Even if the fall weather hasn’t decided to stick around yet, it is time for pumpkins. And spices. And maple cream cheese frosting… then again, when isn’t time for maple cream cheese frosting? If you haven’t tried it yet, go mix some up now, I’ll wait…. right? (pronounced as two syllables like “righ-eet?”). Yep, it is manna from heaven. And I am finding excuses to bake things just to have something to put maple cream cheese frosting on… I made too much when I made the cupcakes so I still have some in the refrigerator. Oh darn.
For decorations, I used those mellowcreme candy pumpkins you can only find this time of year, which is a good thing really, because I can’t eat that much unadulterated sugar very often (I generally prefer my sugar diluted with butter and/or chocolate). But Halloween is a special time. When else do you knock on random people’s doors and expect them to give you candy? As a kid, I would come home from trick or treating with a pillowcase at least half full… for such a shy kid, I had no problem knocking on strangers’ doors when it meant free candy. I can’t remember a Halloween that I did not go to sleep with a stomach aching from mixing Snickers with Now-n-Laters, M&Ms with Starburst, Reese’s with Dum Dums, and chasing it all with a fistful of Pixie sticks (I’d learn later that mixing different alcohols had a similar-but-worse effect on my stomach). Because I was such a candy fiend, I’d be down to the dregs in no time: Smarties, candy corn, various hard candies, and the fake chocolate that tasted like brown wax but not in a good way like Tootsie Rolls… and crashing hard from a multi-day sugar high.
These days I’m less extreme in my candy freakness; partly because a thirtysomething trick-or-treater is not cute and doesn’t get much candy from strangers, and partly because I’ve grown up. A little. I now prefer my sugar in slightly smaller doses with richer, more natural flavors. These cupcakes were just right to put me in the mood for falling leaves and satisfy my sweet tooth.
What is your favorite thing about Fall and/or Halloween? Do you have a favorite trick or treating story?
Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
(adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking)
Tastes like fall.
1 stick (8 tablespoons, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (8 ounces) pumpkin puree (not spiced pumpkin pie filling)
2 cups (7 ounces) sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup (4 ounces) buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper liners (18 cups).
- Beat the butter with the sugar with a mixer on medium-high until very light in color, 4 to 5 minutes (if using a hand mixer, it may take a little longer). Scrape down the bowl with a spatula as you go.
- Beat the eggs and vanilla in a small bowl. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend. Add the pumpkin and blend well.
- Sift together all of the dry ingredients, whisk to blend. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour.
- Fill each liner 3/4 full with batter. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until the tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool the cupcakes. Frost and serve (frosting recipe follows).
- If you’d rather have a cake instead of cupcakes, bake this in a 9 inch round cake pan for about an hour or a 10 inch Bundt pan for about 35 minutes (I haven’t tried either, but the book offers these variations).
- I was out of buttermilk so I “made” some: 1 cup of milk plus 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or cider vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes… use in place of buttermilk. (I saved the other half of a cup in a jar and used it 2 days later for biscuits).
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking)
I found this icing too runny for piping, so you may want to adjust the butter or sugar amounts to get the consistency you want. I used it as is… it tastes so good I wanted to bathe in it.
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (About 3/4 of a block of Philly)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (go for something dark like grade B or C)
about 1 cup confectioners’ (aka powdered or icing) sugar
1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces, finely chopped (optional, for garnish)
- Mix the cream cheese and butter at medium speed until smooth.
- Add the maple syrup and sugar. Mix thoroughly.
- Scrape down the bowl and blend again briefly.