Friday, November 21, 2008

pumpkin cupcakes

Pumpkin Cupcakes 2

THIS is why I got a new camera. Pretty picture, right? And let's be honest, we know it has nothing to do with my skills as a photographer because -- seriously -- I don't have any yet. That's OK though. Apparently, if you buy the right equipment and can manage to avoid a case of the shakes when you press the shutter button, a beautiful picture will magically appear.

Sorry, by the way, that it has taken me a month to figure that out. The camera and I went through an interesting "getting to know you" period. When the 40D showed up on my doorstop, I promptly brought it inside and placed it, unopened, in the middle of my floor. It stayed there for a week, in the company of its accessory friends, before I even dared to begin the long, uphill climb of the real photography learning curve. So far I've basically only figured out how to turn on the camera and the external flash. Fortunately, those two things, coupled with knowing how to compose a shot, were enough to get a few blog-worthy photos.

Tiffany Nights 2So perhaps you're considering upgrading your own camera? Well I'm utterly useless if you want to know something technical about digital SLRs, but I can tell you this: My old point-and-shoot took nice pictures. But they were just that -- pictures. The new camera takes pictures, but it also captures a moment. And those moments -- many of of them, at least -- are priceless. Take a look at this picture of the candles (click on it and view the big version). It's pretty, sure, but for me, it also brings to mind that chilly evening a few weeks ago that I spent curled up in my new arm chair with a blanket, a cup of soup, and nothing by candlelight in my apartment. That's what I want in a camera.

Our office manager had a birthday this week, and her only birthday treat request was that it come complete with the same vanilla bean cream cheese frosting I used on the red velvet cupcakes a few weeks back. No problem, since cream cheese frosting goes great with the pumpkin cake I had been wanting to try anyway. Last year I made Williams-Sonoma's pumpkin cakelets, so I wanted to compare them to Martha Stewart's pumpkin cupcake recipe. Martha's cupcakes were a breeze to throw together (I did them before work) and they had a great texture, but I didn't find them to be as flavorful as the Williams-Sonoma cakelets. They also shrank a little as they cooled, which isn't a huge deal, but something I find annoying nonetheless. Apples to apples, the Martha cakes are good, but the Williams-Sonoma cakes are even better. If you're looking for an autumal quick bread or informal dessert, head in this direction.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields about 18 cupcakes

Adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 eggs
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

Adapted from a recipe from the Cupcake Bakeshop
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, room temperature
2 1/3 tablespoon butter, room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/3 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

To Make the Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egss, one at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Add the flour mixture in two batches, beating until just combined. Stir in the pumpkin puree.

Fill your cupcake containers a scant 3/4 full and bake until the tops spring back when touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting or decorating as desired.

To Make the Frosting:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the cream cheese and butter until well blended. Add 2 cups of confectioners' sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla bean paste and beat until combined. Add the remaining cup of sugar and beat until well incorporated.

Pumpkin Cupcakes 3

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