Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

October 29, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Posted in cupcakes, sweet things | 14 Comments
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pumpkin cupcakes

Some days I do not know what the heck I’m doing.  I put toothpaste on my Clarisonic.  I almost forget the pumpkin in my pumpkin cupcakes.  Luckily, I usually realize something’s amiss before it’s too late, so both my face and my cupcakes wound up alright…this time.

Speaking of forgetting the pumpkin, I once had a British guy point out to me that all this “American baked pumpkin stuff” just tastes like spices, so why bother with the pumpkin at all?  I’d never really thought about that before, and I guess he was almost right about the taste, but I certainly do think there’s reason to bother.  Not only does pumpkin puree make quickbreads and cakes nice and moist, (and orange, of course), but I think that pumpkin has a bit of earthiness to it, keeping them from being just sweet spice cakes.  Also squash makes cupcakes healthier??  Maybe I’m kidding myself there.  I do happen to love the fall spices, though, and these cupcakes have just the right amount.  And what do I need to say about cream cheese frosting, except for “yes please”?

These are a great treat anytime in the cooler weather, but add a few black and orange sprinkles and they turn into Halloween cupcakesHappy Halloween!

Pumpkin Cupcakes- makes 18-20 cupcakes
from Leite’s Culinaria, but seen all over the interwebs in both cupcake and layer cake form

Steph’s Note:  Don’t need that many cupcakes?  Make a half-batch to get 9-10, and halve the frosting as well.

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

-Preheat the oven to 350° (180°C) and prepare your cupcake tins with paper liners.

-In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.

-Add the eggs to the mixer, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition.  Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Divide the batter equally between the lined cups–they should be about 3/4 full.

-Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 18 to 24 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 10 minutes.  Remove them from the tins and onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
by me

Steph’s Note:  You can see from my photo that this frosting is soft…the kind to spoon on instead of pipe.  Using a small amount of natural maple flavor instead the larger amount of maple syrup helps, as does preparing the frosting while the cupcakes are baking and then refrigerating it until the cakes are cool.  Cutting back on the powdered sugar (oddly) also helps stiffen up a cream cheese frosting if that’s what you prefer..

1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese (full-fat or reduced-fat Neufchâtel), at cool room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup of maple syrup or 1 tsp natural maple flavor
pinch of salt

-In a food processor, zip the confectioner’s sugar first to break up any lumps.  Add the other ingredients and process until smooth, scraping as needed.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

October 28, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Posted in cupcakes, sweet things | 14 Comments
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devil's food cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

I needed a little weekend baking project to help take my mind off the Frankenstorm that’s coming our way.  Spooky.  It’s time for Halloween cupcakes anyway…I make them every year, mostly to use my orange and black sprinkles.  I think devil’s food is appropriate for Halloween, and it helps that it’s my favorite species of chocolate cake.  I have a particular fondness for oil-based devil’s food like this one from Zoë Bakes.  So moist, oh my gosh.  And isn’t cream cheese frosting good on just about any cake?  Looking forward to eating one of these from the fridge tonight.

Happy Halloween, and stay safe (and dry)!

devil's food cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Devil’s Food Cupcakes- makes 3 dozen
from Zoë Bakes

Steph’s Note:  I made one-third of the cupcake recipe below to get one dozen cupcakes, but I still used the full amount of frosting.

3 cups granulated sugar
2 3/4 cups  all-purpose flour
1 1/8 cups cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-processed), sifted if lumpy.
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk or buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup hot coffee
1/4 cup rum or brandy (or replace with extra coffee)

-Heat the oven to 350°F and prepare 3 dozen muffin tins with papers

-Combine all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and whisk until combined, set aside.

-Whisk together, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla until well combined. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Slowly add the hot coffee and rum to the batter and whisk until totally blended and smooth, about 2 minutes. The batter will be quite runny.

-Fill a measuring cup or pitcher (you can fill directly from the mixing bowl if you have a steady hand) with the batter and then fill the muffin cups about 2/3 – 3/4 full.

-Bake the cupcakes for about 18-20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

-Allow to cool completely on a cake rack, removing the cupcakes from the tin after about 15 minutes, and then frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
from Zoë Bakes

Steph’s Note:  I used the full amount of frosting to decorate 12 cupcakes.

1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon golden syrup (can substitute with honey)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

-Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and cream together until smooth.  (I used a hand mixer for this.)

Sour Cream Cupcakes

October 30, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Posted in cupcakes, sweet things | 7 Comments
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sour cream cupcakes

Yes, Halloween is all about candy, and I’m psyching myself up to sit on my stoop for hours tomorrow passing out Milky Ways and M&M’S to the neighborhood zombies and trolls.  (Unless I am bitten by a vampire, I plan to hoard the Reese’s Cups for myself, btw.)  Every year, though, I force myself to make Halloween cupcakes in an effort to use up my ghost cupcake liners and my orange and black sprinkles. I think I have one year left on the liners, but probably ten on the sprinkles…maybe I should “accidentally” spill them!

I only just now realized that you can’t really even see the actual cupcake in this photo…my bad…but they look, you know, like cupcakes.  I’ve made this recipe a couple of times now because it real flavor from the sour cream and vanilla.  Also, they are soft and moist, but they’re sturdy…they don’t have a messy, fall-to-pieces-when-you-bite-them crumb.  I think they’d make perfect birthday cupcakes.  When I make cupcakes, I often use them as an excuse to clear out the bits and pieces from the fridge, and the frosting here is just a little leftover dark chocolate ganache.

I’m kepping this short and sweet because a car alarm has been going off outside my window for the past fifteen minutes. Ahh, city living…I can hardly hear myself think.  Happy Halloween!

Sour Cream Cupcakes- makes about 18
from a recipe by Anne Burrell

Steph’s Note:  The original recipe claims this makes 12 cupcakes…maybe that’s for a jumbo tin(?), because it really yields about 18 standard size cupcakes.  Here, I made a 1/3 recipe and got six.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup sour cream

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with paper cups.

-Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

-In the bowl of a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy.  Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

-Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Slowly add the vanilla, milk and sour cream.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed.  With the mixer on medium speed, gradually mix in the flour.

-Fill the prepared muffin cups about 2/3 of the way, dividing the batter evenly among the lined cups.

-Put in the preheated oven and bake for about 20-22 minutes.  Rotate the tin about halfway through.

-The cupcakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a cake.  Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack, then frost and decorate.

One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes

October 30, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Posted in cupcakes | 11 Comments

one-bowl chocolate cupcakes

I don’t equate cupcakes with Halloween, but every year I do whip up a batch to celebrate the day (and possibly come one step closer to using up my never-ending jar of  orange and black sprinkles).  Last year they were vanilla, this year they’re chocolate.  I’d say that I’ve been a little choco-deprived lately, as the last true chocolate treat I made here was back in August…but that would be a total lie, since all week I’ve been pillaging the stash of Reese’s and Kit Kats that I supposedly bought for the neighborhood children!

Really, I’ve been wanting to make Martha Stewart’s One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes for ages…a good friend told me it’s the recipe she always makes for her kids.  For something so easy (you go from zero to cake in about 25 minutes), they are surprisingly good.  Perfectly moist, not too crumbly (cupcakes that fall to pieces when you unwrap them tick me off) and a fast chocolate fix.

The frosting was just a quickie, no measurements, cream cheese frosting with enough matcha powder added to look the color of Frankenstein’s face, or maybe pond scum.   Gruesome, as my grandmother would say (not to mention a little too strong on the matcha).  Happy Halloween!!

one-bowl chocolate cupcakes

One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes- makes about 18
adapted from marthastewart.com

Steph’s Note: Don’t worry if your batter seems a little loose or runny…it’ll still become cake in the oven!

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons safflower oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside.  Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

-Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.  Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 18-20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed.  Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

October 30, 2009 at 11:52 am | Posted in cupcakes, sweet things | 14 Comments

vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting

In order to keep myself from unloading a bag of fun size KIT KATs straight into my mouth, it’s time I bake up my annual Halloween cupcakes…annually featuring these black and orange sprinkles.  What??  I only get one chance a year to use them!  I just hope they never go bad, because I’ve still barely made a dent in the jar (so expect to see them for years to come!).

This is a recipe that I came across in Everyday Food, so not only are they easy cupcakes to eat, they are also ridiculously easy to make!  And the flavor’s just a simple vanilla on vanilla, so they’d be good anytime of year.  The cakes had a good texture– they were nice and moist, even on day three (stored in the fridge, and brought to room temp before eating).  I don’t often whip up this type of powdered sugar and butter frosting.  While it may not have the refined, melt-in-your-mouthiness that my favorite Swiss meringue buttercreams have, it’s homey and familiar, and I like it a lot.

vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting

Vanilla Cupcakes- makes 12
from Everyday Food (October 2005)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard (12-cup) muffin tin with paper liners. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

-With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Beat in vanilla.

-With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture and sour cream in alternating batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.

-Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean and the top is springy to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely before spreading with frosting.

Vanilla Frosting- makes 1 cup
from Everyday Food (October 2005)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt

-In a small bowl, beat together butter, sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt until light and fluffy. Use immediately, or cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate up to 3 days. Before using, bring to room temperature.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Devil’s Food White-Out Cake

February 17, 2009 at 2:19 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, cupcakes, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 49 Comments

devil's food white-out cake

Oh, I bet a lot of TWDers have been waiting a long time for this one, and we have Stephanie of Confessions of a City Eater to thank for finally choosing it!  Actually, I feel a twinge of guilt posting this picture.  It’s almost as if, by turning Dorie’s cover cake into cupcakes, I haven’t quite done her recipe justice.  Please forgive me…it’s just that I’ve been doing a lot of layer cakes with The Cake Slice group lately. 

Geez Louise, I love devil’s food cake.  I mean, really…it’s so chocolaty, and that moist but dense thing it has going on…it’s just the best type of chocolate cake (by the way, I like it chilled).  This particular devil’s food recipe is extra-special because it has little chopped chocolate bits throughout.  I made a half recipe and got ten cupcakes.  I actually only turned six of them into White-Outs.  The others went, unfrosted but nicely wrapped, into the freezer, and later (along with some leftover cream cheese frosting you’ll read about in a few days) became Valentine’s cupcakes.

The White-Out Cake is Dorie’s spin on the classic Brooklyn blackout cake, but here the filling/frosting is homemade marshmallow Fluff.  Yay, Fluff!  I even cut a hole out of the center of each cupcake and filled it with extra marshmallow meringue.  You know where I was going with that, right?  I reserved the little plugs of cake for my crumbs. One note about the frosting: I reduced the cream of tartar in the recipe.  A friend had made this cake about a month ago, and told me she thought the frosting had a slightly metallic taste…the large amount of CoT was the only culprit I could think of.

So good…it was so good.  Make it yourself and see– the recipe, of course, is in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, but she also has it here on NPR’s site.  Don’t forget to read Stephanie’s post and check out the TWD Blogroll to see what everyone else came up with!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2009 at 3:32 am | Posted in cupcakes, sweet things | 20 Comments

valentine's cupcake

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes

October 28, 2008 at 4:56 am | Posted in cupcakes, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 38 Comments

chocolate-chocolate cupcakes

Growing up, Halloween was totally my favorite holiday (or sort-of holiday, really).  I was like Linus, waiting all year for the Great Pumpkin to appear.  I went trick-or-treating long after I really should have stopped…until I was 16!  Every year, when I would get home with my loot, I’d go immediately to my bedroom, tip the contents of my plastic pumpkin onto the floor and form a sort of crude candy hierarchy out of it.  Things like raisins, Raisinets, Chunky Bars and Good ‘N Plenty went immediately to my parents.  Then the chocolate bars were divided into order of preference– Kit Kats, Twix, Charleston Chew and Reese’s were at the top of the heap.  From the “other” category, I was a special fan of rootbeer Dum Dums and Now and Laters.  I wouldn’t gorge on the candy, but it eat it slowly and methodically over the month of November…the whole process seems quite demented now that I think about it. 

When Clara of I Heart Food4Thought asked us to put a costume on the Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes she’d chosen for TWD, I was happy to get in the spirit of things, so to speak.  I was chin-deep in packing materials when I made these, however, so I didn’t have too much time for creativity– thank goodness for colored sprinkles! 

If you have Dorie’s book, you may notice that my cupcakes don’t look quite the same as hers, and it’s not just that mine are crawling with spiders!  I finally polished off a bag of white chocolate pistoles, that had been my life’s mission to use up before I left Sydney, by making white chocolate frosting instead of dark. (That accomplished, I’ll now have to find a new, and hopefully less frivolous, life’s mission.)  I didn’t actually measure the powdered sugar in the frosting recipe…just kept adding until it was spreadable.

chocolate-chocolate cupcakes

These were good…nothing life-altering, buy hey, they’re just simple chocolate cupcakes after all.  I’d make them again, though, for sure.  Do test them early, as there were several reports of dry cupcakes in the TWD group…I pulled mine from the oven about two minutes before the recommended time, and they were just fine.  For the recipe, look in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or read CB’s post.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll to see what over 250 other people had to say!  Happy Halloween!!

Cupcake Hero: Cocoa-Malt Cupcakes with Malted Marshmallow Frosting

September 29, 2008 at 8:21 pm | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 13 Comments

cocoa-malt cucpakes with malted marshmallow frosting

Happy anniversary, Cupcake Hero!  I haven’t participated in CH for the past few months, but how could I not jump back in the game to help Laurie celebrate its first year?  The theme for this month is actually to choose two themes from the past year and combine them into one double-good cupcake.  In honor of the festivities, I went with cocoa and marshmallow, (two of the past year’s best) to come up with these Cocoa-Malt Cupcakes with Malted Marshmallow Frosting.

Ever since I cracked open my jar of malt syrup earlier in the month, I’ve been dreaming of malt!  A bit of a one-track mind, I know.  I decided to incorporate the flavor into a simple Devil’s Food batter made with cocoa powder.  The frosting is a “loose interpretation” of marshmallow, in that no gelatin is involved.  Rather than mess with a sugar syrup, I made a fluffy Swiss meringue, also flavored, of course, with malt.

I was a little nervous wondering whether or not the addition of malt syrup to the batter would affect the baking.  They took a full 25 minutes in my oven, and after removing them from the cupcake tin, they still felt a little soft.  I put them on a sheet tray (out of the tin) and stuck them back in the oven for another 5 minutes.  When we had them later that night, the cakes were soft and moist and perfectly baked.  And the marshmallow frosting was sweet and sticky, just like it should be.

Check out the new Cupcake Hero page for a run-down of all this month’s entries!

cocoa-malt cucpakes with malted marshmallow frosting 

Cocoa-Malt Cupcakes with Malted Marshmallow Frosting- makes 6 regular-size cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

Note:  For a more traditional Devil’s Food cupcake, replace the malt syrup with a dash of vanilla extract or a sprinkle of instant espresso powder.

1/6 c cocoa powder
1/4 c boiling water
1/4 c sour cream
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/8 c vegetable oil
2 t barley malt syrup
1/2 c AP flour
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c light brown sugar, packed
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t kosher salt

-Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a cupcake tin with 6 paper liners.

-Put the cocoa in a medium bowl, pour the boiling water over it and whisk to combine.  Let sit for a few minutes to cool slightly.  Add the sour cream, egg, oil and malt syrup and whisk to thouroughly combine.

-In a separate bowl, sift or whisk the dry ingredients (including sugars) to combine.

-Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk just until blended.  

-Divide the batter among the cupcake cups.  The batter will be loose, so transferring it to a measuring cup and pouring it into the cups is probably easiest.

-Bake for about 25 minutes, until puffed and springy to the touch.

-Cool for 5 minutes and remove from the pans.  If the cupcakes feel soft on the bottom, set them on a baking sheet (not in cupcake tin) and pop them back in the oven for 5 minutes to firm up.  Allow to cool completely on a rack before frosting.

For the frosting:

Note:  Because this is meringue, it’s best to make the frosting just before topping your cupcakes (in other words, don’t make the frosting until you are ready to use it).  You can store the frosted cupcakes in the fridge overnight, if you have leftovers.  The meringue will be a little softer the next day, but still good!

1/4 c egg whites (about 2 whites)
1/2 c sugar
1 T barley malt syrup

-Combine sugar and egg whites in large metal bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Set bowl over saucepan of gently simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot to the touch and all the sugar has dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Remove bowl from over water. Using the stand mixer fitted with the whip or a handheld electric mixer, beat meringue at high speed until very thick and billowy and room temperature, about 3-5 minutes.

-Add the malt syrup and whip on low speed for 1 minute.

-Spread or pipe the frosting on the cooled cupcakes.

SHF#47: Vanilla Date Cupcakes with Buttermilk Fudge Frosting

September 26, 2008 at 4:50 pm | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 7 Comments

vanilla date cupcakes with buttermilk fudge frosting

Not sure why, but I haven’t participated in Sugar High Friday in awhile. This month, though, I found myself seduced by a cupcake-loving pink flamingo into sending super-sweet Fanny a super-sweet cupcake for her round-up.

I’ve been on a tear lately trying to use up things in my pantry.  One of those things was a bag of dates that had been lingering around for longer than I would like to admit.  It was time for them to move out, and I found them a new home thanks to one of my favorite baking books, Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen.  She has a recipe for moist date cupcakes, flecked with vanilla bean and frosted with buttermilk fudge.  It sounded so interesting, I had to give it a go!

vanilla date cupcakes with buttermilk fudge frosting

With the combination of dates, brown sugar and buttermilk, the cakes are golden-hued, really moist and delicious, and keep nicely for a few days.  There isn’t a picture in the book, but the author’s instructions led me to believe that the frosting would be quite stiff.  Mine actually had a consistency in between a glaze and a normal icing.  I could definitely spread it on, but I couldn’t heap it on.  It is definitely sweet, though, and a little goes a long way, so maybe that was a good thing.  I thought about chilling the icing, then whipping it further, but I liked the smooth tops and gentle drips that formed as it set.

vanilla date cupcakes with buttermilk fudge frosting


Vanilla Date Cupcakes with Buttermilk Fudge Frosting- makes 8 regular-size cupcakes
adapted from Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen

Note: If some of these measurements seem a little screwy, that’s because I downsized it from the original, which was much larger and meant to produce jumbo cupcakes.

For the cupcakes:

2 1/2 oz plump, pitted dates, coarsely chopped
5 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c light brown sugar, packed
seeds of 1/3 vanilla bean
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 t pure vanilla extract (or dark rum)
1 c cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1/3 t baking powder
1/3 t baking soda
1/8 t kosher salt
pinch of grated nutmeg
1/3 c + 1 T buttermilk

-Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pan with 8 paper liners.

-Put the chopped dates in a small bowl and pour 3 T boiling water over them.  Let sit for a few minutes, and mash with a fork to a rough paste.  Set aside while you prepare the batter.

-By hand, or using a hand-held mixer, cream the butter, two sugars and vanilla seeds until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Add the egg, then add the vanilla extract (or rum) and mix well.

-In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.

-Add the buttermilk and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, beginning with the buttermilk and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended.  Fold the date paste into the batter with a rubber spatula.

-Divide the batter among the cupcake cups, filling each one 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

-Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely on a rack before frosting.

For the frosting:

1/2 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 t light corn syrup
1 1/3 T unsalted butter, in small pieces
1/3 c buttermilk, plus an additional 1 T, for thinning the cooked frosting
1/3 t baking soda, sifted
1/4 t pure vanilla extract or paste

-Combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter, buttermilk and baking soda in a heavy-bottomed pot (use a larger pot than you think you will need…this mixture bubbles up to about four times its original volume as it comes to the boil!).  Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  Increase the heat slightly and bring the mixture to a boil.  Stir one last time as it comes to the boil, then don’t stir again.

-Boil the syrup until it reaches 236°F on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage).  You will see that the frosting caramelizes as it cooks.  Immediately pour it into a mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip).  Let it cool for about five minutes.

-Stir in the vanilla extract or paste, then beat on medium speed until thick enough to spread, about five minutes.  If the frosting is too thick, add the additional buttermilk, one teaspoon at a time.

-Slather the tops of the cupcakes with the frosting and cool before serving.  You can place the cupcakes in the refrigerator to set the icing if it seems loose, or add additional teaspoons of buttermilk if it seems too thick.  (If it is too loose to work with, you can try chilling it for 10 minutes or so, then re-whipping.)

-Iced cupcakes can be stores for 2-3 days in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator (bring to room temperature before serving).  If you have more frosting than you need, transfer extras to a small, flat container…it will set up as fudge in the refrigerator.

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