Want to get into the spirit of fall? There’s nothing quite like the humble yet versatile pumpkin that puts you right in the mood to welcome autumn. The aroma of a freshly baked pumpkin cupcake that is redolent with warm spices makes for the perfect segue into the colder months.
Pumpkin is a wonderful ingredient to bake with. The local ‘red kurbis’ variety of pumpkin is mildly sweet and is well suited for desserts. Most recipes call for pumpkin puree, which is easy to make at home. There are two hassle-free ways to make a pumpkin puree:
In the oven: Peel and cut the pumpkin into chunks and bake the chunks in the oven for 45 minutes at 170 C. Once cooled, mash the baked pieces with a fork, or blend in a blender if you prefer a smooth texture.
In a pressure cooker: Cut the pumpkin in half, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Place the pumpkin in the cooker (preferably in your pressure cooker’s metal steamer insert). Cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Once cooled, scoop out the cooked flesh from the pumpkin and mash it with a fork or blend in a blender.
Once your puree is ready, you can use in a variety of desserts. This pumpkin cupcake is made with brown butter that gives it a delicious caramel taste, and pairs very well with pumpkin. It is topped with a salted caramel and pecan topping that takes it from classic to decadent.
Ingredients for the Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes
- Pumpkin puree made from half a ‘red kurbis’
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- Spice mix: 1/2 tsp ground clove + 1 tsp each – cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder, ginger powder
- 150 gm butter
- 3/4 cup brown sugar (make your own brown sugar by mixing together 2 tablespoons of molasses* with 1 cup of sugar)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup full fat milk
Start by making the brown butter – heat the butter in a saucepan till the milk solids separate and caramelize, and turns amber in colour. This could take 8 to 10 minutes on medium heat. Let the brown butter cool and come to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C) and line cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
In a mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, baking powder, spice mix – and keep this aside.
In a separate mixing bowl using a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, mix together the brown butter and sugar till well combined. Add eggs, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes until the mixture is fluffy.
Add vanilla extract and the pumpkin puree and beat gently till just combined.
Add the dry ingredients and the milk and mix on low speed till just combined. Do not overbeat.
Spoon into paper-lined cupcake tin, filling just about 3/4th of each liner.
Bake at 300 F (150 C) for 30-35 minutes. Baking it at this low temperature will ensure cupcakes don’t crack, and have even mounds. While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the salted caramel pecan topping.
Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the Salted Caramel Pecan topping
- 1 cup brown sugar (you can use regular sugar, which will result in a slightly lighter colour to the caramel)
- 75 grams butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/2 tsp table salt 1/3 cup crushed pecans
- 1/2 tsp table salt 1/3 cup crushed pecans
- 1/3 cup crushed pecans
Heat the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, until it melts and turns a light amber. Be cautious because the sugar can burn very quickly and goes from melted to burnt. Turn off the heat. Add the butter and mix, the mixture will foam gently. Add the cream and keep stirring, till the mixtures are evenly combined.
Add salt and crushed pecans and mix.
Let the mixture cool, and then top the cupcakes with the mixture.
*molasses can be sourced from most ‘Reformhaus’ or health-stores in Switzerland.
Photos by Shinta Simon