Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Caramel and Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted via Smitten Kitchen and The Pioneer Woman
Serves: 20 (will yield between 20 to 24 cupcakes)

For Cupcakes:
♦ 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing pans
♦ 1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
♦ 1/3 cup granulated sugar
♦ 2 cups cake flour
♦ 2 tsp  baking powder
♦ 1 tsp baking soda
♦ 1 tsp ground cinnamon
♦ 1 tsp ground ginger
♦ 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
♦ 1/8 tsp ground cloves
♦ 1/2 tsp salt
♦ 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
♦ 2 large eggs
♦ 1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
♦ 1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

For Caramel:
♦ 4 tbsp Butter
♦ 1 cup brown sugar, packed
♦ 1/2 cup half-and-half (or heavy cream)
♦ Pinch of salt
♦ 1 tbsp vanilla

For Frosting:
♦ Two (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
♦ 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
♦ 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
♦ half a lemon
♦ 1 tsp vanilla

For Garnish
♦ Candied orange peels (optional)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl, and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes (this will take about 7 or 8 minutes if using a hand mixer).

Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula 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 2/3 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. Allow to cool completely.

Make the caramel sauce: Mix butter, brown sugar, half & half, and salt in a saucepan over medium low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thicker. Add vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further. Turn off heat and pour sauce into a jar – allow to cool for about 15 minutes in the fridge.

Poke holes into the cupcakes using a toothpick – brush the warm caramel sauce over all the cupcakes, then go back and brush a second time (store leftover caramel sauce in the fridge).

Make the frosting: In a stand mixer beat, beat the cream cheese and butter until mixed and fluffy – slowly add the sugar. Squeeze the lemon’s juice into the bowl and add the vanilla, and mix until combined. Decorate the cupcakes using a pasty bag or simply spoon the frosting on by hand.

To read more about this cake and my musical pairing, click HERE.

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