Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
There are two types of people: those who bask in the warm glow of summer and mourn its ending as the sky gets gloomier and the days get shorter; and those who yearn for the cool breezes, russet colours and the chance to finally put on winter coats. I am firmly in the latter camp.
Autumn for me is synonymous with burnt orange leaves, fresh mornings, cosy layers and, of course, pumpkin spice. Visits to Starbucks to get PSLs have become weekly rituals, and scouring bakeries for anything pumpkin themed - pies, cupcakes, loafs - becomes the obsession.
I was recently in the USA where the love affair with pumpkin spice is even stronger, and the commitment to adorning shop fronts with squashes and cobwebs to herald Halloween rather puts us to shame. (The Creaky Shed in Greenwich has a lovely Autumnal display if you're ever in that neck of the woods).
But back to the cupcakes. Pumpkin spice is a wonderfully versatile flavour combination mixing cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg which results in a warm, lightly spiced, sweetness. It can be added to pies, cookies, crumbles, cupcakes - with or without pumpkin puree - and if Autumn had a flavour, this would be it.
I was rather optimistic at first and thought I would make my own puree from a pumpkin I had carved for Halloween but when I spotted Libby's Pumpkin Puree in WholeFoods (also available from Ocado) I realised that this would be far easier! The recipe calls for half a tin so you could either make two batches of cupcakes or use the puree for something else - sweet or savoury.
The cupcakes have a cream cheese frosting which gives a lovely balance and I garnished each cupcake with the stringy pumpkin you find when you are carving them up for Halloween. If you didn't have a pumpkin to hand then grated carrot would just as easily work - and is available year round!