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!

Bourbon, Cake, Cupcakes, Pecans, Vanilla

Somedays You Just Need a Win… (Bourbon Baller Cupcakes)

I’ve had some baking failures recently, and those are just no fun to post about: miniature blueberry pies came out with a perfect crust and a charred, congealed filling like dark candle wax; cookies spread; cakes fell; crops died; Trump became president; the world ended.

Okay maybe not all that, but definitely the first and second things. And sadly one of the last ones too.

And so I find myself wanting to bake something I know I can do well; I need a win to rebuild my confidence. And what is confidence in a bottle?


Bourbon can help anyone rebuild their confidence with a few quick swigs! I present to you, dear reader, Bourbon Baller Cupcakes, adapted from and embellished upon this delicious Whiskey Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake recipe I came across over at the New York Times. This recipe requires Mise-en-place: for everything to be in it’s place before you start creaming and baking.


Bourbon Baller Cupcakes

yield: 28-30 cupcakes

  • 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • ¼ cup instant espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • boiling water
  • 1 cup bourbon, Four Roses Yellow Label is my preference
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two muffin tins with liners. Personally, I made 24 cupcakes and a dozen miniature cupcakes with this recipe. In the top of a double boiler, melt the unsweetened chocolate. Set aside to cool.

In a 2-cup or larger glass measuring cup, combine the espresso and cocoa powders. Add enough boiling water to reach the 1-cup mark and stir to dissolve the powders. Add the bourbon. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract and melted chocolate.

On low speed, beat in a third of the cocoa-bourbon mixture. Then mix in half of the flour mixture, a third of the bourbon, the rest of the flour, and the last third of the bourbon mixture. Mix well after each addition, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Despite the liquid content, the batter will not be thin.

Divide batter among muffin tins and bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.


Toasted Pecans

  • 1 cup chopped pecan
  • 24 pecans halves

Spread the chopped pecans on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake t 350 degrees for abut 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool. Can be made in advance (or while the oven is preheating for the cupcakes).

Chocolate Ganache

  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp bourbon

Chop the chocolate. Add the bourbon. Heat the cream in a microwave-safe measuring cup until it begins to just bubble around the sides. Pour over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for one minute before stirring to melt. If there are unmelted bits of chocolate, heat in the microwave for 5-10 second intervals until melted.

Dip the tops of the cupcakes into melted chocolate. Sprinkle chopped pecans over the wet ganache. Let sit until the chocolate firms up a bit.

Vanilla-Bourbon Buttercream

  • 1  cup butter
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tbsp bourbon
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • Cream as needed

Cream butter until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes on medium speed in an electric mixer. Add 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, bourbon, and vanilla. Cream until combined. Add 1 tbsp cream and bourbon to taste. The frosting may look thin or even broken. Add remaining confectioner’s sugar until desired texture and sweetness is reached.

Pipe frosting over solid chocolate ganache and pecans. Top each cupcake with a pecan half.



Bourbon, Pecans, Pie

Miniature Pecan Pies

The experiment: Miniature Pecan Pies

The pie dough: much like me, it’s filled with vodka, recipe found on my last post.

The filling: pecan pie filling made with bourbon and browned butter.

  • 4-5oz pecans (about 1 1/2 cups halved pecans, or 1 cup chopped)
  • 6 tbsp butter, browned
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans out on a baking sheet. Bake pecans until lightly browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to over-bake them as they can burn quickly. Once cool, chop with a knife. I like finely chopped, but not completely pulverized, pecans, so I prefer to run my knife through them rather than use a food processor.


While the pecans cool, prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by spraying with cooking spray. Roll out pie dough to 1/4 in thickness. Cut rounds using a 4-inch cookie cutter. Place the dough rounds into the muffin cups and press the dough up the sides. One single pie dough was the perfect amount for all twelve cups.

In a large bowl, whisk the browned butter, both sugars, salt, and corn syrup. Add in the eggs, whisking to combine until the mixture is homogeneous.

Measure out a heaping tablespoon of the chopped pecans and place in the pie dough-lined cups. Top with the filling until it reaches about 3/4 of the way up the sides.


Bake the miniature pies in the preheated 350 degree oven for about 22-25 minutes until the filling is puffed and the edges of the crust are lightly browned. Remove from the oven. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing pies to a cooling rack to cool completely.


The result: Unfortunately, the bourbon/browned butter didn’t stand up to the sweetness of the filling. They were certainly tasty, but I’d like to try cutting back on the sugar/corn syrup to allow some of those warm flavors to come through.

I had filling left over, but a single pie crust worked perfectly for 12 miniature pies. So for next time: two crusts, two cups of pecans, and one recipe of the filling = 24 miniature pies

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


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.


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.