I have a bun in the oven. Well, it's more like a cupcake.... OK! It's like half-a-freakin'-dozen pumpkin cupcakes! Don't judge me - it wasn't planned! At first, it was just the one. But then, there was another one. And... well, I don't know what happened after that. Things got blurry, I lost count... and now I have a pumpkin baby. You would have done the same thing if you were there.
I was looking for a festive recipe for this Thanksgiving, and what's more apropos than Pumpkin Cupcakes? Even with all of the cake flour called for, I half expected these to be a little dense from past experience. Fortunately I was wrong. This cake was airy and light, and the frosting - well, let's just say it took all my will power not to intercept the frosting on its' way from the mixing bowl to the intended targets. This is a serious pumpkin pie experience in your mouth. I just might have had a transcendent experience (this seems to be a reoccurring theme). I've been disenchanted by pumpkin pie in the past (think: mountain of mass produced pumkin pies at Costco) and hadn't had it in some time. It's just sooo "been there done that". However, this really took me back. This took me back to when my little sister was born, two days before Thanksgiving, over 20 years ago. It took me back to sitting on my mom's hospital bed in the Recovery wing of Labor & Delivery, when she was served her dinner with pumpkin pie. She let me eat her pie and it was really, really good. Maybe because I was a kid. Maybe because I just got a brand new baby sister.
Makes about 18 cupcakes
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla*
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting*
Once (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Making the cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350° and Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.
2. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Set aside
3. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after the last addition. Add the milk mixture and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix on slow speed until combined. Beat in the pumpkin until combined. Distribute the batter between the cupcake liners - they will be about 3/4 full (using a mechanical ice cream scooper helps). Drop the pans from about 2-3 inches in the air onto the counter to release air bubbles and even out batter. Bake about 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
*I never have buttermilk, so I substituted with 1/2 tbsp vinegar and milk brought to 1/2 cup.
Making the frosting:
(Also see: The One: Swiss Meringue Buttercream)
1. Mix sugar and egg whites in bowl of stand mixer over simmering water until sugar is dissolved (170° F)
2. Continue to beat on the stand mixer, medium to high, to stiff peaks and bottom of bowl is cool to touch. Add softened butter 2 tbsp at a time until combined.
3. Add cream cheese, 2 oz at a time, and beat until combined.
4. Add maple syrup and beat until combined.
5. Frost cupcakes as desired.
** For a lighter version (read: so you can eat more of it), whip up 1 1/4 cups heavy cream with 2tbsp sugar and 1/8 cup maple syrup.
Cupcake recipe (barely) adapted from Smitten Kitchen