Porter, as in porter beer? Beer frosting? Smoked beer frosting? Yea, thats right, I went there. After all, what did you expect from the “lush”ious baker? I did warn you; I like my desserts straight up. (Yes, I know. Beer with lots of sugar, spice, and butter isn’t at all “straight up”, but it sounded good in my head. I’m a baker, not a bartender.)
Stone Brewing Co. has a special place in my heart. Living in San Diego, I have access to a great many craft breweries (seriously, San Diego is a microbrew mecca), but of them all, Stone stands alone, largely due to its “devil may care” attitude. Their beers are big, bold, and unapologetically BITTER. The flavor profiles tend to include in-your-face, unavoidably hops. Many people criticize California for over-hopping their beers (I am inclined to agree), but Stone could give a rat’s ass what those people think of their beers. They design their beers with only their own tastes in mind and sell it with a “take it or leave it” attitude. Arrogant? Yes, very. And they’re acutely aware and quite proud of it. With brews like Arrogant Bastard and Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, you kind of know what you’re getting in to.
To be completely honest, I don’t care for most of Stone’s beers. Don’t mistake me, Stone makes some great brews, but I’m just not a hop-head like most Californian beer drinkers. I do, however, adore their Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean. While its a smooth, malty porter with hints of cocoa and coffee, it also has a touch of Stone’s signature hoppiness. While not overbearing, the bitterness adds a bit of bite to the brew that rounds out the flavor and prevents it from tasting overly sweet.
It is this beer that inspired these Apple Brown Butter Spice Cupcakes with Vanilla Smoked Porter Frosting. I dreamed these up for a small potluck a few days back and they were a huge success. They were even more delicious than I had expected (especially the frosting; I ended up just eating spoonfuls of it O.o). The vanilla and smoke of the beer pairs well with the sweet apples and spice of the cake. And the nutty aroma of browned butter in both the frosting and batter just ties everything together. My recipe yields a dozen cupcakes, but I would recommend doubling that f you intend to share with anyone.
Apple Brown Butter Spice Cupcakes (adapted from Applesauce Cupcakes)
- 1 1/4 cups flour
- 2/3 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter, browned and chilled (see below)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 Tb brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt until very well combined; set aside.
- In a mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy; add egg and beat until fluffy.
- Stir in applesauce.
- Gradually add flour mixture, beating until well blended.
- Spoon batter into paper-lined or well-greased 2 1/2-inch muffin pans, filling each about 2/3 full.
- Bake in a 350°oven until tops spring back when lightly touched (20-25 min).
- Let cool completely
- Frost with Smoked Porter Buttercream
Stone Vanilla Smoked Porter Buttercream
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup butter, browned and chilled (see below)
- 12 ounces Stone Vanilla Smoked Porter
- 1 Tb milk
- Heat porter in a medium saucepan over high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until it reduces to ~3Tb
- With a stand mixer or hand mixer, slowly combine sugar and butter. Once sugar is incorporated, increase speed to high and continue to beat until fluffy (~3 minutes).
- Add porter reduction and milk, and continue to mix on medium for another minute. If necessary, add milk 1Tb at a time until desired consistency is met.
- Cut 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter in to small slices and melt over medium heat in a heavy skillet. Whisk frequently.
- The melted butter will foam up a bit then subside over time. Continue to whisk until browned specks form in the butter. Cook 1 minute longer. The butter should have a nutty aroma now. Watch carefully to insure the butter does not burn.
- Pour in to a heat proof bowl and chill until solid.