The tradition of enjoying the Nutcracker Ballet at Christmastime is another thing the pandemic took from us. I’m not sure when I’ll ever feel safe sitting close to people in a theater for ballets, plays or movies. In the meantime, I can enjoy the music at home and share some Nutcracker inspired treats with you.
The Nutcracker Land of Sweets is a magical theme that has me mesmerized. Gingerbread, candy canes, gumdrops and billowy clouds of pink frosting are what dreams are made of. And that’s exactly what these dreamy cupcakes are made of. The cupcake flavor is a subtle spice cake. The recipe is adapted from a Martha Stewart cake recipe I made last summer. The original cake was paired with blackberry jam, but I knew plum jam would be perfect for these cupcakes. I topped them with a mildly sweet, fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream.
Part of the fun of making these cupcakes began at the store as I collected the sweets to decorate the cupcakes. Another perk of the job is taste testing the candy. I discovered that purple spice drops are licorice flavored and red spice drops are cinnamon. Who knew?
The Nutcracker Land of Sweets Cupcakes
Spice cupcakes filled with plum jam, topped with fluffy pink frosting, gingerbread men and Christmas candy, and dusted with sugar snow
Combine egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Set over a pan of gently simmering water.
Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and temperature of 160ºF is reached.
Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixture with a whisk attachment. Whisk on low speed, gradually increasing to medium-high speed. Whisk until glossy, stiff peaks form and mixture reaches room temperature.
Turn mixer to medium-low speed. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, allowing the butter to fully incorporate each time before adding more.
Switch to paddle attachment. On low speed, mix in vanilla, salt and food color. Continue mixing on low speed for a few minutes until smooth.
In early September, I saw someone announce the fall season on social media. In addition to people pointing out that it was too early for the announcement, the word police corrected the person with the word autumn. Since both terms are correct, we can call the season whatever we prefer. I think autumn is a pretty sounding word, so I’ll use it for the rest of this post. Whatever you call it, these Pumpkin Spice Mini Loaves are a perfect little celebration of the season. They have just the right amount of pumpkin spices, making them so fragrant that your kitchen will smell like cozy autumn heaven.
I call them loaves because I originally made them in mini loaf pans. They’re so cute and delicious that I often give them as holiday gifts. This year I decided to try them in ramekins and I loved the results! I used 6-ounce ramekins, but you can use 8-ounce ramekins, any size mini loaf pans, a muffin pan or even an 8 or 9-inch loaf pan. Keep in mind that baking times will differ. To find the ramekins I used, click here.
Pumpkin Spice Mini Loaves with Caramel Filling
Mini loaves of tender pumpkin bread with caramel filling and luscious cream cheese frosting
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour seven 6-ounce ramekins or six 8-ounce ramekins or any loaf pans of your choice.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.
In a separate large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well combined.
Beat in pumpkin and vanilla until combined.
Stir in flour mixture just until combined.
Divide batter evenly into prepared ramekins. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not overbake. (Mini loaves or muffins bake for 15-25 minutes, depending on size. 8 or 9-inch loaf bakes for 40-50 minutes)
Cool completely if serving in ramekins or remove from pans after cooling for 10 minutes. Continue to cool on wire rack.
Make 3/4-inch well in the center of each loaf. Fill with caramel sauce. (For an 8 or 9-inch loaf, poke multiple holes with a skewer. Fill with caramel sauce.)
Top with cream cheese frosting and pumpkin seeds
Cream Cheese Frosting
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter together with an electric mixer until smooth.
Add vanilla extract and salt and beat until combined.
Gradually add powdered sugar and beat at medium speed until combined.
Add heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined.