Pumpkin Cupcakes, Part 2

These might look a little familiar to anyone who has bothered to read ALL the way back on this blog…back to when the pictures were horrible instead of slightly-less-than-horrible…

This looks familiar.
Hello again!

Yeah, my pumpkin cupcakes are back. And with a purpose!

What pumpkin shortage?
What pumpkin shortage?

This month’s Cupcake Hero theme is pumpkin! Since I couldn’t get it together in time to enter last month’s banana contest, I’m totally bringin’ it with my favorite fall treats.

I take back what I said last year. Mellocreme pumpkins NOT optional.
I take back what I said last year. Mellocreme pumpkins NOT optional.


Just shifting into focus to say hello...
Just shifting into focus to say hello...

Since I finally figured out the perfect frosting for these spicy lovelies last year (and greatly improved upon it by way of some gorgeous chocolate and cocoa powder that I got at a Scharffen Berger event), I decided it was high time I created a filling for them. And what a filling it is…

Ladies and gentlemen, pumpkin cupcake nirvana has been achieved.
Ladies and gentlemen, pumpkin cupcake nirvana has been achieved.

A little browned butter caramel with your pumpkin and chocolate?

Sittin' on some pumpkins.
Sittin' on some pumpkins.

Oh yes…I think that about does it as far as pumpkin-y awesomeness is concerned.

Oh artificial pumpkin goodness. Why you got to be so awesome?
Oh artificial pumpkin goodness. Why you got to be so awesome?

I brought these to class. They were appreciated pretty thoroughly, especially the filling. Many of my classmates had only recently (like last week) been introduced to the wonder of brown butter so it went over very well.

Quick! Eat it!
Quick! Eat it!

I definitely recommend you make these this fall. And then eat them. Eat them fast.

...before it turns into a pumpkin.
...before it turns into a pumpkin.

Ultimate Pumpkin Cupcakes

First You Gotta Bake the Cakes…

  1. 1 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  2. 1 cup dark brown sugar
  3. 1 1/4 cup sugar
  4. 2 eggs
  5. 1 15 oz. can pumpkin (plain pumpkin, no spices pre-mixed in there!)
  6. 3 cups AP flour
  7. 2 tsp baking soda
  8. 1 tsp fine salt
  9. 3 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  10. 1 tsp nutmeg
  11. 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  12. 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugars until they are light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated into the creamed mixture before adding more. Gradually add the pumpkin and beat until smooth. Whisk together the flour and other dry ingredients, then gradually add them to the batter until everything is homogenous. Plop into lined muffin tins (an ice cream scoop is great for this since it’s a very thick, almost dough-like batter) and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of one comes out clean. Cool completely before filling and/or frosting. Makes about 28 cupcakes. (I usually make 24 and pour the rest of the batter into a buttered large ramekin or Pyrex dish as a little treat for myself.)

Then You Have to Make the Filling…

  1. 4 oz./8 Tbsp unsalted butter (you can use salted if you like, just omit the added salt)
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp heavy cream, room temperature
  4. Pinch of fine salt

Cut the butter into several pieces and melt them in a small saucepan. Continue cooking, gently swirling the pan, until the milk solids begin to burn – the butter will smell nutty and caramelly and there will be brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Don’t let the burnt bits get black though – remove the pan from the heat before it gets too dark. If you have a vessel that can handle it (like a Pyrex container) pour the browned butter into it immediately; otherwise, let it sit in the pan until it has cooled slightly, then move to a bowl or other container, being sure to scrape as much of the lovely brown part from the bottom of the pan as you can. Refrigerate the butter until it has solidified. Once you are ready to make the rest of the filling, cut it into small pieces.

Place the sugar in a saucepan with tall sides. Wet it with just enough water to make it the consistency of wet sand, then place over high heat. Brush down the sides of the pan with water to keep crystals from forming. Cook, swirling the saucepan gently, until it is a nice amber color and smells caramelly. You can make it as mild or dark as you like but a nice medium caramel is just about perfect for me. Add the butter and salt all at once and stir until melted, then remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the cream. Be careful – the caramel will bubble up angrily when you pour in the cream (this is why you want a tall pan). If any bits of caramel seize up, just place the pan over medium-low heat and stir gently until everything is dissolved and smooth. Allow to cool, then chill in the refrigerator to make it firmer and easier to scoop into the cakes.

And Of Course There’s the Frosting…

  1. 2/3 cup whole milk
  2. 6 oz. chopped dark chocolate
  3. 2 tsp cocoa powder

Place the chocolate in a medium mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil, then immediately pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for about 30 seconds, then slowly begin stirring it with a whisk, from the middle out, until all the chocolate is melted and you have a smooth, creamy ganache. Sift in the cocoa powder and stir until it is fully incorporated. Chill until firm and spreadable.

Now for the Assembly!

  1. Cooled Pumpkin Cupcakes
  2. Chilled Brown Butter Caramel Filling
  3. Chilled Double Chocolate Ganache
  4. Mellocreme Pumpkins

Use a small round cutter to cut out the middles of the cupcakes. Be careful – they’re very soft! Spoon a glob of caramel into each, then trim the middle and place the “lid” of cake back on top of the caramel. Let the caramel set up a bit inside the cakes (chilling or even freezing if you’d like). Whisk the ganache slightly to get it tightened up, then spread a thin but opaque layer on top of each cupcake. Top each with a mellocreme pumpkin.

I’ve learned a lot of things over the past year on my own as well as more recently in class. For instance, the cocoa powder in the ganache is entirely unnecessary from a technical standpoint – the cocoa butter in the ganache is what makes it bind up. If you were to use cream, as is traditional, the cream itself would be thickening it as you beat it. I decided to stick to my original, slightly odd choice of milk (back when I was afraid of cream) because I think a perfectly smooth ganache would detract from the velvety soft cake, and left in the cocoa powder strictly for that extra bitter chocolate kick that goes so well with the almost too-sweetness in this cupcake.


  1. Excellent photos, cupcakes, backdrops. :) And now I need to find some of those little pumpkins. (I had no idea there was a name for them!)

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