I’m not a huge fan of the ever popular PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) from Starbucks; way too sweet for me. But I like the idea of combining pumpkin pie spices with milk and coffee so I went a different direction. Forget a drink; these ‘Pumpkin Spice’ Latte Cupcakes with Caramel Sauce are so much better!
Once the pumpkin craze hits the Internet starting sometime in August (it’s still SUMMER for crying out loud!); I feel more inclined to hide than participate. Can I be honest? I just don’t get it. I admit, I enjoy the requisite pie on Thanksgiving but that pie had better have plenty of sugar and bourbon in it and a healthy dose of whipped cream (with more bourbon) on it. This year I’m thinking a creme brulee top with crumble on top of that. You know; to sort of disguise the fact that I’ve just made a pie from SQUASH!!
I’m all about the caramel and apple and more apple and maybe caramel AND apple and OK some dark rum or bourbon too. But waxing poetic about pumpkin is just genetically impossible for me. So in the same vein, I simply do not get the absolute devotion to this drink of which hordes line up for at the neighborhood Starbucks that is known as a ‘Pumpkin Spice’ Latte.
Or really sort of coffee drink and did you know there is absolutely no pumpkin but a lot of other stuff in it including caramel coloring! I won’t get into the nutritional (or lack thereof) components because my hypocrisy would be evident when you spot me in line for an Eggnog Latte.
I thought it would be fun to showcase this creation in a Starbucks coffee cup but that was easier said than done. I didn’t want to bake them in the cups because I knew this cake recipe should make 24 cupcakes and that number would be halved with too much cake to frosting ratio so I just staged one by putting some foil in the bottom to rest the cupcake on. I have to admit, I love how it turned out.
The resulting ‘Pumpkin Spice’ Latte Cupcakes with Caramel Sauce are sooooo good; not a pumpkin flavored cupcake but a coffee flavored cupcake with just a hint of spice. This was one of those times when the first go around was an abject failure. Wait – I take that back. Not a failure if you love spice cake (which I don’t) but I was looking for that coffee flavor to be prominent. As I experimented it was clear after my first test that to get what I wanted I not only had to cut back on the spices but also had to REALLY boost the coffee. And that was the key.
Not looking for mocha either, nope, no chocolate in sight. Just a real coffee flavored cake with a warming hint of seasonal spice. Oh and maybe a decadent mascarpone and whipped cream frosting with some more espresso too with a caramel drizzle for good measure. Now we’re talkin’ folks!
I actually did the frosting for these in two batches; one-half according to the recipe I’ve provided and the other half without the dried espresso. I sort of figured that parents of kids I gave them too would appreciate eliminating that extra boost of caffeine. These brothers; Tyler, Nolan and Mason are so cute. They always come visit together and when I answer the door; they ask, ‘Do you need any help?’ Why yes boys I need help sometimes with cookies and cupcakes. They are willing warriors in that effort. Love them!
UPDATE: Apparently Starbucks has decided to add pumpkin to their mix starting in 2015. WHY? It will be interesting to see if fanatics still love it; for me I’ll still waiting for the Eggnog Latte!
'Pumpkin Spice' Latte Cupcakes with Caramel
!For the Cake
- 1 cup hot brewed coffee
- 3 tablespoons instant espresso
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon (check recipe paper for spice amounts)
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ginger
- 4 large eggs at room temperature, separated
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, chilled and cut into cubes
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
!For the Frosting
- 1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
- 1 Tbsp instant espresso powder
- 1/3 cup white chocolate, grated
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 8-ounce containers chilled mascarpone cheese
- Caramel Sauce
To Make the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the center of the oven. Line 24 cupcake forms with paper liners.
- Combine the brewed coffee and espresso powder in a glass measuring cup and let cool.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and spices together in a bowl.
- Beat the egg whites in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer (use a whisk attachment if available) on high speed until soft peaks form. Scoop the egg whites into a separate bowl and set aside.
- Dry the inside of the bowl thoroughly with a paper towel. Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter in the mixer on high speed until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar until incorporated, then add the vanilla and beat, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the mixture is very light in color and texture, about 4 minutes.
- Beat in the egg yolks, 1 at a time until thoroughly mixed.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture a third at a time, alternating with half of the cooled coffee, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until smooth after each addition.
- Using a spatula, stir about 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Fill the cupcake molds 2/3 full and bake 15-20 minutes until the tops spring back when gently pressed and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Gently remove them from the form and allow to cool completed before frosting.
To Make the Frosting
- Bring 1 cup cream to boil in small saucepan. Slowly pour cream over espresso, whisking until espresso is dissolved. Add grated white chocolate and stir until smooth. Add remaining 1/2 cup of the whipping cream and sugar; stir until sugar dissolves. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours. Can be made one day ahead; cover and keep chilled.
- Add mascarpone to chilled mixture; Using electric mixer; beat on low speed until blended and smooth. Increase speed to medium-high; beat until mixture is thick and medium-firm peaks form when beaters are lifted, about 2 minutes (take care you don't over beat or mixture will curdle).
- Pipe or dollop onto the top of cupcakes.
- Drizzle with Caramel and sprinkle with a touch of cinnamon.