Sweet Stuff

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Recently, Betsy had a bake sale at school (yes they still have bake sales in law school) and the options were either A) Nick bakes something or B) Funfetti. Not that I’m dissing on Funfetti… I actually love the stuff, but I figured we might not be the only bake sale participants who thought to bring it.

Given the season, I thought I would make some delicious pumpkin spice cupcakes for Betsy to bring! I topped the pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting because I’m always looking for an excuse to top something in cream cheese frosting. I also threw on some candy corns left over from my cocktail adventures.

I got this recipe from a really good baker I know who has actually contributed to Macheesmo before. The pumpkin cupcakes are simple to make and have a very interesting twist on the normal cupcake recipe: brown butter. The nuttiness of the butter with the pumpkin and spices was a pretty amazing combo.

Yield
20 cupcakes

Just a moment please...

Yum

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Ingredients

Dry Mixture:

340 g. all-purpose flour (2 3/4 cups)
2 Teaspoons cinnamon
2 Teaspoons ground clove
2 Teaspoons nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon baking powder
1 Teaspoon salt

Wet Mixture:

228 g. butter (1 Cup)
500 g. sugar (2 1/2 Cups)
2 Eggs
2 Egg yolks
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (be sure to get the 100% pumpkin puree, not the pumpkin pie filling.)

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 8 ounce package cream cheese
1/2 Cup Butter (1 stick) at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 Cups powdered sugar, sifted

Helpful Equipment

Kitchen Scale muffin panMicroplane zester
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Directions

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together well!

2) To make the brown butter, just put all of the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Let it melt and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. It will foam some and eventually the milk solids will start to brown and even burn a little bit. This takes about 5 minutes maybe.

3) Strain this! If you don’t have a good strainer, you can use a coffee filter.

4) Then pour all the brown butter into a bowl with all of the sugar and cream it together until smooth. It will look like brown sugar and smell amazing.

5) Once cool, add eggs and additional egg yolks to sugar mixture.

6) Add pumpkin puree and finally whisk in dry ingredients in two batches.

7) Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, fill up the cupcake pan! Anytime I’m making cupcakes, I like to use the paper inserts which make for easy transport. Fill the papers about 3/4 of the way full. Don’t fill them all the way to the top or you will have some serious overflow happening.

8) Bake for about 25 minutes in the middle rack of the oven or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

9) Move cupcakes to a wire rack until they are completely cooled. Take them out of the pan after a few minutes and let cool completely (approximately one hour).

10) For frosting, mix butter and cream sugar together using a hand mixer (or whisk) until the mixture is well combined and smooth. Mix it for a few minutes on medium speed until it starts to get light and airy. Then add vanilla and finally sift in powdered sugar, 1 Cup at a time.

11) Once the cupcakes are cooled you can top them which as much frosting as you can handle and decorate accordingly!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

The Dry Stuff

Get all of your dry ingredients ready. I think it’s pretty important to weigh baking ingredients as my cup of flour is going to be slightly different than your cup of flour, but grams are grams no matter what.

The dry goods.

The dry goods.

Basically, just combine all of these ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together well to make sure everything is combined!

The Wet Ingredients

For the future detectives reading, yes, there are three sticks of butter and three eggs and three egg yolks below, but only two of each in the recipe. That’s because I needed about 30 cupcakes, not 20.

The wet goods (plus some dry goods)

The wet goods (plus some dry goods)

Making the brown butter

Most cake recipes require that you cream the butter which involves (normally) using a mixer to beat the crap out of the butter and sugar to make sure that every little grain of sugar is coated in butter.

This recipe uses a different approach though which I immediately fell in love with. You make a brown butter and then pour that over the sugar and stir it up! It adds an awesome level of flavor to the final cake and I think it’s easier than creaming the butter and sugar together, but gives you the same results.

Update: As a few commenters have pointed out, you can’t always substitute brown butter for creaming butter. In this recipe it works well, but it’s a different physical process.

To make the brown butter, just put all of your butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Let it melt and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. It will foam some and eventually the milk solids will start to brown and even burn a little bit. This takes about 5 minutes maybe.

Take it off the heat when it looks like this:

In. Love.

In. Love.

Strain this

You don’t want those little burned bits in your cupcakes, just the lovely browned butter. Straining it is key. If you don’t have a good strainer, you can use a coffee filter!

Then pour all your brown butter into a bowl with all of your sugar and mix it up. It will look like brown sugar and smell amazing.

This one time I made brown sugar.

This one time I made brown sugar.

Finishing the Batter

The hardest part is over! Next, add your eggs and additional egg yolks to your sugar mixture. Then add your pumpkin puree and finally whisk in your dry ingredients in two batches. Don’t over mix the batter. Just make sure all your flour is incorporated well and then stop.

Very delicious. I know because I ate a spoonful of it.

Very delicious. I know because I ate a spoonful of it.

Next, using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, fill up your cupcake pan! Anytime I’m making cupcakes, I like to use the paper inserts which make for easy transport. Fill the papers about 3/4 of the way full. Don’t fill them all the way to the top or you will have some serious overflow happening.

Don't overfill!

Don’t overfill!

Baking the Cupcakes

These need to bake for about 25 minutes in the middle rack of the oven or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. I would check them at 20 – my oven is a bit unreliable I’ve learned.

Look at these beauties!

I made these. You can too.

I made these. You can too.

After these come out, move them to a wire rack until they are completely cooled. Take them out of the pan after a few minutes, but make sure they are not hot or even warm before you frost. I let mine sit for about an hour before even trying to frost them. If they are even slightly warm you run the risk of melting your frosting and melted frosting makes for a very sad cupcake.

Speaking of frosting, let’s make that.

Mix your butter and cream sugar together using a hand mixer (or whisk I guess) until the mixture is well combined and smooth. Mix it for a few minutes on medium speed until it starts to get light and airy. Then add your vanilla and finally sift in your powdered sugar, 1 Cup at a time.

You’ll end up with a very smooth and sturdy frosting!

Heaven.

Heaven.

Once the cupcakes are cooled you can top them which as much frosting as you can handle and decorate accordingly!

Yum!

Yum!

I must brag a little bit (even though it wasn’t my recipe) and say that Betsy reported these guys were the first thing to sell out at the bake sale and they were gone in about 20 minutes! How’s that for market research?!

If you’re looking for a solid dessert to make for a party this weekend and don’t feel like making your own gummy worms, these guys are surefire winners.

12 comments on “Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

  1. Nice touch with the brown butter. I love the looks of these. If my wife did not have a huge aversion to pumpkin, I would be making these tonight! Damn my wife's picky habits!

  2. No need to strain the browned butter. The little browned particles of milk solids will not hurt anything. Your cupcakes are BROWN for crying out loud. They will just add more browned butter flavor.

    Oh, and don't go spreading lies about melted butter and sugar being the same as whipping butter and sugar. Two very different beasts. Butter is a fine emulsion of water, fat, and milk solids. When melted, they all separate. When browned, the water evaporates and you are left with fat and browned milk solids. Adding this to your sugar is similar to whipping the sugar and cold butter, but not the same. Whipping the cold butter introduces tiny air pockets that can help with loft in your recipe. I suppose browning the butter and then cooling it before whipping could get you the best of both worlds. Merely melting butter and adding it to the sugar gives drastically different results. When you do that, you end up with the water from the butter dissolving some of the sugar and actually breaking down the sucrose into glucose and fructose molecules. This can have disastrous results if you are not expecting it — it can cause extra browning if the oven is too hot.

    Anyway. Thanks for the great cream cheese frosting vehicle. I am always on the lookout for a new one.

  3. Vernon beat me to the brown butter adjustment . . . what delicious sounding cupcakes! I’m sure the browned butter (even strained) added a great nuttiness. Love the festive touch w/the candy corn – and happy for you that they were a quick sellout . . . law students need fuel for lugging around all those crazy-heavy casebooks!

  4. @ Vernon and Sarah. Thanks. I’ve always strained it! I’ll try it without that next time. And Vernon, I updated the post to say that you can’t substitute the two methods. For this recipe though, I’ll say that the cupcakes were as light as any I’ve ever had. And they rose nicely also.

  5. So after discussing some more, I think it is correct to strain the brown butter for cupcakes. Otherwise, you’ll have tiny crystals of milk solids in your cupcakes. This means you might occasionally get a CRUNCH in an otherwise fluffy and smooth cupcake.

    For pastas and stuff it’s probably fine not to strain it, but I’m going to stick with straining for baked recipes like this. Personal preference though. It very minimally affects final texture, but nothing else.

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