This time of year brings two of my family’s favorite holidays: Halloween and Thanksgiving. Nothing makes me happier than to create a gluten-free recipe that celebrates both holidays. Pumpkin Cupcakes (just developed this week) got thumbs up from Sarah (who is thrilled with a new lunchbox treat), the whole family and friends.
Make no mistake; these are cupcakes, not muffins, as in dessert not breakfast. They are sweet and tender and can be served with a variety of frostings, or just a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar. And they freeze—unfrosted—perfectly in small self-sealing plastic bags. I bake a full recipe, which makes 18 to 20 cupcakes, frost half for eating. Then I freeze the rest for packing in Sarah’s lunch or for emergency dessert in the event of unexpected company.
One of the quickest, easiest, instant frostings comes from a jar of marshmallow creme. For Halloween I scoop out a little into a bowl and mix it with a few drops of orange food coloring. (For Thanksgiving, lose the orange color.) You only need one tablespoon to frost the top of each cupcake because the marshmallow creme spreads out. It is gluten-free, made with corn syrup, sugar, vanilla and egg white. (Originally marshmallows were made using the sap extracted from the marshmallow plant to thicken the confection.)
Marshmallow Fluff is an American invention, the basic recipe mentioned in cookbooks as early as 1896. But the main credit goes to Archibald Query in Somerville, Massachusetts, who created the modern version and started selling it door-to-door. It became so popular he sold the recipe to two candy makers for $500, and it appeared on supermarket shelves in cans as Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff in 1917. The “Toot Sweet” was soon dropped from the label and the packaging changed to a glass jar in the 1940s. But fluff or creme the confection is still with us, not only as a recipe ingredient (fudge, Jell-O molds, frostings and sweet potato casseroles) but as the (better?) half of the famous Fluffernutter sandwich: Marshmallow Fluff mixed with peanut butter and spread on white bread.
Other cupcake topping ideas include a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar, a swirled cream cheese-confectioners’ sugar frosting, or the basic frosting recipe in Cooking for Your Gluten Free Teen (which has several variations including chocolate), or the simple Confectioners’ Sugar Glaze used to ice the Crisp Rice Bars.
Here’s something I learned that applies to mixing all gluten-free batters: beat only until the ingredients are well and completely mixed. The longer you beat, the thicker the batter becomes until it eventually begins to crawl up the beater blades.
- 2 ¼ cups 1, 2, 3, Gluten-Free Flour
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup butter or nondairy alternative (not reduced fat)
- 1 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup milk or nondairy alternative
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray, insert paper muffin cups and spray lightly.
- In a large bowl mix together flour, spice, salt, baking powder and soda. Whisk to mix well.
- In a separate large bowl beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well.
- Add the milk, pumpkin puree and vanilla and beat to mix. Scrape bottom of bowl with a silicone spatula to make sure batter is well mixed.
- Spoon batter into muffin cups until almost full. (You will need to bake 2 batches). Bake until cooked through and a cake tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven. Let rest for 5 minutes. Remove muffins in the paper cups to a rack to cool.
- Repeat with remaining batter.
- Frost muffins with desired frosting when cool. Freeze unfrosted muffins in self-sealing plastic bags.
Variations: I use pumpkin pie spice, but you can substitute with: 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ginger, ¼ teaspoon cloves and ¼ teaspoon allspice.
If you use a nondairy alternative to butter, do not use a reduced-fat product. And be sure the can reads “100% pure pumpkin,” or “pumpkin puree” not “pumpkin pie mix” which has sugar and spices already mixed in.
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