I don't typically consider myself a competitive person. I never played team sports growing up and I'm not a huge fan of board games. One thing that does get me in a competitive spirit is baking. Baking competitions send me into a frenzy of recipe planning and plotting to devise the most delectable prize worthy dessert.
Three weeks ago it was announced that we would have a fall baking competition at work. Since then, I did a lot of thinking about what makes the perfect fall dessert. I went back and forth thinking of different recipes that combine my favorite fall ingredients. Apples, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, squash... the list could go on forever. After a careful process of elimination I was able to hone in on one ingredient that I thought would be the key to my victory. Sweet Potatoes.
So let's talk about these cupcakes a little bit. I actually adapted a spice cake recipe and swapped out the pumpkin for sweet potato. I'm a big fan of the complex flavor sweet potato adds when baking. I filled the cupcakes with caramel which creates a special surprise when someone takes their first bite. I topped the cupcakes with a basic seven minute frosting made from egg whites and sugar. As a final touch, I used my new kitchen torch to apply heat to the frosting and create a toasted marshmallow finish. The result is a decadent dessert with a truly unique combination of flavors. Flavors good enough to win TWO prizes in the baking competition for visual appeal and creativity. So what are you waiting for? Give these mini cupcakes a try before winter is officially here!
Sweet Potato Caramel Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting
Makes approximately 24 mini cupcakes
1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 to 3 medium or 2 large)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon (more to taste) ground ginger
Two pinches (more to taste) ground cloves
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
High quality store bought caramel
3 large egg whites
¾ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Roast sweet potatoes: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Prick potatoes all over with a fork. Rest on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning once or twice, until soft. Let cool completely. Can be kept in fridge for up to 3 days, if baked in advance.
Make cupcakes: Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place rack in middle of the oven. Fill a miniature muffin pan with foil liners. Peel cooled sweet potatoes and run flesh through a potato ricer, or mash until very smooth. (Do not blend in a blender or food processor.) Measure 1 ½ packed cups (about 12 to 13 ounces) from sweet potato mash; you may have a little extra, which you should warm up with a pat of butter and sprinkle of sea salt and not share with anyone. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until just combined. Mix in sweet potato puree, then stir in dry ingredients just until they disappear. Spread batter in prepared muffin pan, and bake cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Let cupcakes rest in pan for 5 minutes on a cooling rack, then remove onto cooling rack, and let cool completely. You can speed this up, as I always do, in the fridge.
Fill cupcakes: Fit a pastry bag with a small to medium sized round tip. Fill pastry bag with high quality store bought caramel. Insert tip of pastry bag into center of cupcake and apply medium pressure to release approximately one teaspoon of caramel filling into cupcake.
Make frosting: Place egg whites, granulated sugar, a pinch of salt and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Whisk mixture for 3 minutes, until whites are warmed and sugar granules feels mostly dissolved. Remove bowl from top of saucepan, then, with an electric mixer, beat egg white mixture on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 to 7 minutes longer. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
Frost and decorate: If you’d like to make huge, marshmallow-like dollops, use a very large round piping tip or the corner snipped off a freezer bag. Pipe large dollops of frosting on each cupcake. Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the dollops so that they look (and smell!) like toasted marshmallows.
Heather's Helpful Hints
This recipe calls for cream of tartar when whipping your egg whites. My secret is that this ingredient isn't absolutely essential to the success of your frosting. Don't fret if you don't have any at home in your pantry. What cream of tartar does is help stabilize your egg whites and give them volume. It also helps with preventing crystallization of the sugar, making your frosting creamier. However, despite these benefits, the average person probably won't be able to tell if you leave this secret ingredient out.