Thanksgiving in Cupcake Form

I wouldn’t be much of a food blogger if I didn’t write about any Thanksgiving foods during this, the holiday that celebrates food! (and family and thankfulness and all that good stuff). While it’s not yet my turn to host the Thanksgiving meal (so I don’t have any preparation tips or stories or menus for you), and I haven’t quite accumulated enough recipes on here to give you many useful ideas for your own Thanksgiving feast (unlike Smitten Kitchen here), I thought I would share an interesting twist on a traditional side dish…er…dessert.

I found a recipe that I had flagged a while back for Sweet Potato Cake in The All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook that, designed as a layer cake, contained layers of a coconut cream filling and was frosted with a simple caramel frosting. Um, yum?! And so, I offered to make this for the dinner that Alex and I will be attending.

Except when I went to start gathering my ingredients, I discovered that I do not own three 9-inch round cake pans. So I was trying to figure out whether I should just skip the frosting (you can, by the way, if you want something that could be served as a sort of sweet bread with your meal), or whether there was some other way I could incorporate all these interesting flavors.

And then I discovered a borrowed piece of bakeware gadgetry that I originally swore I would never own: a cupcake corer. That’s right, it’s like a mini plunger that sucks out a piece of your cupcake so that you can fill it with something gooey and delicious, ho-ho or twinkie-style. (Robin, if you’re reading this, let me know how I can get it back to you!) Here was the answer to my woefully incomplete baking pan collection!

What we have here, folks, are sweet potato cupcakes with coconut cream filling and caramel frosting. (I topped them with some sugar and spice pecans that I made earlier this week. Helps to make it really seem like a Thanksgiving cupcake, doesn’t it?) Unusual and delightful. I like dishes that twist the Thanksgiving classics in interesting ways. This just may be one of them.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes (adapted in form only from The All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

For the cupcakes:
– 1 medium-large sweet potato, roasted and cooled (need about 1.5 cups of mash)
– 6 eggs, separated
–  1 cup butter, softened
– 3 cups sugar
– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 tablespoon baking powder
–  1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– (1) 8-oz. container sour cream
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Set aside.

2. Cream the butter and sugars together until smooth. Add the egg yolks, one at a time.

3. Combine the sweet potato mash and sour cream, then add to the butter/sugar mixture, beating until well blended.

4. Combine the dry ingredients, then add to the butter/sugar mixture in two additions. It’ll be pretty thick. Add the vanilla.

5. Carefully fold in the egg whites, a third at a time. You should notice the batter starting to lighten, slightly.

6. Scoop into prepared cupcake pan and bake at 350F about 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pan at least 10 minutes before removing to cooling rack. Once cooled, plunge out the centers using a cupcake corer (or carefully cut out a small circle in the center of each cupcake top).

For the coconut cream filling:
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 2 tablespoons cornstarch
– pinch of salt
– 1 cup milk
– 1 egg, lightly beaten
– 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

7. While the cupcakes are baking, go ahead and make the coconut filling. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in saucepan over medium heat. Add the  milk, stirring constantly, until it has thickened – it’ll look like it’s on its way to pudding.

8. Carefully whisk in about 1/4 of the milk mixture into the beaten egg to bring it up to temperature. Then add back to the remainder of the milk mixture  and continue cooking over medium-low heat about 3-5 minutes more.

9. Remove from heat and stir in coconut and vanilla. Chill in fridge at least an hour (or overnight) with plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

10. When ready, fill the cupcake holes with the coconut cream, then store in fridge until ready to frost.

Note that I attempted to use my new piping tips, but it wasn’t really necessary. The texture of the cream is runny enough that you could just spoon it into the cupcakes.

For the caramel frosting:
– 6 tablespoons butter
– 3/4 cup brown sugar
– 3 tablespoons milk
– 1.5 cups powdered sugar, sifted to remove lumps
– 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

11. Combine butter and sugar in saucepan over medium heat. Once melted stir in milk quickly and bring to a boil.

12. Reduce heat slightly and add powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir over heat until smooth, about 3-5 minutes.

13. When frosting the cupcakes, note that the caramel will stiffen fairly quickly once removed from the heat. I wanted mine a little thick because I didn’t want it to run all down the sides of the cupcake wrappers, but I didn’t want it to be quite as thick as caramel candy. So use your judgment based on whatever you may be fixing and how you like your caramel. Be sure to at least frost enough to cover up the coconut filling hole.

Optional: Top with a sugared pecan (more on those here). The original recipe calls for a handful of chopped, toasted pecans in the batter, but I was afraid this would make my delicate cupcakes awkward and more muffin-like, so I skipped them.

I must admit that as of this writing, I haven’t tried the whole thing. I’ve eaten the cake itself (yum, and thanks to the egg whites, nice and light), and I’ve tasted the coconut filling (nice and sweet), but I haven’t yet taken a bite of the entire cupcake chef-d’oeuvre. I will update you after we eat them on Thursday (though I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t work).

What desserts will you enjoy this Thanksgiving? Do you prefer the traditional pies a la mode or something more contemporary like pumpkin cheesecake? Do these sweet potato cupcakes look like something you might like like to try? Do tell. And have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving!

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One thought on “Thanksgiving in Cupcake Form

  1. Brian Elliott says:

    Wow! They look really good! Were they a hit?

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