Sweet Potato Cupcakes

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When I was a younger kid I went through a phase where I was completely obsessed with pumpkins (and the color orange), which was largely inspired by Cinderella (aka the best Disney movie [tied with Beauty and the Beast]). One year my mom even had an orange themed birthday for me where all the decorations were orange, we had cheese pizza (which was orangeish), and of course, orange soda. That same year my grandmother planted pumpkins in her garden for me. It was also the year that I had the most adorable prince costume for Halloween (not Prince as in the artist, but like the royal).

My obsession with pumpkin (although not so much the color orange or Cinderella) definitely continued into my adulthood and I really could eat pumpkin all year round. I’ll totally stockpile on my cans of pumpkin puree and the first week of April I’ll decide it’s the perfect time for pumpkin pie. Sadly, most of the world doesn’t have the same love of pumpkin as I do and people tend to not be too enthusiastic to have pumpkin loaf on the 4th of July, so I try to limit my pumpkin obsession to the months of September-December.

While I really could eat pumpkin any day of the year, sometimes it can be nice to switch it up a bit and have something reminiscent of pumpkin, but not actually pumpkin. Pumpkin flavoring shows up in everything this time of year from beer to Jello to Pringles to almonds and even I get a bit overwhelmed by pumpkin from time to time.

These cupcakes are very reminiscent of pumpkin, but offer a bit of variety as the sweet potato base is more subtle in flavor. Topped with brown butter cream cheese frosting, these would be a welcome addition to any fall dinner (perfect for Thanksgiving).

A couple of notes:

  • Making sweet potato mash can be done in a variety of ways. I find an approximately one pound sweet potato yields enough for 1 1/4  cups and you can bake it or boil to cook it, and then puree or finely mash (of course, be sure to remove the skin). Or, if you’re really pressed for time you can buy the stuff in the can, but homemade is so much better.
  • You can use any frosting recipe. I used the brown butter cream cheese frosting from my spiced carrot cake post and thought it was perfect. A maple cream cheese frosting would also work well. I liked topping mine with a few roasted pumpkin seeds. I thought the crunchy salty bits cut the sweetness nicely but that’s totally optional.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen where it was adapted from David Leite

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup lightly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
 (at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (at room temperature) mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups pureed sweet potato (at room temperature)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.

2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until incredibly fluffy, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.

3. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

4. Once eggs have been thoroughly incorporated, alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures (about a third of the flour mixture, half the milk, etc), beginning and ending with the flour. Once flour and milk mixtures have barely been incorporated, lightly beat in the sweet potato until smooth (although try not to over-mix).

5. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners, filling approximately 3/4 of the way full.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, but with a few moist crumbs. Let cool completely before frosting.

Frost with desired frosting recipe.

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