I fall in love every October. My heart swells at the smell of cinnamon, ginger and cloves. I can't walk by a tree bespeckled with leaves of crimson and gold without smiling and sighing like a love-struck teenager after a fantastic first date. I stroll through life, slowing my steps to savor the crisp cold air which smells of wet earth and the last bits of summer. I spend one month of every year dreaming in pumpkin. I don't know how else to say it: every October, I fall head-over-heels for fall.
I cheated a little this year. I had my first pumpkin muffin in early September and I'm already a few weeks into Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes (with cinnamon dolce sprinkles--key substitution). I bake for one of my classes and had gotten a few requests for fall flavors. I held out as long as I possibly could, but the power of pumpkin was too strong to hold off on baking out the amazing flavors I had been dreaming of all year.
I decided on pumpkin cupcakes with maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting. I wanted to add vanilla bean, but ran out a few weeks ago and haven't brought myself to splurge on it since. I used Ina Garten's recipe and could not have asked for a more perfect result. My kitchen smelled amazing and the moment I opened the can of pumpkin (you've got to be kidding if you think I cook down pumpkins... I'm domestic, but I'm still human...), memories of fall-inspired baking projects came flashing through my brain: pumpkin pecan pancakes with Vermont maple syrup inspired by the Colony Diner, pumpkin bread I made after falling for it at Starbucks, the pumpkin muffins I made in the middle of the night senior year that my roommate would wake up to find on the counter... Really, I could go on, but I'll spare you. I'll simply say that it took about 30 seconds of my apartment smelling amazingly autumnal for me to realize how dull even the most delicious smells seemed in comparison.
Here, my friends, is my lovestory as it unfolded in my tiny kitchen this past Thursday.
Makes 10 cupcakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Maple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (my recipe follows)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.
2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
3. Divide the batter among the prepared tins (I use a level 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
4. Spread the cupcakes with maple frosting.
Maple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (my recipe, made up on the spot, so feel free to play around with it!)
2 sticks butter, slightly softened
2 packages cream cheese, room temperature
cinnamon to taste
maple syrup or maple flavoring
-Basically, I beat the heck out of the butter until it gets fluffy and then add the cream cheese and continue beating until it's well incorporated and fluffy. I add powdered sugar until I reach a desired consistency (honestly, I don't measure). I add cinnamon, maple syrup or flavoring until I like the flavor and vanilla bean paste if I've got some on hand (feel free to use vanilla extract). Pipe onto cupcakes with a large star tip and you'll fall for fall just like I did...