A dozen light and moist pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (or icing), all made without butter.
Which part of the cupcake is the best part?
- The frosting, of course!
- The bottom – that’s the real cake part.
- You eat the frosting and cake part together, duh.
Over the past five-or-so years I’ve done a complete 180 on my cupcake positions. I used to firmly believe that the frosting was the best part – and there better be a lot of frosting! Now I’m all about the cake part.
And while I used to love soft-serve style swirls of frosting piled high on top of my cupcakes, these days I can only handle a little bit of frosting – a schmear, if you will. I’m also completely happy with no frosting, although that does risk moving into muffin territory…
Hmm, maybe this is a sign that I’m getting old.
Nevertheless, I do love to occasionally get out my piping bag and attempt to create ridiculously tall swirls of frosting.
And that brings me to these cupcakes: soft ‘n’ light-textured pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.
Let’s start with the frosting, just because. The recipe below only makes a modest amount of cream cheese frosting. There’s enough to cover the cupcakes with a good schmear of frosting, but not quite enough to pipe giant swirls on top of each one.
So, if you’re planning to make sky-high swirls, you’ll need to double the frosting recipe. Alternatively, frosting half the cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting, and half with something else – chocolate frosting would be nice!
Oddly enough, there’s no butter in this recipe – in either the cupcakes or the frosting. The frosting’s made simply with cream cheese, vanilla extract, a little melted white chocolate for extra flavor, and confectioners’ sugar (also known as powdered sugar or icing sugar).
If frosting isn’t your thing, then try these cupcakes drizzled with a little bit of chocolate (white, milk or dark chocolate would all be delicious). Or, for something a little different, top the cupcakes with a scoop of ice cream – or a dollop of good-tasting yogurt – just before serving.
I also enjoyed these cupcakes sans any frosting or topping. (But you’ll have to ask yourself whether a frosting-less cupcake is still a cupcake).
Next, we have the cakes themselves!
The cupcakes are spiced with the classic combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Brown sugar and blackstrap molasses add flavor and sweetness, and a mixture of pumpkin puree, buttermilk and two tablespoons of oil make the cakes moist and tender.
Ideally, use fresh pumpkin puree instead of canned. As I mentioned in this post, it’s pretty easy to make your own pumpkin puree, and fresh puree is far sweeter and more flavorsome than canned.
In summary: fresh pumpkin puree is totally worth the extra effort.
Finally, just because I love random bits of trivia, here’s a fun fact about pumpkins: they’re 90 percent water. Really.
Happy pumpkin eating!
- 1 ½ cups (195g) all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon (10g) cornstarch (cornflour)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup (100g) brown sugar, packed
- ½ cup (125g) pumpkin puree
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) canola oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
- ¾ cup (180mL) buttermilk
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 oz (225g) cream cheese, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons (20g) white chocolate chips, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 12-hole muffin/cupcake pan with cupcake papers, and lightly spray the papers with cooking oil spray.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Add the salt, and stir to combine.
- In another large bowl, whisk the eggs with a fork. Whisk in the brown sugar, pumpkin puree, canola oil, vanilla extract and blackstrap molasses. Add the buttermilk, and whisk until well combined.
- Pour the dry ingredients (the flour mixture) into the wet ingredients (the buttermilk mixture). Mix until just combined.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared muffin/cupcake pan, filling each hole approximately two-thirds of the way up.
- Bake for 16 – 18 minutes, or until the tops are dry and a skewer comes out clean (or with a few dry crumbs). Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooking rack.
- Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
- Cream cheese frosting: In a large bowl, use electric beaters to beat the cream cheese and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the melted white chocolate, and beat until incorporated.
- Gradually beat in the sugar, adding ¼ cup at a time, until the frosting is smooth and fluffy.
- Either use the frosting immediately, or store the fridge. If chilled, let the frosting sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before spreading/piping onto cupcakes.
- Store frosted cupcakes in the fridge, and unfrosted cupcakes in an airtight container.
Ideally, use room temperature eggs and fresh pumpkin puree
Confectioners’ sugar is also known as icing sugar or powdered sugar. You may not need all the sugar – it depends on how thick you’d like the frosting. If the frosting becomes too thick, add a tiny bit of milk or cream (or more melted white chocolate).
If piping tall swirls onto the cupcakes, you will likely need to double the recipe.