Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Every October as kids, we loved to go pumpkin picking and buy fresh pumpkins. Our grandmother would take the pumpkin flesh and bake it in the oven with a little cinnamon and sugar, and then we’d stick it in the blender, puree it, and use it for baking. We’d bake pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, and pumpkin pie, and we would also roast the pumpkin seeds in the oven. Really, she used every single part of that pumpkin! The thing we loved the most was our grandmother’s pumpkin cake. It was more of a cake-bread hybrid: very dense and savory yet sweet. It smelled amazing coming out of the oven. We would sometimes just eat it without any icing, hot from the oven. We’d burn our tongues because we wouldn’t even wait for it to cool!


Makes 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée (homemade preferred, but you can also use canned purée)

2 tablespoons honey

1/3 cup hot water

For the maple cream-cheese frosting:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

For the decoration:

Small package of white fondant (available at most craft or baking supply stores); brown, red, and yellow food color; gold and brown edible luster dust (optional, available at most craft or baking supply stores)

  1. For the cupcakes:

    Step 1

    Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two standard cupcake pans with twelve paper baking cups each, or grease pans with butter if not using baking cups.

    Step 2

    Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt on a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper and set aside.

    Step 3

    Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a bowl with a handheld electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until fluffy. Stop to add the sugar; then beat on medium speed until well incorporated.

    Step 4

    Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slowly after each addition. Mix in the pumpkin puree and honey. Reduce the speed to low. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then gradually add one third of the hot water, beating until well incorporated. Add another third of the flour mixture, followed by one third of the hot water. Stop to scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining hot water, and mix slowly until just combined. Take care not to overmix the batter so the cupcakes will bake up light and fluffy.

    Step 5

    Use a standard-size ice-cream scoop to fill each baking cup with batter, so the wells are two-thirds full. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (start checking at 20 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

  2. For the frosting:

    Step 6

    Place all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until well combined. Be sure to beat on high speed for at least two minutes at the end to ensure that the frosting is light and fluffy.

  3. For the decoration:

    Step 7

    Line up cooled cupcakes on a sheet of wax paper. Transfer the maple cream-cheese frosting into a plastic piping bag fitted with a large round metal tip (or piping tip of your choice). Apply a signature swirl.

    Step 8

    Break white fondant into three equal pieces. Add a small drop of red food color to one piece of fondant, a small drop of yellow food color to the second piece of fondant, and a small drop of brown food color to the third piece of fondant. Using your hands, knead the color into each piece of fondant so the color is uniform throughout. If you’d like the colors to be darker or more intense, add more food color and repeat. Then, starting with one piece of fondant, use a rolling pin to roll the fondant out to a thin sheet. Dust with edible luster dust (optional). Using a mini leaf cookie cutter, cut out leaf shapes and place on top of each cupcake.

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