Back in college, I developed a fondness for root beer floats. It was during the summer that I biked across the country; there was nothing better than stopping at a small roadside diner at the end of an 80-mile long ride and guzzling down a tall glass of root beer and ice cream. When I couldn't find a diner to fulfill my root beer float fix, a cycling team mate recommended buying a can of root beer and mixing it with a glass of whole milk. It was almost as delicious as authentic root beer floats.
So it's no surprise that one of my favorite finds since moving to Denver is Morning Fresh Dairy's Old Fashioned Root Beer Milk:
It's pretty self-explanatory -- Morning Fresh Dairy has come up with the genius idea of selling bottled root beer flavored milk. But this particular brand takes deliciousness to a whole other level -- in fact, I'd even say that their root beer milk is far superior to any of the floats I had on my bike trip. I think they must use some sort of fatty, creamy milk (similar to Straus Family Creamery milk in San Francisco, for all you Bay Area readers out there) because it is honestly some of the best milk I've ever drank. I've tried recreating Morning Fresh's root beer milk on my own, but to no avail. Whatever. I'm happy to keep buying bottles at Whole Foods (they're pretty decently priced, just watch out for that bottle deposit).
But the other day, when I was walking over to Whole Foods to get my root beer milk fix, I had a crazy idea. Why don't I substitute the whole milk used in Hummingbird Bakery vanilla cupcakes with root beer milk? Combine two of my favorite things -- root beer floats and cupcakes!
So without further ado, here is my recipe for Vanilla Root Beer Float Cupcakes... for high-altitude, of course.
Vanilla Root Beer Float Cupcakes
(Recipe for a high-altitude environment of approximately 5,000 ft)
For the Vanilla - Root Beer Cupcakes
(makes 12 cupcakes)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- a scant 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder (increase to 1 1/2 teaspoons at sea-level)
- a pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of Morning Fresh Dairy Root Beer Milk (decrease to 1/2 cup at sea-level)
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Vanilla - Root Beer Frosting (enough for 12 cupcakes)
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons Morning Fresh Dairy Root Beer Milk
- a couple of drops of pure vanilla extract
Recipe for Vanilla - Root Beer Cupcakes
(Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's Vanilla Cupcakes Recipe)
- Preheat the oven to 375 (F) -- if at sea-level, decrease this temperature to 325 (F).
- Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or, use a handheld whisk) and beat on slow speed until everything is combined.
- Gradually pour in half the milk into the flour mixture and beat until the milk is just incorporated.
- Whisk the egg, vanilla, and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, and then pour into the flour mixture. Continue beating until just incorporated.
- Scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula and continue mixing until the batter is smooth. Do not overmix.
- Once the batter is ready, spoon into cupcake cases until two-thirds full (approximately 2 tablespoons) and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the cupcakes are light golden. A skewer inserted into the center of each cupcake should come out clean.
- Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before turning out into a wire rack to cool completely.
- When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the vanilla-root beer frosting on top and decorate accordingly.
Recipe for Vanilla - Root Beer Buttercream Frosting
(Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's Vanilla Frosting Recipe)
- Beat the powdered sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or, use a handheld whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
- Combine the milk and vanilla in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture a couple teaspoons at a time. Once the milk has been fully incorporated, turn the mixer up to a high speed.
- Continue beating for at least 5 minutes or until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Tips & Addendums
- I'm not sure if Morning Fresh Dairy Root Beer Milk is available at Whole Foods outside of Denver. If you cannot find root beer milk, feel free to make your own using canned or bottled root beer (I recommend Henry Weinhard's Root Beer) and mixing it with whole milk or half-and-half (depending on how indulgent you're feeling). I don't really have any recommendations for what the ratio of root beer to milk should be, so feel free to experiment and figure out what flavor you like best! I will say that Morning Fresh Dairy's root beer milk tends to be creamier and only has a mild root beer taste, but if you would prefer a stronger root beer taste, by all means, go for it.
- All spoon measurements are level and unsifted, unless otherwise specified. To level the ingredients, take the back of a knife and run it across the top of the measuring cup until the excess ingredients are scraped off.
- Liquid and dry measuring cups are different; please make sure you use the appropriate measuring cup for each ingredient.
- After adding the milk and egg mixture to the flour, don't overbeat the resulting mixture as this will overwork the flour and make the cake dense -- simply beat or stir until the flour is just incorporated. In my opinion, making sure you don't overbeat the batter is one of the hardest parts about baking.
- Don't open your oven until at least the minimum time recommended has passed. Too much cold air coming from a frequently opened oven door causes irregular oven temperatures that affect the baking process.
- When the first recommended bake time has passed, test the cupcakes by inserting a toothpick or wooden skewer into the center of a cupcake. The skewer should come out clean. Unfortunately, the regular Hummingbird Bakery test of readiness (that is, cupcake tops that bounce back when touched) does not work for these cupcakes, as the root beer milk makes the cake crumb far denser and heavier than regular Hummingbird cupcakes.
- The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes. I recommend beating the frosting for at least five minutes on medium-high speed.
- Frost your cupcakes immediately after you have made the frosting. If you let the frosting sit out too long, it will start to crust and harden and you will have a hard time frosting your cupcakes. However, make sure your cupcakes are completely cooled before doing so, otherwise they will get soggy.
- Similarly, add any extra decorations you might want immediately after frosting the cupcake. If you wait to decorate the cupcake, the frosting will harden and the decorations will bounce right off the frosting.
- These cupcakes are especially perishable. I don't think root beer milk keeps well out of the fridge. I recommend eating these within 1-2 days, at most.