This week I started the Whole30. No dairy, no pulses and definitely NO SUGAR. So as you can imagine, talking about deliciously sweet maple syrup, fluffy sponge and cream cheese frosting is pretty torturous. My mouth waters every time I look at the pictures. But these pecan pie cupcakes are just too good not to share. And just because I can’t eat sugar doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them, right?
I made these last week as a thank you for my family. They looked after Leni whilst Puppy Daddy and I took a whirlwind trip to Paris, so I thought I’d repay them with these sticky-sweet pecan pie cupcakes. Rich, flavourful and moreish, these delicious pecan pie cupcakes are a really nice alternative to standard vanilla cakes. They’re topped with candied pecans which makes them look and taste extra special. They’re also swirled with maple, cream cheese frosting for a nice tangy contrast to the buttery sponge. A classic combination, if you love the traditional pecan pie; you’ll love these pecan pie cupcakes.
This is the first time I tried this recipe, the first time i’ve candied anything and the first time I actually regretted giving away cake. Okay, so I did reserve one pecan pie cupcake for tasting (chef’s privileges is a thing) and Puppy Daddy got one too (I don’t think I’d be here to write this blog post if I hadn’t left him one), but given this recipe is brand new even I had to say it was pretty successful. I’m confident even a novice or beginner baker could pull this out of the bag. Firstly, it only requires one bowl – no melting ingredients in different pans before combining – and no obscure ingredients you’re unlikely to already have in your cupboard. It’s a pretty easy recipe. Secondly, candying pecans is way easier than you might think, but it looks like you really know your sh** when it comes to cupcake decoration.
I’ve used this basic sponge recipe for years – it’s my mums – and it never fails me. Here, I’ve adapted it into a pecan pie cake batter that’s a little denser, a little richer and light amber in colour. The basics are the same, but the addition of maple syrup and chunks of pecan nuts running through the batter really turn this into something special. I’ve also swapped out the usual caster sugar for the same amount of brown, rich muscovado sugar. This particular recipe makes 12 cupcakes.
So onto my pecan pie cupcake recipe…
For the cake:
50g Muscovado or light brown sugar
160ml maple syrup
125g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
60g pecan nuts
For the cream cheese & maple frosting:
150g icing sugar
3 tbs maple syrup
For the candied pecans:
60g caster sugar
2 tbs water
12 pecan nuts
Preheat the oven to 180ᵒC and prepare a muffin tin with cupcake cases.
In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar. I’ve recently acquired one of my mums old electric hand whisks which really speeds up this whole process.
Next, add the maple syrup to the sugary butter and combine well. Then beat in the eggs one at a time. It’s important to beat the eggs in to try and get as much air into the mixture as possible. At this point my mixture looked like it was on the brink of curdling, so I added a heaped spoonful of flour which bought it back to a more creamy consistency.
Sift your flour into the mixture and fold in until all the ingredients are just combined. Fold the flour in using light, gentle movements. Since we’ve beaten all that air into the mixture, we now want to try and maintain all those air bubbles. This will produce the lightest, fluffiest cakes! Now crush up your pecan pieces and fold them into the cake batter too.
Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases until they’re ¾ full. Pop them in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes until the tops are a light golden brown. Remember, the muscovado and maple syrup will make these slightly more rich in colour than standard vanilla cupcakes. Once cooked, remove and allow to cool.
Whilst the cupcakes are cooling you can begin to candy your pecans and mix up your maple cream cheese frosting.
First, start on your candied pecans. Prepare a sheet of baking paper and scatter your pecans along the sheet, leaving an inch or two between each one. Put 60g caster sugar and 2 tbs water into a heavy based saucepan and heat gently. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and you’re left with a white, sticky liquid.
You can turn the heat up here until the liquid begins to bubble and turn a light golden colour. Continue to stir your mix to stop it forming sugar crystals. As soon as your sugar has turned a rich golden colour (this happens quite quickly as soon as the mixture bubbles so keep an eye on it!) turn the heat off and pour a little over each pecan. I found it easier to use a spoon; scooping up a little caramel and pouring it over each pecan.
Whilst your caramelized pecans cool, you can whizz up your cream cheese and maple frosting. Firstly, beat together your butter, icing sugar and maple syrup until well combined. It’s quite a workout for the arms so I like to check them in the mirror after just to see if they’ve suddenly firmed up…
Mix well before adding your soft cream cheese. Full fat please.
You’re looking for a semi-firm consistency so it will hold its shape atop the cupcakes. If it’s a little loose, add icing sugar a spoonful at a time until you reach the desired texture. Now pop it in the fridge until your cakes and pecans are completely cool.
Now for the assembly! I literally do not have the energy to be piping cupcakes, seriously; I work full time, have a puppy and want to watch Netflix too much to fill a piping bag, pipe, then clean said bag. This cheat’s version is way easier and still looks so pretty (I hope you’ll agree). Firstly, use a desert spoon to dollop a generous helping of frosting onto your cupcake, then using a knife and a light touch, gently swirl it round the top of the frosting. This makes them look like roses made from icing. Now anoint your cupcake with the caramelized pecan. Done! I challenge you to decorate all 12 cupcakes before delving in to enjoy the frosting…
I hope you enjoy these pecan pie cupcakes. But if you’re more of a traditional kinda gal/guy check out my chocolate pecan pie recipe!
Until next time,