Maple Pumpkin Cupcakes

While scrolling through Pinterest a few weeks ago, I found adorable cupcakes frosted to look like pies. What better time to bake such a treat than the start of Thanksgiving week? I’ll bake actual pies on Wednesday (apple and pumpkin, an annual tradition), but Mike will take these treats to work with him tomorrow.

I’ve gone for a maple pumpkin flavor profile in these treats, and truth be told, the flavors could be stronger. A little more spice in the cupcakes, perhaps a dash of maple extract along with the syrup in the buttercream, and we’ll be in business. They still taste great and have a lovely texture, but right now they’re more of a spice cupcake with a hint of maple than the bolder flavors I’d planned. That’s the beauty of baking, though; there’s always a next time.


For the cupcakes

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

For the frosting

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 plus 2-3 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 3-4 teaspoons milk
  • Brown, orange, red, and golden yellow gel food coloring

*If you don’t have pumpkin spice, you can make your own. Combine 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoons each of ginger and allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg; this will yield 2 1/4 teaspoons of spice. I make my own blend and keep it in a small jar year-round. 


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, and pumpkin spice.

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 22-25 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.

To make frosting, in a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add the powdered sugar, all at once, then beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take several minutes.

Add salt, vanilla, and maple syrup, then beat on medium speed for about 3-4 minutes, until very light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl very well at least a few times.

Divide frosting into portions for orange, brown, and white; you’ll need just a small amount of white (about 1/4 cup) and about equal portions of orange and brown. To make orange, combine orange food coloring with brown and golden yellow, then add a few drops of red and stir, adding more color to reach your desired shade if necessary. To make brown, combine brown food coloring with golden yellow and stir, adding more color to reach your desired shade if necessary.

Fit a piping bag with a large plain tip and fill with orange frosting; pipe into cupcakes and smooth the surface so it’s flat (or just frost with an offset spatula).

I used several different frosting tips for my pie crust details, including a petal tip, a leaf tip, and a star tip. I think I liked the leaf tip best. Fit a piping bag with the tip of your choice fill with brown frosting; pipe around the edge of each cupcake to make the crust detail.

Fit a small piping bag with a star tip and fill with white frosting; pipe a blob in the center of each cupcake to look like whipped cream.

Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Note: my orange frosting started to look mottled the day after these were baked, but it still tasted delicious. Makes 14.


Turkey Cupcakes

My nephew Roman loves chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and these adorable little turkeys are on their way to North Carolina, along with my mom, for his Thanksgiving. I cannot get over how cute they are.

There are plenty of turkey cupcake decorating ideas out there, but I chose the M&M version for ease of completion. You can create their beaks, wattles, and feathers with the same candy, though I recommend buying a larger bag so you have enough for the whole batch. I used several different designs for their feathers, as you can see in the photo below, but I think the stand-up version – where you place the candies vertically instead of pressing them flat into the frosting – yields the best look.



Bake cupcakes and allow to cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Make frosting and hand-frost the tops of the cupcakes. Fit a piping bag with a large plain tip and pipe a blob for the face, then pipe additional frosting around the top edge of the cupcake to make it easier to place the candies.

Add candy eyeballs, then use a yellow M&M for the beak, red for the wattle, and the colors of your choice for the feathers. I used two different methods for the feathers; I pressed some directly into the frosting flat, while I stood others up vertically, using the frosting as sort of a bolster. I prefer the second method, as the candies look more feather-like that way.

Store in an airtight container and serve within a few days. The moisture from the cupcakes and frosting will affect the candies after a while.

Makes 13. Below is a look at the flock for Roman!

Spice Muffins with Pecan Streusel

spice-muffins-with-pecan-streuselHappy Thanksgiving, friends! This holiday offers so much wonderful food, from turkey to pumpkin pie. But what about Thanksgiving breakfast? Shouldn’t it have special food as well? I think these spice muffins, with their crunchy pecan streusel topping, make a wonderful addition to Thanksgiving breakfast.

These muffins are adapted from a standard recipe in the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, which I’ve had for 16 years (and has never, ever failed me). I began with a basic, plain muffin recipe and added cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, as well as a pecan streusel topping. You could opt for walnuts in the streusel if you like, or leave the nuts out altogether if you prefer. Next time, I might also add a spice drizzle icing.


Pecan Streusel

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  • 4 tablespoons chopped pecans

Spice Muffins

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line one 12-count muffin tin with paper liners; this recipe makes 12 muffins.

In a small bowl, combine streusel ingredients: mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger with a fork. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or two knives) until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in pecans; set streusel aside in a cool place until ready to use.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Make a well in the center.

In a medium bowl, combine egg, milk, and vegetable oil; pour into the well in the dry mixture and stir until just moistened. The batter will be lumpy, but that’s fine – you don’t want to over-mix.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into muffin tins, filing about half full. Top with about 1 tablespoon of streusel mix.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately remove muffins to a wire rack to cool, or serve warm.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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!

Turkey Sugar Cut-Outs






Several Thanksgivings ago, in our tiny kitchen in DC, I made sugar cut-outs in the shape of turkeys, pumpkins, maple leaves, and acorns. Rolling out sugar cookie dough in a galley-style kitchen is next to impossible, but the little dining table we had in our living room worked very well. Decorating sugar cookies is a fun endeavor, and because I had colored sugar that year, I decided to embellish the turkeys so that both toms and hens were on the platter.

When the cookies arrived at Aunt Liz’s house, they were a big hit. My cousin-in-law, Robb, first called the turkeys “anatomically correct,” but we later agreed that “gender specific” was a more appropriate term. Either way, I now make these turkeys every year.


  • 1 recipe sugar cut-outs
  • 1 recipe Zella’s icing
  • Brown gel food coloring
  • Miniature chocolate chips, for turkey eyes
  • Colored sugar sprinkles, for tom feathers


Bake and cool sugar cut-outs.

Prepare icing; add enough brown food coloring to reach your desired turkey color.

Frost turkeys with a small offset spatula or butter knife, using a swirling motion to make feather patterns.

Press a miniature chocolate chip onto each turkey for the eye.

For the toms: starting on the outside of the feather end, use a teaspoon to sprinkle on a generous amount of colored sugar; repeat with two additional colors. Gently press the sugar into the icing with your finger, then lift the cookie and shake off any excess.

Allow icing to set before storing; store between sheets of parchment or waxed paper.