Photo Essay: Carrot Walnut and Pumpkin Cupcakes + Recipes

I *LOVE* baking, especially when recipes involve some of my favorite seasonal ingredients like pumpkin. While I love finding new dishes to try online and in cookbooks, it’s comforting to know that there always a few favorites that I can always count on. Two such recipes are my pumpkin and carrot cake cupcakes, both adorned by maple cream cheese frosting. Both are tweaked to slightly healthier recipes and adapted from one of my favorite food blogs: smittenkitchen.

I always fall back on these two recipes, and they’re a huge hit with my family and friends year after year. And given that my favorite season for baking–autumn–is nearly over,  I’ve already made these a few times this year.

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Adapted from smittenkitchen

Yield: 24 cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup reduced-fat buttermilk mixed with 2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

1. Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line 2 cupcake pans with liners.

2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.

3. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Adapted from smittenkitchen

Yield: 24 cupcakes

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots
1 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line 24 cupcake molds with papers.

2) Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts and raisins, if using them. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.

3) Bake cupcakes 14 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8-ounce) package of reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

In a stand mixer, beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

Would love to hear how they turn out for you, if you try them. Happy baking! =)