pumpkin cupcakes + apple cider buttercream

Our apartment complex has competitions now and then, and other ways to foster a sense of community (which I appreciate in the impersonal suburbs). I try to participate when I can, especially at times like these when the entry fee goes directly to charity. Last week I fought a pretty righteous cold, but by Friday I was feeling fit enough to bake. The competition required that we use two specific ingredients in each submission, and I committed to submitting two types of cupcakes. I never take the easy road. These cupcakes are an homage to Autumn and feature pumpkin and apple cider, two of the required ingredients - pumpkin cupcakes with apple cider buttercream.

I combed through recipes on blogs and in cookbooks trying to find the recipe that felt right. I have a pretty strong grasp of how ingredients work with each other and what various baking processes will yield. Martha Stewart's recipe had more butter than I wanted, and I'm not always happy with her recipes in general. I found something that seemed like a nice balance, and I made a few edits here and there to make them my own. The apple cider buttercream was easy and DELICIOUS, and it was also found in a separate quest for just the right recipe. The combination of the earthy pumpkin and the zesty, bright sweetness of the buttercream created the perfect cupcake. You can find my version of the recipes by clicking read more!

Tomorrow I'll share my recipe for the other cupcake submission - mocha chip cupcakes with coffee buttercream.
Pumpkin Cupcakes with Apple Cider Buttercream
Adapted from Southern Food.com and Or Until Golden Brown 

Pumpkin Cupcakes
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten until frothy
1 cup mashed cooked or canned pumpkin
3/4 cup milk

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a bowl. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs. Blend in mashed pumpkin. Stir in the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the milk, blending until batter is smooth after each addition; stir in chopped walnuts or pecans.

Spoon batter, or use an ice cream scoop, into well-greased and floured or paper-lined muffin pan cups. Fill about 2/3 full. Bake at 375° for 22-25 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Makes about 24 cupcakes, or 12 regular cupcakes and 24 mini cupcakes. If you're baking minis and regulars at the same time, I recommend baking the minis for about 12-13 minutes and then removing them to allow the regulars to bake for the full 22-25 minutes.

Apple Cider Buttercream
1 and 1/4 cups apple cider
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 and 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp good vanilla

In a small saucepan bring apple cider to a rolling boil over medium high heat.  Boil 6-8 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to about 1/3-1/2 cup. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter and confectioner's sugar.  Cream together on low speed for 1 minute or until incorporated, add the pumpkin pie spice and vanilla.  Once cooled to room temperature, add 1/4 cup of the reduced apple cider.  Mix all of this together on medium high speed for 3-4 minutes, or until light and fluffy. My personal experience with frosting is that once is starts to make noise in the mixer, it's perfectly fluffed. You'll hear it smacking against the paddle and sides of the bowl. I don't mean to get all Rachel Ray on you, but food does speak to you. With the mixer on low, add 1-2 tbsp of the additional reduced apple cider, one at a time, until the frosting reaches your desired spreading consistency.

Put the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a large icing tip and decorate your cupcakes according to your preference!

I sprinkled a combination of one tablespoon pumpkin pie spice with four tablespoons sugar on top of the cupcakes just for the heck of it, but I realized they needed more. So I took some orange construction paper and cut out mini pumpkins, embellished them with a ribbon "stem" and used double-sided tape to adhere them to tooth picks. Done!


  1. So, how's the competition? Did your recipe win? I can imagine how much fun living with the kind of apartment you have that arrange regular competition for cause.

  2. Oh my goodness. I'm a sucker for all things pumpkin AND apple, so I'm pretty much a goner. In a good way! Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Lester - I won second place, sadly. I hope they have another cupcake war! I'm ready for the challenge and I will TRIUMPH!

    G - You're welcome! Next time you come to DC I'll make them for you.


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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.