So, here they are (in all of their blurry image glory). My entry to the holiday bake-off at work. It is before Thanksgiving (yes, I realize that Thanksgiving was a month ago) so the candy corn wasn’t so out of place at the time.  The bake-off happens every fall for charity, and last year I went all out and made caramel apple cupcakes.  They were delicious and fun and won the judges’ award… but they were also ridiculously labor intensive.  You have to make the cupcakes, core the middle of them to fill with homemade cream cheese frosting, and then dip them in caramel.  So, this year I decided that I was going to put as little effort in as possible to even out the hard work last year.  Logical?  Not really.  Well, kind of. 

So, what I did was make the super easy pumpkin muffins but I changed them into cupcakes by putting the brown sugar inside instead of sprinkling it on top.  It made them sweeter, and left the top clean for the cinnamon cream cheese frosting that I was going to lather on top.   Then, for effect, and in a desperate attempt to get votes, I threw a piece of candy corn on top.  Jake came up with this good idea.  He’s a keeper. 

I’m sad to report that these puppies only won me 3rd place (well, technically I tied for 2nd, but there are no ties in baking), but they are so easy that I couldn’t complain. Plus, the winner made this crazy-good pear ginger cheesecake that probably took her a week to make. I had two samples just to be sure that it was delicious.

So, the cupcake info is:

1 box of spice cake mix
1 can of pure pumpkin. PURE pumpkin! Not pumpkin pie filling!
3 tablespoons of brown sugar

Mix this all up with hand or stand mixer, Since it is a very dense cake batter, trying to do it with elbow strength alone is possible, but not very fun. Scoop the batter into cupcake pans, filling them about 3/4 fullm and then bake like it says on the box. I tend to check it a little early with a toothpick though because you don’t want to burn the bottoms! Let them cool completely before icing.

Speaking if icing… (adapted from my handy dandy Joy of Cooking cookbook)

8 oz of neufatchel cheese right out of the fridge. Cream cheese is also good here, but it is higher in fat and tastes the same (in my opinion).
5 Tbsp softened butter
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups powdered suger
1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon (depending on how spicy you like it!)

Beat the cream cheese into submission, and then throw the butter in and beat them together. Next, add the vanilla and beat it all some more.  Who knew frosting could be so violent?   Once they are all combined, SLOWLY add in the powdered sugar. If you don’t do it slowly then you will quickly learn why I put the word slowly in all caps. Once it is all incorporated, add 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. Taste test it and keept adding more until you have the amount of flavor that you like.

I piped the icing on top so that it would look better and be cleaner/easier than using a knife. The taste of the frosting can be overwhelming, so don’t overdo it too much. I mean, lather it on, but don’t laaather it on, you know? Then throw a candy corn on top (completely optional, obviously) and eat it as quickly as possible. Or sell it for charity.

Speaking of which, our little bake-off made over $400 for the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter. Hooray!

Here is a picture of one of the mini tasting cupcakes before the candy corn was put on:

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