Last school year, I instructed you, my lovely readers, to be jealous of my coworker. It was my teammate Matt’s birthday and, due to my budding cupcake hobby, I made him some decadent (and as he said, heart-attack inducing) brownie cupcakes.
He was the first person at work to get cupcakes made specifically for him, but there is one person that always gets one, no matter what the occasion. My friend Heidi, who you may remember from her baby shower and adorable baby Quinlan, is always willing to taste-test the treats I bring to work. She is really the reason I got into cupcakes in the first place when, for our wedding, she gave us a whole basket of cupcake baking supplies and cookbooks.
Her birthday is today, and I asked her as I always do, “Hypothetically, if there were to be some treats made for your birthday, what would you like?” Her quick answer was “pumpkin something.”
Pumpkin I can do! While I don’t covet pumpkin like other bloggers do, I do enjoy some of the delicious orange vegetable during the fall season, and what better to do with it than bake cupcakes for a friend?
I turned to my favorite baking resource for a basic idea: Ina Garten. This led me to her simple pumpkin cupcake recipe on House Beautiful. But, no offense Ms. Ina, but your pumpkin cupcake recipe was a bit…plain. I decided to doctor it up. I stirred in about a half a cup of mini chocolate chips and a half a cup of toasted hazelnuts. The extra moisture from the extra ingredients increased the cooking time by about 3 minutes.
The cupcakes are topped with a super-rich whipped ganache buttercream. I heated 1and a half cups heavy cream to near boiling. I poured it over 12 oz. good dark chocolate (Ghiradelli over here!) After it sat for a couple of minutes, I whisked it until smooth and allowed it to cool. Then, with the whip attachment of my stand mixer, I whipped it into oblivion, then added 2 sticks of butter gradually to the mixer until the frosting was light and fluffy.
The cupcakes got a treatment of golden sugar, and an overnight stay in the refrigerator before being presented to Heidi for her birthday… they were quite the hit!
Also, I went a little rogue with the remaining pumpkin, cream, sugar, and hazelnuts… I had to test out my new candy thermometer, so I made what I’m calling Hazelnut Pumpkin Brittle
It started out trying to be caramel… but I think I put too much pumpkin in!
Hazelnut Pumpkin Brittle
* 1 1/2 cups white sugar
* 2 Tb. corn syrup
* 1 Tb. dark molasses
* 1/4 c. water
* 3/4 c. pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
* 1 c. heavy cream
* 2 Tb. butter
* 1/2 c. chopped hazelnuts
* 2-3 tsp. cinnamon (and other pumpkin-y spices if desired)
(I didn’t say these were healthy!)
In a large saucepan, heat the sugar, water, molasses, and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches 240*F, and then add in the pumpkin, cinnamon, and cream. Be careful! This mixture will boil up and splatter! Whisk together, and continue cooking until the mixture reaches 245*F. While the mixture cooks, heavily grease or spray a piece of wax paper. Place the wax paper in a 9×9 pan and spread the hazelnuts evenly on the wax paper. When the cooked mixture has reached the correct temperature, add the butter and stir until melted. Pour the entire mixture over the hazelnuts and allow to completely cool. Cut into bite sized pieces and enjoy!
It was definitely a happy accident! I’ll be making these again soon…
Happy birthday Heidi! I’m so blessed to have you as a friend!