Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

pumpkin cupcakePumpkin baking continues! This weekend I made some pumpkin chocolate chip bread and I had a little more than a cup of pumpkin left over, so I wanted to try something new. I found this recipe online and first thought it was more muffin-like than cupcake-like, but the end results are definitely in the cupcake family. They have an excellent texture, likely due to the combination of pumpkin puree and vegetable oil, and just enough spice from the cinnamon and nutmeg.

These cupcakes pair well with maple cream cheese frosting, which is one of my favorites ever. Just make sure you use real maple syrup – the pure stuff – rather than maple flavoring for this frosting; while you could probably use maple flavoring, I doubt it would be the same. If you’re lacking in pure maple syrup, you could certainly frost these with plain cream cheese frosting or cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

Pumpkin Cupcakes


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; my recipe yielded 14 cupcakes.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In a large glass measuring cup, combine pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix well, then add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir until well-combined and smooth.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, fill cupcake wells about 3/4 full.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven; immediately remove from tins and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting


  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup


In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and cream cheese for 2-3 minutes, until very fluffy.

Add 1 cup powdered sugar and beat until well-combined; add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and beat until well-combined. Add remaining powdered sugar and maple syrup, beating until very well-combined.

Frost cupcakes using an offset spatula. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.


Apple Crumb Bars

apple crumb barsI will not be intimidated by caramel. Not even when I completely fail at a recipe for caramel apple shortbread and turn said caramel into something that could have probably been used as a weapon, so sharp were its edges.

Full disclosure: I’m no confectioner. I’m far better with baked goods than I am with candies, which is what caramel is, really. So when the failed recipe didn’t turn out, I chalked it up partially to my inexperience with this finicky substance and partially to the blogger who wrote some less-than-clear instructions regarding the length of time one needs to cook her caramel and what it will look like at different stages in preparation. Hint: “bubbly” and “glossy” are rather subjective terms, and I clearly have a very different opinion about what those words mean. Step-by-step photos of the process would have been immensely helpful, but there were none to be had. Anyway…

Realizing that I definitely need more practice with caramel-ish substances, I found an apple crumb bar recipe that includes a caramel apple layer between two crumb layers, and it turned out very well. I’m not a big fan of cooked fruit, even apples, but Mike proclaimed these bars delicious.


For the crumb layers:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup white sugar*
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar*
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes

For the caramel apple layer:

  • 4 medium apples, diced (I used 2 Granny Smiths and 2 Empires)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup cold water

*If you prefer, you can use 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar instead of the white/dark brown mix. 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with baking spray.

In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, sugars, baking soda, and salt; stir to combine. Rub in the butter with your hands until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs; you can also cut the butter in using a pastry blender, but I found the rubbing method to be much easier.

Reserve 2 cups of crumb mixture for topping; press the remaining crumb mixture into the prepared baking dish and set aside.

Sprinkle diced apples evenly over the crumb layer.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, butter, and water. Stir constantly and bring to a boil; once the mixture begins to boil, cook and stir for 2 minutes until the mixture is thickened and bubbly and looks like the photo below.

Pour the caramel mixture over the apples and sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top.

Bake for 38-40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely before serving; I put mine in the fridge overnight so the caramel would set up well.

caramel spice mix (2)


You’ll want your caramel spice mixture to look like this. Don’t be intimidated by the caramel!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

pumpkin choc chip muffinsLast weekend, our friends Kash and Mandy got married. They’re an interfaith couple like we are, being Muslim and Christian respectively. Mike, my Jewish husband, was their celebrant; it was a lovely wedding, one of the most fun I’ve ever attended. At the reception, there was a traditional Pittsburgh cookie table, and I was happy to be able to bake some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies to contribute to it.

I had a cup of pumpkin puree left over, which I’ve been keeping in the fridge and wondering how to use. This recipe was a great solution, requiring exactly one cup of pumpkin. I did adapt it slightly, because it originally called for pumpkin pie spice and I don’t keep that on hand. Fortunately, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg can be mixed together to create pumpkin pie spice, and you can adapt the ratios depending on your preference. I chose to do equal half-teaspoons of each spice, with a extra dash of cinnamon.

An interesting aspect of this recipe is its use of melted butter, rather than oil, as the fat. Most muffins require vegetable oil or applesauce, rather than butter, which I always think of as more of a cupcake ingredient. Regardless, the end result is a moist, fluffy muffin that has a nice spicy flavor and just the right amount of sweetness from the chocolate chips. I used semi-sweet, but bittersweet would be a good choice as well.


  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, plus an extra dash if you like
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 8 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12- cup cupcake tins with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg. Stir together to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together melted butter, eggs, and pumpkin; add to dry ingredients and stir until well-combined and no dry streaks remain. Stir in chocolate chips.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared cupcake tins, filling each cup about half-full. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack or serve warm.

Pumpkin Scones

pumpkin sconeWhen I lived in DC, there was a time when I visited Starbucks every day. There were so many located within easy walking distance of my office between Metro Center and Gallery Place, it was simple to stroll in, order a cup of tea, and peruse the treat offerings behind the glass counter.

The pumpkin scone was a popular surprise; I remember waiting for it in the fall and being delighted to discover it amid the cinnamon swirl coffee cake and black bottom cupcakes. There was a time when I swore off of them, after my friend Kelly and I looked up their calorie content. Let’s just say that one shouldn’t eat a pumpkin scone every day if she wants to keep her waistline (and heart health, and blood sugar levels) in check.

There are many copycat recipes out there, including the one I’ve adapted below from Damn Delicious. My end result was more cakey and tender inside than the somewhat crumbly Starbucks variety, and next time, I’d like to omit the glaze and mix some chocolate chips and pecans into the batter for some interesting texture. Full disclosure: somehow, I omitted the cinnamon in my recipe when I baked these. I don’t know how this happened (perhaps my two weeks away from the kitchen have made me a bit rusty?), but I will definitely use it next time. The scones were delicious, but they could use that extra spicy kick.


For the Scones

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • About 2 1/2 tablespoons milk

For the Spice Drizzle

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons milk


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add butter and rub into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

In a small bowl, combine pumpkin puree, milk, egg, and vanilla and stir to combine well. Pour over flour/butter mixture and stir with a spatula until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to combine well. Pat down into a 10 x 7 inch rectangle and cut into 8 wedges.

Place wedges on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-13 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool completely before glazing.

To prepare the glaze:

Place 1 cup powdered sugar in a small bowl and slowly add about 2 tablespoons milk to reach a consistency that is easy to spread, but not too thin. Spoon 1 tablespoon glaze over each scone and spread with a small offset spatula, allowing excess glaze to drip down the sides.

To prepare the spice drizzle:

Place powdered sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon milk. Stir to combine, adding additional 1/2 to 1 tablespoon milk to reach a drizzly consistency. Place in a small piping bag fitted with a plain tip and drizzle over scones in a zigzag pattern.

Allow glaze to harden completely before serving.




Apple Cider Donuts

photoOne of my greatest dreams in life is to visit the King Arthur Flour store in Norwich, VT. I can just picture it: aisle after aisle of baking pans, mixing bowls, kitchen scales, flours, extracts, chocolate chips…every tool and ingredient a baker could possibly want, all under one roof.

The donut pans I used for this recipe are King Arthur Flour pans; I have the miniature donut pan as well, but for this recipe, I recommend using the full-sized versions. The apple cider in the batter yields a fluffy, airy texture, and I highly recommend using good-quality cinnamon, such as Vietnamese cinnamon (also available at King Arthur Flour, or Penzey’s), for the cinnamon-sugar coating. If you’d rather not dip your still-warm donuts in melted butter then coat them in cinnamon sugar, try a glaze made from powdered sugar and apple cider…which is what I’ll do next time.



  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

Cinnamon Sugar Coating

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spray two donut pans with cooking or baking spray; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine eggs, apple cider, buttermilk, butter, and cinnamon; mix well.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined; you will still have flecks of butter visible, and that is okay; the batter will be very thick.

Spoon batter into prepared pans, filling about 3/4 full. Smooth tops of donuts with wet fingers.

Bake for 22-25 minutes, until tops are just golden brown.

Remove from pans immediately and allow to cool for just a few minutes while you prepare the cinnamon sugar coating.

Melt butter in a microwave-safe bowl; set aside.

Combine sugar and cinnamon, mixing well.

Dip donuts, while still warm, into the butter on both sides, then dip immediately in cinnamon sugar.

Serve warm or allow to cool.


Pumpkin Biscotti

pumpkin biscottiFun with biscotti continues! Today’s batch is a spiced pumpkin variety, with lovely fall spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger to scent my kitchen. Today, I’ve become aware of why some biscotti are much crunchier than others: it’s all in the total baking time. Surely, total baking time will affect the texture of a treat; this makes perfect sense, but was not something I thought about until I experimented with two different biscotti recipes this weekend.

Yesterday’s vanilla biscotti baked for a total of 50 minutes; 25 as a log, with 20 minutes for resting before the final 25 minutes for outer crisping. Today’s pumpkin biscotti baked for nearly two hours, so I wasn’t surprised to find it very crunchy, definitely more appropriate for dipping into coffee or tea than yesterday’s vanilla (though I’m sure you could dip yesterday’s vanilla into coffee or tea and enjoy it just as well).


  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin, and sugar; beat on low speed until well-combined.

Add dry ingredients and mix until well-combined.

Spoon dough onto the prepared baking sheet and, using a spatula, form it into a log of even thickness.

Bake for 50 minutes; remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Transfer the log to a cutting board and slice into wedges about 1/2 inch thick; you may need a second baking sheet lined with parchment to accommodate all of the wedges.

Return wedges to the oven and bake for 25 minutes; flip each wedge over and bake another 25 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.


Apple Cider Cupcakes

apple cider cupcakesApples are cultivated throughout the world, from the United States to Italy to India. There are literally thousands of different cultivars of apples, ranging in color, flavor, texture, and usage. For the same kind of fruit, it’s pretty amazing to think about how different each apple can taste from the next, from a tart Granny Smith to a sweet Honey Crisp. I’m a fan of the Rome, Gala, and Golden Delicious varieties, but I always prefer to bake with a blend of sweet and tart apples in pies.

To me, apple cider is like apple juice’s tangy sibling, and I’ve seen it in a variety of recipes lately, mostly for doughnuts. I came across this cupcake recipe on Pinterest, though the original was paired with a caramel buttercream. I’ve frosted these cupcakes with my traditional caramel frosting, but I have to admit: I think a simple glaze icing, or even just a sprinkling of sifted powdered sugar, would have been a better choice. The cupcakes themselves are light and spongy, and while the caramel flavor in the frosting pairs well with the spicy apple flavor in the cupcakes, it’s a bit denser than necessary. Next time, I’ll likely opt for a different frosting, if I frost them at all.


  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup apple cider


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line one 12-count cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl frequently.

Add flour mixture and cider alternatively, in thirds, beating until just combined after each addition and ending with the flour.

Scoop batter into prepared tin, filling cups about 3/4 full.

Bake for 20-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool completely before frosting or serve plain. These cupcakes are tasty enough on their own!




Pumpkin Pie






Why do we eat pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, and not in the middle of July? Because once upon a time, long before supermarkets and canned pumpkin puree, people ate what was available to them in any given season, and pumpkins were available in the fall.

Seasonal eating is another great lesson that can be learned from your local family farm market. Pumpkins, squashes, and apples are great fall foods, as peaches, berries, and corn sweeten the summer. Citrus fruits, like my favorite clementines, are at their best in winter. So while you can procure nearly any fruit or veggie year-round, it won’t necessarily taste as good out of season.

You could certainly roast a pie pumpkin, scrape out its flesh, and use that in your pumpkin pie, but thanks to the good folks at Libby’s pumpkin puree is available year-round. This is a quick and easy recipe that works well for busy holiday times.


  • 1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked
  • 1 16-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 lightly beaten eggs
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup milk*


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a 9-inch pie dish with crust; trim edges and place on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any overflow.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and beat with a fork.

Add eggs and beat lightly until combined.

Slowly add milk and mix well.

Pour filling into prepared pie dish.

Cover the edge of the pie with a guard or foil to prevent over-browning.

Bake for 25 minutes, then uncover the edge and bake another 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.

Cool completely.

*Full disclosure: In my flurry of Thanksgiving preparations, I totally forgot the additional 1/2 cup of milk in this pie. It turned out just fine, but next time, I’ll make sure to use both the evaporated milk and fresh milk!

Pumpkin Roll






I love that scene in “Julie & Julia” when Julie Powell kneels before her coffee table, preparing to follow along with the episode of “The French Chef” in which Julia Child de-bones a duck. With that scary chef’s knife in her hand, Julie nods to the television and says, as if hoping to convince herself, “No fear, Julia.”

I thought about this scene while contemplating pumpkin roll over the past few weeks. The concept of the pumpkin roll has long intimidated me. Roll the piping hot cake in a tea towel? What if it cracks? What if it sticks to the towel? What if it’s a total disaster?

Well, if Julie Powell could de-bone a duck, then surely I could make a pumpkin roll.

I summoned as much bravery as possible, mixed my ingredients, and baked my cake. There was a precarious, breath-holding moment when I flipped the cake out of the pan onto a cooling rack, peeled back the waxed paper, then immediately slid it onto the sugar-coated towel. With hope, I rolled the cake in the towel and set it on a cooling rack.

A few hours later, with the filling prepared, I stood before my towel-wrapped cake. Carefully peeling back the towel, I discovered that it was not only intact, but crack-free. After slathering on the filling I re-rolled the cake, secured it in plastic wrap, and with a profound sense of satisfaction, placed it in the fridge to chill.

No fear, bakers.


For the cake:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin

For the filling:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the cake:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease a 10 x 15 jelly roll pan, then line with waxed paper and grease and flour the paper.

Place a clean tea towel (linen or flour sack, nothing too textured) on the counter top and sprinkle it generously with powdered sugar.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Beat until thickened, about three to five minutes.

Add pumpkin and beat well.

Stir in flour mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth out the top.

Bake for 13 minutes; the top should be just golden-brown and spring back slightly when pressed.

Working quickly and carefully, invert the pan onto a cooling rack, peel off the waxed paper, and slide or flip the cake onto the tea towel.

Roll up the cake and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before filling.

For the filling:

In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and butter; beat until smooth.

Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until very well combined.

Carefully un-roll the cake from the tea towel.

Spread filling in an even layer, leaving about a half-inch border at the long edges.

Re-roll the cake and wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Great Pumpkin Sugar Cut-Outs






One of my favorite things about Halloween is “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” I admire Linus for his dedication, waiting all night in the pumpkin patch, even if all that came was a beagle.

The Great Pumpkin inspired me to bake these rather large sugar cut-outs, and that’s one of the things that I love about sugar cookies–the endless creative possibilities. Pick your cutter, whip up your icing, and you’re making edible art.

To make these cookies, you will need:

  • 1 recipe sugar cut-outs
  • 1 recipe Zella’s icing
  • Yellow, red, and green liquid food coloring (or orange and green gel food coloring)
  • 1 large pumpkin cookie cutter (mine is 3 3/4 inches)


Bake and cool sugar cut-outs.

Prepare icing; reserve a small portion of icing to tint green for pumpkin stems.

Combine yellow and red food coloring until you reach the desired orange tint.

Frost with orange first, using a small offset spatula or butter knife and a back-and-forth vertical swirling motion to create the pumpkin ridges.

Frost stems, using a small dab of green frosting.

Allow frosting to harden before storing; store at room temperature in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper for up to four days.