Learning to bake fearlessly <3

Aaaaah, autumn. It’s probably my favorite time of year. Falling leaves, dropping temperatures, the idea of snow teasing, Halloween, Christmas shopping, and all the lovely flavors–apple, pumpkin, maple, spice. These were just what I needed to get back into the baking groove–as it turns out, all I really need is one batch of excellent cupcakes to get excited about baking again! And these were definitely it. I’m planning on making these for my family as dessert on Thanksgiving.

I also learned how fun it is to work with foil-lined cupcake papers! They stay so lovely and vibrant. I might never use anything else!

Pumpkin spice cupcakes
Adapted from Crumbly Cookie

Makes about 20 cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing pans
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1¼ cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (one 10-oz can)

Preheat your oven to 350 F, and line your cupcake pans. Beat the sugars and butter together with your mixer on medium til light and fluffy, it might take a bit. In another bowl, whisk your dry ingredients together. Add your vanilla to your milk, and set aside.

When the butter-sugar mixture is ready, add your eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated between each. Then add your flour and milk mixtures bit by bit, alternating and mixing until just combined. Finally, add in your pumpkin, and mix til smooth.

Fill your cupcake liners half to 3/4 of the way (these will rise a good bit, so you can get away with half if you don’t want tall cupcakes). Bake for 20-25 minutes (20 was just about perfect for me), until a toothpick comes out clean or with only a few crumbs clinging to it.

Nutella cinnamon swiss meringue buttercream
6 large egg whites
1½ cups granulated sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, not cold, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup nutella
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Makes enough frosting for 2 dozen cupcakes

I always cube and set out my butter on a plate first thing, and let it warm up while I work on the rest. Wipe out your mixer bowl and mixer attachments VERY well, making sure there’s no trace of grease. The first thing you’re going to do is make a meringue, and any grease could cause it to fail. Heat a large pot with an inch or so of water on the stove until it’s just simmering—we don’t want to cook our egg whites. Add the egg whites and sugar to your mixer bowl and whisk constantly until the sugar is melted and the egg whites are warm.

Stick your bowl on your mixer with whisk attachment and whip the egg/sugar mixture on medium-low (say 3 on a Kitchenaid) for a couple minutes, then switch to medium-high (say 7 or so on a Kitchenaid) until they’re white and fluffy, and the bowl is neutral to the touch. For me, it takes around 7-8 minutes. Voila! You made meringue. But it’s going to get even better still.

When the bowl feels room-temperature, switch to the paddle attachment on low speed and add your cubed butter one or two cubes at a time. This is the tricky part, and where it looks like everything’s gone wrong. At this stage, it is totally okay if your buttercream looks grainy, more like scrambled eggs. Trust me! Just keep whipping it, scraping the paddle clean if need be.

Add vanilla, nutella, cinnamon, and salt, and whip it a bit longer, until they’re evenly incorporated. Pipe onto cupcakes, but make sure you have a little left over to eat with a spoon! ;D


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