|Finished cupcakes are a fairly flat, but you can pile on the icing if you like.|
However, it's July. So when one of my favorite little girls, who has a birthday coming up, told me that her favorite kind of cake was pumpkin, I thought I might be able to lighten up mom's classic pumpkin bread into a more summer-friendly cupcake. Cooking without a recipe is the norm for me, but this was one of my first attempts at changing key scientific players (flour, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, sugar) drastically in a recipe for baked goods. It was kind of exhilarating. And it worked!
So, behold, pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.
For Pumpkin Cupcakes
Yields about 32 cupcakes, or 24 cupcakes and one loaf
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger (or fresh, optional)
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground clove
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2/3 cup milk
2 1/2 cups + 4 Tblsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped dates (semi optional—it's definitely better with them, but still good without)
1 cup chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 cupcake tins with paper liners. In a large mixing bowl, combine shortening and sugars; whip until slightly fluffy. And pumpkin and blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically. Add vanilla, salt, and spices; blend. Beat eggs lightly and add to batter along with the milk. Scrape sides of bowl and blend thoroughly.
2. Add 2 cups of flour with baking soda and baking powder. I like to mix the baking soda and powder into the flour just a bit with the handle end of my spatula before completely incorporating with my wet ingredients. When the first batch of flour is mixed in well, add remaining flour. Mix thoroughly, but don't blend the heck out of it. Add dates and chocolate chips and mix until evenly dispersed.
3. If you have a handy old-fashioned ice cream/batter scoop with a spring-loaded handle, this is a perfect time to use it. If not, use two large spoons or a scoop spatula to fill cupcake papers until they're about two-thirds full. Bake at 350°F for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Check your first batch of cupcakes at about 12 minutes, just because all ovens are different and I think mine is slightly dysfunctional at the moment, so my time might be a bit off. These cupcakes remain fairly flat on top, so don't worry if they don't get fluffy tops.
4. Prepare frosting of your choice (mine is cream cheese! see below) while the cupcakes cool. Frost, serve, and enjoy!
Cream Cheese Frosting
Okay, so here's the thing about frosting recipes: I think they're silly. Rather like Captain Barbosa, I see them more as... guidelines than actual rules. Every batch of frosting is a bit different. So here are the basic measurements for my starting point, then I add enough powdered sugar and milk to make as much frosting as I need at the consistency I want. Actually, that's not true; I always make far more frosting than I need. But when is too much frosting ever a bad thing?
6 oz. (3/4s of a block) cream cheese
3 Tblsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. allspice (optional)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1. In a medium bowl, whip together cream cheese, butter, salt, vanilla, and spices. (You'll want an electric mixer.) Blend until fluffy. Slowly incorporate about 1/4 cup of milk. Add about 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar. Blend and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue adding milk and sugar slowly until you have as much frosting as you want with a thick but spreadable consistency. I think I used about 4 cups of powdered sugar and a little over a cup of milk.
Wing it. Be daring with your frosting. And enjoy!