Butterbeer (Yes, of Harry Potter fame) Cupcakes

A friend’s friend’s mom brought these to a University of Florida tailgate one time and I fell in love. She apparently found them in her newspaper and, after much begging and pleading after I stole her email address from my friend, she sent me over the recipe. I mean, for anyone who has ready the Harry Potter books describe “butterbeer,” the thought of it is mouthwatering. I tested these the first time in a ploy to get a man’s attention. Because what man can resist food?! Well, after a successful cover story and offer of remaining cupcakes (the others went to coworkers and friends to really help sell the story), I got his attention, including the crush holding my awesome IKEA plate ransom. After a strange series of communications where I employed my best flirting skills, things got weird and I had to demand my plate back. Moral of the story – I got my plate back, some men are strange, but these cupcakes never fail.

A few things – some of the ingredients may sound a bit…weird. For starters, I had never worked with butter flavoring (like vanilla extract) before. The thought of it initially made me cringe as much as when people use no-fat cheese and potatoes from boxes (see my rant in the Potatoes Au Gratin recipe post). But, well, it’s an inexplicable flavor you can’t obtain anywhere else – including real butter. So just pony up and bite the bullet on it (plus it’s cheap). Secondly, there are butterscotch chips. These aren’t scary – they are in the same spot in Publix as the regular chocolate chips. And again, really no substitute for butterscotch chips (not even peanut butter chips).

Now, yes, there is cream soda in here. I know that I for one dreamt of cream soda just a bit when reading the Harry Potter books and tasted notes of it when drinking the beverage at the theme park (perks of living close?). I know you’ll be tempted to cut corners and use the Diet version. Like EVERYTHING with baking (as I’m sure you’ve been lectured repeatedly before), you CANNOT cut corners. Baking is a science, not an experiment (well, maybe a bit of tweaking is ok, but don’t get crazy!). So, please get the real, full sugar cream soda and either buy a smaller bottle or pawn off the remainder on a friend (I’ll take it off your hands).

You’ll also need a bit of special equipment to fill the cupcakes. So, either get a squeeze bottle (yes, lots of professional chefs even go to the beauty supply store and get a hair dye squeeze bottle) or repurpose an old squeeze bottle or get one of these fancy new cupcake fillers (I found one at Publix but have yet to try it – I will when I make these again, I promise!). When I initially made these, I had none of the above, so I had to resort to just using a small slit cut by a knife. Hey, you cover it up with frosting anyway. But it was messy, and less effective than the above tools. So, unless you’re up a creek, try to find one of these easier methods first.

Timing: 1 hour (plus add in some cooling time before you frost)

Servings: 16-18 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

Cupcakes:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (let’s call this a “pinch” shall we?)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened (either leave at room temperature for 2 hours or melt in microwave for about 15-20 seconds…don’t melt it – just soften it so go slow and check regularly if using the microwave!)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed (try to get the dark kind, although light will work…just less flavor; packed means smash as much as that sugar into a measuring cup as you can and level off to make 1/2 cup. Don’t skimp. Use elbow grease if you need to)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (although, like I’ve said, I don’t measure – I get a bit crazy with the vanilla)
  • 1 teaspoon butter flavoring (see note above)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup cream soda (also see note above – NO DIET!)

Ganache:

  • 22 ounces butterscotch chips (see note above – find next to the usual baking/chocolate chips)
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Buttercream Frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup butterscotch ganache (see above)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons butter flavoring
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 32 ounces powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup to 1 cup of whole milk/cream (as needed)

DIRECTIONS:

For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to the holy grail of baking temperatures – 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with cupcake liners (I still grease the pan in case I get messy). Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and stir thoroughly. Set aside and focus on your wet ingredients. In large bowl, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy about 2 minutes), then add sugars and mix until combined. Scrape bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding another. Add vanilla and butter flavoring and scrape the bowl again. Alternate adding the buttermilk, cream soda and flour mixture, make sure your last addition is the flour mixture. Fill each cupcake well to about 3/4 of the way and bake for 17-20 minutes. You’re going to want to bake these until well done because they need to stand up to the filling with ganache without getting soggy. When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (no batter) and the cucpakes are firm to the touch, remove. Cool on a wire rack (remove from the tin) until completely cool. Definitely don’t skip this move. If you leave them in the tin, they’ll be surrounded by heat and continue to cook (i.e., overcook). Plus – this way, you can reuse the pan and get more cupcakes in the oven if you have more batter (or have a small oven or only one tin).

For the butterscotch ganache, you have two options: the “fancy” double-boiler option or the microwave option. For the double-boiler option, place a large heat-proof bowl over a pot of water with one inch of simmering water. The bowl can be glass or that steel mixing bowl of your stand mixer (just be careful if you touch it) – basically anything that will get warm and melt the chips. The water in the pot SHOULD NOT touch the bottom of the bowl. You’re using the steam, not the water. Otherwise you could boil over, crack your bowl, or burn your chips. Similarly, the water shouldn’t be boiling, only simmering (the stage before boiling). This is a gentle process, so keep the heat no higher than medium-low (low if preferable). Place the chips in the bowl with the heavy cream and stir until completely melted, combined, and smoothed. For the microwave option: place both the cream and chips in a microwave proof bowl and cook on 30 second intervals. It is VERY EASY to burn your chips this way…and if you even remotely burn it, the whole mixture is ruined because the taste is pervasive. So go slow, only do 30 second intervals, and stir repeatedly. When all of your chips are ALMOST melted, stop cooking and just stir, stir, stir until smooth. Set aside 1 cup of the ganache for the frosting and let both cool to room temperature. Whatever method you are using (squeeze bottle, fancy cupcake filler, or my knife method), fill the center of the cooled cupcakes with this mixture until it overflows.

For the frosting, cream the butter on medium until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the reserved ganache, vanilla, butter flavoring, and salt and mix until well combined. Turn off the mixture and add 1 cup of the powdered sugar, continuing to mix completely and add in intervals of 1 cup until desired consistency is reached. You’re aiming for something that is stiff enough to stand up on its own (and hence make pretty designs/not fall off the cupcake top). If you get too stiff, add some of that milk/heavy cream. If you add too much of that, add some more powdered sugar. But don’t get crazy with the powdered sugar – it can get far too sweet too quickly. But if you take your time and add in small amounts, you can’t really screw this stuff up.

Frost the cupcakes with the frosting, then drizzle over any remaining butterscotch ganache to your heart’s content (or, if you are creative, make a design. But that’s your prerogative.) I added a few of the chips to the top too, just because I had some leftover and I’m not creative in the slightest. Then revel in your friend’s oohs and ahs!

Harry Potter's finest Butterbeer Cupcakes
Harry Potter’s finest Butterbeer Cupcakes
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