Fresh Pumpkin Muffins

Fresh Pumpkin Muffins

Muffins aren’t quite as cute as cupcakes, but don’t call them ugly cupcakes. While they have a similar appearance, cupcakes and muffins are different delights.

Muffins are more bread than cake. They are denser and often drier than cupcakes, and they are usually not as sweet.  (The line blurs a bit when you get into sweeter muffins like chocolate muffins which are, let’s face it, really closer to cupcakes without icing.) Baking methods differ, resulting in unique textures. Cupcakes usually call for butter, creamed with sugar, and a mixer is recommended to achieve a smooth batter. Oil is often used in muffins, and the batter can be mixed by hand, smoothness not required or really desired.

Pumpkin Muffin Ingredients

I roasted a small sugar pumpkin for 90 minutes at 350 degrees, let it cool a little bit, scooped it out, and puréed it. I stuck it in the refrigerator overnight, and two cups went into my muffins the next day. You could used canned pumpkin, but get plain (real) pumpkin, not pie filling or spiced pumpkin.

Recipe: Pumpkin Muffins

Makes 18 small muffins or 12 large muffins

3 cups flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup olive oil
3 eggs
2 cups pumpkin purée

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins or use paper liners.

Stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat together the olive oil and eggs, then the pumpkin purée. Stir this mixture into flour mixture until just combined.

Scoop batter into muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Baby Boy Blue Cupcakes in the City

city cupcake

My cousin-in-law had her baby shower at Brooklyn Bridge Park on what turned out to be a beautiful day by the river. The Picnic Peninsula at Pier 5 has grills, which made it the perfect spot to set up a BBQ celebration. I baked mini vanilla cupcakes with blue-tinted icing for the occasion.

blue frosted cupcakes

Planning a Pier 5 BBQ? Get there early to reserve a space (the park is open 6am-11pm; grilling is allowed until 10pm)! And note to party decorators, nothing is allowed to hang from or otherwise be attached to the umbrellas. We learned this only after completely decorating and being made to take everything down.


The happy, healthy boy himself has now arrived. I hope he has a sweet tooth (when he’s a teeny bit older)!

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Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cupcakes

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

These chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream were filled with fresh strawberries steeped in framboise liqueur.

First, I prepared for my finishing touch by dipping whole strawberries into melted chocolate and refrigerating on a tray covered with parchment paper.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

While waiting for my cupcakes to cool, I heated sliced strawberries and the liqueur on the stovetop just long enough to slightly soften the berries. If you want to skip the liqueur, you can use strawberries that have been mixed with sugar to get nice and juicy.

Once the cakes were at room temperature, I used a paring knife to cut a cone out of each cupcake, added a few slices of strawberry, then reassembled. Spoon in a little extra juice or straight liqueur before, if you like, for the cake to soak up (yummy). When re-adding the cone, trim the bottom first or just press it back on! You’ll be covering up the evidence with frosting.

Strawberry-Filled Chocolate Cupcake

Once frosted, I pulled out my chocolate-covered strawberries to finish up these birthday-worthy cupcakes.

Scott's Cupcake

Photo by Scott A. Ettin (aka the birthday boy)

[ Posted in Birthdays, Decorating, Fruit, Technique ] [ Leave a comment ]

Lemony Lemon Cupcakes

Lemon CupcakesI love lemon-flavored desserts, and lemon is especially refreshing in the summer. Fresh lemon juice and zest goes in both the cake and frosting. You can also do the same thing with other citrus.

These were dessert for a July 4th party, and I made the mistake of baking just enough. No leftovers!

Recipe: Lemon Cupcakes

Makes 21 cupcakes

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
4 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 1/2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.

Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar at medium speed, then reduce to low. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the lemon juice and vanilla extract.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the lemon zest to the flour mixture. Incorporate the dry ingredients gradually into the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Scoop batter into lined muffin tins with an ice cream scoop or the method of your choice (about 3/4 full). Bake for a total of 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, rotating pans halfway through.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Once cupcakes are room temperature, frost or dust with powdered sugar. (Lemon, raspberry or other fruit-flavored icings are all good choices!)

Frosting Recipe

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Chocolate Wedding Cupcakes

Brett and Margaret Wedding CupcakeI was honored to be asked to bake wedding cupcakes for my friends Brett and Margaret. They set up a fabulous weekend in the Catskills for the big event, which was unique, relaxed and great fun, just like the couple.

The bride and groom requested my chocolate with vanilla frosting. I did ask if they wanted something fancy or a new flavor, but a tried-and-true flavor was just fine with me, I was happy to oblige.

I baked the cupcakes the night before our drive upstate and brought along a pound of butter, 4 pounds of powdered sugar, and a bottle of vanilla extract to make the frosting on site. Decorating supplies including small edible silver dragées and dark chocolate shavings completed my wedding cupcake prep kit.

Catskills Wedding Cupcake Display

Recruiting a friend to help, I ran some tests to set a decoration plan. The goal was festive wedding vibe that wouldn’t look out of place at the rustic venue. And I wanted them to look special for the very special occasion.

Sprinkling the dragées didn’t get good coverage, I preferred a solid silver layer. It ended up working best to ice with a knife, dip and swirl (like glue and glitter). We added a pinch of chocolate shavings in the middle for fun. When we ran out of dragées, we covered with the chocolate shavings—again dipping after icing—and added silver sugar sprinkles.

Rustic Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Shavings

Congratulations, Brett and Margaret, and thank you for making me a part of your wedding celebration!

Wedding Bell - Hikers

A cute design of a hiking couple adorned bells distributed to guests and other décor.

Cupcake Recipe

Frosting Recipe

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