Monday, November 21, 2011

Underneath It All

Song Pairing:
Underneath It All by No Doubt
I needed a song today that talked about the surprises that linger beneath the surface.  Just looking at that picture of today's Pumpkin Spice Cupcake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting you might hope, but not entirely be sure, that there's a creamy filling awaiting you.  Gwen Stefani tells us that "There's times when I want something more . . ."  Don't we all?  Well, I can tell you that this cupcake is "really lovely underneath it all."  I can also promise you that you'll want to love it "underneath it all."  And, if you are already familiar with the song, you can probably guess that next I'm going to tell you that it's "really lucky underneath it all."

While top billing on this cupcake goes to the pumpkin I'd like to address another key ingredient.


Cinnamon is one of the hardest working backup singers around.  It gets the spotlight now and then, but, for the most part it hangs around making everyone else look good - sweet rolls, cookies, stews, meats, vegetables.  It is found in virtually every cuisine around the world and is one of the "five" in the five spice powder used in Asian cooking I have come to love so much.

Do you have Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, arthritis, poor memory, or are low in iron or calcium?  Studies are showing that cinnamon can help with all of these and more.  It may regulate blood sugar and it was shown in one study to reduce the growth rate of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.  It also acts as an anticoagulant.  Just breathing in it's pleasant aroma has been found to boost memory!  If you'd like to read more about these health benefits you can go to this website or this website.

So, with this healthy outlook in mind, and owing to our desire to be the best we can be -
 let's get baking!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting and Spiced Cream Cheese Filling
Pumpkin Spice Cake:
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened (113.5 g)
1 1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed (330 g)
2 c. cake flour (274 g) Pillsbury makes one called Softasilk
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. ground cloves
2 eggs
1 c. canned solid pack pumpkin (245 g)
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy - about 5 minutes.

While the butter and sugar are creaming:

In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cloves.  Whisk well.  Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and vanilla.  Set aside.

When the butter and sugar are fluffy, add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each one before adding the next.  Scrape the bowl and beater down then begin adding the dry and wet ingredients, adding the dry in three parts and the wet in two in this manner:

Add half of the dry ingredients and fold only until it starts to come together.  You will still see large streaks of dry ingredients.

Add half of the wet ingredients and fold only until it starts to combine.  Again, you will still see streaks of wet.

Add half of the remaining dry ingredients and fold but not fully incorporating.

Add the rest of the wet in same manner and then add the remaining dry in same manner.

Using a large spatula, gently scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and fold.  You will still see streaks but as you continue to gently handle the batter in filling the cups, it will blend more.  I like to use a pastry bag to fill my cupcake liners so, by the time I get the batter scraped into the bag, it's mixed perfectly.  You do not want to over handle cake batter!  It needs the air to make for that lovely crumb and you don't want to wake up that gluten and get it fighting you!

Fill cups half full.  Warning!  Here is what happens when you overfill the cups - notice the bad boy in the front!

Notice the good boys in the back?  Aren't they so cute?!

Bake for 18 minutes total, turning halfway through baking.  Let cool.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream frosting:
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar (410 g)
1 c. unsalted butter, softened (227 g)
1/2 vanilla bean
2 T. heavy cream

In a large mixer bowl, cream the sugar and butter, starting on low speed until blended and then increasing speed to medium.  Beat until well incorporated and airy and creamy.

Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise with the tip of a small sharp knife and lay it open on a flat surface.  

Using the edge of the knife, scrape the beans from the inside and place in the bowl.  

Continue to mix well.  

Add the cream, adding more if you want a looser consistency.  Place frosting in a pastry bag to pipe on cupcakes AFTER they are filled.

Spiced Cream Cheese filling:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 T. butter, softened
1/2 c. powdered sugar (60 g)
1 t. pumpkin pie spice

Cream together the cream cheese and butter.  Add the powdered sugar and pumpkin pie spice until well blended and mixture is smooth and creamy.  Place in a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip.  When cupcakes are cool, insert the tip of the filled bag into the top of the cupcake and pipe in some filling.  You will see the top of the cupcake rise a little as the filling goes in.  Stop when the filling starts to come back up and out.  You'll get the hang of just how much the cupcake can hold after doing a couple.  Don't worry about the small hole because the frosting will cover it up.

Pipe on the frosting in whatever fashion makes you happy, being sure to cover your secret filling entrance!

To serve:  I use a microplane and a stick of cinnamon and zest the stick over top of the filled and frosted cupcakes to decorate.  The aroma from doing this will surely help you remember all that you are blessed with this holiday season!


  1. OOhhh, these look SO good! Are you gonna bring some over?!?! :)

  2. Ha! I'd love to but these are actually one of the monthly treats I make for my husband's office and there are no leftovers!! But I'll keep you in mind!