As the family baker, I am the one who “bakes” on birthday celebrations—for both David’s and my birthdays and, often times, for my friend’s birthdays. Not that anyone expects me to do anything, but I expect me to make something delicious because it’s my way of saying, “I love you.”
I mean, when I get in the kitchen and start measuring and perfecting a recipe, I lose myself and I forget about everything else in the world. It’s truly amazing. And when I “come to,” there is a fantastic homemade dessert ready to be consumed and celebrated.
This year for David’s birthday I was full of good intentions. Since San Antonio is actually experiencing a little fall weather, I planned on making pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple- cream cheese frosting. I found the recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog, which Deb, the author, adapted from David Leite, and then I tweaked it a little bit more by cutting back on the sugar.
For the best results, always start with as many fresh ingredients as possible. And definitely splurge on fresh spices. In my dedication to making the best birthday dessert, I bought a sugar pie pumpkin. All you do is cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, lay it cut-side down on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and roast it for 45 minutes to an hour in a 350 degree oven. Let it cool and then scoop out the flesh. How easy is that?
But, due to my hectic schedule these days, I never got around to roasting the pumpkin. It just sat there. And sat there. On the kitchen counter. Waiting. To be roasted.
And before I knew it, it was 4 pm on the day of David’s birthday and the pumpkin was still sitting there looking unappreciated, ignored and despondent.
Sadly, I admitted to David that, while my intentions were genuine, I just couldn’t make the cupcakes on his birthday, but would tomorrow be too late? David’s never been one to extend his birthday celebration; however, in this case, he made a concession. And, boy was I relieved and grateful.
To prove that I was sincere, I roasted the pumpkin on the night of his birthday. I know what you’re thinking—why can’t you just use canned pumpkin? Well, you could and most people do. But when you taste the difference, you will never use canned pumpkin again. Plus, it’s fun to roast a pumpkin, it’s so easy and such a versatile ingredient. It also freezes well (there’s enough leftover to save for my Thanksgiving pumpkin pie).
The cupcakes were a hit and David said they were worth the wait and that was music to my ears. After feeling like such a horrible wife for not making them on his birthday, it was nice to know that all was forgiven.
These cupcakes are light, tasty, just the right about of spice and the maple-cream cheese frosting totally makes these even more special. Of course, the recipe could be used to make pumpkin bread in a 4 x 8 loaf pan or even a layered cake. It’s up to you. Just promise me that if it’s someone’s birthday, you’ll make it on their birthday.
Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting
When no one wants a cake, but gets excited by the thought of an individual cupcake and has a fall birthday, let this be the recipe you choose. Loaded with flavor and moist, these cupcakes are absolutely worthy of a celebration. And if you roast your own pumpkin for the occasion, it will make these cupcakes even more spectacular.
For the cake or cupcakes:
- 1 stick unsalted butter room temperature (plus more for greasing pans, if making a cake or bread)
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar the recipe called for dark, but I chose light as I did not want the cupcake to be so sugary-tasting
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups cake flour this is really important as it makes the cake super light
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large farm fresh eggs
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/4 cups pumpkin canned or you may choose to roast a sugar pie pumpkin--see note
For the frosting:
- Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened (I used one pkg. of regular cream cheese and another 1/3 less fat)
- 1 stick unsalted butter softened at room temperature
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
To make the cupcakes, cake or bread:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners, and another with 6 liners; or grease the cake/loaf pans with butter.
In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
In a small bowl, add the buttermilk and whisk in the vanilla.
Add the eggs one at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each egg is added. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Scoop the batter among the cupcakes liners until they are 3/4 full. To remove any air bubbles, rap the pans on the counter once.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely on racks.
To make the frosting:
In a stand mixer, beat all of the ingredients on medium until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Frost the cupcakes generously.
For a cake, frost the top of one cake, place the other layer on top. Frost the sides and top, swirling decoratively.
Refrigerate the cupcakes or cake 30 minutes to set up the frosting.
If you buy a sugar pie pumpkin, and I recommend that you do, all you do is cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, lay it cut-side down on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and roast it for 45 minutes to an hour in a 350 degree oven. Let it cool and then scoop out the flesh. Freeze whatever is leftover.
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