Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

These adorable jack-o-lantern cupcakes are packed with fall flavor, thanks to pumpkin pie spice and brown butter. Customize these to your liking by piping a variety of faces.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 2 hr 5 min
  • Active: 1 hr 15 min
  • Yield: 24 cupcakes
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Ingredients

Cupcakes:

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour (see Cook's Note)

2/3 cup almond flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Frosting:

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

5 tablespoons milk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon orange gel food coloring

Decoration:

6 chewy chocolate rolls, such as Tootsie Rolls, cut into quarters

2 green sour gummy belt candies, cut into 1/8-inch strips lengthwise

Royal Icing:

2 cups confectioners' sugar

1 tablespoon meringue powder

2 tablespoons black gel food coloring

Directions

  1. For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with orange paper liners.
  2. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat; cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter browns, 6 to 9 minutes. Immediately transfer to a medium bowl and let cool slightly. Whisk in the granulated sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. 
  3. Whisk the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a large bowl. Add the brown butter mixture and whisk until just combined (do not overmix). 
  4. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling them three-quarters of the way. Bake until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently pressed, 18 to 22 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes then remove to a rack to cool completely. 
  5. For the frosting: Beat the butter and salt with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the confectioners' sugar, about 1 cup at a time. After each addition, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy again, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the milk, vanilla and orange food coloring and beat until smooth.  
  6. To decorate: Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes with a round pastry tip. Level off the top with an offset spatula to an even and smooth layer. Next, use a toothpick or small skewer to create "grooves" in the frosting to look like a pumpkin. Insert a chewy chocolate quarter in the top of each cupcake to look like a "stem" and drape the green sour gummy belt candy to look like a "vine." Repeat with the remaining cupcakes and candy. Refrigerate until the frosting is slightly firm, about 15 minutes. 
  7. For the royal icing: Whisk together the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder in a large bowl. Add 3 tablespoons water and beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until soft, glossy peaks form, adding up to 1 more tablespoon water if necessary (it should be thick but pipeable). Tint with black gel food coloring until very black. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and plastic wrap to prevent the icing from drying out until ready to use. (Makes about 1 cup.) 
  8. Transfer the royal icing to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Pie jack-o-lantern faces on each cupcake. Set aside until the royal icing has set, about 30 minutes.

Cook’s Note

When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods).