Thanksgiving Cupcakes From Crystelle Pereira

November  1, 2022
3 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 2 hours 45 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • makes 12 cupcakes
Author Notes

Fall is here and that means that it’s finally time to bring out those warming, comforting, and beautifully spiced dishes that we all know and love. Pumpkin pie is a perfect example of this, and it’s an absolute classic—crisp pastry, warming hints of cinnamon, ginger, and clove with the sweetness of pumpkin. It’s a perfectly balanced flavor and texture sensation. I do, however, feel that pumpkin pie is one of those desserts that can only really be had at Thanksgiving – or at least at a large, celebratory gathering. And this seems like a shame, because I think we deserve to eat that all year-round. So I found a solution. What if we took the essence of a pumpkin pie, and made it more bite-sized and portable, say, in cupcake form? And what if we paired it with the flavors in a classic pecan pie?

For me, cupcakes can often be quite underwhelming—I’ve eaten my fair share of cupcakes with dry sponge and an overwhelming amount of cloyingly sweet frosting. However, this recipe is an explosion of textures and flavors—neither the cake nor the frosting is overly sweet, and with the addition of a custard center and a biscuit base, the flavors and spices balance out perfectly, to result in a multi-dimensional, pocket sized treat, that brings back all of those flavors, reminiscent of pumpkin pie, as soon as you take a bite.

First, we have a spiced, nutty biscuit base that is packed full of flavor, thanks to the spiced Biscoff biscuits and buttery pecans. Then, we have a light and fluffy pumpkin spiced cupcake with olive oil to keep this extra soft—and here, we're making our own pumpkin spice blend, with a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove—as I find that adding the individual spices packs in much more flavor than pre-made pumpkin spice. Then, we’re making silky smooth pumpkin custard that is infused with orange and cinnamon, and this is what fills the middle of the cupcakes.

Finally, we’re topping the cupcakes with cream cheese frosting made with brown butter to really capitalize on those nutty flavors. The tanginess in the cream cheese really cuts through the sweetness of the cupcake to result in a beautifully balanced treat. To really get into the feeling of autumn, I’ve even thrown in chopped pecans into the cupcakes for a bit of crunch. These cupcakes really do have it all, and every bite will make you feel warm and cozy inside, with flavors and textures that are somewhat reminiscent of that classic pumpkin pie.

If you want to prep any elements beforehand, you can make the pumpkin custard the day before and simply cover this with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until ready to use.

If making the pumpkin purée from scratch, add 95g peeled and diced pumpkin or butternut squash to a tray, and toss in 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 2 tbsp maple syrup. Roast these for 45 minutes at 325℉ until soft). Add this to a food processor along with 1 tbsp maple syrup and blend until smooth.

If you want to prep any elements beforehand, you can make the pumpkin custard the day before and simply cover this with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until ready to use. —Crystelle Pereira —Food52

What You'll Need
  • Base
  • 100 grams (about 13) biscoff cookies
  • 1/4 cup (25g) toasted pecans
  • 3 tablespoons (41g) unsalted butter, melted
  • Cake
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (170g) all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup (60g) toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice or ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) superfine cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup (70g) lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (116g) whole milk, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (29g) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons (60g) unsalted brown butter, cooled and solidified
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons (45g) softened unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup (75g) powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • 1 8- ounces block, plus 1/4 cup (270g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • Pumpkin Custard
  • 1 3/4 cups (180 mL) whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup (95 grams) pure pumpkin purée
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest (about 1 navel orange)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (30g) superfine cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (10 grams) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for dusting
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Make the Base: Add pecans and biscuits to a food processor and pulse until they form a crumb-like consistency, about 30 to 45 seconds. Slowly stream in melted butter and pulse until the consistency is like coarse sand.
  2. Gently pack 1 tablespoon of the mixture into 12 muffin cups, and press down to flatten until no gaps remain. Transfer to the fridge to chill while you make the cake.
  3. Make the Cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.
  4. In a large bowl, add softened butter, superfine cane sugar, and brown sugar and mix with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract and eggs and mix until smooth.
  5. In a measuring cup, whisk together milk and olive oil.
  6. Sift the flour mixture into the wet ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk/oil mixture, until no flour streaks remain. Add chopped pecans and gently fold to combine.
  7. Remove the muffin tin from the fridge and fill each with the cake batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until springy and a skewer comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack to allow to completely cool, about 40 minutes.
  8. Make the Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting: In a large bowl, combine browned butter, softened butter, and powdered sugar with a hand mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy. Add vanilla bean paste and whip to combine. Add cream cheese and whisk until just combined. Transfer to the fridge to chill.
  9. Make the Pumpkin Custard: In a large saucepan set over low heat, add milk, vanilla paste, maple syrup, pumpkin purée, orange zest, and cinnamon stick and stir to combine. Slowly bring to a simmer.

  10. Meanwhile, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, egg yolks, and salt in a glass mixing bowl until pale and smooth. When the milk comes to a simmer, remove it from the heat. Slowly pour the hot milk through a sieve into the yolk mixture, a splash at a time, whisking constantly. Press as much pumpkin purée through the sieve as possible, then discard the remnants in the sieve.
  11. Transfer the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until it begins to bubble, whisking continuously. Cook for 1 more minute until the mixture has thickened. Transfer to a medium shallow dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
  12. To Assemble: Once the cakes are baked and cooled, use a cake corer or apple corer to remove 1-inch deep cores of all of the cupcakes. Spoon or pipe the pumpkin custard in the middle, and place the cake cores back on top, pressing down to flatten.
  13. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag with a wide star nozzle, and pipe in a circular swirl motion on the top of each cupcake. Dust with cinnamon and reserved pecans.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • ellenahc
  • K-Sto

2 Reviews

ellenahc February 13, 2023
Made these for my last tea party and they went down a treat! The spice blend is so different to anything I’ve ever tasted before. Another fabulous recipe from Crystelle!
K-Sto November 13, 2022
Too much work - I did make them, but didn't love the result enough to ever do it again. The brown butter icing is delicious, I'll likely use that again. The cookie crust base is yummy but falls apart when eating the cupcakes. It'd be better suited to something meant to be eaten with a fork. The custard recipe makes way more than is needed, even half would be more than enough. I baked at 350F for about 23 minutes and the cake part came out great.