My neighborhood is kind of wonderful some days. Hyper-vigilant and Occaaaaaasionally Slightly Paranoid Neighborhood Facebook Group notwithstanding, I feel pretty safe and secure here. In fact, if I disappeared for some reason, I’m fairly confident that someone would notice! (Hey, when your husband is thousands of miles and a giant ocean away, that counts for something).
Anyway, I wasn’t feeling well yesterday and I took the day off of work. Whilst lounging on the couch with some coffee, trying to nurse a headache away, my dogs starting barking insanely in the backyard. Lo and behold, my semi-elderly neighbor was back there weed-eating my yard.
Now, if you have seen this particular neighbor’s yard, you would notice that it is pristinely manicured. The man spent two hours every single day for a month power washing and re-staining his fence. Their lawn is immaculate, and then you get to the edge of their property line to our yard and…well…the immaculateness stops there. I suspect my neighbor is thrilled to have an excuse to edge our yard so that for once in the entire two years we’ve owned this house, the edges around our sidewalk will be congruent and straight. Of course, that has NOTHING to do with the backyard, and even so I found him out there sweating it up on his day off. What a peach!
I decided that I was going to repay him in home baked goods, which is Sean’s currency of choice. I was itching to bake something pumpkin, and this seemed like a good way to do it without eating an entire batch of something all by myself, which I’ve been known to do.
As I headed out to the grocery store, I was reminded how I HATE the first couple of jeans days of fall. After a summer of bare legs and freedom, pulling suffocating jeggings (had to start slow) onto my legs requires about as much effort as trying to give Zoe a bath. The entire time I was at the grocery store my legs just kept ITCHING. The only thing I wanted was to run home and rip them off! That meant that I really had no patience for Dillards, or Ulta, or HomeGoods, or the other 50 glorious places I had planned to grace with my presence that day. Lucky for my bank account, I guess.
I shall try again tomorrow with the pants.
At the very least, I was able to acquire the ingredients I needed for this recipe. Frankly, I always have at least six cans of pumpkin in my pantry, and if it weren’t for the cream cheese, I’d have been able to whip this up with stuff I already had at home. Maybe you will be so lucky!
PUMPKIN SPICE CUPCAKES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
INGREDIENTS (makes 12 cupcakes)
- 1 and 1/4 cup pumpkin
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1.5 cups of flour
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 8oz cream cheese softened (use the block, not a tub)
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 3-4 cups of powdered sugar (before sifting)
- 1 and 1/2 tsp of vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with twelve cupcake liners and set aside.
- Combine all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl and set aside.
- Place pumpkin, eggs and vanilla into a mixer and mix on medium for two minutes, or until thoroughly combined.
- Add in dry ingredients slowly, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally.
- With a large spoon, fill liners 3/4 of the way full with the cake batter, taking care not to get any batter on the sides.
- Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick or fork comes out clean.
- Let the cupcakes cool COMPLETELY before icing. I place them in the refrigerator while I’m preparing the icing.
Let me just drop a few nuggets here about cream cheese icing (and about constructing homemade frosting in general). Number one: don’t use cheap imitation vanilla. Trust me when I say that the real stuff legitimately tastes two dollars better, and unless you’re going on cupcake wars, it’s not going to break the bank. Considering that vanilla is essentially the flavor that we’re trying to achieve, in frosting, at least, quality is important. Number two: don’t soften your butter or cream cheese in the microwave. I have tried that shortcut many a time and it always ends up with me calling my mother to complain about an unfluffy, runny mess. Finally, number three: sift the powdered sugar. It takes like five seconds. If you’re anything like me, once you do it once and notice all of the nasty little pearls that don’t sift through, you’ll will realize that it was worth the extra effort. And now back to our regularly scheduled program:
- To make the cream cheese frosting, begin by whipping the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer on medium high for 4 minutes.
- While the butter and cream is mixing, sift the powdered sugar into a bowl. Throw out the hard little pearls that don’t sift through.
- When the butter and cream is mixed, add half of the powdered sugar and mix again for two minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally with a spatula.
- Add the vanilla, mix for one minute, and then the rest of the powdered sugar. (Note: I usually use about 3.5 cups of powdered sugar. If you like it sweeter, you can use up to 4 cups, if you like it less sweet, you can use only 3. I found that 3.5 (sifted) gives it a very nice consistency).
- Mix for five more minutes.
- When you have achieved desired consistency, spoon into a plastic piping bag with a 1/2 inch round tip or gallon ziplock. I simply cut the tip off of a ziplock bag to ice these cupcakes.
- Garnish with a couple shakes of cinnamon, and gold flaked sprinkles if you can find them!
I’m running these bad boys over to my neighbor now. I have to get them out of my house before I eat them ALLLLL! He spent the day at the Arkansas game here in Little Rock, so he should be in the mood for a cupcake! I’ll let you know how it goes!