This recipe started out innocently enough: Find a way to re-create a black-bottomed cupcake but with fall flavors. So I started with pumpkin, loaded it up with cinnamon and nutmeg, and figured the minced ginger would replace the chocolate chips. But as I tasted the cream cheese filling, I longed for a little something extra. Enter the dark rum, which adds a little kick but not a full-on wallop. Leave it out if you want to make it kid-friendly, and substitute in half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. —vvvanessa
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Vvvanessa is a fearless cook with recipes that range from braised pig face to boozy desserts.
WHAT: Fall-inspired cupcakes for grown-ups.
HOW: Make a buttermilk cupcake base with pumpkin purée, nutmeg, and all good things that remind us of fall. Top with a dollop of dark rum- and candied ginger-spiked cream cheese frosting, then bake until done and the frosting melts like something out of your cupcake dreams.
WHY WE LOVE IT: All of our favorite fall flavors without the cloying sweetness of a pumpkin pie or sugar-packed cupcake. The dark rum and candied ginger adds just enough of a kick, but we'd be lying if we said these don't go down easier with some extra rum on the side. —The Editors
20 to 24 cupcakes
For the boozy cream cheese filling:
cream cheese at room temperature
large egg yolk at room temperature
finely minced candied ginger
dark rum (okay, okay: 2 tablespoons if you insist)
fine table salt
For the pumpkin cupcake batter:
fine table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons
finely ground black pepper
light brown sugar
extra-virgin olive oil, preferably one on the fruity side
In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients of the cream cheese filling, mixing until it is light in texture and there are no cream cheese lumps. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two muffin tins (24 wells) with paper liners or grease well.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices, and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the sugars, olive oil, and eggs on medium-low for about 3 minutes or until the mixture becomes smooth and lightened in texture.
Add in the pumpkin and vanilla and mix for a few seconds more to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Turn the mixer down to low. Add in half the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add in the buttermilk and mix for 10 seconds. Add in the rest of the flour and mix for 20 seconds more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full with cupcake batter. Drop a heaping teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture on top of each cupcake. Remove any unfilled cupcake liners and fill empty wells about one-third full with water so that the pan doesn't warp.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans about 10 minutes into baking. They are done when the ridge between the cream cheese and the cupcake is just set and the cake (not the cream cheese) tests clean.
Remove the tins from the oven (be extra careful if you filled any of the wells with water), and allow to cool for about 5 minutes in the pan. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling.