Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pumpkin Cupcakes with the Best Icing Ever

Many months seem to have desserts that belong to them.  June, July, and August are for ice cream, popsicles, and cold desserts.  September is for apple desserts.  October is for all things pumpkin and cupcaky.  December is for cookies. January is for sneaking in bread pudding once I'm done trying to eat healthy.  February is for cherry and strawberry desserts. Spring and summer months (depending on where you live) also get berry crisps, strawberry tarts, and other light, not so filling desserts.

November gets pies.  Every imaginable kind of pie.  Some pumpkin desserts make the cut, but mostly, it's pies.  November is not for cupcakes.  Sorry, November.

Yet, here it is, November 10 and I am posting a cupcake recipe.  I still have pureed butternut squash in my fridge and there was that school fall festival yesterday, complete with a cake walk.  I made cupcakes.  They were fabulous.  So November, you can have these cupcakes too, especially if they sneak in at the beginning of the month, before the pies take over.

We were thankful these were mostly donated to the school cake walk.  Otherwise, Curtis and I would have eaten way.too.many.  The icing was incredible--salted caramel.  One cupcake was all we each got and it was just enough to leave me thinking about exactly how good those cupcakes were and how lucky two cake walk winners were.

If you want, you can make the salted caramel sauce days in advance.  Just refrigerate and then reheat before to room temperature (so it's pourable) before using.  If you don't feel like messing with making caramel, you can also use store bought salted caramel sauce.  Just be sure to buy the good stuff (with real ingredients, not the cheapest on the shelf).

A single recipe makes 15 cupcakes.  Go ahead and just double the recipe.  Share the love.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Icing
adapted from

3/4 c (12 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
1 c cooked pumpkin (butternut squash) puree or canned pumpkin
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1 t vanilla
2 large eggs

Salted Caramel Sauce:
1 c sugar
6 T butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 T fleur de sel or other fancy, coarse sea salt (it's worth it to buy this in bulk folks.  Totally worth it)

3/4 c (12 T) butter at room temperature
2 c powdered sugar
1/2 c salted caramel sauce (from above)

For the cupcakes:  In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium (or medium-low, up to you, I like medium) and cook, swirling occasionally, until the butter turns golden brown.  Watch carefully to prevent from burning.  The butter should smell nice and nutty.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Meanwhile, in a small to medium bowl,  whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  In a larger bowl, stir together the pumpkin, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and browned butter.  Add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined.  Line muffin cups with paper liners.  Fill each cup  3/4 full.   Bake in a preheated 325 degrees oven 20 -25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack after they have cooled a bit and allow to cool completely before icing.

For the salted caramel sauce:  While the cupcakes bake, make the caramel sauce.  Heat the sugar in a small saucepan over medium to medium-high heat.  Stir in the sugar as it begins to melt and stir frequently until the sugar is melted.  Once the sugar has melted, no longer stir.  Swirl the pan if you need to stir the sugar.  Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches a deep amber color (a lighter amber color will give you a milder flavor), being careful not to scorch it.  If you are unsure, use a candy/fry thermometer and cook until the sugar reaches 350 degrees.  Carefully add the butter and stir (caramel will bubble up vigorously when things like butter or cream are added).  Stir until the butter is melted.  Remove from heat and stir in the cream.  Sir in the fleur de sel.  Melted sugar is extremely hot.  Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then you can pour into a jar or other storage container.

For the frosting:  Beat the butter until light in color and fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar and continue to beat until the sugar is incorporated.  Add 1/2 c of the salted caramel sauce and beat to combine.  Increase the mixer speed to medium-high (depending on your mixture) and beat until airy and fluffy.

Frost the cooled cupcakes.  For embellishment you can drizzle extra caramel sauce on top or top with a square pretzel (my favorite!).

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