I know I know, the frosting in the above photo looks like it was done by a kid. The truth of the matter is that it was done by yours truly. Oh wells, what can I say except that it was my first frosting attempt. One of my good friends bought me frosting tips from Japan in June this year (she knows me well!), and I put it to use only some six months later. *hangs head in shame*
Ok that’s enough about me. Let’s get on with the cake! This is a smittenkitchen.com recipe, which I followed almost to a T, except for omitting a couple of the spices which I have listed below.
As usual, gather all your ingredients (for the cakes) first. This is such an essential step, because it makes the rest of the baking process a breeze. Proof: I was able to bake these cupcakes in less than an hour, including prep time. To save bowls, I measured all the dry ingredients directly into a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Throw the butter and sugars into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and let it beat at medium speed for about 5 minutes. Panic a little when your mixer turns noisier than usual, but calm down when you realize the mixer is just doing its job. While the mixer is doing its job, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Because the weather here in Singapore is hot and humid, I am always afraid that certain foods might go bad quickly if left out too long. Which is why I gather all my dry ingredients first, set the bowl aside, beat the butter and sugars and while the mixer is working, gather the rest of the wet ingredients.
Add eggs to the butter-sugar mixture, then the flour mixture and buttermilk and vanilla alternately, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Add the pumpkin last and beat until well combined. And that’s it! Easy right? Try not to lick the batter, because you need to make sure you get 17 to 18 cupcakes as stated in the recipe. At this stage, I preheat the oven, then line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and divide the batter equally.
While the first batch of cupcakes were baking, I got ready to make the heavenly maple cream cheese frosting (I used up the last of my beloved pure maple syrup, *sobs*). It was fun to see the amazing whisk attachment of my KitchenAid effortlessly whip up the cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar into this dreamy frosting. If you’re not tempted to lick this straight from the bowl/whisk/spatula/spoon/your fingers, we probably aren’t/can’t be friends.
Get ready to frost!
Regardless of how prettily domed your cupcakes are, trust me when I say that people will be drawn to these cupcakes like bees to honey. They will be devoured quicker than you took to assemble the cakes. The cupcakes are flavorful with just the right amount of spices (not overwhelming), light and so moist that the frosting is a bonus, an indisputably delicious bonus. I gave away some to one of my neighbours because I think these are best enjoyed fresh, and 19 cupcakes (somehow I ended up getting 19 cupcakes) would take forever to be consumed in my household, unless I ate all of them, which is impossible, even if I wish it wasn’t.
I felt that this recipe was a breeze despite the relatively long list of ingredients, plus I had fun with the frosting though I’m not very skilled at it, at least not yet. I think these cupcakes will make perfect hostess gifts, or as a simple celebration cake when baked as a two-layer cake (the original recipe which Deb adapted from was for a two-layer cake).
I’m not sure whether it was my frosting skills or if Deb provided extra frosting in her recipe (because people will complain only if there is too little frosting), but I had quite a bit of frosting leftover. While we can eat it by the spoonful (which my sister happily volunteered to do), I think I would rather bake up something that will complement this frosting well. Do check this space in the coming week!
Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Notes: I added 1/2 cup granulated sugar by mistake, but I didn’t think the cake was too sweet, so perhaps you may add 1/2 cup instead of 1/3 cup if you prefer your desserts on the sweet(er) side. I also omitted the ground ginger, ground cloves and freshly ground black pepper, primarily because I didn’t have these ingredients on hand, but also because I was wary of a too-spicy cake. Especially black pepper. Granted, it’s only 1/4 tsp, so its flavour is unlikely to be pronounced. In any case, despite these omissions, I didn’t think my cupcakes lacked flavour, so don’t shy away from making these if you too don’t have these spices on hand! And as mentioned above, Deb adapted this from a recipe which made this as two-layer cake, so this will make a nice celebration cake as well.
Ingredients for cupcakes
113 g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
Ingredients for Frosting
Two 250-g packages cream cheese, softened
113 g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’/icing sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Directions for cupcakes
1. Sift the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt and pepper – into a medium-sized bowl. Alternatively, you can measure the ingredients into the bowl and give them a good whisk to aerate the mixture, which achieves a similar effect to sifting.
2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. In the meantime, gather the rest of the ingredients – eggs, buttermilk and canned pumpkin.
3. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk mixtures, beginning and ending with flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth.
4. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Line a muffin or cupcake pan with liners.
5. Spoon the batter among the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.
Directions for frosting
1. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, mix all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. The paddle attachment would probably work fine as well, but I feel the whisk attachment is excellent if you wish to achieve fluffy frostings.
2. Attach your preferred frosting tip to a ziplock bag or a frosting bag and fill it half full with the prepared frosting. Squeeze out the extra air and seal. You are now ready to frost and decorate your cupcakes to your heart’s desire. I found this website helpful for my first frosting attempt: http://www.eatliverun.com/how-to-frost-cupcakes-like-a-pastry-queen/