Tuesday, October 12, 2010

MBCC: Caramel-filled Pumpkin Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream

I had to miss out on it last month, but this time around I planned early and am now back for another round of Jamieanne's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge. This month was a little bit different. The first two months I participated in had specific food items as their secret ingredient, but this month, the "ingredient" actually isn't an ingredient at all. This time it's a color, opening up a very large number of possibilities for the challenge. All we had to do was make some part of the cupcake orange or use an orange food, meaning the cupcake could be anything really, considering it's quite easy to color anything orange. But being that it's fall, and I haven't had a chance yet to bake with pumpkin, I had to go that route. It's a predictable route, but a delicious one. I did a quick search on Allrecipes, found a recipe rated five stars, did my little tweaking and moved on to the pairings.

When I decided on pumpkin, I immediately thought of caramel as a pairing. It's one that's been done over and over again, but I've never tried it. I settled on a homemade caramel sauce that I would use to fill the cupcake via the cone method. I really wanted to try a caramel sauce that didn't use any water, but just melted the sugar by itself in a pan since I hadn't tried it before. After a little searching, I came to this recipe which seemed promising. It also had another thing I've never tried before...adding butter to the caramel sauce. So then I needed a frosting. What about cinnamon? Ooh, what about brown sugar cinnamon? A particular recipe popped right into my head, again, another that I've never gotten the chance to try. Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's boiled flour cinnamon buttercream from their book Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. I've made a flour buttercream before, and didn't like it too much, but I get the feeling I didn't do it right the first time and wanted to give flour buttercreams another chance. So I took their recipe and did some tweaking to it, such as changing the white sugar to brown and reducing the butter, and I was set to go.
All in all, the cupcakes turned out delicious! The cupcake was great, the caramel delicious and much easier than caramel sauces that use water, and the buttercream? Completely delicious! (Although it was a bit time consuming...I might just stick with Swiss meringue buttercream as it takes less time and tastes almost the same). For more information on Jamieanne's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge, please visit her info page here.

Pumpkin Cupcakes (adapted from Allrecipes)
Makes about 28 cupcakes

  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Blend the eggs, oil, sugar, pumpkin, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl; set aside. Stir together dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and beat until well blended. (I did this all by hand, no electric mixer needed!)
  2. Pour into lined muffin tins. Fill about 2/3 full. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until center springs back when touched. Let cool slightly in the pan first, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Caramel Sauce (from Simply Recipes)
Makes a little over 1 cup of sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter (The recipe did not specify salted or unsalted, so I used 3 tablespoons salted [to keep it from tasting flat] and 3 tablespoons unsalted [to keep it from being too salty].)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  1. Heat the sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan. Make sure you have the butter and heavy cream ready to put into the pan. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring, only swirl the pan from now on.
  2. As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter has melted.
  3. Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Count to three, then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate. (Be careful, as the caramel will hiss and bubble up furiously when both the butter and cream hits it.)
  4. Whisk until the caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a container and let sit to cool to room temperature.
Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream (adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)
You may want to increase this recipe slightly in order to generously frost all the cupcakes.

  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 20 minutes. (It should be VERY thick by the time it's done, kind of like glue.)
  2. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; beat until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to chill slightly: then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.
  1. Once the cupcakes are cooled, use a small sharp knife to cut a cone out of the center of the cupcake.
  2. Fill the cupcakes almost to the top with caramel. Cut off the excess cupcake from the cone and then place the "lids" back on the cupcake.
  3. Frost the cupcakes with a piping bag or knife, then drizzle with any remaining caramel sauce. Enjoy!

The winner of October’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:
Thank you to all our prize sponsors!


  1. Wow, this recipe sounds (and looks!) so yummy! best of luck in sweetest kitchen's contest, will be voting for you!

  2. Aw, thank you so much Pau F! I appreciate it!

  3. These look delicious and even though we are competing against one another, you definitely made something I want to eat here!! yum.

  4. Oh my goodness. Those cupcakes look amazing! I love the drizzle over top of them; very photogenic. That brown sugar cinnamon frosting is sooo tempting to try. I may have to make these.