Pumpkin Cheesecake Cupcakes

In the last few years, fall has become so super-saturated with pumpkin that it feels like it's impossible to do anything new with it anymore. Pumpkin coffee? Done. Pumpkin cookies? Done. Pumpkin cupcakes? Done. Pumpkin chapstick? Probably done, but probably not too tasty. But we keep wanting more...more and more and more, so much more I worry we're going to make ourselves collectively sick of it. I hope not!

These cupcakes are my attempt to do something new with pumpkin. Pumpkin cheesecake has been done before. Pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes have even been done before - but always in the form of pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting.

"So what if I inverted the pumpkin cheesecake cupcake?" I asked myself. "What if the frosting was pumpkin and the cake was cheesecake?"

"Hmm," I said. "Molly, you might just be on to something."

Spoiler: I was.

Finding a cake recipe that was definitely cake but somehow tasted like cheesecake was a challenge. But after some quality time spent burrowing into the depths of Foodgawker, I wound up with a promising cream cheese pound cake recipe that I thought just might do the trick.

Boy, did it ever! The resulting cake had the sweet tartness and soft density of cheesecake, dense but with the kind of tender crumb that marks something irrevocably as CAKE. Can you picture that? No? I guess you'll have to just try it, then.

Graham cracker crumbs sneak in underneath the frosting and are sprinkled on top, infusing golden, crunchy graham crust essence into every bite. Pumpkin adds extra moisture to the frosting, so don't expect this to be a fluffy, from-the-can brand of buttercream. It's a smoother and creamier frosting experience, like a pumpkin cheesecake was blended up and piped onto the top of your cupcake. I'm gonna go ahead and assume you're okay with this.

These cupcakes are kind of an upside-down, inside-out approach to pumpkin, but I think that's good for us, don't you? After all, we don't want to get a pumpkin rut. Heaven forbid! I would hate for the magic to fade; we need to keep our romance with pumpkin nice and spicy...pumpkin spicy, heh heh ;)

- Molly

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cupcakes

Makes approximately 20 cupcakes!

Cream Cheese Cupcakes

8 ounces butter, at room temperature

8 ounce cream cheese, at room temperature

1 3/4 cups sugar

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 tbsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the room temperature butter, cream cheese, and sugar in the large bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix it in. The batter might appear a little broken at this point—that’s okay.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredient and mix just until they’re combined. Finish stirring everything together with a spatula, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Spoon batter into cupcake liners. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature

2 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

2 - 2.5 cups confectioners', sifted

6 tbsp flour (as desired, to thicken)

2-4 tbsp cornstarch (as desired, to thicken)

1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs, for decorating

Blend the cream cheese, butter, pumpkin, and spices on medium speed until creamy.  Add the 2-2.5 cups of sifted powdered sugar depending how sweet you'd like it. Add flour and cornstarch one or two tablespoons at a time until frosting reaches desired thickness.

To frost, spread a thin layer of frosting across top of cupcake. Press cupcake frosted side down into bowl of graham cracker crumbs to coat. Frost cupcakes on top of crumbs. Then sprinkle remaining crumbs on top, for flair.

Cupcakes from Sugarhero; Frosting adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction