Tag cupcakes

Let Your Inner Mad Scientist Out: Halloween Pumpkin Spice Cupcake Recipe

It is officially Crunch Time. If you are like the majority of individuals with busy bee lives, you let the month of October slip by without taking the time to make your Halloween game plan. Not to fear, Parties That Cook is here! (Can you tell who the adult in the homemade superhero costume is going to be?) These delicious Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting are so easy to make, you might just be able to find your Halloween costume while you bake!  Easily preserved in the freezer, you can whip up the batter and frosting when you have time, and bring them back to life for each of the Halloween parties you’ll attend -you party animal. Friends, coworkers, your child’s 4th grade class are all guaranteed to love these moist and flavorful treats!

Want to have even more fun in the kitchen? Let your inner mad scientist out –just for a little while –and enter your most decorated batch of Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting in our Halloween Cupcake Photo Contest! Spiders, ghosts, pumpkins, zombies, skeletons, and other creepy-crawlies are all invited to take part, though design is entirely up to you. Cupcakes will be judged on presentation, creativity, and overall visual appeal. The winner will receive a $50 Gift Card to Sur La Table, one of our favorite cooking stores!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting
This crowd-pleasing recipe can also be found in our Dessert Recipes section!


2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
1 15oz can of pumpkin
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
1 stick butter
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
1 one-pound box powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon kosher salt

oven to 350ºF.

Cake: Cream together granulated sugar, oil, pumpkin and eggs until well mixed, about 2 minutes.  In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and salt.  Add to the wet ingredient and mix until combined and smooth, about 30 seconds (but don’t over mix).

Bake: Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.  Pour batter into the cupcake liners and bake at 350 for 12 minutes if making mini cupcakes or 15-20 minutes if making larger cupcakes (or you can make it into a cake by pouring the batter into a greased 10×13 pan and baking for 35-45 minutes).  Cool completely on a cooling rack.

Buttercream: Beat butter and cream cheese on high speed for 2 minutes. Add sugar, vanilla and salt.  Mix until smooth. Frost each cupcake generously with frosting. 

Decorate and serve. Makes 24 regular size cupcakes or 48 mini-cupcakes

For more super simple Holiday desserts and appetizers, check out our Holiday Recipes section. Speaking of the holidays, check out our just-posted Thanksgiving and Holiday Appetizer cooking classes, available in San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle this fall and winter.

Quest For the Best Cupcake

Last summer, I was seeking out the best frozen yogurt places. Now, I’m after the best cupcake. One thing is clear from this adventure: cupcakeries are the newest fad. I have always thought of cupcakes in terms of little kids’ birthdays, day old sprinkles, and plasticky frosting. Now they are being used as an alternative to hostess gifts, wedding cakes, and even inserted into people’s regular meal regimen. Move aside iPhone and Angelina Jolie; 3-dollar mini cakes have taken over popular culture.

Some of the most popular cupcakeries in the Bay Area:

Sprinkles (San Francisco, CA) – This cornerstone of the cupcake phenomenon has its roots in Beverly Hills, CA. The creator of Sprinkles, Kimberly Nelson, has made a huge splash as she expands her stores nationwide. There was so much hype about Sprinkles coming to the Bay Area that all of the other cupcakeries followed suit. Sprinkles makes their cupcakes fresh throughout the day and also sells mix for their most popular cupcakes in their retail stores!

  • Chocolate Marshmallow – Belgian dark chocolate cake and marshmallow cream with bittersweet chocolate ganache.
  • Ginger Lemon – Spiced ginger cake with lemon cream cheese frosting.
  • Red Velvet – Southern style light chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting (it lives up to its reputation and then some!)

Pros: They are one of the originators!, delicious flavor combinations, multiple locations create convenience, seasonal flavors are created throughout the year, good-sized cupcakes
Cons: high prices for cupcakes and merchandise, lots of hype and high expectations has created some disappointment for customers, the only mini cupcakes they have are for dogs!

Love At First Bite Cupcakery and Bakery (Berkeley, CA) – With a cute name like this and a menu like theirs, it is difficult to dislike this bakery. Here are some of the cupcakes that I found the most enticing:

  • Chocolate Razzle – Guittard chocolate cupcakes frosted with raspberry buttercream, made with fresh raspberries
  • Lemon Kiss – light & fluffy lemon cupcakes kissed with lemon buttercream frosting
  • Pumpkin Bliss – pumpkin spice cupcakes wedded in bliss with cream cheese frosting

Pros: Their use of fresh ingredients (doesn’t the thought of fresh raspberries going into your dessert make you feel healthier and that much hungrier?), the price ($2.75!), the option to create your own, offering of cookies and cakes as well
Cons: all the way in Berkeley!, the decorations are not as decadent as some of their competitors.

Kara’s Cupcakes (San Francisco, CA) – Kara’s was started by a woman right here in San Francisco. She had a childhood sweet tooth that grew into a passion and then a career after she enrolled in pastry school. She started with a small word of mouth cupcake catering business that eventually got so popular she was unable to fill all of the orders. She opened her first store in San Francisco’s Marina District and now even has a retail store in Ghirardelli Square. Kara can still be found working in the store kitchens!

  • Fleur De Sel – chocolate cupcake with caramel filling, ganache frosting and fleur de sel
  • Banana – banana cupcake with silky soft cream cheese frosting
  • Java – chocolate cupcake with a rich espresso buttercream

Pros: mini cupcakes, regular sized cupcakes, and filled cupcakes, Bay Area roots, multiple locations, locally bought products, donation of cupcakes to local charity organizations
Cons: many people complain about poor customer service

Sibby’s Cupcakery (San Mateo, CA) – I feel that Sibby’s is for the cupcake insiders of the Bay Area. It doesn’t have a storefront but is available for delivery anywhere! They can specialize cupcake decorations according to the theme of an event or a favorite color combination. Decorations are flawless and incredibly impressive. All of the cupcakes, except for the Super-Chewy Chocolate, are made in mini and regular sizes as well.

  • Grandma’s Chocolate Tea Cake – Rich chocolate cupcake with cream cheese/chocolate chip center, topped with Sibby’s rich and fudgy chocolate frosting. The most popular cupcake!
  • Snickerdoodle – vanilla cupcake and cinnamon cream cheese frosting topped with sugar and spice and everything nice
  • Super-Chewy Chocolate (mini size only) – Extra rich “brownie-like” chocolate cupcake with glossy dark chocolate frosting

Pros: amazing, customized decorations that will impress anyone, quick delivery, made fresh for every order, seasonal cupcake flavors
Cons: no storefront, order ahead and pickup/delivery only, $39 per dozen plus a delivery fee

That Takes the Cake (San Francisco, CA): This cupcake company began because the founders loved the trip down memory lane that came along with cupcakes. Everyone can relate to a nostalgic childhood memory with a sweet treat in his or her hand. That Takes The Cake has enticing, witty names for their cupcakes and bake with fresh ingredients that you can taste! They sell gifts and are big on the icing.

  • Tuxedo – Double chocolate buttermilk cake with chocolate chips topped with vanilla butter cream with chocolate jimmies.
  • Samoa – Rich chocolate devils food cake with chocolate chips filled with caramel topped with cream cheese frosting, toasted coconut and a drizzle of caramel.
  • Key lime-o-licious – Green lime cake topped with cream cheese frosting with graham cracker and green sanding sugar.

Pros: Daily rotation of flavors, clever new flavors, filled, mini, and regular cupcakes, catering option, known for lots of icing on each cupcake, cute gifts sold in store
Cons: depending on the batch, some Yelp reviewers claim to have had dry cupcakes, no seating except for one table outside, inconsistent texture.

Overall, this experience taught me a few things:

  1. Don’t take your cupcakes too seriously. Try not to ruin your favorite childhood treat by judging and analyzing each cupcakery like it’s that weird girl in your high school Biology class. It’s hard to go wrong!
  2. Experiment! Some of the flavors may sound out of the box but try it out. This cupcake fad has allowed for some really cool new flavors that might just inspire your own kitchen creations. Try our very own Mini-Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Dulce de Leche Buttercream!
  3. Less is more. Lots of these sugary delights can end up weighing you down (literally and figuratively) for a few days following consumption.

I love that the food industry is always improving and innovating. I have yet to be bored with whatever is on the forefront of popular cuisine.  So put on your stretchy pants and throw your inhibitions to the wind! You only live once, and these cupcakes are making it fun and delicious.

By Guest Blogger: Leigh Hermansen