I love all holidays, including ones like Halloween that not everyone considers a holiday (in fact, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays). One of the things I like best about holidays is food and establishing traditions around food. This might sound strange, but I love food traditions and knowing that whatever holiday it is, I’ll make a certain dish that I only eat once a year on that holiday, which makes it a special treat, and usually means it’s something somewhat indulgent. Like, for New Years it’s blackeyed peas and croissant bread pudding, and for Valentine’s Day, it’s Lobster Thermidor.
For the past couple of years, I’ve made pumpkin cupcakes with maple frosting for my friend’s Halloween party. The cupcakes are a Ina Garten aka Barefoot Contessa recipe (one of my favorite cookbook authors) and are easy to make, like almost all of her recipes. They’re a decadent delight that, coupled with all the Halloween candy I consume around the same time, only need to be eaten once a year, though I’m sometimes tempted to make them around Thanksgiving as well.
The pumpkin and maple flavors suggest fall more than Halloween, so I decorate the cupcakes with candycorns (along with the toffee bar crumbles as directed) to make them Halloweeny.
Cupcake Ingredients (makes 10 cupcakes)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- Maple Frosting (see recipe below)
- ½ cup coarsely chopped Heath bars, for serving (2 1.4-ounce bars)
- 10 paper muffin tin liners (I like to use Halloween themed ones)
- 10 decorative cupcake picks (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
Divide the batter among the prepared tins (I use a level 2 ¼-inch ice cream scoop) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
Spread the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting. To ensure that I have a sufficient amount of frosting for each cupcake, I line all the cupcakes up and dollop a spoonful of frosting on each until all the cupcakes have an even amount of frosting, before spreading the frosting over them.
Then, decorate the cupcakes with the toffee bits and candycorn. In the past, I’ve made smiley jack-o-lantern faces with the toffee bits and candycorn and have also just rimmed the cupcakes with the candycorns. Be creative and do what you think looks best!
Maple Frosting Ingredients
- 6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon Boyajian Natural Maple Flavor (I couldn’t find this variety and just used whatever was sold at my local market)
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.