Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Spice... Pumpkin Spice...it's EVERYWHERE! When the month of October rolls in, it seems like pumpkin-spiced food & drink flood every single coffee house, bakery, and grocery store. There are cases where 'pumpkin spice' is well done, but many more where it's just, well, overdone. This cupcake recipe is one of the good ones!

Back when I was in college, I discovered Penzeys Spices, and I thought I had gone to fragrance heaven! Picture a complete store dedicated to spice; it was a magical experience for me even then. The exotic scents, vibrant colors, and sheer variety blew me away. It was a turning point for me & my interest in cooking. Fast forward a decade, and my spice rack is a Penzeys treasure-trove!

The very first recipe I attempted after discovering that spice shop was this delicious cinnamon-scented pumpkin cake with hints of clove, ginger, and nutmeg. Moist, dense, and richly flavored with pumpkin, this is a favorite even after all these years. I particularly like this recipe in cupcake form, especially topped with my own creamy, and not too sweet, vanilla cream cheese frosting. This latest batch was special: my sons and I decorated them in honor of Halloween, for all the little ghou-rls & boo-ys out there!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
original pumpkin bread recipe from penzeys spices
makes 24 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
15 ounces of pumpkin puree, homemade or store bought (look for 'pure' pumpkin puree if you get it from the store)

Preheat your oven to 350F and line 2 standard sized muffin pans with your favorite liners. Reserve.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk gently to combine. Place aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin puree on low to medium speed for about three minutes. Slowly beat in the dry mix into the wet mix in several increments, until blended.

Using an ice cream scoop or cupcake scoop, fill the muffin liners to about 3/4 full.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a tester toothpick comes out cleanly.

Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes in the pans on a wire cooling rack, then transfer out of the baking pan to the rack. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting

2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, slightly softened but cool to the touch
1/2 cup of salted butter, slightly softened but cool to the touch
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon heavy cream (or half & half in a pinch)
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and tablespoon of cream until well blended. About 3-4 minutes.

Next, slowly add the powdered sugar in four increments, blending completely before the next batch.

You want a slightly "stiff" frosting, but not dry. If the frosting is too dry, add a splash of cream. If too "loose", add another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.

Once blended to the appropriate texture, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 15-20 minutes. This will help with the piping.

Prepare your piping bag and choose a favorite tip. Gather up any candy decorations you would like to use (we did a combination of chocolate sunflower seeds, sprinkles, and Halloween candy).

Once chilled, fill the piping bag and decorate. I like mine with just the frosting, but anything goes!

Keep the cupcakes chilled until about 15 minutes before serving.


  1. Love your festive cupcakes! You can never go wrong with pumpkin and cream cheese icing :)

    1. Thanks! These cupcakes are the real deal and I am such a sucker for cream cheese frosting... I may or may not have had a spoonful or two, straight up :)

  2. The fake teeth are perfect decorations for Halloween cupcakes. My 7- and 10-year-old boys would love them. The grown-ups wouldn't turn down pumpkin spice and cream cheese either.

    1. It was a lot of fun decorating with my four and under crew! We found the candies on Amazon and they were a total hit!

  3. Oh my gosh...... PENZEYS! Brings me back to college. I had a friend who worked there and she would take us after hours sometimes and let us dig through the 'employee box,' which were spices that customers had opened. We had, like, over 20 different exotic spices. I miss those...

  4. Wow! What a good buddy to have! Pi love going through Penzeys catalog, but I always end up with too much! Thanks for commenting!