Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Pumpkin Pecan Cupcakes

Happy Halloween!  Halloween, also known as All Hallows Eve, was not recognised in Australia until the last few years, and when I was growing up, was something I had only heard of in a Charlie Brown cartoon.  Fast forward a few decades, and the houses in my neighbourhood are decked out with Halloween decorations and children are roaming the streets trick or treating.  It is nothing like the scale on which I saw Halloween decorations in the US when I was there just before Halloween about 13 years ago (wow, was it that long ago?), but it is leaps and bounds from the previous non-recognition of Halloween.

It's been five years since I made anything for Halloween (gosh time flies when you're having fun),  so I am glad that I finally made the effort again this year.  I decided that Gail Wagman's Cupcakes Galore would be just the ticket, and sure enough, she had a great recipe for Halloween Pumpkin Pecan Cupcakes.  These cupcakes smell like autumn - while baking, they fill the kitchen with a heavenly scent of pumpkin and spice.  And best of all, when they are done, they are orange inside - perfect for Halloween:   

Instead of using Gail's suggested frosting, I just used ordinary water icing dyed orange, and piped chocolate "cobwebs" on top to give the cupcakes that Halloween feel.  Best of all, they tasted delicious - not as sweet as a regular cupcake, much more flavoursome that a regular muffin, and with a nice crunch from the pecans.

The recipe is as follows:

1 2/3 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (I used salted butter and left this out)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
125g butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
250g mashed cooked pumpkin
1 cup chopped pecans (I used a combination of pecans and walnuts)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake papers (I ended up with 14 cakes).  

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices together in a bowl, and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Next, beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla and pumpkin and beat until smooth. (The mixture will be quite sloppy at this stage - don't panic.)  Fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the nuts.  

Divide the batter between the lined muffin tin holes, filling them approximately two thirds full.  (I always use an icecream scoop to divide the batter evenly between the holes in the tin.)  Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the icing, sift about two cups of icing sugar into a bowl, then add just enough water (or orange juice) to make the icing a spreadable consistency.  Use gel colours (red and yellow) to make the icing orange.  While the icing is still wet, pipe three or four concentric circles in dark chocolate on top of the cake, and run a skewer from the centre of each cake to the edge of the cake enough times for the design to look like a spider's web.  Done!