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I’ve never really understood pumpkin pie. That’s probably not the best confession to make right before Thanksgiving, but I’m yet to try a single slice that tastes any better than – bleh. And that’s putting it kindly. I don’t spend much time thinking about my distaste, though. It gets chalked up to the list of “just another one of those all-American foods that are unjustifiably fussed over”. But come fall, the assault of the pumpkin becomes borderline obnoxious and impossible to ignore. It’s EVERYWHERE. In front of every grocery store, arranged in casual tumbles over bales of hay and baskets of dried corn. On every front porch, sitting there just being so very…orange. Apologies if I sound bitter.

I usually sail right past the aisles of canned pumpkin stacked up high at Whole Foods. But this was the year when I finally gave in. Not for pie (I think that much should be clear by now), but for cupcakes.You see, I’d had this Ina Garten recipe bookmarked for ages. As with all her baked goods, it sounded shockingly simple for something that looked so delicious. And although I could have made it any time of year (canned pumpkin is not reserved for November after all), this gave me the pretext of being seasonal. (Ha!) I grabbed the first can of pumpkin I saw, threw in a block of cream cheese, and ran home to make these cupcakes.

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The results are sooo worth it. These pumpkin cupcakes are gratifyingly beautiful, even for the amateur home baker. Trust Ina not to have you slave away roasting and pureeing your own pumpkins, or spend hours making brutally unforgiving English toffee. If the canned stuff and Heath bars are good enough for her, they’ll do just fine for me, thank you.

Bonus points – even if you frost these very generously, you’ll have a lot left over. Never a bad thing.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

recipe from Ina Garten via House Beautiful

Makes 10 cupcakes

Ingredients for the cupcakes:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup coarsely chopped Heath bars, for serving (2 1.4-ounce bars)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.

2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.

3. Divide the batter among the prepared tins (I use a level 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.

4. Spread the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting and sprinkle with the chopped toffee bits.

Ingredients for the Maple Frosting

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon Boyajian Natural Maple Flavor (I couldn’t see why I needed this, so used 1 tbsp maple syrup)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions for the Maple Frosting

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple syrup and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

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