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First Pumpkin Recipe of the Season! Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

I picked up the latest copy of Country Living magazine when I was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store. I was starving and fell for the photo of the halloween-themed chocolate cake on the front cover. The magazine promised that it was “Scrumptious!” and “Sooooo moist!” And how could I resist the cute orange frosting and dark chocolate glaze. The truth is that I am very easily swayed by advertising when I’m hungry.

After I got home and ate lunch, I really wasn’t that interested in the magazine anymore. In fact, I kind of forgot about it for a day or two. When I finally got around to thumbing through it, I realized the cake recipe was for a Chocolate Pumpkin Cake. “Mmmmmm,” I thought. “Possibly even better than just plain chocolate!” I’ve never combined chocolate and pumpkin before and I was instantly intrigued.

The problem was that I could feel the pounds piling on just by reading the recipe! A stick and a half of butter…two cups of sugar…4 eggs…and frosting made with both cream cheese and whipped cream. Wow! Normally I don’t worry too much about trying to lighten up desserts. Desserts are desserts and they’re supposed to be fattening. But I’ve been baking a lot lately and we’ve been eating way too much sugar. I think my body is at it’s limit because the amount of butter and sugar in that recipe was just not appealing to me.

So, I lightened it up. With the canned pumpkin in the recipe, I knew I could reduce the butter and still end up with a moist cake. I substitute fruit and vegetable purees for fat in my muffins all the time and it works great. So my first recipe ‘fix’ was to increase the pumpkin and decrease the butter.

I decided that the sugar could also be reduced since the frosting would be so sweet. I wasn’t really sure how much to reduce it so I went big and reduced it by half.

The other change I made was to substitute yogurt for buttermilk. I only did this because I happened to have a bunch of plain yogurt in the fridge and no buttermilk. Since I don’t think yogurt is quite as acidic as buttermilk (maybe I’m wrong, I never bothered to look it up), I threw in a teaspoon of white vinegar so that the baking soda in the recipe would have something to work with.

After scratching and scribbling for a while, I finally came up with a recipe that seemed like it would work. When I tried it, I baked a 9″x13″ sheet cake. It tasted good and was moist and tender, but I felt like I had cut the sugar a bit too much. The recipe has so much cocoa powder that my sugar reduction left the cake just a bit bitter. My husband actually liked it a lot, but I knew I wanted add more sugar next time.

The other thought I had when I tasted the first version was that it would be great with some chocolate chips in it! So much for reducing calories!

I also decided I wanted to try it in cupcake form the second time around. By adding a bit more sugar back in the recipe, along with some mini chocolate chips, I ended up with some really great cupcakes that may or may not be lighter than the original recipe.

And then came the frosting!

I did not use the frosting recipe from the magazine. I like my cream cheese frosting to taste like cream cheese so I didn’t think it needed to have all that whipped cream folded in. I used a fairly standard cream cheese frosting recipe but added cinnamon and nutmeg as was suggested by javagirlkt. The frosting turned out great and really complimented the chocolate pumpkin cupcakes!

The thing about mixing chocolate with fruit (or vegetable purees) is that the chocolate really covers up all other flavors. If you don’t believe me, try my Double Dark Chocolate Beet Muffins! These chocolate pumpkin cupcakes taste like a chocolate cake but there’s just a little something extra. The spices in the frosting seem to bring out the pumpkin flavor even though the cake itself isn’t spiced. It’s a little hard to explain but trust me, it works!

I did end up reducing the butter by 1/3 and the sugar by 1/4. If you leave out the chocolate chips and go light on frosting, these are definitely much better for you than the original cake. But I have to say that the chocolate chips are great and it is hard to go light on the cream cheese frosting! Oh well, I tried!

The candy corns on top are optional, of course! They just happen to be my favorite fall candy and I thought they looked really cute on these cupcakes! Turns out they make caramel candy corns now…I think I’m in heaven!

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