Thursday, October 29, 2009

Again and Again

Contrary to what you might be thinking right now, I don't sit on at home all day and eat cupcakes and cookies. I know, judging by the way I run this blog, that it probably seems like my diet consists of butter, sugar, and flour, but the honest to goodness truth is that I RARELY eat sweets. Really, it's true. I do love to bake. It takes my mind off things and whatever is created always brightens someone's day. Basically, before we get started I just want to say, don't loose me here. I don't have a mouth full of sweet teeth. I love to cook savory, hearty, wholesome, healthy meals. I promise, after this post, I'll post things like soups and stews and salads. Just bare with me a little longer!
But today, I want to pay a homage to Martha, again. I've been breaking out Cupcakes like no tomorrow and each time I get wonderful results. If you like cupcakes, go out and buy this cookbook ASAP! Just imagine... cupcakes for ALL occasions... yup, it's as good as it sounds!
Anyway, this week marked the birthday of one of my good friends. We met in grade 8 Humanities class where she befriended my lonely self. She is smart and funny and one of the most genuinely nice people I have ever met. Friends like those are hard to find. We worked together after high school at the same cupcake store, where we took it upon ourselves to "accidentally" drop the cupcakes on the ground so that we could eat them (it really was a smart tactic! I'm not serving a customer a cupcake that's been on the floor, but I sure as heck don't mind eating it!) The cupcake that most commonly make it's way from fridge to floor was the same for both of us: Pumpkin Spice with Cream Cheese Icing. That sweet-spicy, light and airy cake was complimented perfectly by the billowy, slightly tangy cream cheese icing that was piled on the top. I've never attempted to make my own pumpkin cupcakes but a birthday this week gave me a perfect excuse to give it a go.
And so, naturally, I reached for Cupcakes by Martha Stewart. I quickly found what I was looking for: Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes. So the baking commenced. Because I was baking for someone else, someone who undoubtedly prefers real butter and milk to margarine and almond milk, I opted not to use any dairy-free products for this recipe. I figured I'd let my family do the taste testing, and I could just be the lowly baker. This didn't exactly work out...
I sifted. I whisked. I stirred. And what resulted was a big 'ol bowl of batter that tasted far too delicious to be just any type of cupcake batter. It was just so good I could hardly stop dipping my fingers into the bowl. This was a good sign, I decided, and I right then and there declared that these pumpkin cupcakes would be the best pumpkin cupcakes ever. The baking cakes filled the whole house with a spicy sweet aroma, like a fresh baked pie, that was absolutely intoxicating.
As the cakes were cooling, I made my cream cheese icing, which was rich, creamy, and smooth. I tried some of it too. And then once the cupcakes were iced, I may have tried a cupcake or two. My stomach was telling me NO, but my heart was telling me YES, and what's a lactose girl to do? I gave in. Really guys, that's how good they were. I suffered through a minor tummy ache, but it hardly even mattered. And I wouldn't take it back for anything.

So, I suggest baking these. Probably today because it's Halloween and all. And your friends and family will love you for it.
Well, goodbye sweets! I'm so done with the sweet talk for a while. At least until Christmas comes around...

Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes
Adapted from Cupcakes by Martha Stewart

As I mentioned above, I didn't used dairy-free products for this recipe. However, I am nearly positive that you could swap out the milk, butter and cream cheese for dairy-free products and the cupcakes would still turn out wonderfully! Also, I baked both regular-size and baby-size cupcakes. I found that the babycakes took about 6-7 minutes to bake, so if you do choose to make some little ones, make sure you watch them closely.

For Cupcakes:
4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1½ cups canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

For Cream Cheese Icing:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 pound (4 cups) confectioners' sugar, sifted
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To prepare cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until just combined. Add pumpkin puree; beat until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto rack and let cool completely.

Prepare cream cheese icing:

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, ½ cup at a time, and then vanilla, and mix until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

To finish cupcakes:

Use an offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Martha suggests topping the cupcakes with a marzipan pumpkin but because I could not find any and did not have the time to make them from scratch, I bought some other festive candies to put on top as garnish.

Yield: Makes 32 standard size cupcakes

Cupcakes can be refrigerated up to 3 days in an airtight container.

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