San Diego’s vibrant beer culture is so pervasive that it seems like a perfectly natural place for a bakery like Pubcakes — where you can get cupcakes made with beer. The combination may at first seem strange, but after sampling several different flavors, I can confidently say that not only does the combination of beer and cake work, it’s magical.
The five flavors we sampled were (clockwise, from top): one of the newest cupcake creations, a ManzaNeed It! (with Manzanita’s Gillespie Brown Ale, black pepper, and Nutella buttercream), Irish Carbomb (a deep chocolate cupcake topped with Guinness and chocolate whiskey ganache), Top Ten Cake (with Karl Strauss IPA and sweet and spicy cherry frosting), Stoned Portzilla (made with Stone Smoked Porter, a coffee ganache, and caramelized coconut), and Cup ‘O Hefen (with Ballast Point Wahoo Wheat and a citrusy icing).
First up, the minis: the Stoned Portzilla, Irish Carbomb, and ManzaNeed It! were all winners. Each cupcake had an exceptionally moist base with frosting that was sweet, but not too deadly. The Stoned Portzilla was my favorite of all the minis (and overall). The crunchy coconut top, making it similar to a German chocolate cake with a sweet, mocha kick. The coconut had a tasty texture, and overall, the cupcake had the right balance of sweetness. The Irish Carbomb had the strongest boozy flavor, because the stout is right there in the icing (as opposed to most of the cupcakes, which have beer in the cake itself). This deep, rich, and chocolatey cake tasted like the lovechild of a rich, devil’s food cake and a Hostess cupcake. The idea of black pepper in the ManzaNeed It! initially threw me off, but in reality, it was very subtle, and overpowered by a delicious nutty chocolate frosting.
As if three mini cupcakes weren’t enough, I also snagged some regular-sized day olds (equally as good as the fresh-baked). What stood out most about the Top Ten Cake and the Cup ‘O Hefen was the frosting. The Top Ten Cake had a cherry buttercream frosting with a dusting of cayenne pepper and ancho chilies. The pepper gave the frosting a spicy smell, but as far as taste goes, it was sweet all the way. Refreshing citrus flavors dominated the Cup ‘O Hefen, which was topped with a citrus frosting ith coriander powder and orange zest. This was the most refreshing cupcake, but I’m not sure I’d order it again.
What struck me most about all of the cupcakes, is that even though they’re all made with beer, they don’t taste like beer. It’s more like the flavors are inspired by the beer they’re made with, so even if you don’t like beer, you’ll still love these cupcakes.
Tips to get your cake for less dough: Pubcakes has a cupcake happy hour every day during their last hour of operation, where all cupcakes are buy one, get one free. Two of the cupcakes I tried were discounted day-olds, which were just as good as new! If you check in on Yelp, you can also get a free mini.
7229 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115