Tuesday, November 8, 2016

pumpkin cupcakes

Here it is:  a little hope and cupcakes in a crazy time.

I was up early this morning, piping cream cheese frosting on the domes of these perfect little pumpkins before work.  They have just the right blend of fall spices, plenty of pumpkin, and delicate sweetness.  If you eat one before noon, it's hearty enough to call it a muffin and be fine with that.  No crazy ingredients or difficult technique:  just a reliable, delicious cupcake.  Don't you feel better already?

When I set out to make brown butter rice krispie treats and these pumpkin cupcakes for our son's preschool teachers, I was shocked to discover that I have not shared this recipe with you yet.  How can that be?  These tiny cakes have commemorated some wonderful fall occasions in my life, including a post-rehearsal bonfire party the night before my dear friend Alison's wedding on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland.  It's hard to top that.

But I'm feeling festive, and they are delicious, so we are celebrating on a Tuesday.

There's more.  We have another baby on the way.  It's such an adventure and a privilege raising this sweet little toddler boy, and we are so excited to meet his baby brother in January.  What a joy!  I can hardly believe it when I write the words.  I haven't even gotten used to saying "I'm a mom" yet, but I love the job and all the responsibility and fun and laughter and snot and crackers that it carries.  We are, every day, on a journey of discovery and patience and forgiveness and love with these little dudes.

There's even more to celebrate today, too.  It's election day, and I voted for principles I care about in my state and an accomplished and qualified woman to lead our country.   I'm over the fear and the anxiety.  It feels amazing to shatter that glass ceiling.  (Although I freely admit I will be stress eating the cupcake uglies and the extras tonight while the election results roll in.)

I'll spend just another moment to say we really, really love our son's school.  We want to say thank you to this incredible team of women who care for children in a loving, kind, and respectful way.  It's a true community that inspires warm fuzzies in our hearts every single day he is at school.  And friends, I know from (prior) personal experience that daycare can be a total racket, so I don't take any of these gifts for granted.  We love and celebrate this community.  Cupcakes can't fully convey our gratitude, but it's a start and they are yummy.

So today, I choose love and hope and pumpkin cupcakes.  Let's do this.  The recipe follows.

Pumpkin Cupcakes

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup, packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 15-oz can plain pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground all spice (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare muffin tins for 18 cupcakes by lining them with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar.

Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture and whisk until smooth.  (The mixture will be thicker now, so you might want to switch a wooden spoon or spatula before the next step.)

Stir in pumpkin puree just until combined.

Fill each liner about halfway with batter.  Bake until tops spring back when gently touched and a toothpick comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Cool completely before frosting.  (These can also be refrigerated overnight before or after frosting and will keep very well.)

Cream Cheese Frosting 

This is my go-to recipe for cream cheese frosting, borrowed from my recipe for carrot cake.  Admittedly it makes more than you need for this recipe.  You can halve it.  Or eat the rest with a spoon.  Your call.

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature or close
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature or close
1 pound powdered sugar, plus a little extra if needed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup, optional

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter together until fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, stirring to incorporate each addition.  Beat until very light.  You'll notice that it gets gooey after the first couple of additions, then starts to stiffen up when more sugar is added.

Add the vanilla when you are nearly finished.  A little maple syrup to taste is a yummy addition, too!

Keep adding sugar until you reach a substantial but spreadable consistency.

Pipe frosting onto completely cooled cupcakes in big swirls using a ziploc bag with the corner cut off or a pastry decorating bag.  Or, if you prefer, spread a lighter coating onto cupcakes using an offset spatula.

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