Sunday, October 05, 2008

pumpkin cupcakes w/ salted caramel frosting

Fall is approaching, and you know what that means...? PUMPKINS. More importantly, pumpkin food. Pumpkin DESSERTS. A few miles south of Columbus (my stomping grounds) there is a little town called Circleville, which is home of the official Circleville Pumpkin Show. For 4 days, it's nothing but serious pumpkin worship--pumpkin food of all sorts (from pizza to doughnuts to fudge) a Miss Pumpkin Show Queen contest, parades, pie eating contests, pumpkin toss contests, the list goes on and on. All in the name of pumpkins!!

One of our recent interns at work was originally from Circleville. She's a super sweet , super enthusiastic girl who is 110% proud of who she is and what she does. You know what that means? She's 110% WAAAAY into fall and WAAAY into pumpkins. She was pretty widely loved at work, so at the end of her second quarter with us, I decided to dedicate a round of baked goods to her. The results? Some really freakin amazing pumpkin cupcakes with salted caramel frosting.

Since I'm no baking expert (I just play one on tv! Hah! sorry, bad joke...) I googled pumpkin cupcakes and landed upon a promising recipe from none other than my personal hero, Martha Stewart. Say what you will about her, the woman knows her shit. She has built an incredible business empire doing what she's good at and what she loves and I admire her for that. So Martha, here I come, making your cupcakes.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
(straight from Martha Stewart Living...)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.
  3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
So this recipe here, this recipe makes the best moist pumpkin cupcakes quite possibly on earth. The recipe, straight from Martha's website, also claims it makes a quantity of 18. Martha may be good in the kitchen, she may be a killer w/ the crafts and a pro with floral arrangements, but I'm starting to doubt Martha's ability to count. Since I was taking these cupcakes to work, I thought "Oh hey, I better double the batch so I can make sure to have enough! If i have a few left over for myself, then that's cool." Eighteen would've fallen a bit short b/c some days, the baked goods go fast! Well, I doubled it. I had a big freakin bowl FULL of pumpkin cupcake goo. So technically, this would've made somewhere around 36, right? Maybe a little more, a little less? AW HELL NO. I got 42 cupcakes AND A SMALL CAKE!!!! If I hadn't used the batter for a cake, i would've easily gotten at least 48-50 cupcakes. HOLY MOLY. Well, at least I'd have plenty to bring to work! (and then stash away to stuff my face at a later date...)

Well the cupcakes need a frosting and Martha's recipe merely mentioned a cream cheese frosting. I was on my own. Which is okay, b/c I'm pretty confident when it comes to making crazytown frosting. A salted caramel frosting sounded like the perfect match, and I was SOOO RIGHT. THEY WERE SO GOOD.

The salted caramel frosting is made w/ a homemade caramel sauce. I stumbled across the recipe several months ago on a dearly beloved and now defunct blog, Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit. The full instructions are as follows:

Salted Caramel

4 tablespoons water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, kosher or sea

1. Combine the water, sugar, and the corn syrup in a deep saucepan and cook over medium heat.
2. Stir together with a wooden spoon until the sugar is incorporated.
3. Cover the saucepan and let it cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
4. After 3 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.
5. Do not stir from this point on, but it is important to carefully shake the pan so that one area of the caramel doesn’t burn.
6. Continue to cook until the caramel turns an even amber color then remove from the heat and let stand for about 30 seconds.
7. *** This is the dangerous part *** Pour the heavy cream into the mixture. Wear oven mitts, stand away from the pan, and be careful. The mixture will bubble up significantly.
8. Stir the mixture, again being careful. Add the butter, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until combined.
9. Measure 1 cup into a Pyrex measuring cup. Stirring occasionally, allow to cool until thick like molasses and warm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Note: There was a small bit of extra caramel that I poured onto a small plate that I covered in aluminum foil and greased with vegetable oil. I transferred the plate to the freezer for about 30 minutes. I chopped the caramel quickly into squares (its starts to get soft) and topped each cupcake with a square.

Salted Caramel Frosting

2 sticks butter
8 ounces or 1 package of Philly cream cheese
5 to 6 cups powdered sugar
1 cup salted caramel

1. Bring butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours.
2. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.
3. Sift 3 cups of powdered sugar into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.
4. Add 1 cup of the salted caramel and beat to combine.
5. Sift 2-3 cups of powder sugar, in 1 cup increments and beating between each, until you arrive at the thickness and sweetness you desire. I used 6 cups. The frosting wasn’t super thick, but it was starting to get pretty sweet.

I accidentally burnt my first batch of caramel, which may have been a blessing in disguise. You gotta work w/ this stuff FAST FAST FAST. So b/c I was bringing them to work and had a reputation to uphold, I made a better batch of caramel. I used it all in the frosting, and thought it needed a little more carameliness. That's when I added a few tablespoons of the burnt caramel which actually helped punch the caramel flavor through the sometimes-too-sweet confectionary sugar. So it all turned out okay! WOO HOO!! I also probably didn't use the full 5-6 cups of sugar. Well, maybe 5, but quite possibly a bit less. I hate that the flavors get lost b/c confectionary sugar is so strongly sweet--it tends to mask the glorious flavors its' working with. I would rather have a gooey frosting full of delicious flavor than something that resembles a perfectly fluffy buttercream that just tastes like a sugar pile!

Overall, the cupcakes were a huge success. The next weekend I made the same things for my dad's birthday, and only made ONE batch, which still yielded 27 cupcakes instead of the supposed 18. Mom and Dad loved them. So seriously, give this one a try. They're amazing.
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