These are not Pumpkin Spice Latte cupcakes. You've seen a hundred of those, flooding Pinterest and Foodgawker since late August, when a red leaf could just as well be burnt by the intense rays of Indian summer as blushing from autumn's first kiss. No, these are mocha cupcakes with a hint of pumpkin. Soooooo different.
We knew we wanted to make cupcakes with pumpkin...but we wanted to do it in a new way, to make a pumpkin cupcake that didn't taste exactly like every other (albeit delicious) pumpkin cupcake you've had before. We toyed around with some other ideas, like pumpkin cheesecake frosting (keep your eyes out for that one...it was trumped this time, but it's too good to forget), until all of a sudden a thought dawned on me and I said, "Hey, Audrey...you know Momofuku's recipe for pumpkin ganache? Have we ever tried that?" I don't think the discussion went on much longer after that. There was no need.
So, here you have it, the Pumpkin Mocha Cupcake: moist chocolate cupcake filled with pumpkin ganache and slathered with coffee frosting (decaf, because that was a going concern in our house of sensitive caffeine addicts who usually end up eating dessert around 10pm).
Have you ever encountered pumpkin ganache before? I am inclined to doubt you have. The base of this ganache is melted white chocolate, which gives it the consistency and sweetness it needs while allowing the pumpkin to dominate the flavor palate. This is more than mere pumpkin spice action we're working with here. It's just spiced enough, keeping the focus where it belongs - on the pumpkin.
I'm here to tell you that this pumpkin ganache is something special, you guys. It is - literally - the heart of this cupcake.
(Momofuku also have a recipe for celery root ganache... All in favor of us trying that next? You never know...combined with chocolate, almost anything can be delicious. The fact that chocolate covered crickets exist in the world is proof of that.)
If you're looking for a way to spice (aha) up your pumpkin consumption this fall, or perhaps a way to ease yourself into pumpkin season before descending into full-blown pumpkin mania...look directly at these cupcakes, and no further.
Pumpkin Mocha Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes.
**Note: Pumpkin ganache refrigerates for 4 hours (or overnight) before ready for use, so plan accordingly!
1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed strong hot coffee
Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer on high speed, mix the buttermilk, oil, room temperature eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients with the mixer on low. Add the coffee. (Yes, the batter will be VERY thin. Don't fret.) Pour the batter into lined cupcake pan (each cupcake liner should be about 3/4 filled with batter) and bake for 23-27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.
5 1/4 ounces white chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 cup cold heavy cream
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine white chocolate and butter in microwave-safe bowl and melt them together in 15-second bursts, stirring between each. The mixture should be barely warm to the touch and totally homogenous.
Transfer mixture to a container that can accommodate an immersion blender, ideally something tall and narrow, like a 1-quart plastic deli container. (Do you make smoothies with an immersion blender? Use whatever container you use for that.) Warm the corn syrup in the microwave for 15 seconds, then immediately add to chocolate mixture and buzz with the immersion blender. After a minute, stream in heavy cream, with the blender running - the mixture will come together into something silky, shiny, and smooth.
Blend in the pumpkin puree, salt, and cinnamon. Put the ganache in the fridge to firm up before using, at least 4 hours (!!), or, ideally, overnight.
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cream butter and powdered sugar for 2-3 minutes until fluffy and pale yellow. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, instant coffee, and salt. On a low speed, gradually stream coffee milk into butter mixture. The butter mixture will resist the milk mixture, so be patient and take it slow. Do not add more milk until previous addition is completely incorporated. The result will be a very fluffy frosting, pale brown and super shiny. Use immediately.
Using your index finger, poke holes in the surface of the cupcakes, pressing your finger about halfway into the cupcake. Spoon enough ganache onto each cupcake that it feels the hole with some extra remaining to spread across the surface of the cupcake. Top with coffee frosting. Enjoy!