These moist pumpkin cupcakes are topped with a one-bowl chocolate buttercream and easy-to-find confections for a fun and tasty holiday treat that everyone will want to gobble up (pun intended!). The cupcakes can be made a day or two ahead but wait to decorate them until the day you are serving.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
For the cupcakes: Stir together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the granulated sugar, brown sugar and eggs together in a large bowl until smooth and light. Whisk in the oil until combined. Whisk in the pumpkin until completely smooth. Add the dry ingredients and fold until the batter is just smooth.
Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake until a tester inserted in the center of the muffins comes out just clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and cool on the rack completely.
For the chocolate buttercream: Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa onto a piece of parchment paper. Beat the butter and salt in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light, about 1 minute. Add the confectioners' sugar mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon cream. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, adding more cream as needed to make a light, spreadable frosting.
Generously frost the cupcakes. Use an offset spatula to make the tops smooth and flat.
For decorating: Combine the confectioners' sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk with a fork until smooth. Add more lemon juice, as needed, to make a frosting the consistency of glue.
Use the confectioners’ sugar glue to adhere 7 peanut butter candies to each ginger cookie like the feathers of a turkey’s tail (make a row of 5, then place 2 underneath). Lay flat until set, about 15 minutes.
To make the heads, cut a small slice from the side of each doughnut hole so the heads will sit flat on the cupcakes. Glue 2 eyeballs to each head. Cut the yellow end from each piece of candy corn and discard it. Use a paring knife to cut a slit just below the eyes in a head and stick in a candy corn to make a beak. Repeat with the remaining heads. Cut each of the 4 red jelly candies into 3 half-moons. Glue each to the side of the candy corn for the wattles.
Cut two “wings” from each peanut butter cookie by laying the cookie horizontally and cutting each side on an angle to make 2 wings; a triangular piece of cookie will be left over in the middle (snack on it, or save it for another use).
Stick the tails into the back of the cupcakes at a slight angle. Add the heads on top and the wings on the sides.
When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off the excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)
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