Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cinnamon Caramel Buttercream

I’m still not tired of pumpkin. As more leaves turn gold and red my craving for pumpkin just seems to increase. When trying to come up with a treat to give away, I kept coming back to pumpkin flavors. I decided to try our favorite pumpkin cake as cupcakes—and I was thrilled with the result. I didn’t actually taste one—I ended up giving them all away—but they baked beautifully and were shaped perfectly for topping with a swirl of buttercream. These cupcakes would also be great topped with cream cheese frosting if you’d prefer to go that route. However, I’m becoming more and more of a fan of Swiss-meringue style buttercream. At first I didn’t think it was sweet enough. Now, though, I enjoy the silky smooth texture and delicate flavor. With this version, if you want it sweeter just add more caramel. You can also add a pinch of salt to the sugar in the first step if you’d like. I prefer this type of buttercream served at room temperature—it tends to be too hard to enjoy when refrigerated. I just remove the cake from the fridge before dinner so the buttercream is softened by dessert time.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes:

3 cups (12 ¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup (7 ½ ounces) packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup (8 ounces) water
1 scant cup (8 ounces) canned pumpkin
2/3 cup (4 5/8 ounces) vegetable oil
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare muffin tins by lining with cupcake liners (this recipe should yield 24 cupcakes—I doubled it and got 48 cupcakes).

In a medium bowl combine the flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice; set aside. In a small bowl whisk together the water, pumpkin, oil, and vinegar. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until the flour is well incorporated (about 2 minutes), scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Do not overbeat. The batter should look thick and creamy. Scoop the batter into the muffin tins. Bake for 16 to 24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack; let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from tins to cooling rack. Let cool to room temperature. You may refrigerate these if desired and frost them the next day.

Cinnamon-Caramel Buttercream

1 cup sugar
8 large egg whites
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 - 3 tablespoons Torani caramel-flavored syrup (the clear stuff—you’ll find it by the coffee supplies in the grocery store)
½ cup Torani caramel topping (or use ice cream topping—the caramelly-looking stuff—if using Torani brand it will be by the coffee supplies)—add more or less to taste

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter until pale and fluffy; add cinnamon and beat well. In the heatproof bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine 1 cup sugar and the egg whites. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water; whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).

Attach bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, mix until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue whisking until egg mixture is fluffy and glossy and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low. Add beaten butter, about 1/4-cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and caramel flavoring.

With mixer on medium-low speed, very slowly pour in caramel; beat about 5 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed, until caramel is fully incorporated. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

Recipe source: Pumpkin Spice Cake adapted from King Arthur Flour Baking Sheet, Buttercream heavily adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcake book


  1. This looks so good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I ssssssssssssssoooooooooooooo want to try it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!

  2. So, I don't know what I did wrong, but my frosting turned out nothing like your picture, Valerie. It was pretty disgusting looking. Oh, well.