Challenged! Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Filling and Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Spice Cookies 024 Edited Challenged! Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Filling and Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

Round Four of the Willow Bird Baking Challenges found me feeling particularly uninspired. My creativity had hit a wall. Add to that the theme to bake seasonally, and my brain stopped at pumpkin. But there has got to be more to autumn than pumpkin.  Right? Turns out there is! Check out all of the other creative challenges here.

I eventually set out to make a brown sugar cupcake that I baked about this time last year. My intention was to fill the cupcake with a white chocolate mixture and top it all off with a simple vanilla frosting.  As I flipped through my folder that holds copies of my Great Grandmother’s recipes (it was her brown sugar cake I referred to earlier), I first had to go past no fewer than four spice cake recipes.

What a minute, was that  four spice cake recipes?  For a round four challenge? Change of plans. That and I realized I had no white chocolate chips when I set out to bake. The innovation had begun.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies 018 Edited Challenged! Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Filling and Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

More often than not, innovation and creativity in my kitchen is based on simply upon what I do and do not have available. Necessity truly is the mother of invention when I cook. I tend to exhaust my supplies before I go to the grocery. I do this because grocery shopping is one of my least favorite chores. I do not mind laundry or sweeping, but grocery shopping is right up there with car waxing on my “chores I dislike” list. Yet, I do it because it must be done.

Notably, I can get away with this because I do not have little mouths to feed. If I am left with a jar of peanut butter and rice, so be it.

Speaking of peanut butter and rice, sometimes innovation can go too far. I like playing Chopped! in the kitchen, but since I usually have only rice, eggs, cereal, soy milk, popcorn, coffee creamer, apples, and beer on hand, things tend not to get too out of hand. However, stir fry made with tuna and peanut butter can result when Chopped! is played among those who are not yet ready. Trust me, that dish is not good.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies 034 Edited Challenged! Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Filling and Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting


So about those cupcakes. Baking one of my great grandmother’s recipes really does call for some level of innovation as her recipes could easily double as lists. They are just ingredients. I have no idea  how long to bake the cake or at what temperature or if I should pack the brown sugar. But you know, it really doesn’t matter.

I settled on the “Spice Cake – Lottie’s” recipe. One day I hope to get around to baking the one anonymous spice cake recipe and those attributed to Margaret and Leona. The cupcakes are filled with a sweet pumpkin dip and frosted with ginger cream cheese frosting. Ginger was the one baking spice missing from the cake, so it seemed appropriate to use it to complete this creation. Four down, one to go. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Cookies 009 Edited Challenged! Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Filling and Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Filling and Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves: 12
  • For the Cupcakes
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • For the Filling
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • For the Frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  1. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and spices together and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs.
  4. Slowly and alternately add the milk and flour mixture in two additions and mix until combined.
  5. Fill each well of a paper-lined muffin tin about ⅔ full.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cakes comes out clean.
  7. To make the filling, mix together the pumpkin, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and pumpkin pie spice until well combined.
  8. When cupcakes are cool, simply cut a “cone” from the center, place the filling inside, and top with just the top of the removed cone (cut the excess away).
  9. To make the frosting, place the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and ground ginger in mixing bowl and beat until combined.
  10. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time, beating until the frosting is light and fluffy.
I halved the pumpkin dip recipe for filing purposes, but it can be easily doubled to enjoy apart from the cupcakes as well.


Spice is Nice: Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows

424 Edited Spice is Nice: Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows

I felt really good about this recipe until I told my sister I made marshmallows. She responded by asking if I made them into anything. Ignoring the red flag my consciousness immediately raised, I asked her what exactly she meant. “Like shapes?” I foolishly inquired. She went on to explain she had seen homemade marshmallows made to resemble mushrooms. She further claims to have seen such a thing in real life, not just on television. Well sheesh, my marshmallows are just squares.

Simple, boring ol’ squares, but  tasty ones at that. In her defense, my sister attempted to soften the blow by reassuring me most people do not makes marshmallows at all. My hope is to change that with this delightful recipe for pumpkin spice marshmallows. I assure you, they really are quite simple and worthwhile to make.

Other than waiting for the sugar syrup to reach the correct temperature and then waiting for the mixture to whip up just right and then waiting for the marshmallows to fully set, this recipe is a breeze. If you have patience, you can conquer this recipe. In fact, even impatient cooks can make these marshmallows with relative ease.

419 Edited Spice is Nice: Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows


Case in point, if asked to note something I would like to change about myself, my tendency to indulge in impatience would be right up there. I am and always have been a rather impatient individual. That is tough to admit, but I do so in hopes you recognize even an impatient person can get through all the waiting to enjoy homemade marshmallows.

I also admit I have tried my hand at such a recipe before. In that attempt, I made (giant-sized) homemade marshmallows. After my second attempt here, I still have quite a way to go before I reach perfection, but I tell myself that is part of the fun.

My verdict? Homemade marshmallows are soft, pillowy, lovely tastes of deliciousness. That is the extent of my ability to wax poetically about food, so I hope I have done them justice. Enjoy! 

438 Edited Spice is Nice: Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows


Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • ¼ cup powdered gelatin
  • 1¼ cups corn syrup
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  1. Combine the pumpkin puree, ½ cup of the cold water and the powdered gelatin in a mixing bowl and mix until well blended.
  2. Meanwhile, pour the remaining ½ cup of cold water into a saucepan along with the corn syrup, sugar and salt.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Gently brush down the sides of the pot from time to time to return any sugar crystals that form back into the mixture.
  4. Upon boiling, place a candy thermometer into the syrup and continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 255 degrees F (hard ball stage).
  5. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
  6. With the mixer running, very slowly and very carefully pour the hot sugar solution into the pumpkin-gelatin mixture.
  7. Gradually increase the mixer speed to high and allow to whip for 10 minutes. It may be necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice if the mixture creeps up to high.
  8. At the beginning of the final minute of whipping (minute 9), sprinkle in the pumpkin pie spice.
  9. Lightly spray a standard baking sheet (I used a jelly roll pan to help contain the mixture) with non-stick cooking spray and rub gently with a paper towel to distribute the spray and remove any excess.
  10. Scrape the mixture into a prepared pan and spread as smooth as possible with an offset spatula or large knife. Be sure to coat the utensil with nonstick cooking spray as well.
  11. Set the marshmallows aside and allow to rest uncovered at room temperature for at least four hours. (Resting overnight is fine).
  12. After this final wait, cut the marshmallows with a lightly oiled knife or pizza cutter, break into individual pieces and place in a large bowl.
  13. Whisk together the cornstarch and confectioners’ sugar and pour over the cut marshmallows.
  14. Toss to coat completely and shake off excess.
  15. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container with the lid slightly ajar for one to three days.
1¼ cups powdered gelatin is equivalent to just more than 1 box or 4 envelops of Knox gelatin. In lieu of pumpkin pie spice, the original recipe called for 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves.


Challenged! Dulce de Coco Stuffed Snickerdoodles

IMG 5680 Edited Challenged! Dulce de Coco Stuffed Snickerdoodles

To say the least, I was excited. The third Willow Bird Baking challenge required participants baked a filled cookie. Any cookie. Any filling. Did I mention I was excited?

I love stuffed foods. My favorite donuts, long johns or filled sticks depending on where you live, are stuffed with pastry cream. When I was a kid, I lived for those powdery squares of gum filled with flavored syrup. (To be fair, I think the kid-version of myself  just plain lived for gum.) My favorite pasta is ravioli because, naturally, those little pasta pillows can be stuffed with all sorts of delicious cheese and well, other stuff.

I did a series on stuffed foods last November, and I am planning to start round two in a couple of weeks. Though one of my stuffed recipes is now effectively down the tubes – Pumpkin Cheesecake Stuffed Snickerdoodles - that is okay! I made these cookies right around this time last fall, and they were delicious. I think I had them in the back of my mind when I recently made Cream Cheese Stuffed Chocolate Cherry Lambic cookies.

This time around, I considered an apple cookie stuffed with a caramel. I cannot seem to shake thoughts of bananas, so I considered a chocolate-stuffed banana cookie. Then I flipped through a mounting pile of recipes to try, and I found one for Dulce de Coco. Done.

IMG 5678 Edited e1350824040202 Challenged! Dulce de Coco Stuffed Snickerdoodles

Since I have no problems whatsoever with Snickerdoodles, I opted to keep it simple and bake those . I typically use a recipe from Mrs. Fields Best Cookie Book Ever! , but this time I used the recipe found on Willow Bird Baking and written below. It calls for powdered sugar, which I had never before used in a dough, and as such found very interesting. The cookies certainly bake up soft and light, which I like.

Now for a word on the filling portion of this recipe. I noted this in the recipe below, but the Dulce de Coco will not fully freeze. Therefore, it is imperative to take the time fully  chill the dough and filling. This will save you so much grief as the cookies will hold their shape much better than end up in a puddly mess on the baking sheet. Regardless, you may end up with a few leaky cookies as I did, and that is okay. They are still delicious.

Because I was not sure how the plain Dulce de Coco filled cookies would turn out, I also mixed in some of this sweetness I had leftover from making the braid. I used 5 ounces of cream cheese and 1/4 cup Dulce de Coco. That mixture did freeze.

I liked the cookies filled only with Dulce de Coco a bit better, simply because the taste of the filling was more prominent throughout the cookie. The cream cheese and Dulce de Coco mixture made it more obvious the cookie was filled, whereas the Dulce de Coco alone just sort of absorbed throughout the cookies. If stuffing cookies seems like a pain, a thumbprint cookie filled with Dulce de Coco is a delicious option. It did not occur to me to try this until I was literally down to my last ball of dough, so I have no photos to share of that lone cookie.

If you are not a coconut fan, you may want to try homemade Dulce de Leche instead. The King Arthur Flour blog has a nice post on Caramel Stuffed Snickerdoodles, complete with photos on the stuffing process and the above-mentioned leaky cookies. That should get you started. Enjoy!

IMG 5671 Edited Challenged! Dulce de Coco Stuffed Snickerdoodles

Dulce de Coco stuffed Snickerdoodles
  • For the Dulce de Coco:
  • 1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the Snickerdoodles:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • For coating the cookies:
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  1. To make the Dulce de Coco filling, combine the coconut milk, brown sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium, cover the saucepan and allow the mixture to continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, uncover and allow to continue to simmer for 35-40 additional minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. When the mixture is thickened, stir in the vanilla (like when making caramels, this step causes the mixture to bubble up, so exercise caution to avoid burns).
  5. Pour into a glass jar and allow to come to room temperature before securing the lid.
  6. Place in the freezer for use in stuffing cookies.
  7. To make the Snickerdoodles,combine the butter, vegetable oil, powdered sugar, granulated sugar and eggs in a large bowl.
  8. Start the mixer and allow to come together as you prepare the dry ingredients.
  9. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.
  10. Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture in 3 to 4 additions, mixing until just combined between each.
  11. Place the finished dough in the refrigerator to chill (overnight if possible).
  12. After the cookie dough and the filling is fully chilled, whisk together the ½ cup granulated sugar and one tablespoon cinnamon in a small bowl.
  13. Gather a portion of chilled cookie dough for one cookie (I used an ice cream scoop here), and use your thumb, a teaspoon or a small melon baller (I used all three here with no preference) to make a hollow in the dough.
  14. Fill the hollow with the Dulce do Coco, then cover with a bit of dough.
  15. Work the dough around the whole ball, being sure to pinch together any cracks.
  16. Roll the dough ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place in the freezer while you prepare the remaining cookies.
  17. Repeat the forming and filling steps until all dough is formed and in the freezer.
  18. Place the frozen dough balls parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about
  19. -4 inches between each.
  20. Bake at 375 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are slightly browned.
  21. Allow to cool on the pan for a few minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
For an alternative filling, simply mix in some Dulce de Coco with cream cheese and place in the freezer to harden. When frozen, simply pop a ball of this mixture into each chilled portion of cookie dough and bake. The Dulce de Coco by itself will not fully freeze. It will be soft caramel-like at best. When baking stuffed cookies, I cannot stress enough the importance of working with fully chilled dough and fillings.