Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

There it is: the first pumpkin of Fall 2008 (and certain not to be the last!) I thought long and hard about what pumpkin-y treat I wanted to bake first, and after seeing the maple cream cheese frosting on Culinary Concoctions by Peabody I knew that I wanted to incorporate it somehow.
I immediately thought of pumpkin cupcakes, because lately I’ve been very fond of cupcakes, but a search for the perfect pumpkin cupcake recipe left me feeling defeated. I didn’t want anything too dense, I didn’t want raisins, nuts or chocolate chips. I wanted my cupcakes to be simple – just pumpkin and spice, to provide a nice base for the main event – the maple cream cheese frosting.
I ended up with this recipe, which I am pretty happy with. It’s delicate but intriguing, and the cupcakes are a beautiful light orange.  I decided to use real maple syrup in the frosting (instead of maple extract), so there is just a hint of maple flavor, but I like the way the cupcakes and frosting go together.  This recipe makes a LOT of frosting, which I love, but if you frost the cupcakes thinly you could easily make do with half a recipe.

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup applesauce
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
Preheat oven to 350 and line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, spices, and sugars.
In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.
Gently stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, and pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool completely on a wire rack
4 tbsp butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 cups powdered sugar
With the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese. 
Add maple syrup and beat on medium until combined.
Mix in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, then mix on medium-high until smooth.
Frost each cupcake liberally.
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