Several years ago I got my hands on some root beer flavoring – an additive used in making sodas at home. I figured that it was close enough to an “extract” that I could use it to flavor some cupcakes! I looked around online and found inspiration from some other folks who had the same idea but I didn’t *love* any of their recipes. I took the best from each one, mixed it with a healthy dose of the basic ingredients from Michelle’s vegan chocolate cake, topped it with some vanilla bean frosting, and bam! We had a killer root beer float cupcake!
I made these cupcakes for the first time in 2008, for my brother’s birthday, and then a few more times after that. The root beer flavoring bottle I had held just enough for about 7 batches, though, so it wasn’t long before I was all out! Worst of all, I didn’t know where to get any more…
Then Brewtopia opened up in downtown Port Jefferson! I went in to the store the day after they opened and asked about home-brewing soda supplies… they had a pretty decent section, but no root beer flavoring. I asked the guy behind the counter about it, and he was more than willing to start carrying some if there was a demand for it. Yay! We picked up a new bottle today 😀
I’m right smack in the middle of a TON of birthdays, including my brother’s once again. If I had the time and money I’d make everyone their favorite cupcakes, but as I don’t the root beer float cupcakes seem to be pretty universally popular so I made a double batch today!
Ok, enough about the backstory, you just want the recipe!
Root Beer Float Cupcakes
A little over a dozen
1 C root beer of your choice (I like Stewarts!)
1 t apple cider vinegar
3/4 C sugar
1/3 C canola/vegetable oil
1 t vanilla extract
2 t root beer flavoring
1 1/3 C flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
Combine the root beer and apple cider vinegar in a bowl. Whisk gently, then let stand for a few minutes.
Add sugar and oil, whisk until frothy. Add vanilla and root beer flavoring, whisk again. Gradually whisk in flour to combine, being careful not to over-mix. Let stand a few more minutes – batter will thicken up a little as the baking soda and vinegar interact.
While you’re waiting, preheat oven to 350 degrees, line a cupcake pan with papers, and fill each cup 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until tops are springy and a toothpick comes out clean.
Be patient and let those cupcakes cool! Use this time to make your…
1 C solid shortening (I use Crisco sticks)
3-4 C powdered sugar
2 T milk (dairy, almond, soy, whatever)
1 T vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, if you want.
Put shortening in the bowl of a stand-mixer and beat with paddle attachment for 1-2 minutes. Start adding sugar, gradually. When you have incorporated at least 3 C of sugar, beat frosting on high for 2-3 minutes.
If you want to use the vanilla bean, now’s the time. Lay the bean on a cutting board and slice open end to end with a sharp knife. Being very careful of your fingers, scrape along the inside of each half with knife. Drop the accumulated “vanilla bean paste” into mixing bowl.
Add vanilla and 1 T milk, beat on high again. If needed, add more sugar or more milk to get a nice fluffy texture. When you think it’s *just* right, beat for another 30-60 seconds then start frosting your cupcakes!
I like to serve these cupcakes with a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream to really drive that root beer float flavor home!
(Note: all of my recipes tend to be a little heavy on the vanilla as I use my own home-made stuff. If you’re using store-bought vanilla, use a light touch.)