Let me be clear: when I bake, I don't invent the recipes. I am able to create the delicious baked things I make because of the tireless efforts of the millions of dedicated bakers who've come before me. Let us all pause to thank the internet gods that we live in a world where you can Google a recipe for literally anything. [Gratitude pause.]
When I bake, I simply do my research. I usually start with a vague idea of what I'm going to make (cake, cookies, brownies, etc.), and just Google recipes until I find one I like. My criteria for picking a good recipe are: a) is the recipe from a trusted source, such as a popular cooking blog or website? b) is it highly rated, with mostly positive reviews? and c) does it seem to fit my idea, or does it veer too far away from my concept?
When I was deciding on these cupcakes, I knew I wanted to take the idea of a Pumpkin Spice Latte and turn it into a cupcake. I knew that there were plenty of pumpkin spice recipes on the internet, and I assumed there were espresso frosting recipes. It's both incredibly freeing and slightly soul-crushing that any recipe I could ever think of is already Google-able. But that's the great thing about baking–someone else has drawn the roadmap, and you just have to stop for those scenic opportunities along the way.
I used a pumpkin spice cake recipe from Sally's Baking Addition–a baking blog I highly recommend–and a frosting recipe I found on Group Recipes. From there, it was up to me to tweak and adjust as I saw fit (my recipe below reflects the changes I made). Baking is science, but it's still up to you as a cook to feel it out and go with your gut–and your tastebuds. I thought 4 cups of powdered sugar in the frosting recipe sounded like overkill, so I added the sugar a cup at a time and tasted it after each addition. For me, 3 cups made it plenty sweet. For you, maybe you think it needs that extra cup. In the cake recipe, I roughly doubled the amount of the pumpkin pie spice mix the recipe called for, because I love spicy, intense flavors. It tasted awesome to me, but if you want to use less spice mix, do so. It's all up to your personal preference.
Remember that in baking, just like in savory cooking, tasting every step of the way is key–so go on, lick the batter off the spoon ;-) YOU know best what you and your family will love, so tweak things as you go. Soon, you'll have YOUR very own recipes to call favorites. Happy baking!
RECIPE: PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE CUPCAKES
[For the pumpkin pie spice mix]
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1.5 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
[For the cake batter]
1 and 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice mix
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk
[For the frosting]
2 sticks of butter, softened
One 8-oz. package cream, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
about 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
cinnamon for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin liners and spray the edges of the pan with nonstick spray.
2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice mix together.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, oil, milk, and eggs. Use the whisk attachment and whisk till combined; scrape down the bowl sides and whisk just a little longer.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of the stand mixer and whisk until JUST combined (do not overmix) -- you can also just do this by hand with a spatula.
5. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins and bake about 20-25 minutes, until a knife inserted in a cupcake comes out clean.
6. While the cupcakes are baking, wipe out the stand mixer bowl and add the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and espresso powder to the bowl. Using the paddle attachment, whip until well incorporated. Add the sugar about a cup at a time, and whip until it's light and fluffy. Transfer to a piping bag with a star tip if you're going to pipe the frosting on.
7. Remove cupcake from oven and cool to room temperature. Pipe the frosting on each one and top with a dusting of cinnamon. Enjoy!