Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cupcakes with Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream
When I asked what I could bring for dessert to a recent gathering, my friend told me that her husband loves “anything pumpkin” - particularly healthy recipes - but also a little decadent. Always up for a challenge, I consulted my well-worn copy of Whole Grain Baking from King Arthur. They have a wonderful recipe for Pumpkin Layer cake which uses both whole wheat and whole barley flour. It’s a quick and easy cake recipe and the barley and pumpkin keep it nice and moist. I opted for cupcakes which are easier to transport and decided to frost them with a Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream. For a finishing touch, I made some candied pecans with pumpkin seeds and crystallized ginger. The result was an over-the-top cupcake with a very “healthy” vibe.
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 cup (4 ounces) whole barley flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon allspice
1 ¾ cups (13 ¼ ounces) dark brown sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 can (15-ounce) pumpkin puree
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin/cupcake tin with paper liners and spray lightly with non stick cooking spray. Set the pan aside.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Mix together the brown sugar, butter and oil in large bowl until thick and creamy. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, scraping sides of bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is evenly combined. Whisk in pumpkin and mix until evenly combined.
4. Stir in dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until combined.
5. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups using 2-ounce ice cream scoop. Bake, rotating tin halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cupcakes cool 5 minutes in tin and then remove to cool completely.
Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 large egg whites
Pinch sea salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Combine dark brown sugar, egg whites, and salt in bowl of stand mixer; place bowl over pan of simmering water. Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slightly thickened, foamy, and registers 150 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Place bowl in stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat mixture on medium speed until consistency of shaving cream and slightly cooled, 1 to 2 minutes. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. (Frosting may look curdled after half of butter has been added; it will smooth with additional butter.) Once all butter is added, add vanilla; mix until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds, scraping beater and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary.
3. If final frosting seems too thick, warm mixer bowl briefly over pan of simmering water. Place bowl back on mixer and beat on medium-high speed until creamy.
Candied Pecans with Pumpkin Seeds and Crystallized Ginger
1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2/3 cup pecans
1/2 cup unsalted, raw, hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. table salt
1-1/2 Tbs. chopped crystallized ginger
1. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2-3 minutes.
2. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Stir in the ginger. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet for 5 minutes and then transfer to bowl to cool completely.
TO ASSEMBLE CUPCAKES
1. Frost cooled cupcakes with buttercream and top with candied pecans.