Hazelnut Crunch Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

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Guys, cake!

Yesterday was a day that called for cake…even though I didn’t have any left, I wish I did. It was one of those frustrating, frantic, half-assed days where you’re pulled in different directions and nothing gets accomplished. Days like that deserve something sweet. In my case it was a Reese’s pumpkin eaten over the sink with a gulp of cold coffee between ringing doorbells, barking dogs, a startled baby, and a project I just couldn’t seem to get through. But I wanted it to be a piece of this cake with a side of coffee…that was still warm.

This cake is a moist pumpkin and spice number with little bits of hazelnut suspended in the batter, iced with a brown butter + cream cheese concoction, and sprinkled with crunchy hazelnut candy. It’s got it all: tender-spiced cake, a buttery-tangy frosting, and lots of crunchy-sweet texture. It’s a dream boat and a sure-fire cure for one of those kinda days.

I don’t mean to get all complain-y, but some days are better than others and cake days are definitely the best!

[recipe]

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Hazelnut Crunch Pumpkin Cake

Makes 1, double layer, 6 inch round cake OR 1, 9-inch square cake.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teapoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cups finely chopped, toasted hazelnuts

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, browned*

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/4 cup bourbon

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease 2 6-inch round cake pans and line with parchment circles (you can also bake this cake in a 9-inch square pan).

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and hazelnuts. In another bowl whisk together the browned butter, brown sugar, bourbon, eggs, and pumpkin puree until combined. Fold the butter-pumpkin mixture into the flour and spice mixture until just combined and there are no longer streaks of flour throughout. Divide the cake batter between the two cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake in the center of the oven for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks for 15 minutes before turning out the cakes and cooling completely. Cool the cakes completely before frosting—it is even better to wrap the cooled cakes in plastic and place them in the refrigerator to chill before frosting.

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, browned*

4 ounces softened cream cheese

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

Using a mixer, beat the browned butter with the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the salt and beat in the confectioner’s sugar gradually until smooth and spreadable.

Hazelnut Crunch

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons water

pinch of salt

1 heaping cup toasted hazelnuts

Place a sheet of parchment on a sheet pan and set aside.

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves and becomes a deep golden amber color—don’t stir it, but you can swirl the pan if you need to. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and hazelnuts. Pour the mixture onto the sheet pan and cool completely. Chop the cooled hazelnut crunch coarsely and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

To assemble the cake:

Place one of the cooled cake layers on a cake stand, spread a heaping scoop of frosting on top of the layer and spread evenly, then sprinkle with a handful of the hazelnut crunch. Place the other cake layer on top, pressing down lightly to adhere to the first layer. Pile several heaping scoops of frosting on top of the cake and spread evenly to the edges of the cake, spread the excess frosting over the sides of the cake, evenly. Scrape any excess frosting off with an off set spatula for a “naked-cake” effect, or spread thickly for a more traditional look.

*To brown the butter, place it in a skillet or saucepan over medium heat, let it melt. It will bubble and foam. Once it begins to foam, whisk it constantly until deep brown bits begin to appear and the butter smells nutty like toffee. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature before using. [/recipe]

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

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Happy Halloween! I love this day, it’s so spooky-scary in the funnest way and even though I rarely dress up I love to pop in a movie, cuddle up, maybe pass out some candy to adorable trick-or-treaters, and indulge in some treats myself…of course. These cupcakes fit the bill for the treats sans tricks, but they could really be for any occasion.

Can I tell you, I’ve been working on this cupcake recipe for days…like seriously, SO MANY batches of chocolate cupcakes have emerged from my oven and these are the best ones. They are springy and tender and oh-so-chocolatey. Plus, this recipe makes exactly 12 cupcakes…which is the perfect number for me, some for the house and some to give away. The frosting on these cupcakes just sweetens the deal and makes for one of my favorite candy inspired combos–chocolate and peanut butter! It’s creamy, sweet, lush, and gently spiced with nutmeg. Nutmeg may sound weird with peanut butter, but it’s really, really great here. There’s barely enough to notice but it gives these cupcakes depth and really add a little somethin’ extra.

So, let’s celebrate this spookiest of days with treats (and not tricks)! Huzzah!

[recipe]

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Makes 12 cupcakes

I use a cocoa powder that is dutched (ie, processed so the acid is stripped) this type of cocoa powder results in a deep, almost black cake. My favorite brand of cocoa powder is Valrhona.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

scant 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake papers.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large measuring cup mix together the canola oil, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla until the eggs are fully incorporated. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and fold until just combined. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups, about 3/4 up each liner. Bake in the center of the oven about 25 minutes or until the tops spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting

Adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes

Adding the peanut butter last is key here, if you add it with the cream cheese and butter no amount of mixing will bring it together into a smooth consistency.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1-2 tablespoons cream

pinch of salt

1/8-1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1 lb. confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until creamy. Add the powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of the cream until combined completely. Add in the peanut butter and beat just until combined, beat in the remaining cream if needed to reach desired consistency. Spread or pipe onto the cooled cupcakes. [/recipe]

This is what treat-thirty looked like yesterday. SO GOOD.

Mini Hard Cider Cupcakes

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Guys, I’ve been wanting to make these cupcakes for a while now…ever since I sent Sean to the liquor store to buy some hard cider for a braised pork thing I was doing. But, he couldn’t find my favorite (Crispin) cider, so he bought a 6-pack of a different kind and it ended up being spiced…which, of course, wasn’t what I had in mind, but total A for effort!

So, in order to waste-not, I came up with this hard cider cupcake idea and oh, man…it ended up being a happy accident. I was so surprised by how much the hard cider flavor really comes through in these minis and in the frosting. There aren’t any actual apples in this recipe, but the apple flavor from the cider really shines, plus it lends a pleasant booziness.

These cupcakes are made in my favorite way for any cake or cupcake, by beating the butter with the flour mixture…instead of beating the butter and sugar until fluffy and then gently folding in the flour at the end. I love this method because it always produces a cake with a fine, almost dense crumb, but manages to remain light and spongey, yet tender. The thing is, the butter fat coats the flour which kind of waterproofs the gluten, so when you add the liquid the water doesn’t activate the glutens and prevents them from becoming gummy and chewy. BOOM!

So if you have some hard cider waning away in your fridge, looking for some way to be consumed, or even if you’re just a fan of booze-laced treats, these tender little dudes are just the thing.

[recipe]

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Mini Hard Cider Cupcakes with Cider Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes about 48 miniature cupcakes.

Adapted from Take a Megabite

I used Angry Orchard Cinnful Apple Hard Cider in this recipe, since Sean couldn’t find the cider I usually buy…for drinkin’. It turned out to be perfect for these cupcakes. You can use whatever hard cider you want. 

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspooon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2/3 cup hard apple cider

Preheat your oven to 350˚F and line two mini muffin tins with 48 cupcake liners.

In the bowl of a mixer or using a hand mixer and mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy, about 1 minute.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add it to the butter and beat until the mixture is combined and resembles a crumble topping. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping after each, once incorporated continue to beat for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and add the vanilla, followed by the hard cider and beat until just combined. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter into each muffin liner, I like to use a mini cookie scoop with a levered handle (also known as a disher). Bake 1 pan at a time in the center of the oven for 14-16 minutes or until the tops are dry and spring back to the touch. Remove from oven and cool on a rack while you make the frosting. Repeat with remaining pan.

Cider Cream Cheese Frosting

1, 8 ounce, brick cream cheese, softened

1 lb. (16 ounces) powdered sugar

2-3 tablespoons hard cider

Beat the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and the hard cider and mix to combine. Pipe or spread onto completely cooled cupcakes. [/recipe]