Lauren Anderson, of Pacific Northwest Cupcakes in Snohomish, makes a batch of beer cupcakes using SnoTown beer at her kitchen space in Redmond. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Lauren Anderson, of Pacific Northwest Cupcakes in Snohomish, makes a batch of beer cupcakes using SnoTown beer at her kitchen space in Redmond. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Beer and cupcakes: Snohomish brewer, baker form unlikely duo

Pacific Northwest Cupcakes uses SnoTown’s brews to make beer-infused sweet treats.

Frank Sandoval can’t resist a good cupcake.

Fortunately for the SnoTown owner and head brewer, that love led to the inspiration for a new type of beer event: a cupcake and beer pairing, which the Snohomish brewery will be hosting Oct. 21. The event will feature four beer-infused cupcakes courtesy of Lauren Anderson of Pacific Northwest Cupcakes in Snohomish.

The odd partnership between brewer and cupcake maker came from a visit to the Snohomish Farmers Market. Just a few blocks from the brewery, the market is a regular stop for Sandoval and SnoTown co-owner Keri Jensen during the summer months. On one of their visits, Sandoval and Jensen saw Anderson unpacking her baked goods and setting up a tent.

After striking up a conversation — and trying a few cupcakes — Sandoval learned that Anderson knew how to bake using beer. He hurried back to the brewery and brought Anderson a small glass of his stout. The next week she returned with a cupcake infused with the SnoTown offering and topped with a butter cream frosting made with the beer.

“It tasted just like the beer,” Frank said.

Soon after the pair teamed up to put on a number of beer and cupcake pairings at the brewery. Anderson would choose four of SnoTown’s beers, bake four cupcakes using the beer and then pair the cupcakes with the beer during an event at the brewery. Beer and cupcakes don’t seem to be natural complements, but the events have been a hit.

“Every event gets more and more people coming out to them,” Sandoval said.

Anderson said the early response was more bafflement than excitement.

“People were confused at what we were doing pairing beer with cupcakes, but I always say, ‘Don’t knock it ’til you try it,’ ” said Anderson, who will participate in another cupcake and beer pairing at Everett’s Crucible Brewing on Nov. 12.

Surprisingly, Anderson doesn’t even drink beer. She smells the beer and talks to the brewers about the ingredients they use in making the beer to figure out what kind of cake to pair it with and how to use it in the baking process.

“It makes it a little tricky,” said Anderson, “but I chat with Frank and find out what he’s put in the beer, like syrups, fruits or hops. Then I decide what flavors will play off that and what flour combinations to use.”

Anderson said darker and maltier beers like stouts, porters and ambers work well in cupcakes, while bitter beers like IPAs can cause problems. The bitterness of the hops are unpredictable and can overpower the cake.

She uses the beer in the cake mixture to make the actual cupcake, but she also uses it in the butter cream frosting and to glaze the cupcakes. Anderson said beer can be tougher than liqueurs in the baking process because of the carbonation, which can change the texture of the cake.

“Most liqueurs I can effectively swap the buttermilk in the recipe out at a 1-to-1 ratio,” said Anderson. “But beer and wine can be difficult and you really have to dial in the ratios and experiment to make sure it’s working.”

Along with the stout and chocolate cake combination, Anderson has paired SnoTown’s jalapeno blonde beer with a jalapeno vanilla cake, and an amber and smoked rye beer with a molasses cake.

Anderson, who grew up in Indiana and moved to Washington five years ago, has been baking professionally for the past 2½ years. She got her start after making her son Kaiden’s first birthday cake when she forgot to buy one. Her friends and relatives were so impressed with the cake they told her she should go into business for herself.

So she did. As word of mouth spread, Anderson kept busy taking personal orders from friends and friends of friends in the Snohomish area. After a year, she was baking cakes for weddings and other special events. Now, she’s rebranded as Pacific Northwest Cupcakes and has a thriving online business.

With no storefront or kitchen, she bakes out of the commercial kitchen at Pomegranate Bistro in Redmond. Along with specialty orders, Anderson sells most of her products at farmers markets and at pop-up events like the cupcake and beer pairings. She’s also done wine pairings with Snohomish’s Randolph Cellars.

If you go

Snohomish’s SnoTown Brewing is hosting a beer and cupcake pairing at 3 p.m. Oct. 21 at the brewery, 511 2nd St., Snohomish. The event will feature four beer-infused cupcakes made by Lauren Anderson of Pacific Northwest Cupcakes. The event costs $14 and each person will receive four mini cupcakes and four 5-ounce beers. Anderson will be selling her baked goods at the brewery.

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