Sorry for this belated post! I really meant to post this on Christmas Eve but ran into technical difficulties and then lack of wireless internet. Anyway, hope everyone had a very merry Christmas!!
Last year, I spent Christmas with good friend and loyal blog reader EF and her family. Her mom ML baked the most awesome cupcakes: chocolate pumpkin with cream cheese frosting, topped with crushed candy canes. Not only were they seasonally adorned, the little treats were also delectable — moist and sweet without going overboard. This year for our lab’s holiday party, I decided to give her recipe a try, despite my lack of innate baking ability. Hey, I even got a sifter!
I’ve never made cake from scratch (except for this one time, which was super easy), so I had no idea how challenging it could be. I quickly gained an appreciation for KitchenAid standing mixers, boxed cake mix, and why fancy cupcake places charge $3/cupcake. These babies were a lot of work, especially for a baking novice like me! The other major lesson I learned is that cream cheese frosting is easy and yummy. I’ll definitely be making more of this in the future!
Without further ado, here’s ML’s recipe with minor modifications by me. She originally got it from Country Living, and it was for Halloween cupcakes, but she adapted it to fit the Christmas theme. Hopefully, it’s not too late in the season for y’all to enjoy this winter wonderland treat!
Chocolate Pumpkin Cake
(Makes one 8-inch, 3-layer cake or 36 cupcakes)
2 ½ cups plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons good-quality cocoa
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¾ cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ¼ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1. Prepare cake pans: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line cupcake pans with liners.
2. Make the batter: Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl and set aside. Combine the buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla in a medium bowl and set aside. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, with an electric mixer set on medium speed, until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until the mixture is smooth and light. Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, blending well after each addition.
3. Bake the cake: fill each with 1/4 cup batter. Bake for 22 minutes. Remove cakes and cool.
4. When cupcakes are completely cooled, frost with cream cheese frosting (see below). Place candy canes in ziploc bag and crush with rolling pin. Sprinkle crushed candy canes on top of cupcakes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened (1/2 stick)
1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
Blend the cream cheese, butter, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla in a large bowl, using an electric mixer set at medium speed, until smooth. Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and creamy – about 3 more minutes. (Tint with food coloring if desired.) Chill the frosting until ready to ice the cupcakes.