Social media and the Internet, wonderful things. I love the fusion of communication channels; the multiple ways in which you can talk to people and how those channels come together to form a whole. Dom, of the Marble Brewery, bought cupcakes to a tasting at Cask Pub and Kitchen; Phil, of Beermerchants, tasted them and then tweeted about some of his own; Glyn, of The Rake, saw this and got cupcake curious on his blog and then Mark Dredge picked up the gauntlet in a blog comment. All these different methods of communication coming together to provide a platform on which people around the world can talk; how brilliant!
Before I picked up the whisk, I started to daydream about the combination of beer and cake. I want to make a cake that involves beer, but I don’t want to simply use beer within the cake mix. Mark did this recently with ice cream and I questioned if the same approach could be applied to a cake. How about making a plain muffin mix and then adding a hop tea to it? How about thickening that hop tea with icing sugar and turning it into a hop drizzle? How about some hop icing on top of that, then a sprinkling of crushed crystal malt? With some dried malt extract added to the batter in place of caster sugar, I could give the cake a real malty edge and hopefully end up with the cake equivalent of an IPA!
Ingredients (for 5 muffins): 110g plain flour, 110g butter, 60g caster sugar, 1.5 tsp baking powder, 2 eggs, handful of hops, 100g icing sugar, 1 heaped tablespoon crystal malt.
Start by infusing a handful of hops in 350ml warm water. The best way to do this is using a cafetiere, make sure the water is warm but not hot and add enough just to cover the hops. Set to one side and leave whilst you make the muffin mixture.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add the eggs, baking powder and flour; stir very well. Once the hop tea has had a minimum of 15 minutes stewing time, depress the plunger and pour off the liquid. Add 3 tablespoons of the hop liquid to the batter and mix well. Place in the fridge and leave for a minimum of 1 hour.
Line a muffin tin with individual muffin cases. Take the cake mixture out of the fridge and carefully half fill each case with a spoon; the mixture will have risen slightly and taken on an airy texture, try to preserve as much of this air as possible.
Set your oven to 200c and move a shelf as close to the middle as possible. Allow the oven 10 minutes to heat before placing the muffins inside. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden on top. Avoid opening the oven door if you can.
Cool on a wire rack until warm. At this point, spoon over 2-3 teaspoons of the hop tea.
When completely cold, take the icing sugar and add the hop tea drop by drop until you end up with a thick icing. You’ll need surprising little liquid, so don’t be tempted to add too much at once. Crush the crystal malt in a pestle and mortar until almost at the stage of being dust, carefully spoon the icing over each muffin and top with a sprinkle of the crystal malt. Allow the icing to set before eating.
The hop flavour is delicate but definitely comes through in the finished cake. It's a real challenge to extract hop flavour and aroma without bitterness, but against the malty sweetness this is balanced out. For future attempts, I'll experiment with ways to increase the hop presence whilst keeping the bitterness low.