Category Archives: Cakes and cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Browned Butter Frosting


The first time I made these cupcakes, I was staying in a hotel and working on an archaeological survey in Michigan. Our crew had stopped in to an Amish bakery at lunch one day that week, and since it was fall, the shelves were filled with pumpkin treats. Everyone raved about how good they were. And they were pretty delicious. But, since I am apparently less humble about my baking abilities that I like to admit, I told them I could make even more delicious pumpkin desserts. In my hotel room. With a microwave, a single electric burner that I travel with, and a small toaster oven that has seen better days.

Not my brightest moment. But, with a little help from a box mix since I didn’t travel with a full pantry, I did come up with a pretty tasty cupcake. Even if I did have to bake them six at a time. All three dozen of them.


I’ve adjusted the recipe slightly since then, creating a from-scratch version of the cupcake. But you can absolutely go the box mix route. The recipe I used can be found here. I just added the pecans into the batter, and baked them as cupcakes. The baking time will be less than for a cake; try checking them after about 18-20 minutes.


You really don’t want to miss out on this browned butter frosting. But if you don’t like browned butter, almost any frosting will work here. Vanilla buttercream or cream cheese icing would be perfect. Chocolate would be good as well. Maple is always delicious with pumpkin.

And of course, you can leave out the pecans. Or change it to your favorite nut. Go for the unsalted variety, and definitely toast them first. Walnuts – perfect. Hazelnuts – delicious. Almonds are always acceptable in my world. But they’re your cupcakes – make them to suit your tastes!


Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Browned Butter Frosting
Yields 24
For the cupcakes
  1. 1/4 cup sour milk
  2. 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  3. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  4. 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  8. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  9. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  10. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  11. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  12. 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  13. 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
For the Frosting
  1. 1 cup unsalted butter
  2. 1/4 cup shortening
  3. 5 cups powdered sugar
  4. 1/4 cup milk, cream, or half and half
  5. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Glazed Pecans
  1. 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  2. 1 teaspoon butter
  3. 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  4. Pinch salt
  5. 1/2 cup whole pecan halves
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For the cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. If you only have one 12-cup tray, you can bake half at a time.
  2. Combine the vinegar and milk to make sour milk. Set aside.
  3. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, and pumpkin and mix until combined. Combine dry ingredients, except pecans, in a separate bowl. Add half of dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Add sour milk and mix; add remaining dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in pecans.
  4. Divide batter among the 24 paper-lined cups. Each should be about two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Let rest in tins for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
For the Frosting
  1. While the cupcakes are baking, place the butter in a light-colored pan (NOT non-stick) and heat over medium heat until melted. Continue heating until bubbling is nearly stopped and butter begins to brown and smell nutty. This may take 10-15 minutes depending on your burner. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate until beginning to solidify, about 20 minutes. You want it to resemble softened butter.
  2. Once browned butter is ready, combine butter and shortening with electric mixer. You don’t have to use shortening, but I prefer to add a little bit to my buttercream frosting, because it tends to hold up better at room temperature. Add powdered sugar, half of the milk, vanilla, and salt. Beat at medium speed until combined. Add remaining milk and beat at high speed two minutes or until fluffy. Add additional milk 1/2 tablespoon at a time, or powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, if needed, to adjust consistency.
For the Glazed Pecans
  1. Combine sugar, butter, syrup, and salt in a small skillet over medium heat. Once butter is melted and mixture is combined, add pecans. Continue heating for 5-7 minutes until pecans are lightly toasted and well coated with mixture. Tip out of pan onto wax paper and let cool.
  1. Frost the cooled cupcakes with the frosting, and top with a glazed pecan, if desired.
  1. Use whatever nuts you prefer, or leave them out entirely.
  2. Vanilla, cream cheese, chocolate, or maple frosting would all be delicious!
The Archaeologist Bakes