Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Buttercream

In honor of my sister's birthday, I bring you a cupcake recipe I can't get enough of. I chose this one because of its cream cheese icing, which she can't get enough of.

This recipe also works really well as a layer cake, which you can see here. For the layer cake I used 9" round pans (lined with wax paper for smooth tops!) and cut a stencil out of wax paper for the topping. You can make a stencil of whatever you want if you're handy with scissors or an xacto knife. You can even print a simplified image and cut it out from the printer paper, you don't even have to draw.

I recommend starting the icing while the cakes are in the oven. I also recommend getting the cream cheese and butter out of the fridge when you start making the cake, so they're nice and soft and you can actually blend them when you're ready to start the icing. I've killed a hand mixer or two trying to cream some cream cheese that was still far too cold. This bad-boy survives through just about anything, though. One of the best Christmas presents I ever got. Don't worry, your hand mixer will be fine as long as you take the time to let the cream cheese soften - and don't microwave it, either.

On to the recipe!
Pumpkin Spice Cake:

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour or cake flour*
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (or more!)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves (or more!)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup butter at room temperature**
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup solid pack pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie filling.

Preheat the oven to 350ยบ. Line muffin pans with cupcake cups, or just spray with nonstick if you are so inclined.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. You can add extra cinnamon and clove up to double the amount listed, but more than that gets overpowering. I learned the hard way.
In a separate large bowl, cream the butter with a hand mixer until it's fluffy. Gradually add the brown sugar, then the eggs one at a time. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with milk, 1/3 of one then 1/3 of the other. Finally, beat in the pumpkin.
Pour into the cupcake cups (they should each be 2/3 full) and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of one comes out clean. Let cool completely before decorating.

Cream Cheese Ginger Buttercream Icing:
say that five times fast!

1 8-oz bar of cream cheese
6 tbsp butter, softened but still cool (see **)
1 tb sour cream
1/2 tsp ginger or more to taste***
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar

In a medium bowl, cream the butter, cream cheese, sour cream, ginger and vanilla with a hand mixer. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until fully combined and smooth. Spread over cooled cupcakes in a circular motion, then dust the cupcakes with cinnamon and clove.

* I never bother with fancy flours, all purpose has its name for a reason.
** I find that microwaving a whole stick of butter for about 15 seconds gets it to the perfect temperature. For smaller amounts of butter, microwaves in 5 second intervals to see what works best with your microwave.
*** You can use freshly ground ginger, but the flavor will be much stronger, so put in a tiny bit at a time and taste test. Too much ginger and it'll get that nice tingly burn, which is not something most people look for in icing.

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