Monday, October 24, 2011

Chai Spiced Apple Cider Cupcakes with Pumpkin Pie Frosting

I have a fear of stopwatches. Severe anxiety might be more accurate. When I see one, my heart starts to pump faster, and faster still. The seconds, as if trying to keep pace with my frantic pulse, seem to tick by at a rapid clip. My hands sweat and my throat dries up.

I felt this way every time I had a cross country race in high school. It made me miserable. I still get anxious thinking about it even. Despite my competitive streak, the idea of trying to beat a clock makes me nauseous.

And that’s how I felt Friday night going into my competition on Saturday. Panicked, freaked, stressed, overwhelmed. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I just didn’t.

But here’s the kicker, I didn’t have to beat the clock on Saturday.
I didn’t have to beat anything. Or anyone. That’s not what I wanted. I didn’t want to win the competition (and certainly held no illusions that I would). The reason I signed up for it was just that, to sign up. To be able to say I had done something new. Something a little different and a lot out of my comfort zone.

I didn’t need the judges to tell me they were pretty (really, they weren’t), or that they liked my flavor combinations. I liked them, I was proud of the cupcake I had come up with, and that’s all the mattered.

I took my time Saturday, there was no stopwatch to tell me to go faster, no PR I was trying to break. I just enjoyed the process, going slowly through the steps. I was just doing it to say that I could. To say that I did.

Chai Spiced Apple Cider Cupcakes with Pumpkin Pie Frosting (makes 12 cupcakes, cake recipe adapted from Cakewalker, frosting adapted from The Cupcake Project)

6 TBSP (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 TBPS dried basil leaves

1 TBSP dried sage leaves

5 eggs, room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1 ½ cups flour

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. Chai spice blend (I used McCormick’s)

Chai Cider Syprup

1 cup apple cider (mulled would be fabulous)

1 tsp. Chai spice

½ TBSP dried basil leaves

½ TBSP dried sage leaves

Pumpkin Pie Frosting

1 crustless pumpkin pie (I used to recipe on the back of the Libby’s can but added ¼ tsp. nutmeg)

½ - 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1 – 3 TBSP chai cider syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners and set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, melt butter with the dried herbs. Allow mixture to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and discard herbs. Set butter aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and chai spice. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the sugars and 1 egg. Mix on medium-high speed for 1 – 2 minutes, until mixture is light and fluffy. Repeat with the remaining 4 eggs. Mix in vanilla on low speed. Scrape the bowl while going along.

In three batches, add the flour mixture to the sugar and butter mixture, scraping down the bowl as necessary.

Take one cup of batter and add to cooled butter. Mix well until it comes together (this may take a minute or so). Return to remaining batter and mix until well combined.

Using a ¼ cup measure or large cookie or ice cream scoop, fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full. 

Bake in preheated oven for 16 – 20 minutes, until tops spring back when lightly touched.

Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

While cupcakes bake, combine syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan and reduce cider to half original amount, about 10 – 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

When cupcakes are out of the oven and have cooled until warm to the touch, brush tops of cupcakes with syrup. (You won’t use it all, save it for the frosting!)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment combine pumpkin pie, ½ cup of the powdered sugar, and 1 TBSP chai cider syrup. Mix at medium speed. If desired consistency and taste have been reached, frost cupcakes. If not, continue to add powdered sugar ¼ cup at a time and cider 1 TBSP at a time until desired consistency and taste is reached.

Frost cooled cupcakes and refrigerate until ready to serve.

A big thank you to Julie who took these pictures for me this weekend! You can see more here!

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