Let’s discuss the struggle.
The eternal Thanksgiving struggle.
You see, it’s real, it’s totally legit, and it’s deadly serious.
It typically manifests toward the end of the meal (when your shirt is covering the top of your jeans because you’ve just unbuttoned them), and you’re sitting there wondering, “Hmm…do I conclude this carbfest with a slice of pumpkin pie, or do I go with the pecan?”
Truly, it is one of life’s most difficult decisions…
If you, too, have faced this challenging predicament, then this cupcake recipe is for you. 😹 It’s a Frankenstein of fall flavors that combines the beautifully balanced spiciness of a perfect pumpkin pie, with the glorious greatness of brown sugar pecans — toasted first, then incorporated into the batter.
And as if that weren’t tantalizing enough, a cream cheese frosting tops it all off!
Also, as a full-time employee in the Crazy Cat Lady Department, I decorated mine with sprinkles and cute kitty fondant cutouts, but you could sub the cats for leaves or turkey shapes (that should also work).
In the cupcake world, there are two major categories of cupcake batter — oil-based and butter-based. Butter-based batters tend to be a little more complicated and finicky (mainly with regard to how far you’ve melted your butter) than oil-based batters. Basically, with oil-based batters, you just dump and mix! Also, oil makes it easy to end up with a melt-in-your mouth texture. No dry cake here! So, this recipe uses an oil-based batter.
You don’t need any special equipment either. Just a couple of mixing bowls and a whisk, and heck, if you don’t have a whisk, you can use a fork.
If you want to bake Thanksgiving cupcakes but don’t want something too complicated, this is the recipe for you.
Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes With Brown Sugar Pecans
This melt-in-your mouth pumpkin cupcake has a subtle kick of spice for a festive addition to your Thanksgiving table! Studded with brown sugared pecans and finished with a cream cheese frosting.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 3 hours
- Yield: 12 cupcakes
For the brown sugar pecans:
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans
- 2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
Dry ingredients for the batter:
- 1 cup (125g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Wet ingredients for the batter:
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 cup (120ml) grapeseed oil (any neutral tasting oil, like canola or vegetable oil, works too)
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup (150g) packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup (225g) canned pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the frosting:
- 8 ounces (224g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar (you may need to add a 1/4 cup if you prefer a stiffer frosting)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
For the decorations:
- Fall-colored sprinkles (I got mine at Micahels)
- Orange or other fall-colored fondant (I bought premade fondant at Michaels)
- Cat shaped cookie cutter
1. Steps to prep
Preheat your oven to 350°F (176°C). Line 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners, and set aside. Roll out your orange fondant, and then cut out 12 cat shapes with your cookie cutter. Allow to air dry for at least 30 minutes, or take a blow dryer and dry them using the cool setting until they harden; set aside for later.
2. Toast the pecans
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Chop pecans into small pieces. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar and chopped pecans. Toss to coat. Spread the pecans evenly on the cookie sheet, and bake for about 7 minutes, or until they’re toasted. Set aside to cool.
3. Gather your batter
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cake flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice; set aside (these are your dry ingredients). In a second mixing bowl, add oil, eggs, brown sugar, pumpkin puree and vanilla extract, and whisk until fully combined (these are your wet ingredients). Pour the dry ingredients into your wet ingredients, then whisk thoroughly until a thick batter forms.
Fill cupcake liners to about 2/3 full, then place muffin tin in the oven for 12 minutes. Remove muffin tin from oven and rotate it 180 degrees so the cupcakes that are in the back are now in the front (this helps to promote an even bake on all of the cupcakes). Bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Once baked, completely cool the cakes before frosting and decorating.
4. Forge that frosting
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth and creamy. Add 3 cups of confectioners sugar, vanilla extract and salt.
To prevent the sugar from flying all over the freakin’ place (trust me, you don’t want this to happen), you’ll want to mix the sugar into the cream cheese/butter until just incorporated. You can do this by either mixing it in by hand with a spatula, or starting at a very low speed with your handheld mixer or a stand mixer.
Once the sugar is mostly mixed in, bump up the speed to medium, and beat until the frosting appears light and fluffy; this will take between 1-2 minutes, depending on how hot it is in your kitchen. Don’t let it go for too long, though; otherwise, your frosting will thin out too much.
If you prefer frosting that’s a little thicker, mix in another 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar. And if it’s still too thin for you, add more confectioners sugar in 1/4 cup increments until you reach your desired consistency.
5.Create and decorate
Frost your cooled cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting (you can use a piping bag with a tip, which is what I did, or smear the frosting on with a spatula. Decorate the tops with your fall-colored sprinkles, and top with the orange cat fondant cutouts. Enjoy! 😺🧁
Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,