Don’t these cupcakes just scream “Autumn!” If the temperature were to drop below 80° I might be able to believe that fall had actually arrived. So maybe they are just screaming “Eat Me Regardless of the Season!”
Little J made these Caramel Pumpkin Cupcakes for our neighborhood chili cook-off and kids’ bake-off. She made them completely on her own (except for some help making the salted caramel to drizzle on top). She did all of the baking and decorating herself, though. Her efforts paid off: she came home with the prize for best-tasting dessert! She was very excited.
The frosting is a delicious caramel cream cheese icing. You start by making a simple caramel on the stovetop and then beating in cream cheese and a little extra powdered sugar. If you are going to pipe it onto cupcakes, it benefits from a good chill in the fridge to firm it up a little, followed by another beating with a mixer once it has chilled. So start your baking by making the frosting first and then move on to the cupcakes while the frosting chills.
The salted caramel drizzle is optional, but really makes a big difference. The recipe below makes much more salted caramel than you need to drizzle on the cupcakes, but it is also great for topping ice cream and chocolate cake. Or for dipping apples. Or for stirring into hot cocoa. Or for licking off of spoons. Or use your leftover caramel to drizzle over any of these other desserts:
Pumpkin Caramel Cupcakes
1 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 16oz can of pumpkin (about 2 cups)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin pans with 24 paper liners.
Using a mixer, beat eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla and pumpkin until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Fold into pumpkin mixture.
Scoop batter into lined muffin pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.Remove from pan and cool completely.
Use a pastry tip (I used Wilton 1M) to frost the cupcakes. Drizzle with salted caramel.
Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator if they are going to be left out for more than a few hours.
Makes 24 cupcakes.
Caramel Cream Cheese Icing:
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 pkg (8 oz each) cream cheese
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup powdered sugar
Place butter, cream and brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir together over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. While caramel is hot, beat in cream cheese, vanilla and salt until well mixed. Beat in powdered sugar. Cover and place frosting in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. When frosting has chilled, beat again until light and fluffy. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
Salted Caramel Drizzle:
1 cup sugar
6 Tbs butter, softened and cut into tablespoon-sized chunks
½ cup heavy cream
1 – 1 ½ tsp flaky or coarse sea salt
1 tsp vanilla (and/or seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean)
Place sugar in a medium to large saucepan (mixture will bubble up and expand as cool ingredients are added to the hot pan). Cook over medium heat until sugar just begins to melt. Stir gently, trying to keep sugar crystals off of the sides of the pan. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar melts completely and is a medium amber color (about 350°F if you use an instant-read thermometer). Reduce heat to low and quickly whisk in butter chunks, stirring constantly.
Stir in cream, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in salt and vanilla. Pour caramel immediately into a glass jar or heat-safe bowl to cool. Do NOT scrape sides or bottom of the pan with a spatula. If you do, you are likely to get sugar crystals into your nice smooth caramel. If the caramel has formed crystals while cooking, you can pour it from the pan through a fine sieve into the jar to remove any crystals before cooling.
Caramel can be kept in a covered jar at room temperature for several weeks.