Having a son who was born on Halloween is both super fun and super stressful. The great part is that it’s easy to celebrate, even on a year like this one when we decided to skip the party, however with all the school events and celebrations, I’m hit with double duty so it’s always a busy time of year for me. Because we are taking him to Disneyland next weekend and did not have a party, I really felt the need to take his school celebration and Halloween night up a notch this year. Since I have been wanting to put a cupcake recipe on the blog, I figured this was a good time to do it. And with fall encompassing all things pumpkin, what better than pumpkin cupcakes?
Because these were going to be a school treat as well, I needed them free of all nuts. Since I use almond flour in a lot of my baking for its awesome nutritional content along with how great it does in gluten free baked goods, I needed to start from square one for this recipe. I wanted these to have a super moist yet fluffy texture, to be more of a cupcake and less of a muffin. But at the same time, I wanted to use a flour that had some nutritional value and not be just a filler that creates this great texture. This is a hard combo to get, especially if you have to be gluten and nut free. Many people just assume that gluten free means good for you, but you still need to read your labels. A lot of gluten free baked goods are filled with flours that add little to no nutrition to the food, and I try to stay away from that as much as possible. I am okay giving in a bit on texture if I get the health, however it still needs to taste great! I did so many trials to find the combination of flours that was just right. I began with buckwheat as the main flour, and although I got a very tasty and moist result, it was much more of a muffin than what I was looking for. My husband loved them, but he is in the dense and moist camp when it comes to cakes. I really wanted something a little lighter, yet still super moist. After many practices, and a very happy family that got to eat all the rejects, I finally hit the nail on the head! These are still substantial, yet lighter and super moist and taste much more like a cupcake. I tried it out on a few of our neighbors and they gave my the double thumbs up. They are even good the next day if kept in a plastic or glass container with a little air flow. So feel free to make extras!
I used my stand mixer to mix the batter and frosting for these, which really helped get them both light and airy. You can use a hand mixer or whisk but I’m not sure if it will affect the texture, especially the cupcake.
I used foil cups to line the muffin tins, paper ones will work too but they don’t come off as easily. The foil ones peel right off without sticking, and trust me, you want to keep as much of this cupcake as possible! After filling the cups with the batter, moisten your finger and smooth the tops a bit. This helps them rise evenly and helps the tops bake a little smoother. Although my tops did crack a bit, the frosting covers them up well. I tried to alter a few things to prevent the cracking, but it compromised with the texture of the cupcake itself so I decided an awesome texture is worth a few cracks!
Frosting these was really simple by using the good old plastic bag trick. Just put the frosting in a ziploc bag and cut a small piece off of one of the bottom corners. Then squeeze and swirl the frosting on! Do the same for the date paste caramel drizzle but use a smaller baggie and cut a smaller piece off to get a nice skinny drizzle. I actually got a better result doing this than when using my frosting tips. You can also leave the frosting off and keep them for a mid day snack.
My son loved these and was so excited to have them multiple times on his birthday. Even my husband who was a fan of one of the first trials admitted that this final version was the best. It’s always so gratifying when your hard work pays off, especially after so many trials and errors. Luckily the frosting wasn’t as tedious. Although I absolutely love a light whipped frosting, I wanted these to have more of a traditional thick and creamy kind. I first began experimenting with a maple cinnamon flavor, but after some playing around I discovered that this salted caramel really brought out the rich flavor in the cupcakes. The molasses I put in the cupcake batter gave them a deeper taste and this frosting paired perfectly with that. It’s really quick and easy to make, not to mention I was able to make it by using extras of some of the ingredients I was already using in the cupcakes, double score! I will definitely be making these many times this year, even if just for myself as a comforting treat after all my hard work in the kitchen…
Pumpkin Molasses Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
- 1 cup sorghum flour
- ¼ cup potato starch (not the same as potato flour)
- ¼ cup tapioca starch (same as tapioca flour)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ¾ cup pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
- ½ cup coconut butter (room temperature)
- 1 ½ cups date paste
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- ¼ cup full fat coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Frosting (uses ingredients from cupcakes):
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon (or 5 tablespoons) date paste
- ¼ cup full fat coconut milk
- ¼ cup coconut butter (room temperature)
- ½ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
* optional extra date paste to drizzle on top for decor
note: I made many trials to get the consistency I wanted with these cupcakes, using a variety of flours that would make them nut free but still use a flour with some health benefits. Although they are not a light airy angel food cake type consistency, they are still very soft, fluffy and moist especially for a protein rich cupcake. The measuring method I used was to spoon the flours into the measuring container then even it out with a knife. If you pack in the flour you may get a different result. Also, take note that the ingredients for the frosting are also in the cupcake recipe so you don’t need anything extra. Just measure out enough for both when measuring those 4 ingredients. The date paste recipe on the blog makes just about what you need for the recipes, but you could be a tad bit short depending on the exact size of your dates. I always have date paste around so this wasn’t an issue, but if you want the exact taste of the cupcakes that I got, or if you want to add extra drizzle as décor, you may want to double the date paste recipe and save the rest for another use, which there are so many for anyway! You can buy coconut butter or make it yourself by purely blending unsweetened, preferably not dehydrated, shredded or flaked coconut in a food processor or blender. It takes a while but will eventually turn into smooth coconut butter. There are many sources for directions online. The coconut milk I used was the Thai Kitchen brand. Although it has some guar gum in it, which isn’t my favorite, it is high in fat and creamier than most other brands out there.
Preheat oven to 350. Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside. Make sure you break up any clumps.
In a large bowl combine coconut butter, date paste and molasses and using a stand or hand mixer whip until all ingredients are mixed well. Add in pumpkin, coconut milk and vanilla extract and whip again.
Place large spoonfuls of the batter into muffin tins lined with baking cups. Fill to the top of the cup. I use foil baking cups as they don’t stick like paper does. I also smoothed the batter down on the top by using a moistened finger, this helps them rise evenly as they bake.
Bake at 350 for 21 minutes. Depending on your oven, your baking time may vary by a minute or two. Start checking them at 17 minutes and take out when the tops begin to get firm and have a spring to the touch. Let cool in the muffin tins. Once cool to the touch, remove and continue cooling on racks until completely cool, about an hour.
After cupcakes are cooled, put frosting in a plastic bag, cut off a bit of the corner, depending on how thick you want the frosting décor, and squeeze out to frost each cupcake in a swirl like motion. You have enough to put a little over a tablespoon on each one. If you are doing the extra date paste caramel drizzle, put some date paste in a smaller plastic baggie, and cut a smaller piece off the corner. Squeeze to drizzle lightly over the frosting. Enjoy! If stored in a plastic or glass container with a little bit of airflow, these will still be good the next day!