Based on my experience thus far in life, I can firmly say that you can never go wrong with pumpkin flavored anything and cream cheese frosting. I made a different version of these cupcakes last year, and there are a few things I liked about each recipe. Last year’s recipe was ridiculously moist, but almost to the point where the cupcakes stuck to the wrapper and couldn’t support the weight of the frosting when you went to take a bite. I liked this new recipe because the cupcakes are a little bit sturdier, and you don’t have to use part of a box of cake mix (what does one do with a left over 2/3 cup of cake mix? ). Plus, when I’m going to the trouble of making cupcakes from scratch I really prefer ones made with unique ingredients that wouldn’t be part of a box mix – like butter instead of oil and buttermilk for some extra moisture. I used to think that recipes that called for buttermilk were a bit annoying because you generally have to buy a whole quart, but I’ve found it lasts a lot longer than milk (like over a month) and I’ve found several other things to do with it in that time – like John’s birthday cake, ranch dressing, and then these cupcakes. But as I said before, you can’t go wrong with pumpkin and cream cheese so if your so inclined, try both recipes!
I actually made these for the children’s Halloween party that our medical school hosts every year. Now technically this party if for children with diabetes, and while you might think cupcakes wouldn’t be the best idea, the point of the party was to help the children learn how to balance their carbohydrates with their insulin. (And it is really hard to find low carbohydrate halloween desserts). So I made a double batch of these cupcakes, and calculated that each cupcake with frosting has 35 grams of carbohydrate. I got about 40 cupcakes from the double batch, and saved a few to take with us to Cincinnati for my now living in Ohio brother and sister -in-law. These went so fast that I’m pretty sure my father-in-law thought he wasn’t going to get one. Apparently they were also a big hit at the halloween party – but really what kid can resist sprinkles?
Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: 20-24 cupcakes with piped frosting
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/3 c brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
For the Icing:
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1 stick butter (softened)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 10 oz powdered sugar (about 3 cups), sifted
To Make the Cupcakes:
Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners; set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the vanilla until fully incorporated.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In another small mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin and buttermilk until smooth.
Turn the stand mixer on to the lowest setting and alternately add the dry ingredients and the pumpkin mixtures to the creamed butter. Start and end with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Spoon the batter into the pans, filling about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool enough to handle and then move to a cooling rack. Store in airtight containers until frosted. Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator.
To Make the Icing:
Cream the butter, cream cheese and vanilla together on high speed. Add the powdered sugar, a small amount at a time and blend until smooth and creamy. To ice the cupcakes using a pastry bag, chill icing in the refrigerator or freezer for about 15 minutes in order to harden the icing enough to frost. Alternatively, frosting can be added immediately to cooled cupcakes using an offset spatula.
Icing inspired Ina Garten
For as long as I can remember, I have loved making from scratch birthday cakes. One of the first ones that comes to mind is a chocolate hazelnut birthday cake for my brother’s (and my) birthday. Unfortunately, I somehow measured the wrong amount of hazelnuts in that cake, and it pretty much ruined Nutella for me for at least 5 years (don’t worry, I’ve now come to my senses). There were other times in college, where cooking in a small dorm kitchen that literally had no cooking utensils seemed like a great idea. There was freshman year, where I figured I had nothing better to do than to make a 3 layer meringue cake with whipped cream and fruit. There were several $50 german chocolate cakes, since they required buying not only the ingredients, but also pans, bowls and something to stir with. There were multiple coffee cheesecakes that served as birthday cakes, pies that served as birthday cakes and then of course the most recent Malted Chocolate and Marshmallow Six Layer Cake.
So last year, when John’s only wish for his birthday cake was boxed chocolate cake mix with simple whipped cream as the frosting, I was slightly appalled. I made the cake, I even ate a piece, and I was glad he liked it, but seriously - how boring! As his birthday approached this year, I was almost afraid to ask what kind of cake he might like, because I knew that no matter what I suggested, he would come back with the same chocolate cake with whipped cream. Then this cake popped into my mind, or rather popped up on my google reader. I had seen it earlier on Annie’s blog, but it was way back in January when I wasn’t thinking about October birthdays. I immediately knew that this would be the perfect birthday cake for John because it’s basically a dressed up of version of his favorite. The flavors are still simple, but the ganache adds just that oomph it needed to make it not only more delicious but also quite stunning. The strawberries are obviously optional, but they certainly add to the presentation. I sized down the original recipe because everyone mentioned how it was such a tall cake, and I felt a little guilty putting 4 cups of sugar in a cake (but of course, in my head, 3 was fine). I thought it came out perfectly with a slightly downsized recipe, and so that is the version I have included below. This cake is definitely a keeper and I’m really glad I was able to find something that both I enjoyed making and John enjoyed eating. Happy Birthday baby! I still love you no matter what kind of birthday cake you want :-)!
Yield: 3- 9 inch layers
For the cake:
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup canola oil
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
For the frosting:
4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For the chocolate topping:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract
To make the cake layers, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour the inside edges of the pan, shaking out the excess flour.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, water and canola oil; heat until the butter is melted. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cocoa powder, and flour; whisk to blend. Pour the melted butter mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, then whisk in the buttermilk. Add the baking soda, salt and vanilla to the bowl and whisk just until incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each cake layer and invert onto a wire cooling rack. Allow the cake layers to cool completely before frosting, at least 2 hours.
To make the frosting, add the heavy cream to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and continue to whip until thoroughly combined and stiff peaks form. Be careful not to over-beat!
To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake platter and spread a layer of the whipped cream frosting over the top. Top with a second cake layer, more frosting (and the third cake layer, if using). Frost the top and sides of the assembled cake. Refrigerate until the frosting has stabilized, at least 1 hour.
To make the chocolate glaze, place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit 1-2 minutes. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Blend in the corn syrup and vanilla. Pour the glaze into a pitcher or measuring cup and let cool for 10 minutes. (Do not let the glaze cool longer or it may become difficult to pour over the cake.) Slowly pour the glaze over the cake, ensuring that the top is covered and the glaze drips over the sides.
Refrigerate the cake until the glaze is set and the whipped cream frosting is firm, at least 1 hour. Slice with a long, sharp knife, wiping the blade clean between slices.
Welp, it’s happened. The first recipe on the blog made almost entirely by John. I don’t mean to belittle his cooking talents, but I think the fact that I trusted him with making this dinner should tell you something about it’s complexity. I had set the ingredients (all 3 of them ) out on the counter the night before, and planned on throwing them in the crock pot before I left for school, but as I mentioned last time, normally I barely get 2 of the same shoes while I’m running out the door, let alone make dinner 8 hours early. Despite my best intentions, if I wake up a few minutes early, then I simply diddle-daddle around longer until I am once again rushed to leave. So John was nice enough to make this for me in the morning.
While this is certainly not a complicated or gourmet cooking dish, it is definitely something worth keeping in your recipe arsenal. Also, I should mention that there is really nothing “French” at all about this, other than the fact that it uses American’s version of “French Dressing”. Nevertheless, this dinner is delicious and I had trouble saving my second piece of chicken for lunch the next day. I found myself eating every last piece rice that the scrumptious sauce had touched. Plus, its so easy you really have no excuse not to make it – it’s 3 ingredients that you put into a pot. You can adjust the cooking time to fit your schedule so it’s ready when you get home. For example, Nikki mentioned that you could use 6 frozen chicken breasts and cook it on high for 4 hours and low for 2 hours, or use 4 fresh chicken breasts and cook it on high for 3 hours. Since I think one of the best things about crock pots is coming home to them being ready, I prefer to cook things for a longer period of time on low, which I have indicated below. I think next time I am going to at least 1.5 the recipe because this really made great lunch leftovers (especially when compared to the hospital cafeteria).
“French” Apricot Crock Pot Chicken
- Serves 4 (or 2 with great leftovers the next day)
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup french dressing (I used Newman’s Own)
- 1 cup apricot jelly or preserves
- 1 packet onion soup mix
- salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for a minimum of 7 hours, but longer is fine. Serve over rice.
Source: Pennies on a Platter