Muncie woman uses Hoosier-made craft beer to make cupcakes
MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) – Sitting discretely in the back booth of a brewery, Laura Turvey is in her element. No, she’s not a food critic, but her methods kind of make her feel like one.
She’ll come to a brewery unannounced, equipped with a creative spark and her son’s “Angry Birds” notebook to diligently take down details as she samples a flight of housemade craft beers. She stays secretive because she doesn’t want to spoil the experience.
After all, one of those beers could become a key ingredient in her next creation.
Turvey – a Ball State University graduate and longtime Muncie resident – is the one-person team behind Tipsy Turvey Pubcakes, a small business she started about two years ago that combines her love for craft beer with her love for baking. Turvey makes everything from bread to beer-seasoned crackers using mostly local or state-made brews. Her specialty, however, is in her business’s name.
“Pubcakes” is her play on words for cupcakes made with craft beer. But “I don’t just dump a bunch a booze in it,” she jokes. “I want you to be able to experience those fun, quirky little flavor profiles.”
Turvey doesn’t use boxed cupcake mixes. She doesn’t use artificial flavors or preservatives. Her cupcakes are made from scratch as she builds around each beer’s unique flavor. Turvey said more than 90 percent of the alcohol will bake out, while the rest of it adds a bit of “oomph,” along with added moisture to the cakes. According to allaboutbeer.com, the beer also works as a gentle leavener.
When Turvey has found a brew to her liking, she’ll order a growler or two, bring them back to her kitchen space at the Muncie Delaware County Senior Center and experiment. Then, she calls the brewers to tell them she’s interested in working with the flavors. They turn into new cupcakes, as well as new partnerships.
Turvey has developed plenty of these partnerships, ever since craft beer media company Indiana On Tap took notice of her work. Beer-infused cupcakes have been made before, but Indiana On Tap’s founder Justin Knepp said they’re very unique to the region, and that Turvey serves Muncie – with a growing craft brewery scene – very well.
“What she does is very unique. It ties in very nicely,” Knepp said. “People appreciate having something sweet at events.”
Knepp said the organization puts on or is involved in as many as 40 beer-related events per year. In her two years in the business, Turvey estimates she has been to 30 of them.
Like craft beer, Turvey’s pubcakes are diverse. Using New Corner Brewing Company’s “Windy Kilt Scotch Ale,” she makes a carrot- and pineapple-flavored pubcake with roasted pineapple cream cheese frosting. She has used Guardian Brewing Company’s “Frank the Tank” stout for its coffee flavoring (what she calls a “fan favorite”).With Elm Street Brewing Company’s house cream ale – using rice, corn and milk sugar – she has made a cornbread-type cake with a sweet topping that Elm Street’s lead brewer Tyler Hutchison said is delicious.
“Anytime she and I sit down and we talk, she’s asking about the things I’ve got coming up, and I see her eyes light up because she’s shooting out ideas, which in turn inspires me,” Hutchison said.
Each cupcake is approximately one to two bites, perfect for festivals where patrons don’t want to deal with forks and plates. Plus, the snack size allows her to sell them cheap – a six-pack runs $6 and a dozen sell for $10. When sold in a bundle like this, Turvey says they’re arranged in “flights,” just like the craft beer with which each is made.
She knows she has baked more than 50,000 pubcakes because she bought 40,000 liners to start, and she has gone through all of them and then some. Her success has made her pose the question: What about her own bakery shop?
“I never thought it was going to get to that point, at least not that quick,” Turvey said. “I always thought I was going to be selling at breweries and pubs and farmer’s markets and events. I was not thinking of making it a full-time gig. But it is quickly moving that way. For better or worse, it is definitely moving in that direction.”
Until then, she’s doing what she knows best, like working various statewide events. When planning her menu, she goes by what beers will be the event, like she’ll do when her products make an appearance at Muncie’s Brewfest on April 21. (Her younger sister will take her place because Turvey will be attending Death and Taxes Day at Taxman Brewing Company.)
Jeff Robinson, director of community relations for Cornerstone Center for the Arts, said last year’s Brewfest reached capacity and sold all 400 of its available tickets. This year, the venue is expanding to hold a third room, and 600 tickets will be available.
The event will focus on self-distributing breweries, or breweries that don’t distribute at all. And every brewer at the event will be fewer than a two-hour drive from Muncie, Robinson said, in hopes that patrons will travel to them if they find beers they desire.
Chances are, if one there has a distinct flavor, Turvey has already made it into a pubcake.