I made you a very sexy cupcake.
As in, I made you a cupcake that panders to pretty much every hot trend in baking today: cupcakes, beer cupcakes, and that whole chocolate covered bacon fad. Yep, I whole-heartedly jumped on the Bacon Train.
Seriously though, this cupcake is ridiculous. Screw “lite” desserts and healthy bacon. This cupcake belongs with the likes of Paula Dean’s butter-laden monstrosities and Russell Jackson’s (from Food Network Star) culinary sins. Butter. Sugar. Chocolate. Booze. And bacon. Did I mention the bacon? (Any time I say “bacon”, I always imagine that golden retriever from the Beggin’ Strips commercials. “It’s bacon!”. Does anyone else remember this?)
But first, I have a confession to make…
I don’t really like cake.
Let me rephrase that. It’s not that I dislike cake; I’m just very picky about my cake. I’ve found most cakes (especially the white and yellow birthday varieties) to be too dry, too crumbly, and usually kind of bland. A good frosting helps; I’m all for frosting. But it still won’t make me choose a slice of cake over, say, a big bowl of ice cream. It needs to be something pretty special to make me choose cake over another dessert. Something like a flourless chocolate torte, or a mousse filled layer cake, or an ice cream cake…or a bacon-chocolate-beer cake. As you can see, I’m in the “rich and dense dessert” camp, more than the “fluffy dessert” camp.
Don’t get me wrong. I love fluffy things: whipped cream, marshmallows, dogs, sheep. Just not cake.
Then there are cupcakes, those adorable personal cakes heaped with spiraled frosting and lovingly assembled decorations. I resisted the kitschy cupcake craze for a long time. While, I prefer cupcakes to sliced cake (better frosting to cake ratio), at the end of the day, it’s often just another dry piece of cake. I have been known to ditch a cupcake after licking it free of frosting (gross, I know, but cut me some slack, this was in kindergarten). The cake bit just never interested me much.
But I couldn’t revisit forever. Frankly, cupcakes are just too cute to pass up. They are such a wonderful culinary canvas with limitless possibilities. What kind of cake? What flavor frosting? What kind of frosting? Do you want a filling? Do you want a glaze? Do you want a topping? The options are endless! I love dreaming up new dessert flavor combinations and it’s simply impossible for me to eschew the cupcake medium forever.
Besides, I have largely gotten over my preconceptions of all cake as that dry, crumbly birthday cake of yesterday, who’s cloyingly sweet flavor pervasively remains in your mouth like a house guest who has overstayed his welcome. I have been introduced to a number of cakes so moist, they melt in your mouth, and whose depth of flavor lingers in your mouth pleasantly as you wash it down with a cup of black coffee. If you have ever been to Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t been, it’s more than worth the trip.
While I am no where near skilled enough to make something like the Extraordinary Desserts masterpieces, I can still make a mean (moist and delicious) cake. The trick? Sour cream and beer. Sounds odd but sour cream, while imperceptible in the cake, prevents the batter from drying out in the oven. The beer is all about flavor complexity. I’ve mentioned often how beer can add a subtle depth in flavor to baked goods. An extra little kick.
My Chocolate Beer Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream and Caramelized Bacon Cupcakes were inspired by a half bag of bacon bits in my pantry, some leftover Smoked Porter in my fridge, this Irish Car Bomb Cupcake recipe, and probably way too much Cupcake Wars (I know, it’s bad, but it’s a guilty pleasure).
These cupcakes turned out every bit as delectable as I had imagined. It rarely happens that I am 100% pleased with a recipe I design, but I think I lucked out here. The chocolate is rich and dense (but not too heavy) and has a pleasing bitter bite from the beer. The bacon is smokey and savory and with a nice chewy texture, unexpected but pleasing. Finally, the maple buttercream acts as a bridge between the sweet and savory elements, tying it all together. So I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did but I’d recommend making a double batch though, as they go quick :).
Chocolate Beer Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream and Caramelized Bacon Cupcakes (adapted from Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes)
- 1/2 cup dark beer (see note)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- Preheat oven to 350F and line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.
- Heat beer and butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.
- Remove beer and butter from heat, stir in cocoa powder and let cool.
- Meanwhile, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.
- Beat egg and sour cream with an electric mixer until well combined
- Add cocoa/beer mixture to sour cream mixture, and beat.
- Slowly add flour mixture and fold in with a soft spatula or wooden spoon.
- Pour in to lined muffin tins, ~2/3 cup batter per tin
- Bake at 350° until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean, about 17 minutes
- Let cool completely
- Dip cupcake tops in Beer Glaze, frost with Maple Buttercream and top with Caramelized Bacon
- 3 Tb brown sugar
- 1/2 cup dark beer
- 2 Tb unsalted butter
- 1-2 Tb cream
- Mix brown sugar and beer in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook until liquid is reduced by half
- Remove from heat. Add butter and cream and whisk until smooth.
Maple Buttercream Frosting
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
- 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 Tb maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Beat butter with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until well incorporated.
- Add syrup and vanilla and mix for another minute.
- 1/4 cup real bacon bits (or chopped fresh cooked bacon)
- 2 Tb unsalted butter
- 2 Tb brown sugar
- 1/4 dark beer
- Melt butter and brown sugar in a sauce pan over low heat and whisk until smooth.
- Add bacon bits and mix to coat with caramel.
- Increase temperature to medium-high. Add beer and continue to cook until beer is reduces to a syrupy consistency.
Note: I used Stone Vanilla Bean Smoked Porter for this recipe because that’s what I had on hand. I would recommend a smoked porter if possible, but any porter or stout will do.