Over the past few years, beer has slowly become my go-to drink of choice. It’s something that kind of crept up quietly on me. I’ve always loved beer, but when given the choice I would usually go for wine or something stronger like a Manhattan. These days though, beer always wins. There’s a very good reason for this gradual change in my beverage habits. Over the past decade or so, beer has experienced a sort of renaissance. People all over the States are going out of their way to create good quality, unique craft beers and this is a trend I am most definitely enjoying.
What draws me most to beer is that there are so many options. You have your super hoppy IPAs, your crisp Pale Ales, your chocolaty dark Stouts, your tart but oh so refreshing Sour Beers…..the list goes on and on. And this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Within each style of beer there are countless variations and ways to change up the flavor profile. Seriously, it’s enough to make your head hurt thinking about all the possibilities. This is a good thing though, because it means there are always new beers to try. And trying new beers is one of my favorite things ever.
A couple months ago, I ran across a bomber of Elysian’s Split Shot and was intrigued by the addition of espresso to a Milk Stout. Naturally, I bought a bottle to take home and try. This style of beer tends to be a little sweeter, so I decided it would be my dessert for that night. This turned out to be a very wise decision. The minute I took a sip of the creamy, chocolate espresso laced beer, I knew it was begging for me to make it into a cake. It had all the perfect components…..a subtle sweet malt flavor with a slight bitterness from the espresso and undertones of smooth, velvety milk chocolate. It would have been wrong not to bake with this beer.
Chocolate and stouts pair beautifully together, so I made a classic Chocolate Stout Cupcake. The cupcakes came out a gorgeously dark color from the combination of the dark cocoa powder and the stout and the addition of sour cream made for a nice, light, moist cake. When I finished making the cupcakes, I realized I still had four ounces of beer left in the bottle. Now, I’m not one to waste beer, so I decided to boil it down and throw it in the frosting I was making. I didn’t have high hopes for this frosting, but now I’m a little obsessed with it. The results were out of this world. It’s a delicate whipped chocolate ganache with a hint of espresso and just enough stout to pull everything together. When I piled the fluffy, mocha frosting on the cupcakes it was magical. It upped the beer quotient of the cupcakes (which is never a bad thing) and really brought out the espresso flavors of the stout.
With all the beer in this recipe (a full 12 ounce bottle), it’s the perfect dessert to make for St. Paddy’s Day! I mean who wouldn’t love a dessert that combines chocolate and beer?? And if you’ve never had a Milk Stout before, it’s a good excuse to head out and buy a new beer to try. When you think about it, there’s really no reason not to make these cupcakes!
Chocolate Espresso Stout Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes
Note: This recipe works best with Elysian’s Split Shot, but if you can’t find it you can substitute any other Milk Stout with an ABV of 5 to 6%. It’s important that the beer be on the sweeter side though, so make sure to give it a quick taste before using it in the recipe. Also, this recipe will not work with a Double Milk Stout.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces Espresso Milk Stout (such as Elysian’s Split Shot)
1 cup dark cocoa powder
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup sour cream
Whipped Mocha Ganache Frosting:
4 ounces Espresso Milk Stout
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ teaspoon instant espresso
6 ounces milk chocolate, roughly chopped
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two standard cupcake pans with paper liners.
Place the butter and stout in a large saucepan and, over medium heat, bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and add in the cocoa powder and sugar. Whisk until the cocoa powder and sugar are completely dissolved and the mixture is nice and smooth. Remove pan from heat and set aside to let cool.
In the meantime, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until they are well combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add in the chocolate/stout mixture and mix until just combined. Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for roughly 30 seconds. The batter might appear a little thin, but don’t worry that’s okay!
Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, filling each paper liner about three-quarters of the way full. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
While you’re waiting (very patiently) for the cupcakes to cool is the perfect time to make the frosting! In a large heat-proof bowl, place both chocolates and the butter and set aside. In a small saucepan, bring the stout to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it reaches a boil, let it boil undisturbed for a full 2 minutes. Then reduce the heat to low and stir in the cream and instant espresso. Heat the mixture until it is just barely simmering. Pour the hot cream and stout mixture over the chocolates and butter and let stand for 2 minutes. Then whisk the chocolate and cream until it is smooth and shiny. Set aside to let cool completely. Once it is cooled, add in the confectioner’s sugar and, using a hand mixer, beat on high speed until stiff peaks form (be careful not to overbeat the frosting though).
Once you’re done making the whipped ganache, the cupcakes should be ready to frost! You can either pipe the frosting on in a decorative manner or spread it on using a small off-set spatula. Whichever you prefer – either way it will still taste delicious!