just swirl it around occasionally so it doesn’t burn. Once the caramel is of the right color, pull from the heat for 30 seconds and then add the cream. The cream and sugar will bubble up a lot so watch out.
Then add the butter, lemon and salt (I again used the pink sea salt from the Salt Sisters online) and stir until combined. The easiest move now is to pour the caramel into a glass container like a measuring cup and put it aside until you make the frosting.
Salted Caramel Frosting:
(there’s no picture. I know you are devastated. When you are done crying, come back and we’ll continue from here…)
1.5 sticks butter at room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese
4-5 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup salted caramel
Beat the butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Sift 2 cups of powdered sugar into the butter/cream cheese and beat to combine. Add the cooled but still pourable salted caramel (I probably added a bit more than 3/4 of a cup but not too much more) into the bowl and beat to combine. Sift the remaining cups of sugar into the bowl, 1 cup at a time, and beat to combine. I added all 5 cups because my frosting was a little bit on the runnier side with 4 cups. You are beating to the desired consistency and sweetness that you want but make sure it’s not too runny. Frost the cupcakes (that are completely cool) and sprinkle with a few flakes of salt.
TA DA! Magically delicious, not too sweet, not at all too salty, subtle hint of beer and a light, creamy frosting to compliment the cake perfectly. Definitely a great “grown up” cupcake for your next BBQ (or engagement party)!