There is a student group in my program that I’m not involved with who hosted a department potluck last night that I had decided awhile ago I probably wouldn’t attend. That is, until one very persuasive friend started throwing around words like “free beer” and “chili relleno casserole.” So I went, and greatly enjoyed the beer, the food, and the good conversation. It was a fun night.
After I decided to go to this shindig, my first move was to go to Smitten Kitchen to figure out what I was going to bring. I find myself doing this a lot when I’m looking for recipes–first I check SK, then the King Arthur Flour website, and then my own cookbooks. If I can’t find anything there, then I take a deep breath and start sifting through recipes on Epicurious. I’m sure you feel greatly enriched now that you know my recipe finding process. The bottom line is that I really love Smitten Kitchen. It’s a great food blog that not only has a ton of great recipes, but also has a whole host of solid cooking and baking tips that have helped my own work in the kitchen immensely. Anyway, my own contribution to the potluck ended up being pumpkin cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting–a recipe that I, of course, found on SK.
I have neither the patience nor the equipment to pipe roses onto the top of my cupcakes as they were beautifully shown on SK, so mine are more humbly “decorated” with some chopped, toasted pecans. I followed the recipe exactly as its posted on SK, except that I halved the frosting recipe since I knew I wasn’t going to pull off any impressive frosting design feats. Half of the recipe ended up being perfect for frosting the 18 cupcakes that I got from this recipe.
These were really good. I mean, REALLY good. They are light and moist in texture, not overly spiced, and they don’t have an overwhelming pumpkin taste. And they were well received by children and adults alike. At least two people who aren’t big fans of pumpkin (Aidan included) ate more than one, and one friend said, “this cupcake is the best part of my night.” What more can you ask for?
A final word of praise: In the comments on the original SK post, a number of people were disappointed that the cream cheese frosting didn’t have a distinct maple flavor. And it’s true–the maple syrup in the frosting just can’t compete with the stronger flavor of the cream cheese. Really, I think it’s a good thing because I’m not sure these cupcakes would have benefited from a strongly flavored frosting. But the most important thing to note about this frosting recipe is that it yields a superior cream cheese frosting. Because of the addition of the maple syrup, the recipe calls for a lot less powdered sugar than you typically see in cream cheese frosting recipes. The result is a frosting that is satisfyingly sweet without have the kind of over-sugared bite you can get when you have to add a lot of powdered sugar, and it is also much lighter than your typical cream cheese frosting. It’s the kind of frosting you can eat straight from the bowl (which I may or may not be doing right now) without feeling like your teeth are going to fall out of your head. I’m bookmarking this as my go-to cream cheese frosting, and frankly, I think you should too.