Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting {Mystery Dish Challenge}

Hi, my name is Nora and I'll be your host for the October Mystery Dish Challenge. If this were Sesame Street, I'd say "today's post is brought to you by the number 12" - as in the number of cupcakes you can make with the recipe below, or the number of bloggers in this challenge whose recipe will make your mouths water - "and the letter P," for pumpkin. 

Cause it's October. 


Listen, I realize that after I put bacon in my cookies and pig sprinkles on top, all bets were off, but this month was my turn to select the ingredients for the group, and of course I went with pumpkin, however predictable that may be. Who in their right mind wouldn't go with pumpkin for October, if for no other reason than to justify, somewhat, the embarrassing number of cans of the stuff I they have purchased in the last month?? It's the perfect crime. 

I've made all manner of pumpkin treats this month, including bread, baked mac & cheese, (failed) puppy chow, and scones (coming soon!). But I wanted to share a cupcake with you today because, quite frankly, for a blog called Buttercream Fanatic, I don't really offer up a lot of buttercream recipes. There's just so much to bake and so little time.... #firstworldproblems

So here we are: a new buttercream-covered creation. These cupcakes (or, if you leave off the frosting, you can totally pass these off as muffins. You're welcome.) are rich and pumpkiny, with a bold spicy finish. Gosh, I sound like I am describing a wine. Or, like some sort of hip, new aftershave. But, there's no contest. With their moist and springy texture, and rich taste of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, these cupcakes are far superior to eating aftershave. (Sidenote: Please don't eat aftershave...)

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, justifying my pumpkin binge with the Mystery Dish ingredients. If you missed last month's Mystery Dish introduction, the gist of it is that it's a virtual version of "Chopped" which brings together a group of  bloggers to make awesome food every month. Each member of the group is responsible for choosing a list of ingredients each month and the rest of the group makes dishes from a handful of the ingredients on the list. We're only on our second month of the project, but I am already blown away by the skills and creativity that these ladies bring to the table. You may also notice that we have 12 bloggers this month, compared to last month's 11. We're excited to welcome Cate as our October guest poster!

October is my month to pick the ingredients, and yes, like everyone else in the northern hemisphere, I am absolutely overcome with fall-flavor glee. I think I cling to the wonderfulness of fall flavors as a way to distract myself from my summer-is-over-prepare-to-freeze-for-the-next-7-to-8-months depression, but regardless of the cause, I love the taste of fall...Also, as I am writing this, a horse-drawn hayride just passed by. Seriously. In the middle of the city. What's not to love about this season?

But really, adorableness and horsies aside, fall is all about the rich and comforting flavors like pumpkin and, um, pumpkin spice, and that is really what inspired my ingredients this month. The ingredients I chose were: sweet potato, kale, squash (any kind, including pumpkin), nutmeg, venison, turkey, cranberries, caramel, and candy corn.

I also specified that everyone has to use at least two of the ingredients from this list. I went with pumpkin (duh), nutmeg (in pumpkin pie spice), and candy corn. 

The results of this challenge were amazing, and one blogger even used venison (hooray!). I can't wait to try them all. If you scroll down past the recipe, you can see all of the other mouthwatering dishes, and by the way, be set with breakfast, dinner and dessert recipes for the rest of the season. 

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting
Buttercream Fanatic (2013)

For the Cupcakes:
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling, please!)
1/2 cup milk (I used whole)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I like strong spice flavors; if you don't, reduce spice to 1 tsp.)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour

For the Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
1 Tablespoon heavy cream (plus extra to thin out the frosting if necessary)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the optional garnish:
Candy pumpkins and/or candy corn

Preheat the oven to 350F. Thoroughly coat a standard muffin tin with nonstick spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, milk and egg. Add all of the rest of ingredients, except flour. When everything is thoroughly mixed, add flour, and stir until completely incorporated, but not more.

Fill each tin about 3/4 of the way full (I used a full ice cream scoop worth of batter per portion) and put into the oven. Immediately turn the oven temperature down to 325 as soon as you put the cupcakes in oven, which will help them rise. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

While the  cupcakes are cooking, prepare the frosting by creaming together the butter and sugar on medium speed for about a minute, and then add the cream and whip on high speed for about 5 minutes, until the color is about two shades lighter and the texture is creamy. If the frosting is too stiff, add an additional 1 T heavy cream and whip for an additional 3-5 minutes. Add salt, vanilla and cinnamon, and whip for 2-3 more minutes until light, fluffy, and uniform in color (you may need to scrape down the bowl once or twice during mixing to make sure everything is mixed evenly).

When the cupcakes are done, remove them from the pan and allow to cool completely on a rack before frosting. Top with candy garnish.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Storage note: These really don't keep their moisture very well over time, so are best enjoyed within 24 hours of coming out of the oven. They can be stored, frosted or unfrosted, in the fridge for up to three days, but bring them back to room temperature before serving. Unfrosted cupcakes will keep in the freezer for up to three months in an airtight container, as long as you freeze them as soon as possible (make sure they are cooled all the way through first though).


Want more fall-flavored treats? Check out the amazing results of this month's Mystery Dish challenge!

If you like this recipe, follow Buttercream Fanatic for more


  1. Cate @ Chez CateyLouOctober 29, 2013 at 8:33 AM

    Nora, these cupcakes look amazing! I could spread that cinnamon icing on anything!! Thank you so much for hosting Mystery Dish this month and for inviting me to participate. I had so much fun!

  2. These are beautiful cupcakes, Nora! And seriously, that frosting? DE-lish.

  3. Oh goodness!! Sesame street...hay rides...pumpkin! You've got me cracking up. :-D It most definitely isn't fall without pumpkin! And pumpkin cupcakes are a MUST in Casa de la Hubby every October. Your cupcakes = win. Your ingredients = win...even though they totally kicked my butt. The challenge was worth it!

  4. Zainab @ Blahnik BakerOctober 29, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    These cupcakes are gorgeous and look so delicious. Just love how they could be muffins as well (I mean just lick off the icing in the morning and viola! Breakfast!). This month's ingredients look exciting and can't wait to check out what the others made. Love mystery dish!!

  5. Lol I love that you are all over the place in this post! Thanks for being an awesome host this month and for bringing buttercream back! These look deeeelicious :)

  6. This is such a great post, Nora! So funny and relatable. Your cupcakes are gorgeous! I like to see the inside part of the cake. And I love that beautifully piped swirl. Thanks so much for hosting this month and for the fab recipe! I'm sharing on twitter ;)

  7. Your too funny! The beginning of your post was cracking me up and then I starting thinking about Sesame St. :) These cupcakes look delicious and oh that cinnamon buttercream frosting! Just want to lick it off! YUM!

    Krista @ Joyful Healthy Eats

  8. Thank you Cate! I highly recommend this frosting on just about anything :)

    And thank you for your beautiful bread! I am so glad you were able to participate this month!

  9. Glad I could make you laugh! October is nothing without pumpkin, and what better vehicle for it than a darn good cupcake?? At least that's my rationale ;)

    And by the way, your dish is awesome! Don't sell yourself short!

  10. Thank you so much Zainab! Yep, the only way to make them muffins is to make the frosting and either lick it off or eat it with a spoon...or just proudly eat a cupcake for breakfast! Nothing wrong with that!

  11. Haha, yeah, a leeeeeeeettle crazy over here. It's hard to talk about the dish and the challenge and the ingredients so I guess I had to sound like a crazy person to get it all in. I'm ok with that! Anything for the Mystery Dishers :)

  12. Thank you, Allie! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.You are too sweet to point out my silly frosting swirl. They were all lopsided, but I decided that was....rustic. Still working on my skills in that department! Thank you so much for sharing on Twitter! I really appreciate it!

  13. Thank you Krista! I don't know where the Sesame Street reference came from, but it just felt right :) Feel free to skip the cupcakes, and just eat the frosting with a spoon!

  14. Sherri@TheWellFlouredKitchenOctober 29, 2013 at 8:10 PM

    Isn't funny how muffins and cupcakes are like.. the same? The cinnamon buttercream looks like the perfect topping, yum!

  15. You're totally right about the muffins and cupcakes, Sherri! But don't miss out on this frosting. Just frost your "muffins" ;)

  16. Anne ~ Uni HomemakerOctober 30, 2013 at 12:40 AM

    These look so festive Nora. I would love a few of these for breakfast! And your baking cups are absolutely adorable!

  17. I am in love with these pictures...I seriously just want to lick that icing straight off that cupcake!! I am so glad you chose the ingredients this month and that Venison was one of them! You are a rockstar and can't wait to see what you come up with next!!

  18. This challenge is so fun and I think you definitely went with totally appropriate ingredients. The cupcakes - whoa. The frosting - WHOA WHOA. I'm such a sucker for all things cinnamon-y.

  19. Thanks, Kat! I highly recommend making the icing and just eating it with a spoon. I mean, it's pretty basic (nothing as cool as venison!) but it still tastes pretty darn good :)

  20. It is so much fun, Joanne! I am with you - bring on the cinnamon!

  21. Sooooo....I might have bought 2 more cans of pumpkin today when I already have a full one at home and 1/2 a can in the fridge. I think I have a problem...

  22. Hmm, that sounds more like an opportunity than a problem to me ;)

  23. Ooh your pumpkin cupcakes look so moist and springy, and I love the cinnamon buttercream frosting on top (so beautiful)! What a perfect fall pairing (: And even if pumpkin may seem like an obvious mystery ingredient, who's to complain? Pumpkin is awesome!

  24. Ashley - Baker by NatureNovember 1, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    Wow, these cupcakes are seriously gorgeous, Nora! Great job :)

  25. Thanks, Monica! I thought these flavors would do fall justice. Plus, really, what is fall if not an excuse to put pumpkin in absolutely everything!

  26. These would make super cute cupcakes for Thanksgiving too! Love the cinnamon spice! Great job Nora!

  27. Oh, you're so right - these would be awesome at Thanksgiving! Maybe as a full cake instead, not that I have any problem with cupcakes :)

  28. Hello!!! I'm planning to use your recipe for the cinnamon frosting for some snicerdoodle cupcakes. However the recipe seems to be missing something. It says 1 T but nothing follows it, after the confectionary sugar. Is this just a typo or is there another ingredient I should be adding?

  29. Hi Kristi! Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I'm not sure what happened there, but that is definitely a typo. It should read "1 Tablespoon heavy cream", which will thin out the frosting just a little. I like really heavy duty buttercream so feel free to add an additional Tablespoon or two if you like yours to be lighter and thinner (per the recipe). If you have any other questions, feel free to leave another comment or email me! (buttercreamfanatic@gmail.com) I hope you like the frosting!

  30. I made this frosting last night (with different cake). It went over AMAZING with my coworkers today. Thanks for sharing!

  31. I am thrilled to hear that! Thanks for letting me know!!


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