Pumpkin Cupcakes with Hazelnut Buttercream

These cupcakes are all treat and no trick…although they do have a chocolate hazelnut surprise hidden beneath the creamy hazelnut buttercream. Finished with a fun marshmallow web, these cupcakes are a sweet ending to a Halloween celebration.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 3 hr 30 min (includes cooling and chilling times)
  • Active: 1 hr 25 min
  • Yield: 12 cupcakes
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Ingredients

Cupcakes:

1 cup all-purpose flour (see Cook's Note)

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup pure pumpkin puree

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/4 cup hazelnut spread, such as Nutella

Buttercream:

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 large egg whites

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 tablespoons hazelnut spread, such as Nutella

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Decorations:

15 marshmallows

1/8 teaspoon purple gel food coloring, optional

Purple sanding sugar, for sprinkling, optional

Directions

Special equipment:
a candy thermometer; a piping bag fitted with a large round tip such as number 805; 12 orange cupcake liners
  1. For the cupcakes: Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with orange cupcake liners.
  2. Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, salt and cloves into a medium bowl and set aside.  
  3. Whisk together the pumpkin puree, melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until everything is thoroughly combined and no lumps remain. Add the eggs and mix to incorporate. Add the flour mixture and whisk until just incorporated and no streaks remain.   
  4. Divide the cupcake batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds of the way. Spoon 1 teaspoon hazelnut spread on top of each. Use a butter knife or toothpick to swirl the hazelnut spread into the top of the batter.  
  5. Bake the cupcakes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the tops spring back when gently pressed or a toothpick inserted in the cake portion comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.  
  6. For the buttercream: Combine the granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring to a soft-ball stage, 235 degrees F, without stirring, 8 to 10 minutes. 
  7. Meanwhile, put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed until foamy, then turn to high speed and whip until it holds stiff peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. 
  8. With the mixer on high speed, pour the sugar syrup in a stream into the egg whites. Beat until the bowl is just barely warm to the touch and the egg mixture is shiny and forms stiff peaks, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the butter one piece at a time, beating after each addition, until all the butter has been added. (If the icing looks curdled, just keep beating until it becomes smooth.) Add the hazelnut spread and vanilla and mix on medium speed until evenly incorporated. Scoop the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip.   
  9. Pipe the buttercream on top of the cupcakes in a swirling motion, working upwards like a soft-serve ice cream cone. Refrigerate the cupcakes until the buttercream firms up, about 1 hour.  
  10. For the decorations: Put the marshmallows in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds, then stir to combine. If lumps remain, microwave 10 to 20 seconds more, repeating until the mixture is smooth. Mix in the purple food coloring, if using, until no streaks remain. Allow the marshmallow mixture to cool until it is warm and melted but cool enough to handle, about 30 seconds. 
  11. Take a big pinch of marshmallow between your fingers and pull apart between your hands to form strands that resemble a web. Wrap the marshmallow web around the hardened buttercream on a cupcake. Sprinkle sanding sugar over the top, if using. Repeat with the remaining marshmallow, sanding sugar and cupcakes. If the marshmallow becomes too thick and hard to pull apart, reheat in the microwave in 10-second increments until slightly thinned. The cupcakes can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.   

Cook’s Note

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

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