Perfectly Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Shortbread Streusel

DSC_0066This past weekend, the residents of 328 had a pretty perfect fall Sunday. After the gym and church, we put on some fall attire and ventured out to a pumpkin patch to find the perfect orange specimen and stock up on fall treats. Once we’d had our fill of the gorgeous weather and the pumpkin patch scene, we picked a winner and headed home to carve a masterpiece. After lighting about four pumpkin spice candles, breaking into some caramel apple lollipops and candy corn, and turning on NFL Sunday (obviously), we got to work on the pumpkin. Thank goodness we had a guy friend there to gut the thing and supervise the carving, because we definitely had a few pretty comical “how many white girls does it take to carve a pumpkin?” moments (don’t judge – we chose a complicated design, and they didn’t teach us this stuff in law school). After only one minor carving mishap (I may or may not have robbed a witch of her arm – oopsies), we had a fun, festive pumpkin to display in our window.

The only thing missing? Fancy fall treats, of course. Luckily, this perfectly fall Sunday also involved some perfectly fall baking (you’re shocked, I know). Perfectly Pumpkin Cupcakes, to be exact, topped with white chocolate cream cheese frosting and cinnamon shortbread streusel. I know, but focus. It gets better.

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Ok, these cupcakes. They’re – well – perfect, hence the name. I’m struggling with how exactly to describe them, because they’re sort of perplexing – surprisingly simple and simply surprising; a little of everything and too much of nothing. You expect these to be rich and over-the-top, but they’re subtle and almost understated. While there is nothing understated about the presentation, the flavor combination is dainty, delicate and downright delightful. This is not one of those overly-sweet, “Oh-my-gosh-I’m-so-full-now” cupcakes.There is definitely a time and a place for those, but after last week’s Bourbon Pecan Pie Brownies, I figured we needed to lighten things up a tad. And, man, am I glad we did.

DSC_0044So this is truly a pumpkin cake – not one of those pumpkin “cakes” that is so moist (almost gooey) that it borders on pumpkin pie. It’s also not super muffin-y, which I appreciate. I know cupcakes and muffins are sort of the same thing, but I definitely like to keep the two separate. Mission accomplished here. Each element of these cupcakes complements the others flawlessly. Ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice add depth to this fluffy cake, with the pumpkin perfectly rounding out the texture and flavor. The white chocolate cream cheese frosting provides the “sweet” factor, with a subtle richness and oh-so-creamy consistency that gives the cake just the kick it needs. It’s all topped off with a crunchy, buttery cinnamon shortbread streusel, for some added variation. And it just makes them look really pretty. These cupcakes are lighter and more delicate, while still managing to satisfy your sweet tooth.

DSC_0047After baking these cupcakes, all I have to say is that Shelly over at Cookies and Cups is a genius, and gets all the credit for these. Normally I pick and choose from different recipes when putting together the elements of a project, rather than using the exact concept and recipes from a single source. This particular cupcake, though, was just not worth messing with. All of the flavors and textures just seemed to go too perfectly together to even think about deviating. I figured she had to be onto something, and I was right!

I had so much fun sharing these. Not only did everyone love the presentation, the cupcakes themselves got one of the best receptions I’ve had thus far. They look like they took hours and hours, but I promise that these aren’t too fussy at all – even for a novice baker! Insert excuse to make these cupcakes ASAP here (I mean, Wednesday is a cause for celebration, right?). Perfectly Pumpkin Cupcakes that put you in a perfectly fall state of mind? Perfectly fine with me! Don’t mind if I do (and trust me, I did).

DSC_0073Perfectly Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Shortbread Streusel (from Cookies and Cups)

INGREDIENTS

Pumpkin Cupcakes

1 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

Cinnamon Shortbread Streusel

1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8 oz) block of cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup white chocolate chips, melted
2 cups powdered sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Bake the cupcakes! Preheat oven to 350° and line muffin tin with cupcake liners of choice. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda and baking powder, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (this should take around 3 minutes). Add the pumpkin, eggs and vanilla and mix on medium speed until incorporated. With the mixer on low, add in the dry ingredients and mix until evenly combined. Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

2. Next, go ahead and make your cinnamon shortbread streusel. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine your flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon, mixing a few seconds until combined. Pour in the melted butter and mix until the mixture is a course crumble (you don’t want there to be loose dry ingredients, but you also don’t want to overmix). Sprinkle the mixture onto a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until crumbs start to golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Note: If your crumbles are smaller, reduce the cooking time! I straight up burned my first batch because 20 minutes was way too long (13 minutes was perfect for the size I went with). Just keep an eye on this and you should be fine.

3. Now onto this creamy, decadent frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Melt white chocolate in a double boiler or slowly in the microwave (carefully! I would do it in 30-40 second increments, as white chocolate burns easily). Add melted white chocolate to the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat on medium until smooth. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

4. Frost cupcakes as desired and sprinkle the cooled streusel on top. Eat up!

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