June 18, 2013

Blue Moon Cupcakes: Recipe Face-Off

Blue Moon Cupcake Recipe Face-off | Tried & Twisted

What could make dessert better, but the addition of beer!

The Blue Moon cupcake has been circulating around the interwebz long enough to become a new classic, so dozens of versions of the recipe are floating around. How to know which one to pick?

Well, I don't mind taste-testing cupcakes, so I've tried a few and would like to share my review of two opposite approaches to the Blue Moon cupcakes: one recipe from scratch and one recipe for speed!

Blue Moon Cupcake Box Mix Recipe vs Scratch Recipe | Tried & Twisted

Recipe Face Off!

The scratch recipe came from The Blonde Can Cook, an enthusiastic master of all types of cooking recipes. She lovingly starts from scratch for her Blue Moon cupcake recipe and uses homemade cream cheese icing which is smooth and gooey delicious!

The second recipe came from Brittany Herself, who you may recognize from her blog, her work with Land's End, or from her recent editorial on Huffington Post. Her recipe is designed for ease, simplicity, and speed. As she puts it, it's all about getting drunk and eating cake, so why does it have to be complicated? Answer: It doesn't. She suggests a recipe using cake box mix for simplicity with a simple buttercream icing.

So what's the final score?
Blue Moon Cupcake Recipe Face-off | Tried & Twisted

Scratch Recipe: The wheat flavor from the beer does add a bit of a muffin taste to the cupcakes, but the strong orange flavor and sweet icing still makes these treats taste exactly like cupcakes should. Cream cheese and orange flavors combined are a match made in heaven! This icing had a dramatic shine and was silky soft.

From scratch recipes have the tendency not to rise quite as much, allegedly, because the baking powder isn't fresh enough or because the flour is over-beaten. Whatever the mystery cause, it does make perfection a little trickier to achieve. Because of this, my cupcakes didn't rise as much as the box mix cupcakes and were slightly porous and crumbly, instead of fluffy.

Box Mix Recipe: The beer and orange flavor have to contend with a stronger vanilla flavor in the premixed cake and icing, unfortunately, so the wheat beer flavor is very subtle. The vanilla and orange become the stronger dominant flavors. It still smells like beer though. The icing is smooth, but not as shiny, with the added flavor of the beer and orange juice.

Box mix equals easier tall fluffy cupity cakes, but it really isn't significantly faster than the scratch recipe if you already have all the standard baking ingredients in your house, like flour and baking powder. You might have a few extra dishes to wash for all of the measuring cups and spoons, but otherwise they take an almost equal amount of time.

Rating of difficulty: 2 out of 5 versus 3 out of 5. Scratch mix is slightly trickier and slightly more time-consuming than the box mix recipe, but both can easily be baked in about a half hour. Box mix wins on time, effort, and texture, but scratch recipe wins on icing recipe.

Which do you prefer? Easy and fast or use what's in your cupboard? Cream cheese icing or buttercream icing? 

Blue Moon Cupcakes From Scratch 

(adapted from The Blonde Can Cook)

2 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp orange zest
1 cup Blue Moon beer
1/4 cup milk

12 oz cream cheese
6 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
4 cups powdered sugar
Orange wedges for garnish
Cupcake liners/wrappers

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in mixing bowl and set aside. Combine milk and beer in another separate bowl and set aside.
3. Beat to combine butter and sugar in electronic mixing bowl. Mixture will be light and crumbly after 2 - 3 minutes.
4. Add eggs, vanilla, and orange zest to the butter mixture and beat to combine.
5. Alternatively add flour mixture and beer mixture to egg mixture and mix on low speed to combine.
6. Line cupcake pan with cupcake wrappers and fill each 3/4 full with batter.
7. Bake cupcakes at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Brush additional beer on top of cupcakes after pulling them out of the oven for extra wheat beer flavoring.

8. Cream together butter and cream cheese in the electric mixer with beater attachments for about 2 - 3 minutes on low setting.
9. Add orange juice and zest and continue to beat to combine.
10. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat for about 2 - 3 additional minutes to combine. It may take a few minutes before the ingredients will start to play nicely together and combine into icing so just trust the mixer to do it's work. The icing will be super smooth when completely incorporated.
11. Fill a piping bag with star-tip attachment with icing or spread icing onto cupcake with a icing knife.
12. Top with orange wedge for garnish. Bonus: soak orange wedges in vodka before topping to borrow from Brittany's recipe.

Next, I'll share my modified version of Brittany's recipe for the easiest Blue Moon cupcakes. If we want easy, why not make everything easier? So this recipe uses store-bought icing instead of making buttercream from scratch.

Blue Moon Cupcake From Box Mix 

(adapted from Brittany Herself)

1 box cake mix (yellow or white)
egg and/or oil according to box directions
1 bottle Blue Moon or wheat beer
1 tsp orange zest

1 16-oz can vanilla icing (about 2 cups)
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp beer

1 orange cut into wedges for garnish
1/4 cup Mandrin vodka
Cupcake liners/wrappers

1. Slice orange wedges and soak in a shallow bowl of vodka for the garnish. Yes, we're starting at the end, but the longer it sits, the stronger it gets!
2. Preheat oven according to package directions at about 325 degrees.
3. Mix cake batter according to box directions (add eggs and oil if required) in electric mixer, but swap water for beer. This is the super secret trick to this recipe.
4. Add orange zest and beat until combined.
5. Line cupcake pan with cupcake wrappers and fill about 2/3 full with batter.
6. Bake according to box direction, which should be at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Bonus: brush a little more beer on top cupcakes once removed from oven.

7. Super simple orange and beer icing: open can of vanilla icing and throw it in the electric mixer.
8. Add about 1 tbsp of orange juice and 1 tbsp of beer. Don't add any more for extra beer flavor or the icing will be too runny and slide right off the cupcakes! Mix together with the store-bought icing.
9. Load icing into piping bag with star-tip attachment and top off your cupcakes.
10. Top with garnish of orange wedge soaked in vodka immediately before serving. They are juicy and might slide off your icing if you prep your cupcakes too early.

Now sit back and take a sip, er, bite of your delicious Blue Moon beer cupcakes!

Linking at:
Love Bakes Good Cakes, Whimsy Wednesday, Fluster Creative Muster, Give Me the Goods Monday, Make it Pretty Monday, Sugar & Slice Sunday, Pretty Things Link Party, Weekend Re-Treat, Cake Friday Fun Coffee Klatch,


  1. Wow, I have to admit I have never heard of the Blue Moon cupcake, although I do think it's pretty genius! And it's pretty funny that the scratch version only takes 5 minutes longer than the box mix, lol! I personally try to bake from scratch as much as possible, I don't know what my hangup is there. But, hands down, I think a cream cheese icing tastes soooo much better than a buttercream from a can! Love your side-by-side review; terrific post!

    1. I like the challenge of from-scratch recipes too! It tests me to make sure I actually do know what I'm doing. And isn't cream cheese icing amazing! Yum! Thanks for all of the great feedback, Allie!
      Have a great weekend!

  2. Never heard of these before!!! They sound good! I love the "face-off"! So fun! Jenna @ Rain on a Tin Roof

    1. Give them a try! They are delicious! Thanks for all of the comment love, Jenna! Hope you have a great weekend!

  3. Sara these look and sound amazing! Thanks for partying with us.

    Robin @ Fluster Buster

  4. Such great tips! Thank you so much for sharing at Give Me The Goods Monday!
    Jamie @
    Better With Age

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Jamie! Hope you have a great weekend!

  5. Would these work as a cake? If I made one full recipe and then just put it all in one baking tin?


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