pumpkin spice latte cupcakes

i hadn't originally intended to share these - i've been deep into "fall cleaning" over the last couple weeks, as i find this time of year to be a better time to purge and deep clean, before we bring in a bunch of new stuff for the holidays, prepare some massive meals, entertain, and host company. i also love beginning the new year having recently given our home a fresh start.

as part of my purge, i've been trying to empty our tiny pantry of those pesky items that have been sitting on the shelves for a while. among those items were some gourmet bottles of bbq sauce i hadn't been able to pass up, candy pumpkin decorations i hadn't used last year, too many cans of pureed pumpkin, and a french vanilla cake mix. i figured i could cobble together the latter two ingredients as a substitute for the pumpkin cake mix in your cup of cake's pumpkin spice latte cupcakes and stick the candy pumpkins on top. i'd made her version of these psl cupcakes before, and they were heavenly -- besides, who doesn't love a good pumpkin treat this time of year?

i mixed and added in mad-scientist fashion to create a pumpkin-spice batter with what i had on hand, and once the batter was complete, i was extremely [pleasantly!] surprised. i found i actually prefer this version to the original i was recreating. something about the french vanilla mix works really well with the coffee, and the use of real pumpkin instead of the pumpkin-flavored cake mix was more reminiscent of an actual psl. i frantically grabbed my notepad, and went back over everything i'd added to make this so i could share!

and while i know i've shared this before, it bears repeating - i l-o-v-e making pumpkin cupcakes because you can create pumpkin muffins from the same batch. just drop some fresh cranberries into the second half of the batter, or top with a cinnamon-sugar streusel, of just bake them plain and leave them unfrosted, and you have breakfast and dessert for the week in one bowl. 


| ingredients |

french vanilla cake mix
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup melted butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup freshly brewed coffee
2 tsp vanilla

for the frosting:
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup of butter, at room temperature (if you forgot to take it out of the fridge - try this trick.)
1 tsp hazelnut extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
4-5 cups powdered sugar

| method |

take the cream cheese and butter (for the frosting) out to soften on the counter while you prepare the cupcakes. 

preheat oven to 350 degrees. in a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. whisk together until well combined. add the remaining ingredients and mix well, until thoroughly combined. 

line a muffin tin with liners, and fill each cup approximately 3/4 of the way with the cake batter mixture. bake for 15-20 minutes, [i pulled mine out at 17 minutes] until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

to make the frosting:
in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed for a couple minutes. add the extracts (you can use 2 teaspoons of vanilla if you don't have hazelnut), and the cinnamon and mix until combined. slowly add the powdered sugar, and whip on medium-high until desired consistency is achieved. 

you can add a cute straw, a drizzle of caramel, or a sprinkle of cinnamon to accent.