I set out to make some pumpkin spice cupcakes today but apparently there is a shortage of pumpkin and it won’t be back until maybe the end of September. Really? That is some sad-face foodie news. Well, as we say in our house when we have our heart set on a particular food, I was ‘secreting enzymes’ for an Autumn-flavored cupcake. I set out to find some canned sweet potatoes. I ended up with canned yams. Here in the US the term ‘yam‘ refers to sweet potatoes. Actual yams are dry and starchy – a far cry from the sweet things we call yams here. And, when using ‘yam,’ you must follow it with ‘sweet potato’ in the US. That’s fine with me because I like the sound of Sweet Potato Spice Cupcakes better than Yammy Cupcakes. When they’re hot out of the oven in your kitchen, you get to call them whatever you like. No matter what you call them, I bet every year after Thanksgiving (and maybe now in preparation?) you there is a can of yammy yams or sweet potatoes lurking in the pantry. Here’s the perfect use.
Also, I decided to try out some powdered buttermilk in these. Buttermilk powder is an awesome alternative to keeping fresh buttermilk around all the time. I like to use buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream in my cupcake and cake recipes because it keeps things moist and adds the slightest tang, which nice balanced against the sugar. You can find powdered buttermilk in with the baking stuff. I saw it one day and picked it up to try it out. I’ve tried it in a cake, waffles, and these cucpakes and really like it. Need more convincing? Check out this taste test by some experts. After opening you pop it in the fridge and it’s good to go for about a year. Awesome.
These cupcakes are a creation for a surprise Groom’s party for a co-worker getting married on Saturday. He loves tacos and in my covert/I-really-did-want-to-know conversation on Friday about his wedding cake I found out he also really loves pie. This is a guy that smells some food and comes-a-running so I was just planning on making whatever struck my fancy until I heard taco and pie. With their wedding cake will be apple and pumpkin pies. How yummy and how Autumn. So, pumpkin sweet potato yam sweet potato pie spiced cupcakes it had to be… with little tacos on top. Of course!
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Sweet Potato Spice Cupcakes
Makes 30 cupcakes (because 24 go to the party and the rest are kitchen treats!)
3 cups flour
2 tbl buttermilk powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
1¾ cups sugar
¾ cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
1 can sweet potatoes or yams
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line your cupcake pan(s) with cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, combine the first 9 ingredients (flour down to the salt); set aside. Puree the sweet potatoes/yams in a food processor; set aside. In another bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until pale yellow and really fluffy. Stir in the water, vanilla, oil, and pureed sweet potatoes. Turn the mixer on low and slowly add in the dry ingredients; mix until just combined and there are no more traces of flour, scraping down the sides as needed. Place about ¼ cup of batter in each cupcake liner; it should be a little more than ¾ full.
Bake for 18 minutes. The tops should spring back when touched gently and a toothpick will come out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove to finish cooling on a rack.
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Sugar and Spice Cream Cheese Buttercream
Makes enough for 30 cupcakes
8 oz cream cheese (low fat okay)
8 tbl butter, room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 tbl heavy cream or milk
Beat the cream cheese, butter, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the salt, cinnamon, and vanilla. Add in the sifted powdered sugar and start mixing on low so you don’t end up covered in white stuff. Once it’s mixed in a bit, turn it up to high and add in the heavy cream. Beat for a minute until light and fluffy. Taste and add more cinnamon if you’d like.
I call this “Cream Cheese Butter Cream” because it’s not just cream cheese frosting and it’s not just buttercream. Most cream cheese frosting recipes call for twice the cream cheese. So I combined a typical buttercream and a typical cream cheese frosting recipe. I like the combo. Plus, I always have 1 package of cream cheese on hand but not always two.
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Marshmallow fondant (full recipe below) for the taco shell and tomatoes
Gel food coloring (green, red, yellow, brown)
Cinnamon (to make the taco shell look like corn)
Shredded coconut (for the lettuce)
Very finely shredded coconut (for the cheese)
Chocolate cake crumbs, crumbled chocolate shortbread, crumbled chocolate graham crackers or teddy grahams (for the meat; hey, you could use tan cookies/cake if you make teeny turkey tacos!)
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I use the marshmallow fondant recipe from Allrecipes, adapted to my whims. You only need a very small amount of fondant to make these little tacos. You can make just a bit or make the whole (or half) recipe and save the leftovers. It will keep in a well-sealed plastic bag for weeks.
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Adapted from Allrecipes; full recipe – enough to cover at least a 2 layer 9” cake
1 16 oz bag marshmallows (regular or mini)
4 tbl water
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond extract
1 tsp salt
2 lbs powdered sugar, sifted
Place marshmallows in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 – 60 seconds to being melting the marshmallows. Add in the water, vanilla extract, almond extract, and salt and carefully stir into the hot marshmallows. Begin beating in 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time (I do it by hand with a whisk then a wooden spoon). Reserve about a cup on the side to use while kneading the fondant. The fondant will get very stiff and hard to stir by the second to last cup of sugar. Powder your counter with powdered sugar and begin kneading the fondant. Keep your hands powdered also. Keep adding powdered sugar as you knead whenever the fondant feels sticky. If you can’t keep your hands from getting sticky, you can coat them in butter to keep kneading. Keep kneading until the fondant is smooth and no longer feels sticky. Store it in a tightly sealed container or bag until you need it. It will keep for at least a month.
I made a half recipe today. Why? I don’t know since I didn’t even need that much. I knew it’d be too much but now I have an excuse to make little fondant pumpkins in celebration of the return of pumpkin to the stores. The ratio in this recipe is really not critical. If you want to make a ¼ of the recipe above you could without stressing out about the amount of water, etc. The main point is melted marshmallow, flavoring, and powdered sugar.
To dye your fondant:
Get yourself a pair of gloves unless you don’t mind a little bit of color of your fingertips. Pull off a piece of fondant about the size you think you’ll need. It’s always better to take a bigger piece than to try and dye another piece the same color because you ran out of the first one. Using a toothpick, get some gel food coloring and wipe it onto your piece of fondant. It’s important to use gel food dye, liquid will not work. Knead the dye into the fondant, adding in extra powdered sugar if needed to counteract the wetness of the dye. Continue to knead until the color is even all the way through.
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For the taco parts:
I used red dye (with a tiny touch of yellow) for the “tomatoes.” I rolled out my red fondant very thin and sliced really thin strips from it then cut it crosswise into tiny squares.
For the taco shells, I used mostly yellow dye with a bit of brown dye. I also mixed in cinnamon until I thought it looked appropriately speckled for a corn taco shell. I rolled it pretty thin and cut it into 1½” circles.
The “lettuce” is just some shredded coconut mixed with some green (and a touch of yellow) dye.
The cheese is some dried, very finely shredded coconut I found in a Middle Eastern market. I bet you could finely chop regular shredded coconut and get a cheese-esque look.
Build your teeny tacos and then use a tiny bit of water to get the taco shell to stick to itself and stay closed.
Frost your cupcakes, throw on some colored sugar if you wish, and nestle a teeny taco on top. Unwrap and enjoy!