When I think of Thanksgiving desserts, I think of pies. Apple, pumpkin, butternut squash, pecan, pear and cranberry versions…the list goes on and on. The thing is, despite all of the baking I do, pies just aren’t a favorite. Let me clarify – I love eating them, but making them? Not so much. And I have no reasonable explanation for it. They’re not any more time consuming or fussy than so many of the other treats I bake. It took me forever to successfully learn to make pie dough so maybe it stems back to that? Regardless, I’m more than willing to leave the pie making to others when it comes to the dessert table at Thanksgiving!
But cupcakes, those are another story entirely. There’s almost nothing I’d rather bake than cupcakes. So, why not take the flavors of a popular Thanksgiving pie and serve them in cupcake form? Plus, with cupcakes, you get frosting too so I say that makes them even better than pie
These sweet potato pie cupcakes have a few components, but don’t be put off by that. They really do come together pretty easily, you won’t even need a mixer until you get to the frosting. Every pie needs a crust, so at the base of the cupcakes is a graham cracker crust. Atop the crust is a light, fluffy sweet potato cupcake. It’s full of all the good things – brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and, of course, sweet potatoes! And finally on top you’ll find a sweet, billowy marshmallow frosting that’s toasted to golden brown perfection. I fretted over whether to toast the frosting or not. Truthfully, I’m not sure I’ve ever had sweet potato pie so I have no idea if a toasted marshmallow topping is traditional, but toasted marshmallows always beat plain for me so that’s what I went with.
On a related note, there are now about 8 desserts (these cupcakes included) that I want to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. I think we should spread Thanksgiving over three days so I don’t have to narrow it down!
Graham Cracker Crust
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 3 full-size crackers)
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups loosely packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
6 oz cooked, mashed sweet potato
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature (I used whole)
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.
Combine the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Use a fork to stir together until evenly moistened. Add a heaping 1/2 tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture to each well of the cupcake pan. Use a shot glass to press the crumbs into an even layer in the bottom of each well.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar and egg together until well combined and smooth. Add the vanilla extract and melted butter, whisking until incorporated. Stir in the sweet potato until evenly distributed (the batter probably won’t be completely smooth). Add half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk then the remaining flour mixture, whisking just until combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the wells of the cupcake pan, filling each about 3/4-full. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes, then remove them from the pans to the rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting: Add the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Attach the bowl to the mixer. Starting on low and increasing the speed to heat, beat the mixture for 5-7 minutes, or until you achieve stiff, glossy peaks. Beat in the vanilla.
Transfer the frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip. Pipe frosting into a swirl on each cupcake. Use a kitchen torch to lightly toast the frosting (be careful not to set the liners on fire!).
Makes 12 cupcakes