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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sweet Potato and Orange Cupcakes

Because you deserve them:

Owls, oatmeal cakes
Cinnamon, candy corn, caramel apples
Tootsie rolls, tooth aches, tombstones
Orange pumpkins
Brown bags, bats, black cats
Eye balls, early evenings
Raking leaves, rainy days, ramshackle houses

I don't think I even need to tell you how excited I am it is October. It is my very favorite month(Firefly... anyone?) The last two days have been deliciously dismal thanks to tropical storms pushing up the Atlantic. With all the drizzly, spooky weather I decided to dedicate the month of October exclusively to sweet treats and spooky party snacks! It is something I've been wanting to do for a long time. I shiver to think of pages full of spider "bites" and cream cheese "eye balls" and sugar cookies oozing with runny green and black icing. (insert raptures here)

Of course, I can't jump the gun and post something fit for the grave right off the bat. Suspense is important. Luckily, I had a little inspiration from a cooking challenge where the ingredients were sweet potato, orange and garlic. Don't worry, the garlic didn't make the cut in this recipe. These "Sweet Potato and Orange Cupcakes" are the perfect autumn treat, if I may say so myself. They are also one of the easiest cupcake recipes I know: everything is mixed up together in the same bowl without much fuss. The cup of sweet potato means they are a little unexpected, made even more so by the charming orange glaze used in place of a traditional icing. The key to a nice round pumpkin orange color? Buy a premixed orange dye. I know we don't support extravagance around these parts but buying a nice variety box of food dye (beyond the traditional red, yellow, blue, green) goes a long way when it comes to making brilliant colors. I happen to have a "Harvest" collection with orange, hunter green, burgundy and black that I absolutely love. To further the impressive quality of these cupcakes attempts were made to make crunchy pyramids of praline to top them but, I think a graphic piece of candy corn does a better job of heralding all the spooks and thrills the end of the month has in store.

Notes: I like to microwave my sweet potato wrapped in a little waxed paper. The potatoes end up moist and perfectly cooked. Plus, it saves you a lot of time. You can bake the cupcakes up to 5 days in advance stored at room temperature in an airtight container but wait to make the icing until you are ready to ice and serve the cakes. At the earliest I would suggest decorating your cupcakes the morning of the day you are serving them. After a day or two the cupcakes remain moist but the icing, and especially the candy corn, starts to crystallize and break down. This recipes make 12 cupcakes.

Grocery List:
sweet potatoes
1 orange
candy corn

Adapted from a Virginia Hospitality recipe for "Pumpkin Bread"
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil + 1 teaspoon oil
2 eggs
zest of one orange
2 tablespoon orange juice
1 cup cooked sweet potato

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Insert liners into your muffin tin(s).
2. Sift the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt.
3. Add the dry ingredients to a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients: vegetable oil, orange zest and juice, eggs, sweet potato and mix well.
4. Fill the muffin tins 3/4 full-I like to use an ice cream scoop.
5. Bake the cupcakes for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.

Orange glaze
3/4 cup powdered sugar
scant 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
juice of 1/2 an orange

1. Whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl. Add additional juice or powdered sugar until the desired consistency is reached. You want the dressing to be runny but not too soupy that it drips right off the cupcakes. You will need to smooth it around the top of the cupcake with the back of a spoon.
2. Add the dye and whisk until combined.

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