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Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Rum Frosting

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Rum Frosting
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cups canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)

3 egg whites
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon spiced rum
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
¼ teaspoon maple extract
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1.       Preheat oven to 350F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside.
2.       In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt, and pepper; set aside.
3.       In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla, mixing until combined. Add flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, in three additions, beating until combined. Add pumpkin puree and beat until smooth.
4.       Divide batter between prepared liners, filling each with about 2 heaping tablespoons, or 2/3 full. Bake, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks before frosting.
5.       While cupcakes are cooling, make frosting: In a bowl set over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water, whisk together egg whites and granulated sugar until well combined. Whisking constantly, heat until sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. (To test whether the sugar is melted, rub a bit of the mixture between your fingers. It should feel smooth, not grainy, and be warm to the touch, but not hot.)
6.       Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high until the bottom of the bowl is cool to the touch and the whites have formed stiff peaks.
7.       Add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, beating until each is well combined before adding the next (about 15 seconds in between). If the mixture looks soupy after adding the butter, put it in the refrigerator to chill for about 5 to 10 minutes before continuing to beat.
8.       Once the butter has been added, switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. (The mixture will probably break and look curdled at one point—don’t worry it’s totally normal. Just keep beating away. It’ll come back together.) Once the buttercream is fluffy, add rum, maple syrup, maple extract, and cinnamon and beat until well combined and fluffy. Pipe immediately onto cooled cupcakes.

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