Maple Cupcakes

So I turn my back for two seconds, and suddenly it’s Thanksgiving.

Here’s a (not-so) little-known fact: food retail is absolutely NUTS during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.  I don’t even know how many wedges of Stilton and Brie I must have sold in the last two days alone, and the fatigue I feel must be nothing next to that of the butchers who have been slinging turkeys since Monday morning.  Let’s all take a moment to be thankful for the people who make Thanksgiving dinner possible, all the way from the farm to the fork (pardon the phrase).

The funny thing about my total lack of blogging these past few weeks is that I’ve actually been doing a ton of baking and cooking, and I’ve remembered to take photos nearly every time.  It’s just that I can’t seem to cobble together the time required to sit down and write a ding-dang blog post.  It’s a good thing I’m not a for-real food blogger, because I think this counts as a pretty big blog fail.  Plus, I just used the word “ding-dang,” which is probably not allowed if you’re a for-real writer.

At any rate, since I have so many delicious posts to choose from, I might as well start out with the one that’s the most Thanksgiving-y, or at least the most fall-ish.  I made these cupcakes a few weeks ago, on the day when Hurricane Sandy passed through Boston.  I was very fortunate in that our apartment was completely unaffected, and the only person I knew who was at all harmed by the storm was a friend in Cambridge who lost her power for a couple of days.  So when the city was basically shut down due to the storm, I still had all the electricity and ingredients I needed to do some baking.

Well, almost all the ingredients.  The recipe I used was enough to make 24 cupcakes, which is about 20 more than a group of four roommates needs in the house at any given time.  I figured I’d cut the recipe in half, but once I started assembling all the ingredients, I realized that I only had a quarter of the amount of maple syrup the original recipe required.  Quartering the rest of the ingredients proved a bit of a challenge, and I think the texture of my final product suffered for it.  But there is such potential in these cupcakes that I’m sharing the recipe anyway, in its original 24-serving amounts.  I’m sure if I were to make them again without getting math involved, they’d be spectacular.

What we have here is just a standard vanilla cupcake, but instead of using granulated sugar in the batter, you use rich, woodsy maple syrup.  A lot of maple syrup.  Remember, this is a quarter of what the recipe would actually have you use:

You might be thinking that two cups of real maple syrup is prohibitively expensive.  You might be tempted to use Mrs. Butterworth’s instead.  Don’t you dare!!  If you like imitation maple syrup on your pancakes and waffles, that’s fine.  Truth be told, I still like a good dollop of Log Cabin from time to time.  But for this recipe, you need the real stuff.  The other syrup will be way too thick and goopy, and in the end, the cupcakes won’t taste as good.  Not worth it.

You’ll also use a small amount of maple syrup in the cream cheese frosting.  The maple flavor is less apparent there, because the primary sweetener in the frosting is still confectioner’s sugar, but you still get a nice hint of it.  Although you could apply the frosting to the cupcakes with a spatula, I think piping is way more fun.

These were the perfect treat on a cool, stormy afternoon, and although it’s a little late to add them to your Thanksgiving menu, they’re still ideal all throughout the cold months.  Give ’em a shot!  And Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Maple Cupcakes
from Baked Explorations 

for the cupcakes
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, slightly softened, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, at room temperature
2 cups pure maple syrup
3 egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

for the frosting
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Make the Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and shortening until ribbonlike.  Turn the mixer to low and stream in the maple syrup.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is nearly uniform in color, about 3 minutes.

Add the egg yolks and egg, one at a time, and beat until just incorporated.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl; add half the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated.  Stream in the milk.  Stop the mixer, add the rest of the flour, and turn the mixer on low until just combined.  Scrape down the bowl again and fold in the pecans.

Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full and bake the cupcakes for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Make the Frosting
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the softened butter until it is completely smooth.  Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.  Add the sugar and maple syrup and beat until smooth.  When the cupcakes are completely cool, pipe or spread the frosting on top.

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