These easy pumpkin cupcakes get a burst of flavor from your favorite pumpkin ale! Topped with maple frosting for the perfect fall cupcake. This post was recently updated with new photos and a streamlined recipe.
This post contains affiliate links: if you buy something we’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you.
Hands up if you love pumpkin season (this girl! right here!)
I’ve never been one to jump on the whole Pumpkin Spice Latte thing, but pumpkin CUPCAKES? Pumpkin cupcakes are a whooooooole other story.
These pumpkin cupcakes are one of the first recipes I reach for every fall.
We’re keeping it suuuuper simple with some classic fall spices (cinnamon! cloves! ahhhhhh) and a big ol’ scoop of pumpkin purée. You can roast your own fresh pumpkin and purée it up yourself if you like, but canned pumpkin works just as well (just be sure to get plain canned pumpkin puree for these cupcakes – NOT pumpkin pie mix!)
Fun (ok…random and useless) fact: I actually tried to grow a pumpkin patch once. It was the most beautiful pumpkin patch there ever was. And then our landlord forgot it existed and ran over it with a lawnmower (cue violins).
BUT WHATEVER. I’M TOTALLY OVER IT. AND DEFINITELY NOT STILL ANGRY FIVE YEARS LATER.
These pumpkin cupcakes are perfect for Halloween or Thanksgiving, and (BONUS POINTS!) they make the house smell amaaaaaaaaazing.
Our favorite maple frosting!
I’m also sharing my VERY FAVORITE maple fudge frosting. It’s the perfect pairing for these pumpkin cupcakes, and it has the best fudge-y, creamy texture.
This maple frosting starts with melted butter and maple extract (and some more pumpkin beer! If that’s how you’re rollin’), plenty of powdered sugar, and – drumrolllllllll – HOT WATER. The melted butter will start to thicken back up as the frosting cools, so the hot water keeps everything melty and spread-able as you frost the cupcakes.
Using water in this frosting also takes out some of the richness that would come with milk, cream, or extra butter, so you get a great consistency without feeling like a bunch of sugar is reaching up to punch you in the face. Once the maple frosting cools on the cupcakes, you’re left with a layer of thick, creamy maple fudge that really brings out the pumpkin in the cupcakes.
As far as toppings go, my favorite way to decorate these pumpkin cupcakes is just to crumble up some extra cupcake and throw it on top! Since I’m usually making these around the holidays (which, um, I don’t need to be doing some elaborate cupcake sugar sculpture because WE ARE BUSY ENOUGH THANK YOU VERY MUCH) it’s usually the fastest way to go – and it gives your cupcakes a little extra pizzazz! If you store your cupcakes in an airtight container on the counter, the cupcake topping will stay soft for 3-4 days before it starts to dry out.
(VIDEO) HOW TO MAKE PUMPKIN ALE CUPCAKES:
Easy pumpkin cupcakes with pumpkin ale and a maple fudge frosting.
FOR THE PUMPKIN CUPCAKES:
- ⅔ cup pumpkin purée
- ½ cup pumpkin ale
- ¼ cup melted coconut oil (coconut oil in its liquid form – you can also use canola/vegetable oil or melted butter)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 ¾ cups flour (measured correctly by scooping and leveling)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
FOR THE MAPLE FROSTING:
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 Tablespoons pumpkin ale (optional – leave this out and use extra hot water if you prefer)
- 1 teaspoon maple extract
- 3 ½ cups powdered sugar (you may need a little more or a little less)
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup hot (nearly boiling!) water (you may not use it all)
FOR THE PUMPKIN CUPCAKES:
- Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line two muffin tins with cupcake liners.
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine pumpkin purée, pumpkin ale, melted coconut oil, eggs, and sugar. Stir or whisk to combine.
- Add the rest of your cupcake ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla. Mix until ingredients are just combined.
- Use a cookie scoop (I like this one) to scoop batter into cupcake liners. (If you don’t have a scoop, put 3-4 Tablespoons of batter into each liner, until they’re about ⅔ of the way full).
- Bake cupcakes at 375 degrees F for 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
- Remove cooked cupcakes to a wire rack and let cool completely (usually 30 minutes or so) then top with Maple Pumpkin Ale Frosting (recipe below!)
FOR THE MAPLE FROSTING (MAKE THIS ONCE PUMPKIN CUPCAKES HAVE COOLED):
- In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the melted butter, pumpkin ale (optional), and maple extract.
- Stir in the powdered sugar and a pinch of salt. The sugar will quickly absorb the liquid and will begin to clump – this is what you want!
- Add hot water (I heat it in my electric tea kettle – the hot water will help keep the butter nice and melty so you can stir everything together) a Tablespoon at a time, stirring in between each addition, until frosting reaches a fudge-like consistency. If you add a little too much water, don’t worry – just add a bit more powdered sugar to even it out. The frosting will thicken as it cools, so it’s best to work quickly here.
- Spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes. To make the swirls like you see in these photos, spoon a dollop of frosting onto your cupcake and use the back of a spoon to gently swirl it into shape, applying more pressure at the center to create an indent. We also topped these cupcakes with some extra cupcake we crumbled up.
To melt coconut oil into its liquid form, scoop ¼ cup of solid, room-temperature coconut oil into a microwave-safe glass measuring cup, then microwave for 15-20 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until it’s in its liquid form. Give it a stir and then check the measurement – you may need to add a little more coconut oil or pour a bit out to bring the liquid to the correct amount. Melted butter and liquid coconut oil can be used interchangeably in this recipe – use what you have on hand! We’ve used unrefined virgin coconut oil from 365/Whole Foods, Nutiva, and Carrington Farms and like them all.
Use a pumpkin beer that you enjoy drinking! We’ve been baking these with a Southern Tier Pumking lately. Something deep and rich will lend the most flavor to these cupcakes. If you’d like to omit the beer, you can certainly leave it out and make some adjustments like increasing coconut oil and reducing flour, but the texture will vary and they may not taste as good – so if you’re looking for plain pumpkin cupcakes, I recommend checking out some of the great beer-free recipes available online!
No pumpkin beer available? We’ve had great luck making these pumpkin cupcakes with Sam Adams Boston Lager! The final flavor is VERY similar (and just as delicious!)
If your frosting thickens too quickly, zap it in the microwave for a few seconds or stir in a splash more hot water to bring it back to a spreadable consistency. The frosting will thicken as it cools, resulting in a rich and fudgy topping. These cupcakes are also great with cream cheese frosting or vanilla (or maple!) buttercream.
No maple extract? You can use pure maple syrup instead if you like – it won’t have quite as intense of a maple flavor and will lend quite a bit of sweetness, so you may want to add a bit of extra maple syrup and an extra pinch of salt. You can also add ¼ cup or so of cream cheese to your frosting to help balance out the sweetness if you like – just taste and add more powdered sugar as you need it to get to the right consistency.
Ingredients and Equipment. We used this Cookie Scoop to scoop our batter, a Cake Tester to check for doneness, and our favorite Muffin Tin and Cupcake Liners from Wilton! The flavor and color of Maple Extract will vary by brand – we tend to like this Maple Extract from McCormick or this one at King Arthur Flour.
For directions on storing and freezing cupcakes, make sure to check out Cupcakes 104!
- Calories: 266
Keywords: pumpkin, fall, thanksgiving