A Birthday! And Browned Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Today I write to you all as officially a 30 year old. I just had a landmark birthday last week, and now I’m comfortably settling into my 30s. 🙂 I’m super lucky that even being in a new place I’ve made some incredible friends, who threw some incredible celebrations, where we celebrated as per the picture below.

birds and cupcakes

First, if I haven’t mentioned this before, I’m a big fan of birds. I like to wear birds, I like to decorate with birds, and I also like to go birding (fancy code for birdwatching). That whole Portlandia sketch about “Put a Bird On It”? I can’t tell you how many friends have sent that to me, because it’s pretty apropos – other than the ending. 🙂 I’ve included it below, just in case!

So for my first birthday celebration here in Liberia, two other friends and I celebrated with a bird-themed party – which essentially meant a lot of birds cut from paper and magazine and pasted all over the walls, birds for everyone to wear, and bird-themed cocktails. Mine was elderflower liqueur and sparkling wine, called “Hummingbird Nectar.” My super talented friend also drew birds on those of us brave (crazy?) enough to have sharpied birds on our skin – which was perfectly brilliant.

Just a sample of some of the fancy drawings we sported at the party...
Just a sample of some of the fancy drawings we sported at the party…

In short, the whole party was pretty epic – and I did bake two different types of cupcakes, as well as some sugar cookies in the shape of birds for people to decorate. My absolute favorite cupcake of the night, and one of my favorites in general, was this cupcake.

So enjoy! And I hope you have as much fun devouring these cupcakes as I did baking them – and let me know if you ever have your own bird-themed party and what treats and drinks you share! 🙂

birds on delicious cupcakes

Browned Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Baked Perfection

Makes about 18 cupcakes

3/4 cup butter
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Dash of ginger
Dash of ground cloves
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit/160 degrees celsius.

To start, place the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter, and then keep over heat until the butter starts to brown, filling the kitchen with a rich nutty aroma. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger and ground cloves. In separate large bowl, mix together the browned butter, pumpkin puree, light brown and granulated sugars, and eggs. Add the flour mixture, and mix until the ingredients are just combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the muffin tins on wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting*

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup – not Aunt Jemima or another syrup, it should be real maple syrup, which is amazing! I have one friend that calls VT maple syrup “liquid gold,”  so I always use that in my cooking.
4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Add the butter and cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or to a large bowl and use a hand mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the maple syrup, and mix until combined.With the mixer on low, gradually add the powdered sugar about one half cup at a time (stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed) until completely incorporated. If you are happy with the consistency of the frosting before you’ve added all the powdered sugar, then you don’t need to use it all! It’s up to you, depending on your own personal preference.

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