May 23, 2012

Honey and Spice and Everything Nice

The weather is finally warm and feeling like summer is just around the corner, but it sure feels like it took its sweet time.  (Get it? Sweet?)  Ever since a really warm spell we had in March, I have been done with the cold.  So when single digit temperatures appeared again, I decided to make this fall inspired recipe to beat the cold.  Beer and honey spice cupcakes with brown sugar cream cheese frosting and honey spice sponge toffee.  

The cakes are moist and fluffy, filled with the rich scent of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg and the warmth from ale and honey.  The creamy, smooth brown sugar cream cheese frosting adds that little extra.

Oooops, where did this little guy get to? 

And because I was feeling really adventurous and somewhat artsy, I decided to top the cupcakes with shards of sponge toffee.  To match the theme, I made it honey spice sponge toffee.  Don't worry about making too much of the toffee, it won't last long (just don't tell your dentist).

Beer and Honey Spice Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting and Honey Spice Sponge Toffee

The cake
(Modified from Joy the Baker)

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon all-spice
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup honey
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) pale ale beer or honey beer (this is about one bottle).

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cupcake tins with paper liners (about 24 of them)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, cream together butter, sugars, spices and lemon zest. Mixture may look crumbly, but mix for about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.

Beat in the lemon juice and honey.

Add the flour mixture and beer alternating. First add a third of the flour mixture, mix. Add half of the beer, mix. Add the second third of flour, the rest of the beer. Mix. Then finally add the last third of the flour. Beat the batter on high speed for 30 seconds. The batter will be loose and smooth.

Pour into the prepared liners and bake in the upper third of the oven for about 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

The frosting
(Modified from Joy the Baker

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
8oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4-6 cups powdered sugar (I used 4)
2-4 tablespoons milk (I used 2)
depending on desired consistency

Cream the cream cheese in an electric mixer for 1 minute.  Scrape down the bowl and add the butter, beating for 1-2 minutes, or until incorporated.  (Be sure that the two are at room temperature.  Cold cream cheese or butter can make your frosting lumpy.)  Add the brown sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla extract, and beat until incorporated.  Turn off mixer and add 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Turn the mixer on a low speed so the sugar doesn’t fly out of the bowl.  Slowly add more sugar alternately with the milk until you reach your desired consistency.  

The topper
(Modified from Martha Stewart)  

Vegetable oil, cooking spray
 1 1/12 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon baking soda
pinch each of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg

Coat a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. 

Bring sugar, honey, and water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-high. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reaches 300F. 

Remove from heat, and whisk in baking soda until combined and mixture bubbles (by bubbles, they mean foams a lot, be careful!). 

Gently pour mixture onto baking sheet without spreading (resist the urge!). 

Let cool. Break into pieces.

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