This is the story of two cupcake recipes that I made for Dahlia's 3rd birthday. One was pretty (see above: pretty!). And one was a disaster (no photo evidence available).
Really I just want to give you the recipe for the pretty cupcakes, sweet potato and pumpkin cupcakes studded with raisins (at Dahlia's request) and iced with a maple cream cheese buttercream. Purple sanding sugar makes it all glisten. I made them for her preschool birthday party and they were a hit with teachers and kids alike.
For good reason.
The cake crumb was tender, moist, with a light spicing and substantial heft, filled with good homemade pumpkin puree (I had some in the freezer, you could use canned), and one sweet potato that I nuked in the microwave until soft, then mashed up. It turned out to be a nice combo: the sweet potato really added great flavor and complexity here and perked up the pumpkin, which I think can be kind of one-note. I'm sure you could make these with all sweet potato, or all pumpkin, though I might up the spices a bit if you don't like the complexity of the two veggies going on.
Anyway, the recipe for these beauties is below. If you cut the sugar and skip the frosting they would make lovely muffins. Nuts would be a nice addition if you're not bringing them to preschool.
Now let me tell you quickly about the sad cupcakes I made for her birthday party in the park. Vanilla cake (nice, light but nothing to blog about, frankly). But that wasn't the problem. The problem was the frosting, a buttercream spiked with creme fraiche, which made it so LIGHT! So Fluffy! They were works of art before I left the house for Prospect Park on what was a strange, 85-degree day in October.
But on the way, in the shopping cart that Daniel and I used to drag the party stuff down Flatbush to the park, the frosting melted, and dripped everywhere. It also kind of curdled in the heat. Okay, it didn't taste curdled but it looked curdled. Really not what you want. Luckily, I had brought a basket of different colored sanding sugars and let the kids decorate the tops to their hearts' content. Yes, they liked that. And they liked the cupcakes. They were tasty. But I'm never making that recipe again.
Pumpkin Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Raisins and Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes about 30 cupcakes
Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Cupcakes
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups pumpkin puree (mine was from a cheese pumpkin but that doesn't matter)
1 cup sweet potato mush (see note)
2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), melted
1 cup raisins (or nuts, or a combo)
Cream Cheese Maple Frosting:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
6 tablespoons maple syrup
Red food coloring, optional
Blue food coloring, optional
Colored sanding sugar, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Fill three standard 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin and sweet potato purees, sugars, and butter. If there are lots of squash or potato lumps, puree the mixture for a minute or so in a food processor or blender.
Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the raisins.
4. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full with batter. Bake cupcakes until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cupcakes cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove and transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. While the cupcakes bake, make the frosting: Whip the cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar and maple syrup. For a pretty pale pink, add several drops of red food coloring and one or two scant drops of blue. Scrape the frosting into a large resealable plastic bag (or you can use a pastry bag with a wide tip if you’ve got one) and refrigerate until cupcakes are completely cool.
6. When you’re ready to decorate the cupcakes, snip one corner of the plastic bag. Squeeze a large dollop onto each cupcake. Flatten with an offset spatula if desired. Sprinkle with colored sugar.
Note: To make the sweet potato mush, place the sweet potato chunks on a microwaveable plate and cover loosely with a paper towel. Microwave on medium heat until they are very soft, about 7 minutes. Mash until very smooth (you should have about 1 cup).