These cupcakes have Isaiah’s name written all over them. If you have my book, Cooking for Isaiah, you may already be familiar with Isaiah′s Pumpkin Muffins with Crumble Topping (page 46). What you may not know is that Isaiah used to religiously eat pumpkin muffins (and muffin tops) from a café before he was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. The thought of him never walking into that café and eating those muffins again hurt.
And so began my uphill battle with developing a homemade gluten-free muffin that tasted and looked identical to the one he worshipped -the texture, the fluorescent orange color, the sugary sweet crumble topping. Recipe after recipe, I couldn′t figure out how to get it bright orange, so I went to the cafÃ© and asked to see what ingredients were in the muffin. They pulled out a big, fat binder full of recipes and there it was, orange food coloring. I tossed the idea of adding artificial food coloring out the window and got back into the kitchen to do more testing. Finally, I nailed the perfect orange color (by using just the right amount of pumpkin puree), the perfect light texture, and, yes, the sugary sweet topping.
This cupcake goes a step further by adding Isaiah′s second favorite dessert into the mix: cheesecake. If you′re dairy free, just leave the cheesecake out and sprinkle the baked pumpkin cupcakes with confectioners′ sugar or top with your favorite dairy-free frosting.
Using a small pastry scoop, fill the baking liners to the top with some of the pumpkin batter, then the cream cheese mixture, then more batter.
Let the cupcakes cool before frosting or it will make a melty mess.
To make a fluffy frosting, add cold butter a piece at a time.
Use a pastry bag with a star tip to pipe the frosting decoratively. No pastry bag? No problem! Just fill a resealable plastic bag with the frosting, snip off a corner and pipe away!
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners' sugar
2 large eggs, plus 5 large egg whites
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup light brown sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces and chilled
- Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 °. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with baking liners. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and confectioners' sugar for 3 minutes. Beat in 1 egg white and ½ teaspoon vanilla.
- In a bowl, whisk the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt. In another bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, 2 eggs, granulated sugar, oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture.
- Layer each muffin cup with some of the pumpkin batter, then the cream cheese mixture, then more of the batter. Bake until springy to the touch, about 25 minutes. Let cool.
- Using the electric mixer, beat the brown sugar, remaining 4 egg whites and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Fill a medium saucepan with enough simmering water to reach a depth of 1 inch; place the mixing bowl on top. Whisk the mixture until it registers 160 ° on an instant-read thermometer.
- Transfer the bowl back to the mixer and beat at high speed until fluffy; lower the speed and beat to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, then beat at high speed for 5 minutes. Beat in the remaining ½ teaspoon vanilla.
- Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag; pipe large rosettes on top of the cupcakes.