Cream Cheese, Cupcakes, Frosting, Pecans, Pumpkin

Fall Harder Than You’ve Ever Falled Before

It’s been pumpkin season for a couple months now, and here is my contribution to the litany of pumpkin recipes and ideas out there. This is a recipe that combines two pumpkin treats in one: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin Cheesecake Frosting!

Pumpkin Cupcakes

yield: about 16 cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 7.5 oz pumpkin purée, plus two tbsp for the frosting
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two muffin tins with a total of 16 liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the egg, vanilla, pumpkin puree, and buttermilk. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, olive oil, and brown sugar at medium speed for 3-5 minutes. Add the dry goods alternately with the wet in a 3:2 ratio, beginning and ending with the dry goods. Scrape down the bowl as necessary while mixing, and give it a good fold or two after you’ve incorporated the last of the flour.

Fill the cupcake cups 2/3 full with batter and bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tbsp reserved pumpkin puree*
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 oz cream cheese

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and confectioner’s sugar until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes at medium speed. Add in the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Mix to combine. With the mixer running at medium speed, add in the cream cheese a bit at a time until incorporated. Mix thoroughly on medium speed until there are no visible cream cheese lumps. Adding an extra tablespoon or two of confectioner’s sugar can help this process along.

Dust with cinnamon or top with the following graham cracker crumble

Graham Cracker Crumble

  • 3/4 cup graham cracker flour (made from 4-5 whole graham crackers)
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment

Whisk together the graham flour, brown sugar, and salt. Pour the melted butter over the flour and mix with a fork until the the crumbs are moist. Pour mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, pressing together like you would for a pie crust.

Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes until just beginning to brown. Remove and allow to cool completely before breaking up into pieces. This can be made up to 3 days in advance; keep it covered at room temperature.

*You will use about 3/4 of a 15oz can of pumpkin puree in this recipe, so what can you do with the remainder? Personally, I enjoy pumpkin in my oatmeal or swirled into my yogurt!

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Cake, Candy, Carrot Cake, Cream Cheese, Cupcakes, Pecans

21 – Carrot Gold

This updated classic spice cake features cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger to play off the natural sweetness of carrots. Each cupcake is  plump with cream cheese frosting and topped with cinnamon-roasted pecans

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Carrot cake is a classic confection, and everyone has their preferred recipe: some involve raisins or pecans or pineapple, and the spices used in the cake can vary wildly as well.

My recipe is set apart by its spice mixture: cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger are the backdrop against which sweet orange carrots are set.  I could add raisins or orange zest to the cupcakes, but I wanted them to stand on the sweet flavor of the eponymous carrots.

Cream Cheese frosting is a prerequisite, and I enjoy adorning the cupcakes with chopped candied pecans to add a nutty crunch while keeping distance from that cousin of carrot cake, the fruitcake.


Cinnamon Roasted Pecans yield: 1 cup roasted pecans

  • 1 cup pecans, halved
  • 1/2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Toss chopped pecans with butter to evenly coat. Toss with sugar mixture. Spread evenly over parchment. Bake until slightly darkened in color and fragrant, about 15 minutes.

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21-Carrot Cupcakes yield: a frustratingly uneven 21 cupcakes

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1 six-ounce container vanilla yogurt (not greek)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup darkbrown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 medium carrots, 8 ounces or about 2 cups finely shredded

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two muffin tins with 21 cupcake liners. Set aside.

Grate the carrots on the smallest teeth of your box grater. The result should measure 8 ounces in weight or about 2 cups of very loosely packed grated carrot. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.

In another large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, butter, and both sugars to combine. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add the dry ingredients all at once to the wet and whisk to combine. With a silicone spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the grated carrots. Divide the batter among the muffin tins, about 1/4 cup per cupcake. Bake in the preheated oven for 16-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool in their pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.IMG_20160530_141727


Cream Cheese Frosting yield: about 4 cups of frosting*

  • 12 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 12oz cream cheese

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until lightened in color, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Add the vanilla and salt to combine. Add in all of the confectioner’s sugar and mix on low until combined, then increase speed to medium and cream for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.

With the mixer on medium, gradually add in the cream cheese. I use a butter knife and cut it in about 2oz at a time. Cream together for an additional 30 secs. You can frost cupcakes immediately or store the frosting in the refrigerator for later use.

*This is the same cream cheese frosting I use in most of my other recipes with the amounts adjusted, so as a recipe it multiplies and divides very easily in a 4:4:1 ratio – 4 tbsp of butter, 4oz cream cheese, 1 cup confectioner’s sugar.

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Cake, Cream Cheese, Cupcakes, Red Velvet

The Scourge of Red Velvet

The crunchy, sweet crumble; the tangy cream cheese frosting; the moist and tender red velvet cake: these are cupcakes that make me question my hatred of Red Velvet.

As someone who spends much of his baking time focusing on cupcakes, I keep coming up to the unnatural red brick wall that is Red Velvet. It’s hard for me to get behind a treat whose distinguishing ingredient is food dye.

However, I’ve learned that this is a battle not worth fighting. The popularity of Red Velvet makes it a requirement for most any baker, and here you will find a recipe that produces a deep red color and a tender crumb. For the topping, I decided to play off the idea of torn up red velvet cake (which seems to be a common way to decorate the cake): I make a Red Velvet Cake Crumble.

Classic Cream Cheese Frosting is the only way to top this cupcake (and this may be the best cream cheese frosting ever). It frosts beautifully and is perfectly tangy against the sweet tender cake and crunchy crumble.

So buckle up, kiddos, and get ready to have red fingers and tongues.


Red Velvet Cake Crumble yield: far too much for a dozen cupcakes, so feel free to snack on it all you like because you’re an adult and this is your life now.

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp red food coloring
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the butter, food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla until the cocoa is dissolved. Using a silicone spatula, stream in the liquid over the dry and fold together until mostly dry crumbs form. Spread crumbs out over baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. About halfway through, use a spatula to stir the crumbs around to ensure even baking. Remove from oven and let cool completely on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container. Cake Crumble can be made a few days in advance.

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Red Velvet Cupcakes yield: about 1 dozen cupcakes or about enough to make your dishwater red with food dye

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tbsp red food coloring
  • 6 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line one muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl – or a mason jar works well too – mix together the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and egg. In a small bowl, combine the food coloring and cocoa to make a paste.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes on medium-high speed. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture in a 3:2 ratio, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl and add in the red, cocoa paste, mixing until thoroughly incorporated, about 30 seconds. Divide the batter among the cupcake tin, about 1/4 cup batter per cupcake. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool in their pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Cream Cheese Frosting yield: 3 cups of frosting

  • 8 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 8oz cream cheese

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until light in color, about 2 minutes. Add in the vanilla and salt, mixing to combine. Add in all of the confectioner’s sugar, and begin mixing on low speed. Increase speed to medium and cream for an additional 2 minutes.

With the mixer on medium, add in the cream cheese about 2 oz at a time, waiting a few seconds between additions to allow the cream cheese to incorporate. Cream for an additional 30 seconds after the final bit of cream cheese has been added. You can frost the cooled cupcakes immediately or refrigerate for later use.

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