So many pumpkin cakes and loaves and muffins are heavy, playing off the dense qualities of pureed squash, and the deep, warm spices we like to eat them with. But these cupcakes — originally envisioned as a two-layer cake I believe my sister is frosting right! now! — are light. They still taste of pumpkin but not aggressively so. And the maple cream cheese frosting, my word, is so heaven sent, you can see I got a little carried away prettying it up.
The original recipe is from our friend David Leite, of the Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookie fame. But you know it is a true testament to his baking prowess to be able to make desserts that go from total decadence to this, a nicely balanced treat.
How to make roses: I worked at a bakery in high school where I picked up some party tricks — ha! Okay, maybe not party tricks but I hadn’t tried to make a rose in a dozen years and was thrilled that I still somewhat remembered. But before you ask, let me assure you that my technique is anything but worth teaching. Instead, check out this video or this one if you want to try it at home. I promise; it’s not as hard as it looks.
Pumpkin Cupcakes With Maple–Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from David Leite
Yield: 17 to 18 cupcakes
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing pans
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
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 salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Make the cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.
2. 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 into a medium bowl.
3. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.
Make the frosting:
In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. To assemble the cake, frost the top of one cake, place the other cake on top. Frost the sides and top, swirling decoratively. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to set up frosting.