Special equipment: Stand mixer with a 5 quart bowl and whip attachment Rubber Spatula
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly spray 2 standard cupcake tins.
In an electric mixer on low speed, combine the sugar and butter until well mixed. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl whisk together the baking powder, salt, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
In a separate smaller bowl whisk together the vanilla extract and egg whites, mixing well. Stir the pumpkin puree into the whites just until incorporated. In the bowl with the creamed butter and sugar add the flour and pumpkin mixtures about 1/3 at a time, mixing until just incorporated, ending with the pumpkin. Scrape down the bowl and beater and remove the beaters.
With a rubber spatula fold the batter until it is one even color. Fold in the mini chocolate chips.
Fill the prepared cupcake tin filling until the cups are almost full. Dip your fingers in a little bit of water and use it to pat down the mixture in each cup. Put the tin in the preheated oven and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the tin to a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.
Divide the buttercream. Leave the majority white for the base frosting and color approximately a quarter of the white in 3 portions with red, blue, and red and blue mixed together coloring (to make a black portion) to pipe the eyes.
Unmold the cupcakes onto a work surface. Frost the cupcakes with the white buttercream and smooth it out with a knife or a small offset spatula. Fill 3 pastry bags with the blue buttercream (fitted with a ribbon tip) and the black and red butter cream (both fitted with small plain tips). Pipe on the iris of the eyes with blue buttercream. Pipe in the pupil with the black buttercream, also add a couple of black lines to the iris, as well. Pipe on veins using the red buttercream.
Make sure to have a completely clean and dry bowl when you start your process, any fat or liquid at all in the bowl will stunt the protein development of the albumen (egg white protein) and you will not have a proper meringue at the end, the results could be disastrous. Start whipping the egg whites slowly in the mixer by themselves (no sugar or butter yet) until the whites are foamy.
Increase the speed of the mixer and slowly start adding the sugar until all the sugar is incorporated.
Once all the sugar is combined, increase the speed of the mixer even further and whip until the mixture is shiny and stiff. You now have a meringue. You know when your meringue is done when you pull out the whip, hold it horizontally, and you have what looks a "sparrow's beak" on the end of the whip.
Replace the whip, turn the mixer on medium and start adding the butter a bit at a time, once all the butter is incorporated, turn the mixer on high and leave it for a while. Depending on the weather, the buttercream could take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to form. You will know when it has formed when you hear the motor of the mixer starting to slow down and whine a little bit. Also when you first add the butter, your meringue will break down and look nasty, this is good and is what you want. When the buttercream is done, the mixture will be homogeneous and consistent...and tasty.
Remove the buttercream from the bowl and put in an airtight container. Buttercream can be kept at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 weeks, but always use warm buttercream when icing a cake. To warm up the buttercream, put it back in the mixer using the whip or the paddle, and apply direct heat to the mixer bowl with a propane torch you can find at any hardware store.
Food coloring method.
- Using a blowtorch directly on a food product is a very standard practice (see creme brulee) and anyone who says otherwise knows nothing about cooking. - Don't worry about using raw egg whites in your buttercream, the sugar cooks the egg whites and makes them perfectly safe to eat, if you are still uneasy about this, use a pasteurized egg product.
This recipe was provided by a chef, restaurant or culinary professional. It has not been tested for home use.
Recipe courtesy of Duff Goldman, Charm City Cakes, Baltimore Maryland