Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Sweet potato cupcakes? I have to say this is the time of year to indulge in these decadent treats. The cupcakes are moist and tasty with those lovely warming spices we love, and topped with some pretty amazing caramel cream cheese frosting. The original frosting recipe called for 2 cups of powdered sugar in addition to the caramel. I knew that would be WAY too sweet for my taste buds, so I took the sugar down to 3/4 cup. Trust me, with that amount of sugar and the caramel, the frosting will still be plenty sweet. I chose not to, but if you want to take these cupcakes even farther down Decadent Lane, you can top the frosting with mini marshmallows and toast them with a kitchen blowtorch. Maybe next time!

slightly adapted from: The Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook
makes: 24 cupcakes

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks, boiled, drained & mashed
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 cup whole milk
1 recipe Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)


Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. This would be a good time to set out the butter and cream cheese needed for the frosting, and allow it to come to room temperature.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, using a handheld mixer), beat the brown sugar and eggs on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add the oil, mashed sweet potatoes, and orange zest, beating just until incorporated.


With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, and using a rubber spatula, incorporate any ingredients hiding at the bottom of the bowl, making sure the batter in completely mixed. With a large spring-loaded ice cream or cookie scoop or spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared cupcake cups, filling each one about two-thirds full. Bake 1 pan at a time for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool for at least 20 minutes.


Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

for the caramel

1 cup granulated sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons heavy cream

for the frosting

two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, cut into cubes, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

To make the caramel: Combine the granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, not stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup becomes a medium-dark amber caramel, about 10 minutes. Don’t walk away, when it starts to turn that light tan, it won’t take long to get to brown even more. You can carefully swirl the pan to check the color.



Remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the butter and heavy cream (be careful of the hot steam). Do not worry if the butter starts to separate; it will come together once the caramel is cooled.



Transfer the caramel to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a handheld mixer) and beat on low speed until the caramel cools and starts to come together. Transfer the caramel to a small bowl and let cool to room temperature.


To make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl with a handheld mixer on medium speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixture on low speed, gradually add the confectioner’s sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add the caramel and continue to beat until smooth and creamy, 4 to 5 minutes. (If the caramel was still too warm and the frosting doesn’t look firm enough to spread onto the cupcakes, refrigerate the frosting for 10 minutes or so and re-whisk.)


To assemble the cupcakes: Using an offset spatula or butter knife, spread the tops of the cupcakes with swirls of the frosting. The cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.


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