The stretch of time between the appearance of the first PSL (pumpkin spice latte) in September and Thanksgiving is pumpkin’s time to shine. I’ve written here before about the increased interest in other fall flavors, but pumpkin is still king.
I know some people think pumpkin spice is “basic”, but I am not one of them. Pumpkin (and all squash) is delicious and pumpkin with warm spices is even better. But obviously a PSL is more about the spice (and sugar) than actual pumpkin.
Each autumn, I like to think of new ways to bake with real pumpkin beyond a standard pumpkin pie. In the past, I have made a twist on pumpkin pie, pumpkin roulade, and pumpkin cookies. This year, I decided to tackle pumpkin cupcakes. Pumpkin is one of the ingredients, like applesauce or banana, that can be an egg replacement in cakes. So I figured it would be pretty easy to make an egg-free cupcake.
Turns out, I was right. I started with a great recipe from Ina Garten, and after one failed attempt, quickly realized that all the cakes needed to replace the eggs was more baking soda. I’m not actually sure why the original recipe had eggs at all, other than a habit of assuming cakes need eggs. Something to think about!
I also added extra pumpkin pie spice to these. I think the additional spice is needed, perhaps because of the reduction in fat from removing the eggs. The extra spice seemed to really punch up the flavor.
I spent far more time trying to settle on the best frosting then I did on the cake. In the end, I think a simple vanilla buttercream works best here. Cream cheese icing is often suggested with pumpkin cakes, but I think its a bit strong and overpowering in this case. Vanilla compliments the other flavors, while letting the pumpkin shine.
Be sure you are using pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling. Also, Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin is by far my pumpkin of choice. It’s the only one I have tasted straight out of the can that didn’t make me cringe.
I think these are great to make as a pie alternative at Thanksgiving or for adding a little extra pumpkin spice to your live this fall!
Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof
Makes 12 cupcakes
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup canned pumpkin purée
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin, sugars, and vegetable oil until combined.
In medium bowl, use a clean whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to combine.
Use a cupcake or muffin scoop to portion the batter into the prepared tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean (or 1/2 tablespoon of vanilla extract)
- Pinch of salt
If using, place the vanilla bean on a small cutting board. Cut a slit down its length, then run the back of your knife along the slit to scrape out the seeds inside. Set aside, reserving the pod for another use.
In the bowl of an stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape the butter from the sides of the bowl and add the powdered sugar. Beat on low speed until the mixture starts to combine. Add enough of the milk to make the mixture come together. Add the vanilla bean seeds or extract. Beat the mixture on high speed for about 1 minute, until mixture is thick and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure mixture is thoroughly combined.
If not frosting your cupcakes right away, the buttercream will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for about 10 days. Allow to warm up at room temperature before attempting to use.