It’s back to the field for me this week, so I’ve got a really quick recipe for you. Actually, it’s not even a recipe. Chocolate bark is so easy, and infinitely customizable.
I had a bag of pumpkin spice chips sitting in my pantry, and I’ve been trying to decide what to make with them. Cookies, bars, cupcakes – they’ve all been done. But pumpkin spice chocolate bark? That sounded perfect for a busy weekend.
I dug though my collection of chocolate molds, and found that I had a pumpkin version. Mine has 12 cavities that are about 1 inch across. You can find these in some hobby stores, as well as in cake decorating supply stores (there is usually at least one in good-sized cities) and online. I started by melting down a few green candy melts and piped that into the stems. You can also paint it in with a paintbrush (that you use only for food) or even a toothpick. Then I melted about 1 cup of the chips and spooned that into the pumpkins. I melt my chips and candy melts in the microwave in 15 to 30 second bursts. The one cup of chips made 24 pumpkins, or two trays worth in my mold.
While the pumpkins were firming up in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, I melted a pound of chocolate almond bark. I spread that out between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick on a parchment (or wax-paper) lined baking sheet. Before it set, I added the pumpkins and threw on some fall leaf sprinkles for a little color and variety. Once it started to set, but before it was completely firm, I scored it into pieces with a sharp knife. I put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes so it could set completely, and then broke it along the scored lines.
The best part about this is how easy it is to customize. You could use any flavor almond bark or chocolate for the base – try different baking chip flavors like butterscotch, cinnamon, or white chocolate. The same goes for the pumpkins. And you don’t have to have a chocolate mold – you could pipe simple shapes onto wax paper and let them set before dropping them onto the base chocolate. Or if all you have are some pretty sprinkles, drop the contrasting chocolate by spoonfuls onto the base and swirl with a skewer or knife before adding the sprinkles. This was so much fun and gave me so many other ideas! I’m sure you’ll see the concept again around Christmas!
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
- 1/4 cup sour milk
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup milk, cream, or half and half
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 cup whole pecan halves
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- 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.
- Combine the vinegar and milk to make sour milk. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Frost the cooled cupcakes with the frosting, and top with a glazed pecan, if desired.
- Use whatever nuts you prefer, or leave them out entirely.
- Vanilla, cream cheese, chocolate, or maple frosting would all be delicious!
The Archaeologist Bakes http://www.thearchaeologistbakes.com/