Peacetime Cupcakes {A Cookbook Review + Recipe}

I can't remember the last time I made a batch of cupcakes.

It isn't that I don't like them because, when there was a cupcake shop near my office, I ate my happy fill of them. I simple dont think of making them.

Those of you who notice details, will note the spices are half of what the recipe
called for - that is because I made half a batch when I shot the photos.
But, upon receiving a review copy of Buttercream Dreams: Small Cakes, Big Scoops, and Sweet Treats by Jeff Martin (Andrews McMeel Publishing $14.99), one of the contenders in the television reality show, Cupcake Wars, I was drawn to several unusual and fun recipes.

I had my choice of making cupcakes (small cakes), ice cream (big scoops), or a sweet treat. Those are the three sections of the book. It has some really unique ideas for cupcakes (for example, French Toast and Bacon, Cinnamon Maple, and Bubble Gum), as well as some cool ideas for desserts that aren't cupcakes - a variety of ice cream flavors, as well as creative desserts like Cornflake-Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Cookies, Spiced Apple-Pear Pies in a Jar, and Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes in a Jar.

I was planning on making his jelly jar apple and pear pies (these would be perfect for a picnic!), until I was reading the book before bed one night and came across the recipe for Jeff's Infamous Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cardamom Buttercream. They were infamous because, in the "pumpkin challenge" segment of Cupcake Wars, he forgot to add the pumpkin to his recipe. Oops!

I loved the story, as it resonated with those occasional goofs we all make: my teaching a cooking class and forgetting to add the sugar to the tiramisu, or the time I forgot to grease the timpanum bowl. We all have tales we hope will be funny someday. Aside from that connection, I love pumpkin desserts, and the cardamom buttercream really appealed to me. So, I made cupcakes.

I brought them to a dinner party and they were a hit - great flavor and texture, and perfectly spiced. (A couple of us said we might increase the spices - but that's just us!) While we liked the cardamom buttercream, we all (at our advancing age) said we would use less icing. In fact, I had a lot of leftover frosting even though I piped two layers on top of each cake!

On the subject of the buttercream, my apologies to you and Jeff. My pastry bag doesn't have a large, plain tip so I faked it. They came out okay, but not perfectly. (All his look beautiufl!)

My review: I liked this book a lot - it is attractive, has creative ideas, and the recipe I tested worked perfectly. It is reasonably and competitively priced, and I will be giving it as a gift to some friends who are cupcake fiends.

I am not sure (as I don't watch television) if the Cupcake Wars continue. But mine were made at a Time of Peace (in my kitchen), and peace is good. Thinking, this Memorial Day Weekend, about our veterans, all who have been taken by war, and their families...

~ David

Infamous Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cardamom Buttercream Frosting

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin purée
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Cardamom Buttercream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 cup whole milk
5 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the pumpkins and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Add the flour mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.

Fill each cupcake liner three-quarters full with batter. Bake for 20-23 minutes, until a toothpick insertedtead into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the cardamom buttercream, in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together the butter, vanilla, cardamom, and milk. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar and beat until thoroughly combined and smooth.

Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe a swirl of frosting on top of each cupcake. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Makes 12 cupcakes.


  1. I think I will have to add these to my list of Fall baking. My family LOVES cupcakes.....

    1. Jill, if it is always 5:00 somewhere (i.e. cocktail time), it is also always autumn somewhere (i.e. pumpkin time)!

  2. Lovely post, and agreed that this weekend needs to be more focused on our service men and women than on bbq. I also think pumpkin (at least canned) should be making it onto menu items at other times of year other than the autumn ;)

    1. I am glad we agree, Christina - and good canned pumpkin is one of the very few canned goods I will use. Tomatoes are the other.

  3. Love pumpkin, and cardamom! And I agree, pumpkin anytime of the year! Beautiful plate too. Have a wonderful and peaceful weekend, David!

    1. Thanks, Cathleen - the plat is part of my mother's wedding set. I only have a few left, but I love them, crazing and all!

  4. Oooooh, I do like the sound of the cardamom butter cream, David!

    1. The cardamom was wonderful in the frosting, Liz! It is one of my/our favorite flavors!

  5. I know that episode!! I watch it every now and then when nothing else is on! I'm not a big fan of cupcakes from stores, I do make them and prefer homemade always.
    But David....isn't it a bit early for pumpkin?! Let me enjoy spring for a bit longer :)
    Well, they look great and I'm glad the book is a good read as well. xx

    1. Nazneen, I know you aren't a huge pumpkin fan, but for those of us who are, year-round is good! :) I have never seen the show... maybe I should check it out on Hulu! Happy graduation weekend - looks like you have been having many wonderful celebrations!

  6. Bubblegum cupcakes? I'm intrigued. I remember coming across Cupcake Wars on cable a few times, but never bothered to pay much attention.

    I'm not the biggest fan of too much buttercream, so may I have a few of these with a light scraping of it? Please?

    1. I know, John - who knew you could buy bubblegum flavoring?? Yes, you may have only a light scraping on your several cupcakes... we all agreed that would be best for us, too!

  7. Dear David, no such thing as readily available canned pumpkin purée around these parts but when they are in season, I love baking with homemade purée (my favorite is butternut). And I do love those spices too. Looks like a delightful book and a nice recipe.
    Happy Memorial Day, dear friend - hope your long weekend is nice and relaxing!
    Liebe Grüße,

    1. Thanks, dear friend! It has been a relaxing weekend, which I needed! I am always amazed to find out certain things are not available in Germany - I would have just assumed pumpkin would be! But waiting till the fall makes it all the more special, right?

  8. David, you & I must be on the same brainwave. You won't believe it - I'm braindead, but saw a recipe for pumpkin cake and actually baked it.
    These li'l sweethearts look as beautiful as they must taste. I can't wait to make them...tomorrow. G'night. xo

  9. I like the use of sophisticated pumpkin in these little cakes. Though I'd consider skipping the frosting – then again I always face ridicule when I suggest such blasphemy! Who doesn't love butter cream, right? GREG

    1. Greg - the cupcakes themselves were the stars - they definitely don't need the frosting, and we all thought powdered sugar would be more than suffienct. The good news? I am finding lots of people who don't like buttercream!

  10. These cupcakes look absolutely delicious and beautiful!

  11. hmm, i can smells the spices, remind me with my mom's kithcen in the morning....
    Dedy@Dentist Chef

    1. It's great to remember mom's kitchen isn't it? Thanks, Dedy!

  12. I love pumpkin all year long. Lovely post, David. :-)

  13. Wow…These are gorgeous cupcakes, David! I think your frosting looks perfect! Pumpkin is always a winner with me. Btw…great cupcake papers!

    1. Kathy - I think it is funny that, as someone who doesn't make a lot of cupcakes, I have some gorgeous cupcake papers! Thanks for your kind comment! I still want a decent pastry bag, though - the tops would have been better!


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