Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

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When I moved to New York I was excited to make a fresh start – I could become anything I wanted. There were millions of possibilities. And yet, somehow “pumpkin crazy” made it into my new identity. I mean, I always appreciated the gradual slide into fall with turkey-centric meals, flaming red trees, steaming mugs of tea while wearing big cozy sweaters. But my first pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks became a gateway drug to a world of all things pumpkin.

There’s a huge movement against the pumpkin flavour, with killjoys pointing out that most pumpkin spice products have “no real pumpkin content”. Can we call them pumpkin hipsters? They probably can’t sleep at night knowing people are buying pumpkin doughnuts or pumpkin ice cream with artificial flavouring. Shaking their heads while harvesting and roasting the organic pumpkin they grew on their tiny fire escape gardens. You know what? I don’t care. What matters is that I love pumpkin pie and translating that flavour into multiple delicious ways of getting into my mouth is just fine with me.

So to erase any lingering doubt about my pumpkin enthusiasm I decided to throw a pumpkin party – everyone had to bring something pumpkin. We ended up with pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin beer. We even had an addictive pumpkin monkey bread with icing. Everyone wore orange and “Thriller” was playing all night. My contribution was pumpkin spice latte cupcakes, an ode to the drink that started it all. The cupcakes turned out perfectly – very moist, distinct pumpkin spice flavour with soft fluffy whipped topping. Everyone loved them (one friend exclaimed “It’s like eating clouds of DELICIOUS!”). Lesson learned: going all out with your ridiculous obsessions can be a whole lot of fun.

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Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes (adapted from Annie’s Eats)

Yield: about 2 dozen cupcakes

The original recipe asked for 1 cup of oil but I think you could reduce it to 3/4 cup, maybe even 2/3 cup since you’re adding pumpkin puree. I think this recipe would be even more fantastic with a cup of dark chocolate chips. Lots of room to play around!

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tbsp. espresso powder

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. salt

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

4 large eggs

½ cup coffee or espresso, for brushing

 

For the frosting:

2¼ cups heavy cream, chilled

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

 

Topping

caramel sauce

cinnamon

Directions

For the cupcakes

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Stir together and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixture on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.
  • Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full. Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans. While the cupcakes are still warm, brush them two or three times with the coffee or espresso, allowing the first coat to soak in before repeating. Let cool completely.

For the frosting

  • Place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-low speed at first, gradually increasing to high speed. Blend in the confectioners’ sugar gradually. Whip until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-beat. Use a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip to frost the cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.
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Tiramisu Cupcakes for K.

tiramisu cupcakes

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These cupcakes have a special place in my recipe book for so many reasons.

My friend K and I met in our first year of university – LITTLE did we know what was in store for us! I dragged him to his first hip hop class, he turned to be an amazing dancer and we danced together for four years. We literally lived in the library for a week side by side in two booths when we didn’t know any better. We took a trip to Montreal that was filled with chocolate, tea-time, jive dancing, and drag queens. Working in the same student club, we went under trial by fire keeping things together. We’ve sang our hearts out to 90s music. Amongst all the shenanigans, we’ve kept each other sane during the crazy times.

tiramisu cupcakes

I make it a point to know my friends’ favourite desserts and tiramisu happens to be K’s. In second year I attempted my first tiramisu for his birthday…and it was a disaster. I scoffed at the instruction “after adding custard, wipe bowl very well before adding egg whites”. Wipe bowl between mixes? As if! You’re talking to a lazy student who revered the dishwasher above all other appliances.

That was when I learned that egg whites do not whip when contaminated with egg yolk. No matter how long you beat them.

I panicked. What was I going to do with these hopelessly liquid egg whites? There were FIVE eggs in that recipe! I improvised and added whipped cream, but I was extremely annoyed that my first tiramisu recipe hadn’t gone as planned. I vowed I would have my revenge next year.

tiramisu cupcakes

I hate repeating recipes unless they are exceptional, so when K’s birthday rolled around I wanted to do tiramisu with a twist. I had never made cupcakes before (!) and I was determined to make something amazing. There would be no substitutions this time. These cupcakes exceeded my expectations. The icing uses real mascarpone, making it a rich, tangy, creamy dream. The cupcake itself is light and fluffy; when you bite into it you get the pleasant surprise of the middle being soaked in espresso glaze.

Everyone swooned, my friends declared them the best cupcakes they had ever had, but most importantly K loved them. After all the crazy adventures and sleepless nights I’m not sure if I properly expressed how much I care about this guy, but tiramisu cupcakes are a pretty good place to start.

tiramisu cupcakes

Heavenly Tiramisu Cupcakes (adapted from Epicurious)

The next time I make this I would cut the amount of espresso glaze by half. I always end up with a full cup leftover and haven’t found a great way to re-purpose it. Perhaps glaze a coffee cake?

Makes 24 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients

2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/2 cups white sugar
8 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk

Icing
500 g mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbs pure vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean finely chopped in food processor)
pinch sea salt
2 cups confectioners sugar

Tiramisu Glaze (I usually half this amount)
1 cup espresso
1/4 cup chocolate syrup OR 1 tbs of cocoa (or more, to taste)
2 oz/60 mL Kahlua
1/3 cup sugar

Garnish : Cocoa Powder (optional: 24 chocolate covered espresso beans and/or chocolate shavings)

Preparation

Cake Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line  two 12 cup muffin pans with muffin paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pans.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 24 minutes, or until tops spring back. Let cool for thirty minutes. Then remove cupcakes from pan and let cool an additional 30 minutes.

5. While cupcakes are cooking, combine heavy cream, and mascarpone cheese in a large bowl and mix on low speed. Add vanilla and salt. Then slowly add confectioners sugar, allowing each sugar addition to throughly mix with the cheese mixture until all of the confectioner’s sugar is gone. Put icing into a piping bag.

Glaze:

1. Prepare the Glaze by melting the sugar into the hot espresso in a large mixing bowl with a whisk (by hand) Then add syrup, kahlua, and rum/brandy.

2. Take a straw or kabob stick and poke a small hole in the top of each cupcake. With a spoon, ladle some of the glaze into the hole. Then I like to dip the top of each cupcake into the glaze to ensure that it is evenly covered with the glaze. It shouldn’t be soggy – just covered enough that the cupcake looks light brown. Then pipe the icing onto each cupcake. Lightly dust cupcakes with cocoa powder and top with espresso beans/ chocolate shavings.