My Recipe Box

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

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Yields 24 cupcakes

  • by Martha Holmberg from Fine Cooking
    Issue 114

Sweet potatoes lend moisture and complexity to these tender, lightly spiced, and utterly addictive cupcakes. A tangy maple-syrup-infused frosting serves as both the topping and filling.

For the cupcakes
  • 1-3/4 lb. orange or red sweet potatoes
  • 11-1/4 oz. (2-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 oz. (10 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
For the frosting
  • 5 oz. crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened, cut into 3 chunks each
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt
  • 6-3/4 oz. (1-1/2 cups) confectioners’ sugar
  • Ground cinnamon for garnish (optional)
Make the cupcakes

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment. Poke the sweet potatoes with a sharp knife and put them on the baking sheet. Bake until completely tender, 35 to 60 minutes, depending on the shape and moisture content of the potato; remove and set aside to cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Line two 12-cup cupcake tins with paper liners. When cool enough to handle, peel the sweet potatoes and purée the flesh in a food processor. Measure out 2 cups and set aside. Save the remaining potatoes for another use.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves until well blended.

Separate the eggs. In another medium bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric hand mixer on high speed until very foamy and white, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, sprinkle in 1/4 cup of the sugar and continue to beat until very fluffy and glossy, about 3 minutes; set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with the hand mixer), beat the butter and remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar on medium speed until very light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and then add the vanilla and continue to beat 1 minute more to combine. Slowly beat in the sweet potato purée, followed by the sour cream and milk. The mixture should look smooth.

With the mixer on low, or using a rubber spatula, gently and gradually mix in the dry ingredients, mixing until each addition is just blended.

Scoop out about one-quarter of the meringue and use a spatula to fold it into the batter; gently fold in the rest of the meringue. Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake tins (about 1/4 cup for each cupcake). Once filled, lightly tap the tins on the counter to settle the batter. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cupcakes are puffed, lightly browned, and the center is springy when pressed lightly with a finger, 25 to 30 minutes. Be careful not to underbake the cupcakes, as they will be gummy.

Let the cupcakes sit in the pans until cool enough to handle. Carefully transfer them to a rack and let cool completely.

Make the frosting

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or with an electric hand mixer), whip the crème fraîche on medium speed until thick, about 1 minute (if using sour cream, skip this step). Scrape it into a medium bowl and set aside.

Switch to the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer, and put the butter in the mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, add the cream cheese, one chunk at a time, and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Slowly beat in the syrup, vanilla, and 1/4 tsp. salt until incorporated. Gradually sprinkle in the confectioners’ sugar and beat until very smooth, about 3 minutes.

Fold one-quarter of the cream cheese mixture into the crème fraîche. Then fold the mixture back into the cream cheese frosting just until thoroughly blended.

Fill and frost the cupcakes Using a 1/4-inch plain pastry tip (Ateco #801), punch a hole into the top of each cupcake, pushing the tip in at least 1/2 inch

Fit the tip onto a pastry bag and fill the bag with 1-1/2 cups of frosting. Insert the tip into the hole in the top of one of the cupcakes and squeeze the bag lightly to fill with about 1 Tbs. filling. As you fill the cupcake, pull the bag upwards. Don’t worry if some of the frosting comes out of the hole. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.

Dollop 2 Tbs. of the remaining frosting on top of each cupcake. Using a small offset spatula or butter knife, spread the frosting over the tops. Lightly sprinkle with ground cinnamon (if using) and serve.

Photo: Scott Phillips

These are good, but what a process to make them! Multiple bowls, multiple sets of beaters, food processor, pastry bag (which I didn't even use), tons of cleanup...they're not THAT good. The 3-star rating is because of the prep involved; based just on flavor I would have given them four. I do like the icing, though, and will likely use it again. It needs a few drops of maple flavoring--maple syrup alone, even dark amber, is not sufficient for flavor. Since I didn't bother with the pastry bag, I liked these better as mini muffins, where the proportion of icing to cake is greater. Jan. 2013 update: I used the frosting with a different pumpkin spice recipe for the cupcakes, and with a scant teaspoon of natural maple flavor (Boyajian brand) this frosting is beyond outstanding. Silky texture, fabulous flavor. Beware: if there's any left after frosting the cupcakes, you WILL eat it out of the bowl with a spoon.

OH EM GEE!!! How good are these cupcakes?! I didn't have sour cream on hand, so I made some out of yogurt and baking soda; the same thing with the crème fraîche, I ended up mixing heavy cream and buttermilk. The cupcakes and frosting came out absolutely delicious, and my guests liked the extra sprinkle of cinnamon on the frosting. Didn't give it the 5 stars because YES it is time consuming and quite the mess maker, but oh so worth it!!

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