I don’t like beer – that’s right! I said it! I do like most other booze but I don’t much care for beer. Beer bread on the other hand- - yum! Beer cupcakes – oh yeah! Beer in any form except for actual beer form is really what I’m looking for. The ironic thing is that two of my very good friends actually own a beer company: Evil Genius Beer Company. Every time I take a swig of one of their new products, I think to myself –yep – tastes like beer! I’m told it’s all really good and in fairness, their Good n’Evil Kolsh is pretty good – even for someone who’s not a beer drinker. One of these dudes, Trevor, is one of my besties and listens to my overall life nonsense on a regular basis. Like when I wonder if gnomes are real or if they are just little people with funny hats – Trevor is my go-to guy. So when Trev asks for a cake, I’ll usually just make one for fear that he’ll stop listening to my crap.
So their company is still pretty new and when they signed with a local Philly distributor, a celebration was in order. Trevor called and asked for a cake to bring to the distributor and I easily agreed. Now, when it comes to making cakes – I pretty much got a system but working beer in – well that’s always a challenge. For their cake, I didn’t want to go too crazy – I’m not sure of the audience so what if they are all chocolate folks but I gave them banana flavor? That’s a bad scene and I’m sure it’s not quite the response my pals would want. I went with a vanilla layer. I filled it with a delicious pastry cream – because I’m in a pastry cream phase – more on that another time. But before I put it together, I assaulted my cake layers with the business end of a fork and made holes all over. Then I poured a spiced beer caramel sauce made from my buddies’ beer. That’s right – and old fashioned poke cake! Why don’t we appreciate poke cakes more? They can turn a dry cake into a food-gasm in the space of 2 seconds. I mean when other stuff is dry, we moisten it right? Why not cake? And honestly, have you ever poured caramel over anything and regretted it? Me either. So I whipped up some beer caramel – or rather, I experimented with hot sugar and beer. I got to something that seemed lovely and so the recipe is below – it’s should come as no surprise that it’s beer, sugar, and cream – wtf else would it be?
Finally, I attemped to make their Good n’ Evil logo – a true labor of love. There is a chic on there with a horn and a halo – hence good n’ evil. Trevor calls her…..I forget – I listen to his crap too but sometimes when he’s talking I think about cupcakes or rainbows. Anywho, the chic and some pretty intriqite hops all outlined in an oval with a banner going across makes for some pretty challenging detail work. The rest of the label at first appears just a golden color but as it turns out, has a very faint hops-like pattern. Here is my version of their logo in fondant:
I rolled out and cut – kindof freehand and kindof using some paper cutouts as a guide. The hard part was getting the details right. I was still pretty new at fondant so I wasn’t sure the best method to use was. I started with just those edible markers from Americolor. That wasn’t really giving the effect I was hoping for so then I considered piping but that doesn’t have enough control for such small specific details. Finally, I made myself a “paint” using vodka and food color gels. At the end, I was pretty proud of it.
Here is the final cake – covered in fondant that I sprayed gold and then went over with some of my vodka paint. I also used it to paint on the faint hops pattern. Here is the finished product. I was pretty proud of it at the time and I still am but now I think I'd work a little harder to get the fondant even.
Here is how I made the beer caramel:
24 oz beer
2 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 c. heavy cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Boil the beer until you're down to about a cup left. The alcohol will boil out first and then the water. It takes a while.
Add in both sugars and stir gently
Let simmer and when it looks like the sugar has dissolved, add in the butter. Continue to simmer until you get to a caramel color and it becomes syrupy. If you're not sure you're there yet - try the ball method of testing. Drop a bit into a glass of cool water and if the syrup balls up, holding it's form rather than just dissolving into the water, you're probably good to go.
When your at a deep amber color and you've reached the syrup stage, you're ready to add the cream. BE CAREFUL! When you add the cream, it is likely to boil violently! I usually add the cream with my hand and arm covered with a dishtowel in case it splatters.
The boil will drop down quickly and then you can just stir and you're pretty much done. If it seems that the cream has cooled the mixtures down too much and you have some solid chunks, keep it on the heat for a bit until those melt.
Stir in the vanilla - I also splashed in some cinnamon extract to get a nice "spiced" flavor.
You could keep this caramel in the sauce in a tighly covered jar and refrigerate - I wouldn't use it beyond a week or 10 days though.