the ‘almost’ cupcakes and being thankful for your own space

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I call them the ‘almost’ cupcakes because I almost stopped halfway to toss them aside. Not because they didn’t come out right or because the recipe was a challenge, but simply because I felt like the world was against me today!!! You see, I’m currently stationed at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and although we’re lucky enough to have a community kitchen per housing area (imagine sharing a kitchen with more than 300 people) sometimes it’s honestly just a hassle. My room is clear at the beginning of the housing unit and the kitchen is near the end. It’s a pain trying to carry grocery bags full of food, ingredients and cooking utensils.

(this is what I’m working with:)

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Yes, I am very blessed and thankful to be able to have access to a kitchen while deployed, don’t get me wrong! But trust me, I just can’t wait to be able to cook, bake and clean in my own kitchen again. You really take for granted having your own space, the ability to store and organize your kitchen how you want to, not to mention the ease of just being able to walk in and start a meal! Could you imagine me walking my Kitchen Aid stand mixer from my room to the kitchen and back!? (Yes, I do have the option to leave my items in the kitchen, but if left unsecured, the items might not be there next time. I’ve been meaning to buy a large, plastic box that I can lock for next time.)

So back to the cupcakes. It was a big process to make these, something that normally -in my own kitchen- wouldn’t take that long. I had to pack my bakeware, mixing bowls, utensils and the ingredients, put them in my vehicle (it’s hardly a vehicle, it’s called a John Deer Gator, like a four wheeler.) I ran to the store then on my way to the kitchen realized I forgot some ingredients, so I ran back to room. Once that was good, I could head to the kitchen. There really isn’t a parking space nearby, so I had to park near it, take three trips to walk my baggage to the kitchen and walk back to the Gator to park it. Now I could start baking!

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Normally, there’s an electric hand mixer already in the kitchen, but of course it wasn’t there this time (go figure!) So I mixed these cupcakes and the icing the fashion way… by hand! (And let me tell you, I’m feeling it. This makes me appreciate appliances and makes me miss my Kitchen Aid!)

After a few more mishaps (I didn’t print out the recipe, I just had it on my laptop– and suddenly I lost the page, so i had to run back to my room to refresh it with internet since we don’t have free wifi/4G phone services like in the states) I had finished them with great success, proving that a rough road with a few obstacles is totally worth it.

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Seriously, these are SO yum. I came across this recipe from Natasha at The Cake Merchant. Originally, I was going to make the same Martha Stewart pumpkin cupcake recipe she described in her post, but luckily she already tried it- along with a few others- and reviewed it. I made the final recipe she lists as the best, and it’s one I will definitely be keeping around. I’m pretty sure I’ll be making these again next week at our Thanksgiving lunch. In the recipe, I only adapted a couple things (I didn’t add any ginger, used ground nutmeg and added more pumpkin puree.)

These were really easy to make, at least for me they are. If you’re not an avid baker and you’re just starting out, just follow the recipe closely, read ahead of time and pre-prepare your ingredients to make the process easier. The cake itself I got a lot of compliments on… the taste of pumpkin is there but not too overwhelming, and there are just enough spices in it. When you take a bite into the cupcake itself, it just falls apart perfectly in your mouth. The texture is light and just the perfect amount of moist. And I could just eat the icing by the spoonful. My only complaint is that I can’t stop eating them!

Anyways, here’s the recipe!

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Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: 12-16 cupcakes, depending on how you ration your batter
The cupcake ingredients:
1 and a 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I added a little more actually)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick)
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
The frosting ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, cold
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
a pinch of salt
1/2 -1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (to taste)
2 and a 1/2 – 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
Instructions:
For the cupcakes:
     1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Line cupcake pans with liners or spray with baking spray.
     2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
     3. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar and light and creamy. Add the eggs in one at a time, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine.
     4. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and pumpkin puree in three additions, alternating between the two. Begin and end with the dry ingredients, until the batter has just come together. (So… first add the dry mix, stir; add the puree, stir; do this until you end with mixing in the dry mix.)
     5. Divide the batter evenly between the liners (I usually use my 1/2 cup measuring cup just as a scooper and drop a nice sized dollop in.) Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
For the Frosting:
     1. Beat the cream cheese, butter, salt, and cinnamon on medium until creamy, about 2-3 minutes.
     2. Turn the mixer down to low and add the confectioner’s sugar. Beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Add the vanilla and continue beating until combined. Pipe or spread the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. I used Wilton decorating tip 1A to pipe my cupcakes and added a halved pecan for garnish.
Recipe adapted from: Natasha at the Cake Merchant.
Photos were taken by me.
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