Tuesday, October 20, 2009

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

Consider this a lesson in scale. Something no cookbook will really tell you. You won’t see in the notes something like “If multiplying batches, strongly suggesting NOT trying to mix them all in one batch as your kitchen equipment is designed for home-sized batches, not bakery-sized ones”. Pretty obvious, right? And yet it wasn’t to me, until a few days ago. But now I know – when scaling things in multiples, you might want to do a few batches, to save your sanity and your equipment. In any case, this is a cautionary tale, just for you.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frostingpumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

As a total aside, I often wonder how various people cook under pressure. Like when you realize that what you’re doing might not work out, or that you missed a crucial step in the process (not that it’s ever happened to me; goodness, no!) and are trying to add this step later, and you get all focused and tense, or maybe you just remain completely cool as a cucumber, or maybe you hum? Me, I become sullen, focused, quiet. I want to be left alone; I don’t want to converse. I just want to get through the bump in the road and get beyond it. I tend to scrunch up my nose and purse my lips and squint a lot. Did you envision that lovely visage? Yes, that’s me, trying to focus. Stunning, I know.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

So, back to scaling and home kitchens and fun with all that. If you’re ever asked to do a larger-scale baking job, you should consider a thing or two. Like, the fact that you have a kitchen for home use. Or the concept of batches. Or the fact that perhaps even though you have a “Professional” strength mixer, your 5 quart bowl is anything but a professional size. Because you know, if you were um, say, a bakery, you’d be making dozens of cupcakes, not a mere dozen. And perhaps, you, dear readers, would have the foresight to consider all that, but lately, I’ve been in a whirl of work and travel I think my brain is full. I ought to sit down and think for a minute, but I don’t have that minute. Sigh.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

The other thing you want to make sure you’re good at, if you’re scaling a project like this, is multiplication and fractions. Now, fractions – I got this. In fact, I’m all over fractions, being that I work in finance. But if fractions ain’t your bag, get some help from a math-inclined friend, because when you are looking at 5/8 of a teaspoon measure of something and have to multiply it by three, that’s when you wish you really did pay attention in your math class.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

So how did I get to baking four dozen cupcakes in one sitting? Well, last weekend my friends Bill and Josey tied the knot, and I think my friends and I set some kind of a record for non-stop dancing at a wedding because that is pretty much all we did. And a few weeks prior to the wedding itself, Josey and Bill sheepishly asked me if I would make cupcakes for their rehearsal dinner. In response, I enthusiastically started to jump up and down. They took that as a yes.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

Because fall is full of amazing flavors and smells, I wanted to make cupcakes that would celebrate the season. And when I think of fall, I first think of pumpkin. I can’t go a block without seeing them displayed in stores, at farmers’ markets, on steps of brownstones (albeit the decorative pumpkins aren’t the ones you eat). I decided that I wanted to do a spiced pumpkin cupcake with a cream cheese frosting sweetened with some maple syrup, and thought (what naivete!) that I was being original and genius at creating something new. But when I excitedly wrote a friend about my new baking project, she responded, sounding a bit been-there-done-that “Oh like the cake David Leite made and Smitten refashioned into cupcakes?”

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

A few google searches later, I realized that my ideas were hardly original. And not only did Deb go ahead and make cupcakes, she piped the most beautiful roses on them as well. I’ve never piped any flower onto any cake or cupcake, so I watched the “how to” videos on YouTube ad infinitum. Please note: watching how to pipe roses and making them are two very different things. Which would explain for why my roses look out of shape and so, um, deconstructionist looking. I found that the cream cheese frosting was soft and was difficult to pipe, and my hand wasn’t used to making rose petals. If anyone can think of any tips as to perfect the matter (other than “practice, practice, practice”) I am all ears. But I do fear that I may just have to beg a bakery to take me under their wing for a week where all I do is play with frosting.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

A word or two about batches. They are (or seem to me) key in home baking where you are working with smaller bowls and containers. If you were to take this particular recipes, I recommend the following: take the ingredients below, multiply them by 3 and then divide by 2 to get your 2 batches. That way you measure everything out exactly, and not eyeball it (like, ahem, some people here) which then necessitates a few Hail-Marys in hopes that your eyeballing was good enough not to wreck a batch of cupcakes. You can also weigh your ingredients and do batches that way, as Lisa brilliantly suggested to me last night.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

Also, for cookware, I seriously recommend having 2 muffin trays. I think 2 is not an unreasonable number to have and you will certainly need it at one point or another, so stock up accordingly. The ones I like you can buy either here or here. I generally shy away from dark colored non-stick bake ware and find this non-descript light metal work best.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

In the end, this is all non-tricky stuff. The cake batter isn’t finicky. The frosting comes together like a dream. It’s sort of an easy process, but if you do wind up making four dozen cupcakes, be sure to give yourself a day to do it. Piping flowers takes time and is much trickier than it looks. But if you know what you’re going in for, you are prepared, you remain calm and you emerge triumphant, with boxes of cupcakes whisked away to a rehearsal dinner or whatever event you’re making them for. Your forehead will remain uncreased; your nose – unscrunched; and instead of pursing your lips, you might even be smiling to yourself as you lick the frosting off your fingers.


Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

for the cupcakes:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing pans
3/4 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

for the frosting
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Preparation:

Make the cupcakes

1. Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line your cupcake baking pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.

3. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Spoon the batter into the cupcake tray filling 3/4 of the way. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the pans on racks for 10 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pan. Cool completely.

Make the frosting

In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Frost the top of cupcakes, swirling decoratively. Chill for 10 minutes before piping roses. Pipe roses on each cupcake (someday when i am better at this, I’ll provide a tutorial!) Refrigerate the cupcakes for 30 minutes to set up frosting.

Makes about 18 cupcakes.

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24 Comments

  • 1

    These look absolutely gorgeous!

    I love maple and pumpkin together!

    October 20, 2009 5:14 pm
  • 2
    Raluca said:

    The cupcakes look yummy and very pretty! How brave of you to accept such a big project! :)

    October 20, 2009 5:34 pm
  • 3

    Dude, it would NEVER occur to me that I don’t live in a professional chef’s kitchen. That’s why I often find myself attempting to make 9 cake layers in one batch using my little Artisan mixer.

    Also, I didn’t think that you used decorative pumpkins for anything edible either, until I talked to my mother… she was all “that’s not how we do things in the South” and proceeded to tell me to just roast it and then use the flesh however. Um, okay…

    I think I’ll stick with the sugar/pie pumpkins!

    October 20, 2009 6:05 pm
  • 4

    Dude, it would NEVER occur to me that I don’t live in a professional chef’s kitchen. That’s why I often find myself attempting to make 9 cake layers in one batch using my little Artisan mixer.

    Also, your nail polish is FAB. Love the color. Will you share what brand polish you’re using?

    October 20, 2009 6:06 pm
  • 5

    oi, sorry! I posted twice!

    October 20, 2009 6:10 pm
  • 6
    Olga said:

    non-food related comments are allowed right? because I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin and spice, but I really like your nail polish color! :)

    October 20, 2009 7:11 pm
  • 7
    Rachel said:

    Oh, those look fantastic! I find that for piping roses, the icing needs to be thoroughly chilled – I sometimes put it in the freezer, and then warm it with my hands up just enough so that I can push it out of the bag. And take your time! I’m sure that the videos you watched are more helpful than my written instructions, but in case they help:

    Pipe a small dollop in the middle (of a cupcake or flower nail). Making sure that the narrow end of the tip is up, pipe a small cone around it. Then, in fairly short bursts, pipe 3 petals, overlapping their edges – make a slight up-and-down movement with your hand, so that the tip of the petal is higher than the edges. Continue to do this, making the petals slightly larger as you go. I think 3-5-7 is a good number. Hope that this helps!

    October 20, 2009 9:29 pm
  • 8
    radish said:

    oh the chilling – thank you everyone – i think i need more wrist/hand strength bc i did try that and found my hands to be in need to more muscle! now what is the exercise for one’s hand/wrist to pipe roses? :)

    Carter & Olga – nail polish is an OPI color called appropriately Russian – “Boris & Natasha” and is kind of plummy in certain light! thanks for the compliments!

    October 20, 2009 10:16 pm
  • 9
    Elizabeth said:

    I cook for a house of 40 people – I know EXACTLY what you mean about scale! I find myself completely under and overestimating things all the time. Luckily, we do have a lot of industrial size equipment – things are actually easier in large batches.

    Beautiful cupcakes, they look delicious. I’ve been baking with pumpkin non-stop these days, these will certainly be my next pumpkin endeavor.

    October 20, 2009 10:35 pm
  • 10
    Darla said:

    Oh, I’ve so been there! I actually had access to a bakery kitchen but failed to realize that using weights instead of volumes is crucial for large scale baking. The error inherent in measuring by volume gets multiplied and everything goes wonky. I wasted so much nice, expensive Valrhona cocoa powder for 20 pathetic, sunken cakes. Never made that mistake again!

    Did you also have trouble storing dozens of cupcakes?

    October 21, 2009 3:46 am
  • 11
    radish said:

    Elizabeth – that’s amazing. I would love to learn the scale and the industrial equipment sounds dreamy! Weight, not volume – yes, exactly. I’m in dire need of a scale anyway. Thank goodness my math/fraction skills are good.

    Darla – I had to totally empty my fridge for them, so yes. Any more- and I would have run into space issues. Maybe I also need a cupcake fridge too? :) I should just turn the apartment into a bakery and sleep in the closet. Ha.

    October 21, 2009 7:27 am
  • 12
    Adrienne said:

    I am BEYOND impressed with the sheer volume of your baking… and yeah, it wouldn’t occur to me either that I only have regular home sized equipment. I do not, however, have a stand mixer. I also seem to have misplaced the beaters for my hand mixer. Four dozen cupcakes mixed by hand? I think I’ll stick with single batches for now! :)

    October 21, 2009 9:41 am
  • 13

    Ha! You sound exactly like me when I bake… My boyfriend makes fun of me because of all the huffing and puffing sounds emanating from the kitchen when I get frustrated. :)

    October 21, 2009 10:05 am
  • 14
    Whitney said:

    Way to tackle such a huge project!

    October 21, 2009 10:15 am
  • 15
    lo said:

    Yeah… I’m totally with you.
    I remember the first time we baked in volume. I volunteered for the task, and then realized that there was MATH involved! :)

    These cupcakes sound fabulous. I love the pumpkin maple combo — and they’re beautiful to boot!

    October 21, 2009 10:27 am
  • 16
    Jennifer said:

    What a deliciously classic combination of flavors. Yes, weighing ingredients is how it’s done in pastry kitchens. A scale is a very helpful tool to have on hand.

    October 21, 2009 1:24 pm
  • 17
    tara said:

    Oh you brave, brave woman. My hat’s off to you.

    October 21, 2009 6:12 pm
  • 18

    Hmm…. the season must bring upon a craving for all things spicy and warm! I too tackled some Pumpkin pie inspired cupcakes just last week, no nearly so many as you, and they are a delicious treat! I have yet to post the recipe I conjured up on my blog but I did post a photo of the final product, just to wet appetites I suppose! I wanted to add a bit of whimsy to the tops of the little cakes, as you did with your piped rosettes, so I fashioned a pumpkin seed brittle to garnish the cupcakes. I think it will be a recipe that remains in my growing reserve of recipes! I like the design on your cupcakes regardless of the softness of the icing, I think they are rustic and artisanal, and they are fitting for fall, a time of harvesting and working with the earth! Nice cakes!

    Nikki @ http://www.thereadonion.blogspot.com

    October 22, 2009 1:48 pm
  • 19

    The first time I volunteered my baking services for a large event, I had to estimate how much flour I would need for about 30 pies. I, being really truly ungifted at math, overestimated so much that I ended up requesting about 46 pounds too much flour from a donating source. Hmm. I don’t think we bought flour for home for about six months. Eww.

    So, you! Not too bad, eh?!

    October 23, 2009 5:34 pm
  • 20
    KT said:

    These are amazing — and I am so impressed that you took on a project this large! Good for you, and your roses look excellent :)

    October 24, 2009 6:20 pm
  • 21

    I love the cupcakes! The pictures are spectacular, and I think that if you really wanted a kick to these cupcakes, I would grind the spices whole (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg) and use real ginger.

    The pictures make me want to have some in my belly!

    October 25, 2009 8:37 am
  • 22
    Sues said:

    These are soo pretty!!! And they sound so delicious as well. I’m very impressed!

    October 25, 2009 3:59 pm
  • 23
    Siege said:

    Thank you for this recipe! I made them for a Halloween party last week and they were a HUGE hit!

    November 3, 2009 7:25 pm
  • 24
    NuJoi said:

    These look great. I think I’ll try them with sweet potatos. I bought 10 pounds for Thanksgiving and haven’t used them all yet.

    December 11, 2009 6:33 am

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