Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

I’ve had the same best friend for 20 years, which means we have a lot of traditions we’ve developed over the years. One of my favorites that we started in the last few years are making pumpkin cupcakes just for us. Normally when I make a big batch of baked goods, I share them around: I invite friends over, I bring some to work, I save some for my parents. But not these cupcakes. Every year we eat the entire batch ourselves.
Pumpkin cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting...SO much better than even cream cheese frosting!This was one baked good I was determined to make work gluten-free; I love them too much to skip them. Luckily, this recipe adapts particularly well (I’m guessing it’s because it has so many eggs to help bind things together, along with the pumpkin to keep things moist).

The combination of pumpkin cake and chocolate ganache is literally the greatest. I don’t know how the world has not capitalized on this combination yet. But if you want to try it, don’t ask me; I’m not sharing.

Gluten-free Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Recipe (makes 18-20; adapted from Martha Stewart)
2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (use regular flour if you’re not GF; I love King Arthur for both)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick salted butter, melted and cooled (1/2 cup)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled (1/2 cup)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract, as long as it’s the real deal)
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
9 ounces chocolate chips or chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins with liners. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and spices (through nutmeg) with a fork. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together butters and sugars. Whisk in eggs and vanilla, stirring quickly and making sure everything is well combined. Whisk in dry ingredients, making sure to scrape bottom and sides of bowl to get everything in there. Whisk in pumpkin puree until smooth.

Divide batter between liners (they will be about 2/3 to 3/4 full). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of your middle cupcakes comes out clean, 24 to 28 minutes, rotating pans from top to bottom and back to front halfway through. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

When cupcakes are cool, put chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat heavy cream until it’s steaming, but not boiling. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for one minute, then stir until all chocolate is melted and smooth. Let mixture chill in the fridge until it’s stiffened a bit, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from fridge and dip cupcakes into chocolate twice. Store cupcakes in the fridge until you eat them all.

The Light at the End of the [Tired] Tunnel?

Something weird’s been going on the past two days. I’ve been…not tired.
Saying that normally I’m always tired might be hyperbole, but usually, I’m tired. I’ve gotten so used to it that it took me completely by surprise yesterday when I realized that my feeling that something was off was that I wasn’t tired. I think the only reason I recognized the not-tired feeling is because I was so recently on vacation. I don’t feel like I have the energy to leap between rooftops and run marathons, but I don’t feel the weight of exhaustion on me. I don’t know if this is a fluke, if my coffee’s been stronger than usual, or…if it’s the lack of gluten. I’ve heard claims that giving up gluten gives you more energy, but I really didn’t think I’d experience that, since that’s not the problem I’m trying to fix. If this sticks around and isn’t just the coffee, however, I’m okay with it, especially since it’ll be months before I know if going GF is truly helping.

It’ll be nice to have some quicker benefits, because this adjustment period is a PAIN. Last night three of my friends and I had our traditional Harry Potter and sushi fest that is our tradition whenever our friend who moved to L.A. is in town. This was my first time having sushi since going gluten free, and if you look at my search history on any of my iDevices, you’ll see a LOT of searches relating to it. I stopped by the place we always order from a few days ago to ask if they offered gluten-free soy sauce (they don’t) and if they add anything to the rice with gluten in it (they don’t). But I completely forgot to ask about my favorite sushi condiment, spicy mayo. After my Googling fest, I still didn’t have a conclusion; most of the Internet agrees that Japanese spicy mayo is gluten free because Kewpie (the most common Japanese mayonnaise) and sriracha are gluten free, but there were quite a few people who said no. Ultimately, I’ll have to just go to my sushi spot in person and ask to see the ingredients they use, but since we were ordering in on Seamless, I didn’t want to chance anything, and decided to try to make my own spicy mayo.
Important, not-so-fun fact: American mayo and Japanese mayo ARE NOT THE SAME. I’ve always found mayo to be pretty gross, so my friends and family have always found my love of spicy mayo odd. However, I now know from my obsessive googling that Japanese mayo is made with rice vinegar and thus has a completely different taste. I only discovered this after I took a bunch of Kraft mayo packets from Panera, so I tried to replicate the flavors by adding rice vinegar to my mayo-packet-and-sriracha mixture. Kids, it’s not the same. Do not try it, unless you really like globs of American mayo. I wouldn’t call it disgusting but…it was not good. I ended up just eating my sushi spice-free. (Thankfully, gluten-free soy sauce tastes exactly the same, if not better, than regular soy sauce.) Clearly, a trip to talk to the chef at my favorite sushi place is in order.

P.S. The cupcake above is the gluten-free red velvet from Sprinkles, which my friend Jess so kindly brought me. It was quite good (really fluffy and moist!), but I didn’t love the taste of the cake without any frosting–they really need each other.