Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

Lately, my Pinterest feeds have been invaded by pumpkin-related recipes: soups, curries, pies, cupcakes…it doesn’t stop! I noticed that here in UK or in US (unlike Italy) pumpkins and squashes are a very traditional autumn vegetable, used in savoury and sweet dishes. As far as I know and experienced at home in Italy, pumpkins (zucche) are used mainly in soups, pasta and risotto, so the idea of using pumpkin in baking got me very curious and I decided to give it try over the weekend.

Here are my Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting: an official welcome to the autumn season.

All the recipes I found required canned pumpkin puree; not just any type, specifically Libby’s Pumpkin Puree. While searching for this product online, I stumbled upon a recipe for Pumpkin and Cinnamon Cupcakes by Maison Cupcake.

In her blog, Sarah explains that pumpkin puree can be found in London in selected branches of Waitrose (or online at Ocado) only in this time of the year, ie. in the leading up to Halloween. Unfortunately my local Waitrose didn’t have it and a trip to Wholefoods in Clapham also proved unsuccessful. I finally found Libby’s pumpkin puree in a different branch of Waitrose, for only £1.36 a can (450g).

I used Maison Cupcake recipe to bake Pumpkin Cupcakes last Friday evening. I prefer to take photos of my recipes in day light, so I waited until the next morning to make the frosting and decorate the cakes. The cupcakes looked so pretty without the frosting, and smelled so good, that we couldn’t resist having one for breakfast! ;) After tasting the cake, me and my husband agreed that it would pair well with chocolate, so I made a last minute decision to replace the cinnamon buttercream of the original recipe with a chocolate frosting.

The end result was good, although the chocolate was covering up too much of the pumpkin taste. Also, I found that the pumpkin puree makes the cakes very moist and thick, so in my opinion it doesn’t work well for cupcakes, which should be soft and airy. Perhaps this recipe would work better to make a cake, with crushed nuts to add texture and served with a mascarpone cream to enhance the pumpkin flavours! :) Nonetheless, these cupcakes tasted very nice and made for a nice treat to have over the weekend.

Ingredients

Makes around 18 small cupcakes.

* 110g unsalted butter, softened
* 240g soft light brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
* 75g canned pumpkin puree
* 125g self-raising flour, sifted
* 120g plain flour, sifted
* 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
* 1/2 tsp ground ginger
* 110ml milk
* juice of half lemon

For the frosting

* 85g unsalted butter, softened
* 400g icing sugar
* 40ml milk (additional milk if required)
* 25g unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a muffin tray with cupcake paper cases.

Using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree until combined. Add ground cinnamon and ginger.

In a small jug, stir the lemon juice into the milk (for the cake mix).

Sift one-third of the flour over the cake batter and stir until combined. Add half of the lemon juice/milk mixture. Add another third of the flour, then the second half of the lemon juice/milk and finally the last third of the flour.

Spoon the mixture into the cases, filling them to two-thirds full. If using full size muffin cases, bake for 25 minutes; for smaller cases, bake for around 18 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave the cupcakes to cool down in the tray, before transferring them to a wire rack.

To make the chocolate frosting, cream together the butter and cocoa powder. Add half of the icing sugar and mix until well incorporated. Add the milk and vanilla, beat until well mixed and then add the remaining sugar. Add extra milk if required.

When the cupcakes have cool down completely, decorate them with chocolate frosting, using a piping bag.

Spiced Granola

Yes, I made it, I completed the Food for Runners challenge! The goal was to post one healthy recipe a week for 10 weeks to support my fiancé’s nutrition and boost his energies in the lead up to the Rome Marathon.

The M-day has nearly arrived and tonight we are flying to Rome where the marathon will take place on Sunday. While Sandy is cheerful and positive as usual, I’m in full panic mode!

I’ve done my research on training and nutrition and I’ve asked tips to fellow marathon runners. Recently I discovered Never Home Maker blog, which has got lots of useful running tips! I’m following their “Marathon Week Taper” recommendations and find myself sending threating texts to poor Sandy, such as “don’t eat carbs today!” one day, “eat carbs today!” the next day or “remember to eat fresh fruit!” and “don’t eat too much cake!”. I have also convinced him to take “ice baths” after long runs and booked him a “decontracting massage” for the morning after.

Honestly, I’m freaking out, please let this nonsense be over soon! ;)

In the hope of calming myself down, I focused on preparing the MOST AMAZING GRANOLA I have ever tasted! Supermarket granola brands are going to taste bland from now on. This is one very tasty and spiced mix! I adapted the recipe from Can Be Bribed With Food blog and tried the granola with different combinations: yogurt and fresh fruit, flaxseed and milk, or simply sprinkled on fresh strawberries! I even found Sandy eating it straight out of the jar! We are obsessed! :)

Ingredients

* 2 cups large oats
* 1/2 cup flaked almonds
* 1/2 cup pecans roughly chopped
* 1 tsp cinnamon powder
* 1 tsp ground ginger
* 1 cup coconut
* 1/2 tsp black pepper
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1/8 cup vegetable oil
* 1/4 cup honey or golden syrup
* 1/4 cup brown sugar (I used Muscovado)
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
* 1/4 cup green pumpkin seeds
* 1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins


Preparation

Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a large baking tray with baking paper.

In a bowl mix oats, almonds, pecans, coconut, cinnamon, ginger, pepper and salt. Do not add the pumpkin seeds and the cranberries to the mix yet!

In a separate bowl stir together the oil, sugar, golden syrup and vanilla extract. Pour the liquid over the oat/nut mix and stir until well coated.

Spread out onto the baking sheet. Bake for 20-30′ or until golden, stirring a few times. Remove from the oven and mix in the pumpkin seeds and cranberries.

Let it cool completely and store it in jars and tupperwares.

Sandy is running the Rome Marathon on Sunday 18th March to raise money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and for Multiple Sclerosis Society. Show your support by fundraising his challenge here.