I love pumpkin too much to save it all for the fall season… The pureed pumpkin in my freezer was just calling my name this week, and this treat fit in just as perfectly at a rainy spring potluck as they would at a brisk fall campfire. These cupcakes have everything; a fluffy pumpkin spiced cake, rich chai cream cheese frosting and little crunchy candied pepitas on top.
After making these I got the question, “what are pepitas, anyway?” from at least a half dozen people. I was ashamed to say I didn’t know, so I went and did my research. Turns out, pepitas are simply hulled pumpkin seeds, and most of the time they are sold raw, which explains the green color. Some people use the word pepita to mean any kind of squash seed, hulled or not hulled. But in recent years, with the expansion of bulk food isles and a need for clarity, grocery stores have typically labeled hulled, green seeds as pepitas and unhulled, roasted seeds as pumpkin seeds.
The pepitas in this recipe are candied, the same way you would candy any nut. If you have never candied nuts before this extremely enthusiastic woman will show you how. The one thing she doesn’t show in the video is the cooling, and this is especially important with the tiny little pepitas: when the sugar is completely caramelized and the nuts/seeds are coated transfer them immediately to a covered sheet pan and start breaking the glob apart with your spatula. When everything is spread out and separated you can allow them to cool completely.
Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes with Candied Pepitas
Makes 16 regular sized cupcakes
- 2 cups AP flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1 tsp vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste to get all the little specks)
- 3 Tbsp chai concentrate (I used Tazo)
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup pepitas
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
For the cakes, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and combine all the dry ingredients. Then beat together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy, add the vanilla, then one egg at a time. Begin to alternate adding the dry ingredients and the pumpkin puree, end with the dry mixture and mix until smooth and completely combined.
For the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add the vanilla and chai concentrate, then work in the powdered sugar a quarter cup at a time until it is a spreading/piping consistency.