Baking, along with queuing, complaining and tea drinking, is a Great British pastime and in recent years it has gone through somewhat of a revival. The art of cupcake crafting and bread baking is griping the nation and with the likes of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood popping up all over the place, there seems to be no escape from the likes of red velvets and raisin loaves.
One place you might expect to find some sort of sanctuary from the baking duo would perhaps be your local pub, however cakes are now staple bar snacks at Urban Tap House. A pub known for pushing boundaries of what a pub should and can be, it is already getting a name for itself due to head chef Paul Turley’s creative and dynamic burger menu, but also because of his assistant Haylee’s delicious cakes.
Haylee O’Donnell is the baking genius behind such cupcake flavours as Cider and Cinnamon, Triple Chocolate Vader Shuffle, Mojito as well as Candied Jalapeño. Not only are her innovative inventions a perfect accompaniment with your pint, her cakes are lovingly created using craft beers and ciders and as such, you won’t think of baking in the same way again. No longer is baking a pursuit for your dear old Gran, nor is it a hobby for hipsters. You won’t want to go down your local to escape it, you’ll want to pay it a visit just to get your fix of baked goods!
Chris Rowlands admitted he never thought he would have a baking section in the pub, but after Haylee made a few cakes, the bearded manager along with the head chef fell in love with them. “They persuaded me to sell them on the bar as I wasn’t confident that they were good enough,” Haylee says modestly. “This was a hobby I hadn’t done for years and now I’m being told to really go for it,” she continues, but now Chris refers to her as “a baking legend!”
Haylee has been baking on and off for several years after her Nan, a woman who thought every female should be able to bake, taught her how to make cakes.
“I never really got into it until a couple of years ago when I started making birthday cakes and cupcakes for friends,” she says. Her cakes proved so popular that she started to charge for them, but after doing a wedding, an experience which she admits was the most stressful thing she’s ever done, Haylee gave up on her hobby two years ago.
Before Tap House, Haylee worked as a kitchen porter for events in the stadium as well as at the Motorpoint Arena, but when she took the job at Paul’s side in the kitchen she decided to work beer into her recipes.
“I first started baking with beer when I got to Tap House,” she says, “I figured if I was working somewhere where everyone was super passionate about beer, I should probably give it a go.
It seems that her cakes are taking Cardiff by storm and she attributes their success to the fact they “are a bit of a novelty.” When you think of bar snacks, things like pork scratchings, dry roasted peanuts and scampi fries spring to mind. The last thing you’d expect to accompany your pint would be a Chocolate Coffee Woopie Pie made using Chocolate Guerilla Stout but that’s exactly what you’ll get at Tap House. “Beer flavoured anything will make people curious but being able to buy a cupcake in a craft beer pub is pretty much unheard of,” she continues
Of all her cakes baked with beer, her personal favourite is the original Dirty Cookie, a chilli and chocolate cookie made using Tiny Rebel’s Dirty Stop Out. “It was the first time I had adapted a recipe to include beer and it worked realllllly well!”
However, you can’t just pour any old beer or any amount of it into your cake mix. Although Haylee says her process of coming up with new flavours is something along the lines of, “This sounds like it would work, I’ll give it a go,” she admits that baking is more of a science. “You can’t just chuck a bit of this or that in a bowl and pray it works,” she instructs, “if you add more liquid, that’s going to affect the outcome which means you have to add some more dry ingredients to balance it out.”
When it comes to picking which beers will go best in each cake recipe, Haylee sticks to the following general rule; “If it’s made with chocolate, stick to dark beers, if it’s citrusy then you want IPAs.” Although she does go on to emphasize that rules are made to be broken and as such she likes to experiment with different flavours and styles of beer but luckily there’s always the experts at the bar who are on hand to offer their experienced beer tasting talents if needed.