I’m not normally one to celebrate Halloween (Hello? Relevance?) but when my boss announced a Halloween morning tea for the last day of the working week, I decided to use it as a chance to show off. By that, I meant whip up some Halloween-related treats in the kitchen rather than buy lollies from the supermarket.
To most people, Halloween means pumpkins. And I just so happened to have a tub of pumpkin puree in the fridge, left over from when I made roasted pumpkin soup the previous weekend. For me, making these brown butter pumpkin cupcakes was just a matter of chucking a bunch of ingredients I had at home. That said, it’s very easy to make your own pumpkin puree from scratch (see below). The same goes for salted caramel sauce, but you can easily use a store-bought version if you want to cheat.
The thought of eating pumpkin cupcakes may put some people off, but don’t be afraid to try it out. These cupcakes were a hit in the office – and trust me, I work with a bunch of fussy ladies. So if they like them, then I’m pretty sure you will do.
Recipe: Mini Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
170 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ⅔ cups plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree*
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Salted caramel Frosting:
150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups icing sugar
½ cup salted caramel sauce (see below)
Salted caramel sauce:
2 cups sugar
170 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup thickened cream, at room temperature
1 tbs sea salt flakes
*To make pumpkin puree, peel the skin off half a butternut pumpkin and cut into squares. Roast the pumpkin cubes in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the cubes have softened. Let the pumpkin cubes cool for 10 minutes, then blitz them in a food processor until smooth. Alternatively, use a potato masher.
Makes about 32 mini-sized cupcakes or 15 regular-sized ones.
1. We’ll start by making the cupcakes. Preheat your oven to 160°C. Line mini muffin tray with patty pans and set aside.
2. In a saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat. Once melted, continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns golden brown. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl to stop it from cooking, then skim the foam from top.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together plain flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugars, eggs, vanilla extract and brown butter from step 2.
4. Add the flour mixture into the brown butter and puree mixture, and mix until just combined. Do not over mix.
5. Divide the batter evenly among the patty pans, filling each hole three-quarters full. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through – use the skewer test. Let the cupcakes cool down.
6. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the salted caramel sauce. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat in a bottom of a heavy saucepan. As soon as the sugar starts to melt, start swirling it around with a wooden spoon. The sugar will clump up, but keep stirring as it continues to melt. This is to prevent the sugar from burning. When all the sugar has melted, stop stirring.
7. Continue to cook the sugar, making sure the temperature doesn’t go higher than 170°C (use a candy thermometer). Once the sugar reaches a dark amber colour, slowly add the butter (it will bubble up).
8. Stir until all the butter is melted, then remove the pan from heat and slowly pour in the heavy cream. The caramel will bubble up, so be careful. Stir until the cream is fully incorporated and the caramel is smooth. Lastly, add the sea salt flakes.
9. Let the caramel sauce cool for about 10 minutes in the pan. Reserve ½ a cup for the frosting, plus more for drizzling. You can store the rest of the caramel in a large jar where it will keep in the fridge for about a month.
10. Finally, it’s time to make the frosting. Using an electric mixer on medium-heat speed, beat the butter in a bowl until light in colour and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Reduce speed to low, add icing sugar and mix until completely incorporated.
11. Turn the mixer off, then add the ½ a cup of salted caramel sauce. Beat the frosting on low to combine, then increase to medium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed (about 5 minutes).
12. Using a piping bag, frost the now-cool cupcakes with the salted caramel frosting. Drizzle the cupcakes with extra salted caramel sauce, if desired.