CUCINARE AL FORNO PER L’AUTUNNO… Date-Nut Cupcakes!

by valentinalucia

Autumn is my favorite time of year, especially when it comes to baking. I get a weird kind of high when pumpkins are in season and the aroma of cinnamon, apples, nutmeg, and cloves fill my house. For me, autumn is the season of warmth, crisp weather, and love, and since I’m going to be away all autumn long on an adventure in Italy, I had to get in some fall-inspired baking before I left. With help from Martha, I made these scrumptious cupcakes that taste and smell just like my favorite season… Date-Nut Cupcakes!

I love cooking with dates, probably because I love eating them by themselves. As cliche as it sounds, they really are some of the best candy nature has to offer; sweet, chewy, and really satisfying. Putting them into cupcake batter may make some people raise their eyebrows, but it makes perfect sense to me. The dates in this recipe help break up the cupcake batter, so when you bite into it, you get the soft cake and then that chew from the dates as added texture. The toasted walnuts provide the true bite and crunch for the cupcake, and help to flavor the batter with a hint of nuttiness. Combined with the warmth from the cinnamon and nutmeg, the dates and walnuts give these cupcakes a wonderful autumn feel. And topped with classic cream cheese icing, how can you go wrong?!

Date-Nut Cupcakes

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

10 ounces plump, dried dates, pitted and coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups boiling water

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Icing

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons nonfat milk

7 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

cinnamon sugar (optional)

chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Preparations:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in a bowl.

2. In another bowl, combine dates with boiling water and applesauce. Stir until dates are soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in sugars, egg, and vanilla until well incorporated. Add flour mixture and stir with a spatula until combined. Fold in walnuts.

3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake until testers come out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tins to wire rack and let sit for five minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin tin and let cool completely on wire racks before decorating with icing.

4. Make icing: Combine vanilla extract and milk into a small bowl. Cream the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer, about 4-5 minutes until completely incorporated. Alternate adding confectioners’ sugar and vanilla-milk mixture* while mixer continues to run until a thick icing forms.

5. Pipe icing onto icing with a plastic bag or icing bag. Decorate with cinnamon sugar and/or chocolate sprinkles, if desired.

*Don’t worry if you don’t use all the vanilla-milk mixture, I didn’t! You want to be left with more of the vanilla-milk mixture and use all sugar, this will ensure a thicker icing.

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