Every fall, I get really excited for fall flavors. Anything involving butternut squash, apples, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and/or warm spices will spark my interest. Currently I'm obsessed with Dunkin Donuts' Pumpkin Spice Coffee. However if we're going to talk alcoholic drinks, then we have to discuss pumpkin beer.
There are many pumpkin beers on the market nowadays and I have to say that my favorite is Jack's Pumpkin Ale. Of course it's also the most difficult pumpkin beer to find, in my opinion. I've been checking for weeks in the liquor stores but I haven't struck paydirt yet. So, on a whim I decided to purchase some Sam Adams Octoberfest beer. I had no idea what it tasted like, but I knew I liked Sam Adams so this couldn't be all bad. But I loved it.
I'm not very good at describing the flavor of beer because I only know whether I like it or not. However I will say this: It's very smooth. Kind of sweet. Not hoppy (I hate hoppy beers). The flavor isn't actually pumpkin, but it reminds me of pumpkin and pumpkin spices. If you want to know more, you're just going to have to get your own Sammy Octoberfest!
For the past two years, it's been my goal to make cupcakes using pumpkin beer. And this year I was finally able to make this dream a reality.
I adapted a Honey and Beer Spice Cake recipe to make the cupcakes more seasonal. (The adaptation could have gone a little better, but we'll get to that later.) I also decided to top the cupcake with a maple-flavored cream cheese frosting because I hear pumpkin and maple flavors work really well together.
Pumpkin Beer Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
cupcakes adapted from Joy the Baker's Honey and Beer Spice Cake
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon all-spice
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) Sam Adams Octoberfest beer (or a similar seasonal beer)
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Combine the cinnamon, all-spice, nutmeg and cloves in a small bowl or container.
3) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together, then set aside.
4) Use an electric mixer to cream the butter for several minutes, until white and fluffy.
5) Beat in sugars and spices and mix for about 3 minutes. It will look grainy at first, but just keep beating.
6) Add the eggs one at a time, beating for ~1 minute after each addition.
7) Beat in the pumpkin puree.
8) Add the flour mixture in three additions and the beer in two additions. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and the beer. Beat after each addition.
9) Beat the batter on high speed for 30 seconds. The batter will be loose and smooth.
10) Pour the batter into cupcake liners and fill about 2/3 of the way.
11) Bake 18-20 minutes.
12) Let cool before frosting.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup maple butter
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1) Using a mixer, beat the butter for several minutes until white and fluffy.
2) Add cream cheese and beat until incorporated with the butter.
3) Add the maple butter and maple syrup and beat until incorporated.
4) Slowly add the confectioner's sugar. You can add more or less sugar depending on how sweet you like your frosting. Beat until fluffy.
5) Chill the frosting for about an hour or until it has set up enough to spread smoothly over the cupcakes.
OK, now comes the critique. I decided to be creative with this recipe and make some relatively big flavor changes. Unfortunately, I kind of forgot a few key things, such as,if I want to replace the honey in a recipe with something else, I should compensate for the loss of sweetness. Hmmm...that would be good advice.
Here are some of the changes I would make to my adapted recipes above:
- As I already hinted at above, the cupcake wasn't as sweet as I would have liked. In fact, the taste was pretty muffin-like. I would probably add another 1 cup of sugar to the cupcake batter to compensate for the loss of honey. I think using honey in the batter would make the cake a bit too moist. But that's just my personal preference. Use honey if you like.
- For my frosting, I thought that maple butter would give it a more robust maple flavor. Unfortunately this was not the case. I ran out of maple butter after using only 1/4 cup of it and had to resort to my roommate's maple syrup. I added another 1/4 - 1/2 cup of maple syrup so that the maple flavor would be pronounced enough. Next time I would probably just use a 1/2 - 3/4 cup maple syrup instead of using the maple butter.
- After taking a cupcake workshop this summer, I have a great desire to pipe my frostings whenever possible. I have yet to come up with a cream cheese frosting that's stiff enough to pipe. Even after refrigerating the frosting for about an hour, it wasn't stiff enough to pipe. I think this problem may have something to do with the cream cheese:butter ratio. Or maybe I needed to use more confectioners sugar. Any suggestions to help out with this recurring problem?
Otherwise, I really like the flavor and texture of the cupcakes (minus the need for more sugar). It was pretty light and fluffy and the pumpkin shone through. The frosting was creamy and allowed the maple flavor to seep into each bite of the cupcake. With some minor adjustments, this could be perfect.