Root beer was the flavor requested by the birthday boy, my boyfriend Jason, and I took on the challenge. I’d read that adding straight root beer wasn’t really enough to get the flavor in cake. Many recipes I found online use root beer concentrate, something I could not find anywhere in my neighborhood. (Stinky Bklyn, a local shop with a range of gourmet ingredients in addition to cheese, didn’t have any. However, they did say it sounded awesome and would look into it.) I was tempted by the Sodastream root beer flavoring I saw in one store, but that seemed like cheating. I decided to cook down a bottle of root beer, much like I cooked the beer for my Guinness cupcakes. I hoped that would work better than just root beer itself.
I also procured two bags of root beer barrels candy. I originally thought I would just put one on top of each cupcake, or crush and use as a topping. To guarantee more root beer flavor into my batter, though, I crushed one bag with a hammer and added them to the cake batter, much as I did the cinnamon discs for my red hot cupcakes. I didn’t let them sit to dissolve this time, so they were more like root beer barrel “chips” than a flavoring incorporated into the batter.
The recipe was otherwise basically that of a regular vanilla cupcake, though with only about 2/3 the sugar. I did add a bit more flour to balance the liquid, the root beer which I simmered until reduced by about half. The cupcakes smelled more like muffins than cake when baking, but any sweetness they lacked was made up for in the frosting.
I thought I might cook down some more root beer to add to the icing, and crush more root beer barrels to sprinkle over the top. Deciding to try a different crushing method, I stuck them in my blender. The result was a mixture of big chunks of mangled candy, still too big to sprinkle, and a sugar-like powder. I realized I’d accidentally made something that was basically root beer sugar. I filtered it out from the larger pieces of candy and used that in my frosting rather than actual root beer. The end result was very sweet and root beer-y, so much so that I didn’t put any more of the candy pieces on top.
The birthday boy got his much-loved root beer in cupcake form, as requested, at his birthday picnic!