Cupcakes

April Fool’s Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

What can you say about the humble potato? They are a starchy vegetable, inexpensive and abundant. They may seem plain and boring, but once transformed into french fries, latkes, scalloped potatoes and gnocchi, well you know where I’m headed with this. Of course we can’t forget mashed potatoes. Imagine the most perfect mashed potatoes you’ve ever eaten. A creamy and smooth texture, a buttery and rich flavor and the perfect combination of seasonings. I bet 98% of people could eat a whole plate of those perfect mashed potatoes. The other 2% are either allergic to potatoes or delicious things. Now imagine those perfect mashed potatoes in a little individual serving to have all to yourself. Now imagine those perfect mashed potatoes are actually cupcakes. Wait, what?

Did I trick you? Maybe the title gave it away. Happy April Fool’s! These aren’t mashed potatoes at all, but pumpkin cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting and salted butter caramel sauce. Although now I kind of want mashed potatoes.

But put that thought out of your mind and switch gears to dessert. A perfectly spiced and moist dessert that will have you swooning. And your mind reeling because you thought it was a cup of mashed potatoes. That’s a melted yellow Starburst on top, not butter!

Even if you aren’t that into April Fool’s and silly pranks aren’t your thing, you still have to make these cupcakes. If you continue to frolic about your days without tasting this exact combination of pumpkin, cream cheese and caramel, I’ll have to weep for you every night. And I dislike crying, especially when I’m trying to eat cupcakes. So go ahead and make these sneaky treats!

April Fool's Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Salted Caramel Sauce
 
Yield: 14 cupcakes
Ingredients
for the cupcakes
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
for the frosting
  • 5 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
for the caramel sauce
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream, divided
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1¼ teaspoons coarse salt
for assembly
  • 14 yellow Starbursts
Directions
for the cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Completely line one 12-cup muffin pan with foil cupcake liners and two cups of a second 12-cup muffin pan. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the brown sugar and eggs until combined. Add the pumpkin, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla and stir until combined.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined, making sure not to over-mix.
  5. Evenly spoon the batter into the lined cups. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack until frosting.
for the frosting
  1. Beat the cream cheese and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.
for the caramel sauce
  1. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar and cook until the sugar is a rich golden brown, making sure to stir often.
  2. Remove from the heat and whisk in half of the cream. Be careful as the mixture may splatter.
  3. Once combined stir in the rest of the cream, the vanilla and the salt. If any lumps form slowly whisk the caramel sauce over low heat.
for assembly
  1. Spread the cream cheese frosting on the cupcakes, slightly mounding the frosting. Create a well in the center of the frosting with a small spoon. Place 1 Starburst at an angle in the well.
  2. Drizzle warm caramel into the frosting well until it fills up and spills over like gravy.
Notes
Leftover caramel sauce can be kept in the fridge for 2 weeks and reheated slowly in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat.

Pumpkin cupcakes from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
Cream cheese frosting slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats.
Salted butter caramel sauce from The Perfect Scoop.
Cupcake assembly from Hello, Cupcake!

Ultimate Oreo Cupcakes

The first buttercream frosting I ever made was an Oreo buttercream. Armed with a mini food processor I chopped the Oreos down to mere crumbs and whipped them into Martha Stewart’s vanilla buttercream recipe. After one taste (and a second and third and fourth) I knew I would never buy store-bought frosting again. Well, unless it’s rainbow chip as I have yet to find a good substitute.

This Oreo buttercream had my head spinning and it wasn’t just the sugar rush. Something this smooth, decadent and bursting with Oreo flavor only takes a matter of mere minutes and a few simple ingredients? That was a dangerous fact to stumble upon.

I have since made many buttercreams, whipped frostings, cream cheese frostings and glazes, but I always find myself coming back to that original Oreo buttercream. When I was visiting my family last summer for our annual beach week I wanted to bring them the best of the best. So I decided to combine all my favorites, including these perfect chocolate cupcakes, this amazing chocolate ganache and the above mentioned Oreo buttercream, into an ultimate super cupcake.

Topped, of course, with a chocolate-covered Oreo, these cupcakes are guaranteed to make your family, friends, coworkers and strangers want to hug you. Or imprison you in their kitchen so you can forever make them these cupcakes, it could really go either way. So enjoy these treats, but proceed with caution.

Ultimate Oreo Cupcakes
 
Yield: 24 cupcakes
Ingredients
for the Oreo buttercream
  • 15 Oreo cookies
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
for the Oreo garnish
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 12 Oreo cookies
  • ⅓ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
for the cupcakes
Directions
for the Oreo buttercream
  1. Chop the Oreo cookies in a food processor until they are fine crumbs, or crush in a thick plastic baggie with a heavy object.
  2. Whip the butter for 2-3 minutes, or until smooth, with an electric mixer.
  3. On low speed carefully add the sugar, milk and vanilla and mix until fluffy. If the frosting looks too thin slowly add some more powdered sugar. Add the Oreo crumbs and mix until well combined.
  4. Fit a pastry bag with the Wilton Bismarck tip #230. Fill the pastry bag with the filling. Insert the tip halfway into the center of the cupcake and squeeze in some filling. Slowly start pulling out the tip while still squeezing. Remove and stop squeezing in some filling when the top of the cupcake starts to bulge and is just about to crack. Place in the fridge to chill.
for the Oreo garnish
  1. Cover a plate or cutting board that will fit in your fridge with wax paper and set aside.
  2. Melt the white chocolate chips over a double boiler over medium-low heat. When completely melted stir in the vegetable oil then remove from the heat.
  3. Carefully submerge an Oreo so that it's completely coated in white chocolate before resting it on the wax paper. I used a spoon and a fork to complete this task. Repeat for the rest of the Oreos.
  4. Place the Oreos in the fridge until the chocolate has set.
  5. When the chocolate is almost set melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips using the double boiler. Set aside to cool slightly. Remove the Oreos from the fridge and place near your workstation.
  6. Pour the melted semi-sweet chocolate into a pastry bag fitting with a skinny round tip or a plastic baggie with a very small corner snipped off. Pour zigzag lines over the Oreos then return to the fridge to set.
  7. Once the Oreos have set carefully cut in half with a sharp knife.
for the cupcakes
  1. Once the cupcakes have been filled and chilled it's time to top them with the chocolate ganache. If the ganache isn't already warm carefully heat it in a double boiler or in the microwave on low heat.
  2. Carefully dip the top of each cupcake in the warm chocolate ganache, letting the excess drip off. After dipping the cupcakes carefully press a chocolate-covered Oreo half into the center of each cupcake before the ganache has time to completely harden. You may have to slightly insert the Oreo into the cupcake so that it stays upright.
  3. Return to the fridge to let the chocolate ganache set. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Oreo buttercream slightly adapted from Martha Stewart.

 

Chocolate Maple Bacon Cupcakes with a Whiskey Cream Filling

These cupcakes have me in such a frenzy of excitement that I don’t even know where to begin. I suppose the best place to start is how these cupcakes came into existence. Well, literally I baked them, but before that they were just a vision of my tasty, chocolate-clouded imagination. Last year my friend was having a big milestone birthday and three important factors came into play when determining what to make her for said birthday. One, she is a health fanatic and does not eat desserts. I’m talking no desserts even during our holiday potluck at work; this girl’s got some serious willpower. Two, she loves bacon and regularly orders a bacon, egg and cheese, minus the bread and cheese. Don’t ask. Three, and this is the important one, she informed me that for her birthday she was going to treat herself to some dessert.

The minute that sentence left her mouth I knew I was tasked with creating the most amazing, decadent, oh-my-Paula-Deen, diet breaking worthy dessert of all time. Each component is more sin-inducing than the previous and you will wonder how you managed to exist up until this point without experiencing such a life altering cupcake perfect morsel.

The base is a chocolate cake recipe that we know and love, fondly referred to as the perfect chocolate cupcake for its incomparable moist texture and rich chocolate taste. They are then stuffed with a whiskey cream filling. A little bit naughty and a whole lot delicious. The maple glaze on top is light enough that it doesn’t add too much richness to the already decadent cupcakes, but the maple flavor still comes through to compliment the bacon.

Oh the bacon. The ultimate dessert garnish is no garnish at all, but the singular component that unifies the entire cupcake. Pan-fried as all proper bacon should be so that it’s allowed to cook in it’s own grease and soak up as much bacony flavor as possible. Then half dipped in chocolate to create a salty-sweet duo that will bring you to your knees, where you will stay while you finish your cupcake because you’re shaking so much from excitement that you can’t be trusted at a full upright position. If you’ve been searching for the one dessert that will make you overjoyed that you broke your diet then make these this weekend.

Chocolate Maple Bacon Cupcakes with a Whiskey Cream Filling
 
Yield: 24 cupcakes
Ingredients
for the bacon
  • 8 pieces bacon, cooked in a frying pan until crispy
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
for the filling
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons whiskey
for the glaze
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
Directions
for the bacon
  1. Line a small cookie tray or cutting board that will fit in the fridge with wax paper then set aside.
  2. Carefully break the pieces of bacon into roughly 2” pieces. Set aside.
  3. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium heat until smooth, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the vegetable oil until combined.
  5. Dip half of each piece of bacon into the chocolate, let the excess drip off, then place on the wax paper. Once all the pieces have been dipped place in the fridge to set.
for the filling
  1. Whip the heavy cream in a chilled mixing bowl until stiff peaks are just about to form.
  2. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, being sure not to over-beat the cream.
  3. Add the whiskey and stir with a spatula until combined. At this point, the filling will taste very strong. The longer the cupcakes rest before eating, especially if resting in the fridge, the more mellow the flavor will become.
  4. Fit a pastry bag with the Wilton Bismarck tip #230. Fill the pastry bag with the filling.
  5. Insert the tip halfway into the center of the cupcake and squeeze in some filling. Slowly start pulling out the tip while still squeezing. Remove and stop squeezing in some filling when the top of the cupcake starts to bulge and is just about to crack.
  6. Place in the fridge to chill.
for the glaze
  1. While the cupcakes are chilling whisk together the powdered sugar and maple syrup in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Remove the cupcakes from the fridge. Carefully dip the top of each cupcake into the maple glaze. Place a piece of chocolate dipped bacon on top so it sets with the glaze.
  3. Place the cupcakes in the fridge to set before serving.

 

Halloween Witches’ Cauldron Cupcakes

Halloween is my favorite holiday, right after Christmas and my birthday. Just kidding about the birthday part… maybe. A day where it’s equally acceptable to gorge on candy, dress up in a ridiculous costume and watch Disney Channel Halloweentown movie marathons? Count me in! My love of Halloween also comes from my dad. Anyone who knows my dad is aware of how infectious his excitement and enthusiasm is, and since Halloween is his number one favorite holiday the fondness rubbed off on me throughout the years. From helping my brother and I with haunted house creations to every year faithfully taking us to the neighborhood with the best candy to embarrassing me by showing up at my college dorm in a full clown suit, my dad has always made sure I associated Halloween with fun and laughter.

These cupcakes may take a bit of work, but they are cute, fun and will definitely put a smile on everyone’s face this Halloween. I saw these cauldron cupcakes in last year’s Halloween issue of Food Network Magazine and have been counting down to Halloween so I could make them. The cupcakes look spooky and taste delightful so it’s win-win!

Halloween Witches' Cauldron Cupcakes
 
Yield: 16 cupcakes
Ingredients
  • 24 chocolate cupcakes in black or dark brown wrappers
  • 1 batch chocolate frosting
  • Red sugar sprinkles
  • Bright green decorator’s icing
  • 16 thin pretzel sticks
  • 1 bag cotton candy
  • Black licorice laces
  • 1 toothpick or skewer
Directions
  1. Unwrap 8 of the cupcakes and cut them in half horizontally (the top of the cupcake will be one half and the bottom of the cupcake will be the other).
  2. To assemble the cauldron, spread a thin layer of frosting on top of one of the still wrapped cupcakes. Top with 1 cupcake half and try to line the edges up as well as you can. They won’t match up exactly because of the rounded cupcake tops.
  3. Seal the cupcake half to the rest of the wrapped cupcake by covering the entire extra-tall cupcake with frosting.
  4. Pour some sprinkles onto a small plate and pile them together. Slowly press the edge of the cupcake nearest the wrapper into the sprinkles. I did this by holding the bottom of the wrapped cupcake in my right hand, slowly turning and re-pressing into the sprinkles, while pressing the index finger of my left hand into the top center of the cupcake to keep it steady. This is the trickiest part.
  5. Press your finger into the top center of the cupcake to make a small indent about half an inch deep and the size of a nickel.
  6. Fill the indent with the green decorator’s icing and squeeze it over the sides of the indent so it looks like it’s oozing out.
  7. Place a pretzel stick in the indent so it looks like a witch’s broom sticking out of the cauldron.
  8. Carefully place some of the cotton candy behind the green decorator’s icing. I used a fork to grab it from the bag and fluff it since it tended to lose its airiness if I pressed too hard with my fingers.
  9. Break off about a 3-4 inch piece of black licorice. Poke two holes into opposite sides of the cupcake with the toothpick. Carefully place one end of the licorice into the first hole then arch the licorice to create the cauldron’s handle and place the other end in the other hole.
  10. Repeat for the remaining 15 wrapped cupcakes.
Notes
Do not put these cupcakes in the fridge as it will cause the cotton candy to dissolve and shrivel. I found cotton candy in the candy section of my grocery store. I had to go to quite a few different candy stores to find black licorice laces, but you could always use red laces if you are unable to find black laces.

Inspiration from October 2012 issue of Food Network Magazine.
Find the chocolate cupcake and frosting recipe here.

Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes & Perfect Chocolate Frosting

This recipe is so delicious, so chocolately and so perfect in every way that we need to start talking about it right now. No wasting time reading about my childhood breakfast memories or my typical New Englander obsession with fall or my confusion about why anyone would ever think smaller sizes of candy are “fun” – I just don’t get it! We need to be quick about this so you have time to run to your kitchen and start baking these cupcakes immediately. Your tastebuds will thank you. Your stomach, however, will curse you for eating three of them faster than someone can say, “Where did all the cupcakes go?” Or maybe you’re an normal unusual human being with self control around moist chocolate baked goods, in which case maybe you can teach me someday.

If you don’t yet have a go-to chocolate cake recipe you can stop your search right now. And if you do have one it’s time to make these cupcakes and reevaluate that statement. Over the last two years I have made this recipe dozens of times in the form of cupcakes, layer cakes and sheet cakes and it always comes out amazing. “Wow,” “omg” and “mmm” are the three most common exclamations when people try these cupcakes, typically mumbled while still mid-bite. Who knew a cake would be so life-changing?

When a cupcake is this good you need to make sure you have a frosting that is equally drool-worthy. This chocolate frosting is creamy, rich and as the title states, perfect. The combination of melted chocolate and cocoa powder provides a pure melt-in-your-mouth chocolate taste, instead of the overwhelming sugary or buttery attributes that are often associated with buttercream frostings. I made it for the first time this past weekend and there’s something so exhilarating about stumbling upon a recipe that you know you will return to time and time again. So go bake these cupcakes and get exhilarated.

Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes & Perfect Chocolate Frosting
 
Yield: 24 cupcakes
Ingredients
for the cupcakes
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk, see note
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee, see note
for the frosting
  • 2½ sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
Directions
for the cupcakes
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together until smooth.
  4. Pour the hot coffee into the batter and stir until combined. The batter will be extremely liquidy. Divide the batter between the 24 cupcake liners, filling them slightly more than half full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes back mostly clean. Alternatively, they are done when you gently press your finger on the center of a cupcake and it lightly springs back. I find mine to be done at exactly 19 minutes.
  5. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes then remove to a wire cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
for the frosting
  1. Set the chocolate over a double boiler on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a food processor or in a large mixing bowl with an immersion blender. Pulse until mixture is smooth and well combined, making sure to scrape sides as needed.
  3. Add the corn syrup and vanilla extract to the butter mixture. I like to lightly spray my measuring cup with cooking spray before measuring out the corn syrup because it helps the corn syrup from sticking to the measuring cup when you go to use it (this works well for honey, too).
  4. Pulse the mixture until well combined, making sure to scrape sides as needed.
  5. If the chocolate is completely melted and smooth, remove from the heat for a few minutes. Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the mixture and process until smooth.
Notes
To make your own buttermilk: pour 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in a liquid measuring cup. Pour milk, any fat percentage, into the measuring cup until you have 1 cup. Let sit for 5 minutes before using.
If you don’t want to use coffee you can use hot water, but the flavor of the chocolate won’t be as pronounced. You can use decaffeinated coffee if you prefer.
The cupcakes, unfrosted, freeze very well if you want to make them ahead of time.

Frosting from Fun Foods on a Budget!