Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

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Pumpkin... it's an ingredient you'll see in almost every type of dish in the month of October. Thank goodness this year there wasn't that much of a shortage like we experienced last year. Since I was on a fall-flavored cupcake kick with the recent catering order I had, it's no surprise pumpkin was going to be used somehow. These Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes were made using a spice cake recipe that I adapted and it really carried the pumpkin flavor well...


So this is the last cupcake recipe from the Fall Cupcake Tower I made this past weekend. Pumpkin pie filling was used to transform this spice cake recipe into a pumpkin cake recipe. I thought the pumpkin added some additional moisture, resulting a much more tender crumb, which was perfect for a cupcake.

For the frosting, I used a simple Vanilla Bean Buttercream out of convenience since I had 3 other cupcake flavors to frost using the same flavor as well. However for the frosting I made, I decided against working with a vanilla bean as called for in the original recipe. Instead, I used one of my favorite vanilla bean shortcuts, which is to use vanilla paste. It's a vanilla product combining the seeds of the bean with a thick, intense vanilla extract. I like the convenience of this product and I get the same flavor with specks of vanilla too. You can find vanilla paste online and at other gourmet retail shops. My preferred brand is made by Neilsen Massey. Because I wanted the pumpkin cake to really shine, I didn't add any additional toppings aside from the frosting itself. These were perfect just as they were!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (11 1/4 ounces)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
3 large egg yolks at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
1 cup pumpkin pie filling
2 tablespoons light molasses or mild molasses
1 cup buttermilk , at room temperature


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers. Combine spices in small bowl.

Heat 4 tablespoons butter in 8-inch skillet over medium heat until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly, until butter is light brown and has faint nutty aroma, 2 to 4 minutes. Add spices and continue to cook, stirring constantly, 15 seconds. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. In small bowl, gently whisk eggs, yolks, and vanilla to combine. In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream remaining 12 tablespoons butter with sugar, pumpkin pie filling, and molasses at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl twice with rubber spatula. Reduce to medium speed and add cooled butter and spice mixture, ginger, and half of egg mixture; mix until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with remaining egg mixture; scrape down bowl again. Reduce to low speed; add about one-third flour mixture, followed by half of buttermilk, mixing until just incorporated after each addition, about 5 seconds. Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk. Scrape bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.


Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting
recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated

2½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar (10 ounces)
Pinch salt
2 Tablespoons heavy cream or half & half


In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add the vanilla paste into butter and beat mixture at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds.

Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully incorporated, about 30 seconds; scrape bowl, add heavy cream or half & half, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 20 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

Using a star tip with a pastry bag, pipe the frosting onto the cupcake.

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