There are so many reasons to love Thanksgiving: food, family, Charlie Brown specials. Actually, I believe television networks now mandate the commencement of holiday movie watching on Thanksgiving. Which is fine by me, I can stop checking to make sure I didn’t leave Home Alone in the DVD player and clearing my recent YouTube searches for the full version of A Muppet Family Christmas.
Truly though, my favorite element of Thanksgiving is the lack of pretense. You don’t have to find that elusive present and then weigh the pros and cons of actually buying wrapping paper. You don’t have to wear a stunning/uncomfortable outfit or choose the best party for watching the ball drop at midnight. Sure you can wear a nice sweater at the start of the Thanksgiving meal, but no one will judge you if you change into sweatpants and a sweatshirt post turkey and stuffing. If anything, your guests and family will probably follow suit.
So this year I’m dropping the pretense of red velvet cupcakes. Let’s not kid ourselves, we all know we eat them for the cream cheese frosting. The cake itself tastes a little bland. And unless you use beet juice which is kind of a pain to make, you need to buy a lot of red food dye in order to transform the cake from a muddy brown to red. Don’t get me started on grocery stores only selling red dye in multi color packs; how bad does blue or green velvet cake sound?
I say let’s break red velvet’s tyrannous hold on cream cheese frosting and pair such deliciousness with a deserving cake. These pumpkin cupcakes are both moist and light while still packing a punch in pumpkin and holiday spice flavor. Their airy texture pairs perfectly with the delicious and thick maple cream cheese frosting. Yep, maple cream cheese frosting. You might need to break out the sweatpants early.
Adapted from Smittenkitchen
Yield: 18 to 20 cupcakes
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk (how to make buttermilk explained in this post)
1 can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) about 15 oz
For the Cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line cupcake tin with liners. Optional: Spray liners with Pam.
2. Place butter and sugars in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time.
3. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and allspice.
4. Alternating between flour and milk mixtures, beat into butter mixture using electric mixer. Add pumpkin; mix until smooth.
5. Fill cupcake liners about ¾ of the way full with batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 -25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.
For the Frosting
Adapted from Ina Garten
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-3 teaspoons Maple Syrup
2 ¾ cups confectioners' sugar
1. In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese and butter with electric mixer on low speed until smooth
2. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners' sugar. Mix until smooth.
3. Add maple syrup. Taste test after two teaspoons to see if 3rd teaspoon needed.