Root Beer Float Cupcakes Recipe

The root beer float is an iconic American dessert. Almost always accompanied by a sense of nostalgia, the creamy, sweet, and slightly fizzy drink is typically enjoyed in a tall diner glass, filled to the brim with vanilla ice cream and bubbly root beer. If you've ever tried replicating the same dessert with, say, Coke or Pepsi, you've probably found that it just isn't quite as good. There's a reason vanilla ice cream is paired with root beer specifically: Root beer is made with unique ingredients like juniper and wintergreen, along with warming flavors like vanilla, ginger, and nutmeg. These flavors translate well to desserts in general, and the fizzy carbonation of the soda adds perfect moisture to cake batter.

This recipe developed with Michelle McGlinn adapts the flavors of a classic root beer float into moist, fluffy cupcakes. A chocolatey base made with high-quality root beer is topped with a rich vanilla root beer buttercream, and the resulting cupcakes are the perfect way to enjoy the beloved fizzy dessert in cupcake form. Complete it with a tiny red-striped straw for the full diner effect (and an extra dose of cuteness).

Gathering ingredients for root beer float cupcakes

The base of the cupcakes is relatively standard for batter: You'll need flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, an egg, vegetable oil, vanilla, buttermilk, and root beer. Because the flavors of root beer can vary widely, we recommend finding one of the 19 best craft root beer brands or any of your favorite locally-made brews that have a strong, rich flavor. For the frosting, you'll just need butter, powdered sugar, heavy cream, root beer concentrate, and salt.

Step 1: Heat up the oven

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Step 2: Prepare a muffin tin

Line muffin tin with liners.

Step 3: Sift the dry ingredients

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.

Step 4: Combine the wet ingredients

Whisk the egg, buttermilk, root beer, oil, and vanilla in a second bowl until well combined.

Step 5: Bring the batter together

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until very well combined.

Step 6: Divide into cupcake liners

Pour into the cupcake liners.

Step 7: Bake the cupcakes

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Step 8: Beat the butter until creamy

In the meantime, make the buttercream. Beat the butter with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until smooth and creamy.

Step 9: Add the remaining buttercream ingredients

Add the powdered sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and root beer concentrate to the butter.

Step 10: Beat until fluffy

Beat the frosting until fluffy, but not granulated, about 2-3 minutes. Add salt and stir to incorporate.

Step 11: Pipe the frosting and serve

Once the cupcakes are completely cool, pipe the buttercream onto the cake base. Serve and enjoy!

Root Beer Float Cupcakes Recipe
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Enjoy that iconic American dessert, the root beer float, in cupcake form, with this moist chocolate cupcake topped with creamy root beer vanilla buttercream.
Prep Time
20
minutes
Cook Time
15
minutes
Servings
12
Cupcakes
inside of root beer float cupcake
Total time: 35 minutes
Ingredients
  • For the cupcakes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup high-quality root beer
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the frosting
  • 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons root beer concentrate
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Line muffin tin with liners.
  3. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
  4. Whisk the egg, buttermilk, root beer, oil, and vanilla in a second bowl until well combined.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until very well combined.
  6. Pour into the cupcake liners.
  7. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  8. In the meantime, make the buttercream. Beat the butter with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until smooth and creamy.
  9. Add the powdered sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and root beer concentrate to the butter.
  10. Beat the frosting until fluffy, but not granulated, about 2-3 minutes. Add salt and stir to incorporate.
  11. Once the cupcakes are completely cool, pipe the buttercream onto the cake base. Serve and enjoy!
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What is the secret to perfectly moist cupcakes?

Cupcakes can be tricky to make, requiring a perfect balance of air, acid, and moisture to create that ideal bouncy crumb. For the best results, first examine your ingredients. There should be flour and some leavening agents like baking soda and powder, along with a little bit of salt to emphasize the flavors. The moisture, then, comes from the liquids, which can include milk, water, oil, eggs, buttermilk, or vinegar. This recipe opts for buttermilk, which might seem unusual, but works similarly to one of our favorite add-ins for chocolate cake, vinegar: the acid in buttermilk helps break down the protein and gluten, creating a more moist cake. If you swap for regular milk, you'll be missing some of that spongey texture.

The other important thing to consider in a perfect cupcake is the technique. Tempting as it is to skip a tedious (not to mention, messy) step like sifting, we recommend making it a priority. Sifting the dry ingredients not only breaks up clumps but also disperses the ingredients to encourage even cooking. If you're in a rush, skip sifting the flour and sift the baking soda, powder, salt, and cocoa. Also, once you combine the wet and dry ingredients don't get overzealous with mixing, which can overwork the gluten and cause air pockets that deflate during baking: instead, mix steadily just until the dry ingredients are absorbed.

How can I customize my root beer buttercream?

The frosting in this recipe is meant to replicate the vanilla ice cream in a root beer float while also highlighting the classic root beer taste, which isn't prominent in the cake base despite the soda being used. To do this, we used root beer concentrate, which is (as the name implies) concentrated root beer flavor, usually including anise, vanilla, and ginger among other things. The flavor in a concentrate is strong and only requires a small amount to be effective. If you're using concentrate or extract, start with a few drops and increase to taste.

Especially because you'll already have a bottle open, you can use real root beer in the frosting to save yourself the hunt for concentrate. This is a little trickier because the flavor isn't as intense, meaning you'll need to add more liquid to the buttercream. Start with a few tablespoons, incorporating the root beer into the mixture with the powdered sugar. If the taste is not strong enough, add a few more tablespoons until the flavor of root beer comes through. If the frosting becomes too sweet, add another pinch of salt, which balances the richness. If the root beer flavor is too strong, you can also omit it entirely, opting instead for a simple vanilla buttercream.