Rumpkin Pie Chai Cupcakes

Given that I was leaving the US two days after my birthday to the land of (soy) milk and (date) honey, where it has been fairly consistently sunny and warm (aka Paradise. I’ve gone to the beach more times since I’ve been here than I have in the last few years. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that my Ulpan (Hebrew language school) is about a block away from the water) I thought it was necessary to try and make as many autumny recipes as possible before I left, so for my second birthday cupcake (the first being the Apple Orchard cupcake) I of course had to do something with pumpkin.

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Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte (not chai) at Peacefood Cafe Downtown in New York City

While I briefly discussed that the cupcakes I have been making are all part of a theme, what I didn’t reveal was that I actually have a whole list of cupcakes to make sitting on my phone, combining seasonal ingredients, with tea and/or booze into awesome cupcakes. Well some of them are seasonal, some are based off of favorite cocktails, while others are inspired by well known tea based drinks. Mental cupcake creation is one of my favorite things to do when I have a long trip to take, and as I dream up cupcake combinations, I have finally taken care to write all of them down. The task now, is to slowly test out these cupcake combinations to see what works, what doesn’t, what’s popular, what I can effectively make gluten free etc.

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Rumpkin Pie Chai cupcakes with the pumpkin peeking through a patch of frosting. Garnished with a sprig of thyme.

There were several factors that went into the creation of this cupcake. First, how to best incorporate some booze into the already popular Chai Latte cupcake from VCTOW (that’s Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World…I’m not going to pull a Rachael Ray and always say the abbreviation and what it stands for, I promise). This is one of my dad’s favorite cupcakes, and the best part is, they’re super simple to make on their own. I thought a good spiced rum would fit nicely with the flavor profile, so that was settled quite easily. Then came choosing an appropriate filling. On my list I actually have written both pumpkin pie and cashew cardamom mousse. I wanted something that would meld nicely with the spices already present in the cake, but when it came down to it, the pumpkin craze had already begun, and nothing could beat a chai spiced cake with a deliciously creamy pumpkin pie filling. I generally consider spiking my frostings, just for the extra dose of booze, but because I was making these in tandem with the apple cupcakes (rather than packing….sorry Dad. And Jordan. I bake when I’m stressed, ok?) I needed to make my life a little easier and use only one frosting for both cupcakes. So on went the cinnamon buttercream. The last element to these cupcakes were attempting to make them gluten free. I have tried several different flour mixes for cupcakes with varying successes. This time, I used some leftover from the mix suggested in The Allergen-Free Bakers Handbook by Cybele Pascal. I’ve found that this mix creates a cupcake that is a little more dense than I would like, but the secret to the chai cupcake recipe is the addition of some non dairy yogurt, which creates a moist, light cake. I wanted to see if the combination of the yogurt with the flour blend would create a more satisfactory texture. Good news: it did!

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Autumn in Israel

Frequently, when I write down my cupcake ideas, I like to dream them up as the perfect package, complete with elegant if not time consuming garnishes. After all, I would eventually like to sell these (in which case maybe I should stop giving away all my secrets!), but usually, I just don’t have the time to make some of these complicated little additions, nor can I necessarily finance all the resources. For example on the apple cupcakes, I really wanted to throw on a little piece of pie crust, because yum. Crust is totally the best part of the pie. Also, they go crazy for garnishes like that on cupcake wars, but when it came down to it, not only was in nice to have a slice of fresh, crisp apple on top, it also added a nicer color, and, took significantly less work. When it came to garnishing the Rumpkin cupcakes, I found they needed a pop of color to brighten them up. Luckily, I had some sprigs of thyme that had dried up in my fridge, and added the perfect touch of color/actual pumpkin patch vibe I was going for. While I didn’t intend them to add anything flavor-wise, thyme and pumpkin make a pretty nice pair, though you could also probably use a sprig of rosemary or even a sage leaf (talk about an autumn classic, pumpkin and sage).

And now for the recipe:

Chai Cupcake (adapted from VCTOW)

  • 1 scant cup non dairy milk
  • 4 black tea bags or 2 tbsp loose black tea
  • 1/4 c dark or spiced rum
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1/2 c vanilla or plain non dairy yogurt
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 c gluten free flour blend*
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • Pinch to 1/8 tsp ground white or black pepper

*I used the the flour mix from the Allergen-Free Bakers Handbook, but you could try whatever you have on hand (or regular flour, and leave out the xanthan gum).  I just can’t vouch for the final product using a different gluten free flour combo.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with cupcake liners.  Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling.  Add tea bags, remove from heat and cover.  Let sit for about 10 minutes, then squeeze all the excess milk from the tea bag/leaves and discard.  Measure the tea mixture, and rather than top off with milk, top off with rum, so the mixture equals 1 cup of liquid.  (This is why you can even start off with a little bit less milk even).  In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and the tea mixture until all lumps disappear.  Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all the spices into the wet ingredients. Mix until large lumps disappear; some small lumps are ok.  Fill tins full and bake about 20 to 22 minutes until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

  • 1/2 can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling, you want plain old pumpkin)
  • 1/2 c coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch (cornstarch would probably work too)
  • 1/4 c sugar or maple syrup or to taste
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tbsp spiced rum

Combine everything but the vanilla and the rum in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until well combined and smooth, then cook until it just starts to boil, stirring frequently.  The mixture should smooth out even more and then thicken to a thick, custard-like consistency.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and rum.

Cinnamon Buttercream*

  • 1/2 c nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
  • 1/2 c nonhydrogenated shortening
  • 3 1/2 c confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tbsp non-dairy milk

*You really only need a half batch for 12 cupcakes.  I made this whole recipe in conjunction with the apple cupcakes, and was able to frost 2 dozen with this amount of frosting.

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined.  Add the sugar and cinnamon and beat for another about 3 minutes more.  Add the vanilla and 2 tbsp of the non dairy milk.  Beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.  If it is too dry add more milk, 1 tbsp at a time.

To assemble:

Put the pumpkin pie filling in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip.  Using your pinky finger, poke a hole in each cupcake.  Fill with as much pumpkin pie filling as you can, leaving a nice round dollop of filling on top of the cupcake.  Fit a separate piping bag with a star tip and fill with the cinnamon buttercream.  Pipe little star flowers all around the pumpkin.  Garnish with a sprig of something green.

Sorry for the lack of pictures with this post!  I was in the middle of moving, and didn’t think to take more.  Mostly, I’m happy I took five minutes to write down these recipes.  Also, I probably should have gotten this out sooner, but good thing pumpkin is still entirely appropriate to eat throughout November!

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