Beer. Cupcake. It’s an unlikely pair, a pair so unconventional that Lexi Malmros’s customers ask, “What is IN a beer cupcake?” Elementary, my dear. And, while the hardest part is selling a newbie on the name, the easiest seems to be selling the second cake. “I’ve never had anyone tell me they didn’t like them once they tried them, but it’s the getting them to try that’s difficult,” she admits.
Malmros’s cupcakes are a result of two prevailing passions, and you can guess them. “I was in culinary school in Vermont and I went to a lot of brewpubs. I realized they never had desserts. My Aunt made whiskey cakes and my being in baking school…” kind of made the decision for her. Her first cake was made with Long Trail Double Bag, which took a second batch to really rise up. “The carbonation of the beer definitely changes the consistency, and the higher ABV beers have more flavor.”
“Each cupcake should taste like the beer I’m featuring,” she focuses on local craft breweries including Philadelphia Brewing Company, Tröegs, Stoudt’s and River Horse. She’s a Bucks County native that schooled in Vermont, worked in Boston and came back home to build up her business. “I could’ve stayed in Boston but I had a network here, a support system,” she tells us.
Malmros recently developed a “Tröegs HopBack Amber Chocolate Jalapeño” cupcake, which features a black pepper and cardamom buttercream, for a hot sauce competition, because, as she says, “sweet and savory is such a trend right now.”
A few of her other creations are sitting pretty on Cookie Confidential’s communal table, a space she shares with fellow baker Melissa Torre, who started Confidential six years ago and opened up shop in November 2010. Torre reached out to Malmros after learning about the Kickstarter campaign she started to raise money for baking equipment. The two ladies act as each other’s taste testers because, as Malmros says, “there was a while where I could no longer taste the beer in the cupcakes so I had to ask Melissa to try them for me.” Oh, the perils of baking up too much of a good thing.
In front of me are two stacks of fluffy, quartered marshmallows made with Lancaster Milk Stout and Torre’s cookie crumbles. They’ve got a different consistency than that of the Jett-Puffed variety; it’s pillowy and surprisingly more timid. The chocolate chips and cookie crumbles make for a semi-sweet swirl in a cloud of puff-white fluff.
That’s just an appetizer. Malmros stacks cakes on cakes in front of me, some best sellers including the “Pure Philly,” which is blended with Yards Pale Ale. The cake itself is a bit dense, more comparable to nut bread than the classic cupcake consistency. All of Malmros’s icing is made with an Italian meringue buttercream base, which is lighter than regular buttercream and less sweet, making it an easier medium to bring out the malt/hop combo that Malmros makes a living perfecting.
The “Choco Dog” is rich, very Devil’s food worthy, and brings out the flavor of Stoudt’s Oatmeal Stout, a bit fleeting in the actual batter but present and alive in the frothy, buttery icing. The Victory Storm King Stout “Kings Cup,” made of toffee cake and coffee-infused buttercream icing, is the most adventurous of the bunch, harboring a dense base of candied toffee, a crunchy bottom that’s a huge contrast to its light and fluffy icing hat.
Malmros lists off her future business baking plans, including working with local craft brewers and homebrewers to put on taste tests and networking events in-store, putting together a gluten and allergy-free vegan line of cakes with a local brewer, and stocking up pumpkin ales for the fall season to pair with flavors like berry, caramel, coffee and citrus. It’s going to be a sweet season.