Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hellooo Fall! (Irresistible Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes)

My friend C's birthday is in just a few days. Never one to miss a chance to bake, I offered her a dozen cupcakes in any flavor she wanted. Now had I been in her shoes I would've thrown out something crazy...like passionfruit mousse cupcakes with macarons on top! But C is apparently too sweet to do that. Well actually...she can be pretty hilariously snarky when she wants to be. So the truth is just that C really really loves pumpkin cake and asked me for exactly that. Too easy, right?

Pumpkin Cupcakes for Christin's Birthday
Well actually...there's no such thing as too easy when the results taste this fantastic! I immediately turned to Tartelette's delicious spiced pumpkin cupcake recipe, which I'd tried and loved before. It's got just the right amount of cinnamon and other fall spices to make me want the leaves to hurry up and reveal their glorious colors. I topped off these autumn beauties with generous swirls of my signature not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting. Happy (almost) Birthday, C!

Isn't fall baking just great? I want to hear all about what you can't wait to bake in the coming months! And my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, feel free to share your favorite spring treats, too!

P.S. - Since I've talked about the importance of analyzing your work and having others critique it, I'm going to share my thoughts about the above photo. My hope with the background and tray was to add additional texture and layers to the photo. Plus their cooler tones were meant to tone down the warmer orange of the pumpkin. An issue I had with this shoot was with trying to even out the lighting. Even in the final photo, the light coming from my window to the right is too strong. So the frosting of the bottom-most cupcake ended up a bit bright. To prevent this, I should have reflected more light from the left and/or used a black board to reduce the light from the window. Agree with me? Disagree? I'd love to hear it!


Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes [Printable Recipe]
Cake slightly adapted from Tartelette
Makes 12 to 14 cupcakes

XIAOLU'S NOTES: I always use canned pumpkin for my baking due to its smooth texture and consistent thickness. If you really want to use a homemade puree, I recommend you drain it using cheesecloth or a coffee filter to ensure that it doesn't add too much liquid to the batter. This frosting recipe makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes fairly generously. If you prefer a thin layer of frosting, feel free to scale the recipe down by 1/3 or even 1/2.

1 cup PLUS 2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 scant cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree [1/2 of a 15 oz. can]
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup PLUS 2 Tbsp sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature

Pipeable and Not-too-sweet Cream Cheese Frosting (Recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the top of a standard 12-cup muffin pan (in case you get some “muffin top” action). Line pan with 12 baking liners. Sift the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk to combine pumpkin, milk, and vanilla; set aside also.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high, cream butter and sugar together until light in color and fluffy. Turn mixer down to low, and add egg and yolk. Beat well to combine. Next, add 1/3 the flour mixture, then 1/2 the pumpkin mixture, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining pumpkin mixture, and the last 1/3 of the flour mixture, mixing to combine after each addition. Fill baking liners about 3/4 full (I always use my large cookie scoop for this). If you've filled all 12 baking liners and still have more batter, you can fill standalone baking cups 1/2 full with batter. Bake 20 to 27 minutes OR until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (a few tiny crumbs are OK but there should be NO wet batter). Cool 3 minutes in pan, then remove from pans to wire racks to finish cooling completely. Pipe or spread on cream cheese frosting, and enjoy!

Pipeable and Not-too-sweet Cream Cheese Frosting
3/4 to 1 cup (1 1/2 to 2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 to 3 cups (6.5 to 13.25 oz.) powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 oz. (1 block) cream cheese, cold and cut into 6 to 8 chunks

Sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. In a larger mixing bowl, cream the butter, salt, 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, and vanilla until thoroughly blended and fluffy. Add the cream cheese, a chunk at a time, beating after each addition (just enough to work it in until it’s smooth). Taste the frosting, adding and beating in more sugar as needed. Be careful to avoid overbeating or the cream cheese may start to break down and become gloppy. If not using immediately, chill until needed, then beat again until smooth just before using.

This recipe has been submitted to Happy Post Pumpkin Recipes over at Family Fresh Cooking.

78 comments:

  1. I love it. They look gorgeous. Usually I'm not a cupcake person, but your description makes so irresistible. I want to make it :D

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  2. They look divine and I love all the spices used!

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  3. Yay! Fall is hereeeee!! These look delicious especially that cream cheese frosting, great combo.

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  4. They look so pretty and tempting! Sometimes, simplicity is better...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  5. Yippee for fall and pumpkins! These sound deeelicious!

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  6. Awesome picture, and a gentle reminder that cold weather is coming.

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  7. Love the simplicity of these cupcakes and your have a perfect swirl on them, amazing! Love the styling, but that's obvious! Welcome Fall! I cannot wait to: bake an apple pie, while simmering chili on the stove, having cider and watching football!! #falllover

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  8. I love it, fall is coming and I'm seeing more and more spicy, pumpkinny recipes, cant wait for more!
    Thanks for sharing..

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  9. Sometimes the classic recipes or simple recipes are the tastiest! But you always make them look fantastic and gourmet! I bet she loved them.

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  10. it's never too early for pumpkin desserts in my opinion...or not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting (my favorite kind!). I could totally see myself requesting these for my birthday!

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  11. what a great way to usher fall with these adorable cupcakes :)

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  12. i love pumpkin cupcakes! these are beautifully decorated!

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  13. Cinnamon and pumpkin are match made in heaven...and am sure the cupcakes would have been no less than a heavenly treat, Xiaolu!

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  14. I loves pumpkin!
    good looking cup cake! ;)

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  15. Sometimes the simplest flavors are the best! :) Beautiful photo, as always!

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  16. Gorgeous-Irresistible-Cute Cupcakes! Love the flavor :)

    Hugs,

    Aldy.

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  17. These cupcakes look so great! I'm going to prepare them for the next party - maybe with some cranberries? ;)
    I'm sometimes struggling with this overexposition problem too. What I really love is cloudy wheather - but if too much light comes from the right, a transparent curtain helps too (although it adds a kind of rippled texture). Reflecting more light didn't really work for me when dealing with too much light from the source.

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  18. Thanks for the lovely comments, all!

    Robert - I'd love to get your feedback once you try the recipe =D. Feel free to Tweet or email if you have any questions :).

    Nelly - mmmm I want to have a fall meal with you now =D

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  19. Always soo pretty! When I look at them it make me salivate, I want to bite it haha I like the spices you chose and I like even more the delicious frosting you chose...

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  20. I've never had pumpkin cake!! You have me wanting pumpkin cake now though, those cupcakes look and sound delicious!!!!

    Stunning photos as always :)

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  21. this smells like autumn! beautiful

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  22. Ahh just as we are coming into Spring you guys go into Autumn!

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  23. Woo hoo! Love seeing fall recipes. These cupcakes look so yummy!

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  24. Simple can be spectacular in this case! Those cupcakes look so beautiful!!

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  25. What a beautiful batch!! I love all the warming spices here.

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  26. mmmm yummo! Its funny how you guys are headed into warmer, heartier food just as we leave that behind and indulge in lighter spring-appropriate food!

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  27. I think the photo looks great, but I'm just the cook and writer, Rachel does the photography. :) Love these cupcakes. I love pumpkin cake, so I'd expect these cupcakes to be just as fantastic

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  28. believe it or not, it is starting to feel like fall, here in Los Angeles as well. These look delicious and they have inspired me to start creating for fall.

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  29. such superb cupcakes. I adore Fall and I like this way to say "welcome" to it :)

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  30. Beautiful! love to try some ;) my mom made squash cupcakes once since we don't have pumpkin here, still yummy.

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  31. These cupcakes look so pretty. I love the frosting on top :)

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  32. Thanks for the enthusiastic comments, everyone -- I'm so glad you like them!

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  33. Oh my gosh they look so yummy! Pumpkin is one of my most favorite flavors! :D

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  34. I love all things pumpkin and your cream cheese frosting, I bet, is the perfect complement!

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  35. Hello FALL. This cupcake look so elegant with that beautiful white frosting.

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  36. Wow! They look beautiful and sound delicious! Thank you for sharing. Bring on the fall weather!

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  37. Great fall treat, I am so looking forward to all the spicy flavors that fall will bring. Pumpkin cupcakes are a special treat and yours look stunning.

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  38. i love pumpkin so much--it's definitely my favorite fall flavor! Looks delicious!

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  39. Thanks again, y'all. I see I'm not the only one looking forward to fall baking =D

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  40. pure delectable deliciousness :) these are my kind of cupcakes!
    heidi xo

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  41. these look like perfection. great post. Would love if you'd check out my tribute to Rachel Zoe in honor of tonight's premier. xoxo

    www.fashboulevard.blogspot.com

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  42. Always love the beautiful swirls on the cupcakes...really tempting!

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  43. I love cupcakes, gonna try to make them myself too! They really look delicious!

    X Sarah
    http://fashion-loving.blogspot.com/

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  44. I would love to make these! I'm a total pumpkin ADDICT. I like the textures in the photo, too!

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  45. You are saying that the light on the right is too strong but I like the contrast of light in this photo. On my computer screen that picture looks really good and the cupcakes also :)

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  46. Thanks everyone!

    Helene - I appreciate your feedback very much! I actually did lower the brightness a little since I first wrote that critique. But I'm also usually my own worst critic so I appreciate knowing how others view it!

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  47. i love pumpkin, so I agree with your friend, C. sometimes, you just gotta go for what you know you love! :) I'm looking fw to fall root vegetables. although, i'm not ready to say bye to summer veggies yet. for pumpkin cake, instead of flouring the pan, i make a sugar-cinnamon mix, and use that to "release" the cake from the pan. the result is a sweet finger-licking crust (lightly crisp)...this technique is better for loaves, and not cupcakes..but just maybe something you might try? regarding the photo - i'm no expert but cannot pick anything wrong with the photo! it looks great. ps - i am often shocked by what photo TS rejects. have a great week!

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  48. I know that it is not easy to achieve the perfect picture but I look at your pictures with a different eye and really like your work.

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  49. What a beautiful cupcake, and what a beautiful story about Stephen! Thanks for sharing!

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  50. I love the textures and colors on your photo! But disagree with you on the lighting (I think it is great and it gives a fallish feel to it).
    Spring is coming my way, so I'll keep this recipe for next year. The cupcakes look so beautiful, sweetie! xx

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  51. fall already?! no way! its just started to cool down here like a regular summer time after 2 months of triple digit hell. Its still summer for us. Beautiful cupcakes and i have no complaints about having these. The photograph is really pretty. The uncluttered (so YOU) styling and the dark same tone background brings out the beauty. Love that tray. is it cast iron? the frosting does not look too bright to me, at least not in my screen.

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  52. Yum. I'm dying to start baking with pumpkin again, but it has been close to 100 degrees every day for the last week, so I NEED it to cool down!
    Loved hearing the photo analysis. You are so gifted and I have learned so much on your site. The idea of "cooling" down the background is a good one and I do think it worked for you. Being a complete rookie, I have never thought of that and in my most recent post, everything came out WAY too warm. Now I want to go re-shoot my photos with a cooler background! Ok, not really, but I know what to do next time. Thank you!

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  53. Ah, it's recipes like these cupcakes that make the transition from summer to fall a bit less painful... The squash and spices are definitely something to look forward to! :)

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  54. is it time for pumpkin already?!?! these cupcakes are lovely, and i guess i need to go ahead and embrace fall. :)

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  55. Your pumpkin cupcakes look very inviting and so pretty!!

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  56. I made these for a party last night and they were amazing! Super moist and really yummy. A huge hit! Thanks for the recipe :-)

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  57. Yay -- I'm glad these turned out well for you, Kristin! Thanks for the feedback!

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  58. I think that photo is gorgeous! Hope I can improve my photography and be half as good as you are :) these cupcakes look pretty and delicious.

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  59. Gonna share these beauties on FB now :)
    I would love if you added this and any other pumpkin themed links to my "Happy Post" today. http://su.pr/1rMDg2

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  60. Your spiced pumpkin cupcakes look fabulous! Great time to start baking and fill the kitchen with the wonderful aroma. Lovely pictures too!

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  61. Yummmmmmm these look perfect!! I would've chosen something simple and delicious like this too. :)

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  62. These look great! I was wondering if I could make them with cake flour? Also, I notice this is missing the usual allspice and cloves. Is the taste notably less spicy? I actually WANTED a recipe that didn't require me to go get more spices, but I also want a flavorful cake. :)

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  63. I think it's best to stick with the flour called for usually, but if you really want to try cake flour add 2-3 tablespoons more to compensate for the lower gluten content. As for the spices, I think the spicing is more subtle than some other autumn cakes, but I found it perfect. I'm a pumpkin lover who doesn't want the pumpkin flavor overpowered by too much spice.

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  64. I made them today and they were fantastic! I had cake flour and used that and they turned out tender and moist and wonderful. On the top, I added some candied pecans! So great!

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  65. Yay I'm so glad it worked out well =D. Candied pecans sound amazing!

    I'd love to see them if you happened to take a photo :).

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  66. I've been looking for a recipe to use up my canned pumpkin, this looks perfect! :)

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  67. I look at your video concerning the way you frost your cupcake and it seem to be so simple. My trouble is that the frosting melt after my swirl is done and it doesn't look good. Do you have a solution for my problem. Thanks!

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    1. Hi there! Thanks for your question -- you do need to have a certain firmness of the frosting to have the swirl stay put. I can highly recommend my not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting using COLD cream cheese (yes, cold!). Please search for my black sesame matcha cupcakes to find that frosting (just omit the green tea/matcha powder and include vanilla extract for a plain cream cheese frosting). Swiss meringue buttercream also has a nice firmness and you can find that in my recipe archive as well. Other than those 2, you will probably need to add a LOT of powdered sugar to a frosting recipe and/or use shortening to make it firmer. I don't like to do either, so I'd highly recommend the 1st 2 options for taste/health reasons.

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  68. Just perfect! I would really like to showcase this recipe on my http://www.cupcakesgarden.com/ cupcake recipes and ideas blog if you agree.

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    1. Sure as long as you credit and link back to me -- thanks for asking!

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I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu