I love cupcakes with a bit of a surprise inside, whether that surprise comes in the form of a filling or a mix in of some other kind. A good mix-in is going to add both flavor and visual appeal to a cupcake, even if you can’t see it until you take a bite. For a fall twist on a relatively plain cupcake, I turned to pumpkin butter. This smooth, sweet, jam-like condiment is a favorite of mine during the fall season. I often use it to top biscuits or muffins for breakfast on fall mornings, but here it adds some nice seasonal flavor to some tender cupcakes.
The cupcakes are made with vanilla and a hint of pumpkin spice. I didn’t want to go overboard on the pumpkin pie spices in the cake because I wanted to make sure that the flavor of the pumpkin butter came through in every bite. Adding just a touch of pumpkin pie spices – cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger – complimented the pumpkin butter (which was also mildly spiced) instead of overpowering it. You’ll need about 2 teaspoons of pumpkin butter for each cupcake, or about a half cup for the whole batch. You can use homemade pumpkin butter or opt for storebought, where there are many varieties to choose from during the fall (Trader Joe’s, etc.). Each cupcake will have a pretty orange swirl in it after baking!
I topped the cupcakes with a pumpkin butter buttercream. I turned to my new favorite No Cook Meringue Buttercream and added pumpkin butter to it, keeping things very simple. I didn’t want the frosting to be heavily spiced because I didn’t want to overwhelm the pumpkin butter in the cupcakes. The result is nicely balanced with a sweet pumpkin flavor, velvety texture and just the right touch of spice. If you accidentally add too much pumpkin butter and you want your frosting to be thicker, simply blend in a little bit of confectioners’ sugar to thicken it back up. That said, some patience and a few extra minutes of mixing is all it should take to beat some volume into the frosting if needed.
Pumpkin Butter-Swirled Cupcakes with Pumpkin Buttercream
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk (pref. whole milk)
3/4 cup pumpkin butter, homemade or storebought
1 batch No Cook Meringue Buttercream
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a muffin pan with 12 paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract until well-combined. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk. Stir in the remaining half of the flour mixture, mixing just until no streaks of dry ingredients remain visible. Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin cups.
Make a small depression in the batter for each cupcake and spoon in 2 tsp pumpkin butter. Swirl in gently with a knife. This should use approximately 1/2 cup of pumpkin butter
Bake for 16-19 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean.
Take the cupcakes out of the pan and place them on a wire rack. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
To prepare frosting, combine the remaining (3-4 tbsp) of pumpkin butter with the No Cook Meringue Buttercream and beat with a mixer at high speed to combine. Frost cupcakes with buttercream frosting.