Chicago & Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes

When work took me to Chicago last week, the timing was perfect. I always enjoy walking the city streets,

appreciating the contrasting architectural styles,

and admiring the fantastic clocks (for which I have a minor but little-publicized obsession) that adorn many of the buildings.

But this isn’t a post about building styles or chronometers. This is a post about pizza. For 30 days before the trip, I participated in a food challenge that, among other things, left me gluten-free. As a lover of beer and bread, I considered the fact that the challenge ended the day I left for Chicago to be a good omen! I departed Philadelphia with one thing in mind — deep-dish pizza.

After some unscientific polling of Chicagoans, Tweeters, and the hotel desk staff, I headed down the river walk

to Lou Malnati’s, where I was told I could get the best deep-dish pizza in the city.

It took 35 minutes for my individual deep-dish to bake — but after 30 pizza-free days, what’s a few more minutes?

The thin crust was filled with a thick layer of mozzarella cheese

and topped according to Chicago tradition with sausage and a chunky tomato sauce.

My poll results were accurate — the pizza was delicious. (Though less well-advertised, Lou’s also had the most fantastic sweet vinaigrette salad dressing!). So delicious, in fact, that I ate the whole thing and was in need of a long walk afterwards!

I strolled to Millenium Park. Opened in 2004, I love this urban oasis’ dedication to public art and sculpture in all forms,


including video and LED,

(Crown Fountain)

and, of course, the “Bean”.

(Cloud Gate)

This well-known Anish Kapoor original is a fascinating way to see the city skyline through the eyes of tourists taking photos from seemingly unlimited vantage points.

My trip to Chicago and the pizza there, along with the end of the food challenge, inspired me to bake a cupcake that was a little more dense than usual, but packed with flavor…and beer! — Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes.

This recipe uses GenY Foodie’s Pumpkin Ale Cake and tweaks Smitten Kitchen’s Maple Cream Cheese Frosting ever so slightly.

Click Here to Print This Recipe

Yield: 18 cupcakes

Pumpkin Ale Cake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 6 ounces pumpkin ale
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with 18 liners.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Set aside.

  • In a non-stick frying pan, melt butter over low heat until slightly browned. In a large glass mixing bowl, combine browned butter with granulated and brown sugars. Whisk together until combined, let set for one minute, whisk again.

  • Add eggs, pumpkin, and pumpkin ale to the butter and sugar mixture. Whisk lightly until just combined. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients with a rubber spatula. Do not overmix.

  • Spoon batter into cupcake liners and bake for 12-15 minutes until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.

  • Cool for 3 minutes in tins and remove to wire rack to cool completely.
  • For the frosting, combine all ingredients in a stand mixer, beating on medium speed until fluffy. Chill frosting for 10-15 minutes before spreading onto cooled cupcakes.

Note: The cupcakes pictured in this post were garnished with edible orange glitter.



11 responses

  1. Jealous!! Always wanted to go to Chicago. I heard the food and city is amazing. This blog makes me hungry…always. Keep up the GREAT work!

  2. Never visited The Windy City but have it on my list of cities to see, so this post whets my appetite in more ways than one! Love the sites you highlighted, especially Lou Malnati’s and their deep-dish pizza. Top it off with Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes – what could be better??

  3. Lou’s pizza looks delicious but I don’t think it comes close to New York pizza, i.e., John’s Pizza in the Villiage. That’s why they call Chicago the “Second City.”

  4. Ooo, these look so good! I bet that pizza was awesome after 30 days sans gluten! It’s been years since I had a deep-dish pizza, but they’re unlike anything else – delicious, but so intense!

  5. Lou Malnati’s pizza is awesome! I took Biscotte, Urso and Nav to that very same location one year during guy’s weekend. If memory serves me correct, we did not opt for the personal-sized pizza. :-) We also went to a Cub’s game and Second City. What a great town!

  6. These just came out of the oven. My whole house smells AMAZING! So excited to taste the finished cupcake. Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Pingback: New Belgium Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes with Maple Frosting – This is Pumpkinhead! | Booze, Sugar & Spice

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