Holiday Sweets 1: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

Special treat: guest posts!  I've asked some friends to help me in the coming weeks by sharing favorite recipes, projects, and/or personal insights.  Mary has been kind enough to share FIVE (yes, FIVE!) delicious holiday treats - all in the "Holiday Sweets" category.  (To be completely honest, we are all hoping that one day Mary will open up her own bakery and dessert catering business.  She knows her stuff, and does such a beautiful job not only of preparing food but also presenting it.  Until that time, we are more than happy to be her guinea pigs and give her feedback on any and all recipes she needs an audience for.)  

"I love the food of the holidays. I love the traditional fare of turkey and stuffing, pumpkin and apple pies. But I also love exploring less common expressions of common flavors. I'm excited to share a few of my favorites with you over the next few weeks while Katherine is enjoying her first busy and blessed holiday season as mama of two."  ~Mary

Pumpkin Cupcakes With Maple–Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe & photo from Smitten Kitchen
Yield: 17 to 18 cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing pans
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

1 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/8-1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Make the cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.
2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.
3. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.

Make the frosting:
In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Frost cupcakes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set up frosting.

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