My grandparents came over for dinner last night, and while food is generally the centerpiece of many family gatherings, for me, it was the conversation that made it such a meaningful night. My complete obsession with all things vintage includes hearing stories about my grandparents when they were growing up, when they were dating(They met at a youth center dance. My grandfather spilled Coca-Cola on my grandmother. He insists he didn’t. She’s adamant he did. I like to think he did.), when they were starting their family and then, naturally, when my mom was a baby.
My mom was born profoundly deaf,which meant that she didn’t learn to communicate and no one could communicate anything to her until she was 2 1/2 years old, when she got her first hearing aid. Even then, my nana had to work really hard with her to try to catch her up. Nana was remembering sitting on the front steps with my mom when she first got her hearing aids and my mom kept taking them out and trying to put them in my nana’s ear, because she wanted her to hear, too. Smart girl. She was a hellion, though. Nana regaled us with the time that at my great-grandmother’s house my mom got ahold of a giant frying pan, put all of the eggs in the house in it, and proceeded to stamp on them like Lucille Ball stepping on grapes.
I learned a little more about my Italian heritage, and the village of Isola del Liri, where my family is from- between Rome and Naples. My grandfather told us about how his grandmother made pasta by hand (never with a machine), making a hole in a pile of flour, cracking eggs into it, and then kneading it. He recalled how she always made uniformly sized pieces, which he and his sister would unfurl and that the other Italian women in the neighborhood starting ordering pasta from her. They ordered it by number of eggs: e.g. “I want two eggs of pasta” or “I want six eggs of pasta.”
He told us how every Saturday, they’d go to the market and buy things for the week, olives and vegetables and all sorts of goods. The big staple? Pasta, of course- at least once a day, every day. I’m Italian on my mom’s side and Jewish on my dad’s side. So, food pushing on both sides. Is it any wonder that every day my grandfather got three sandwiches in his lunch, except on Fridays, when he’d get Italian tuna on a loaf of Italian bread? He’d complain to his mother that he wanted to buy his lunch like all his friends, but she’d say, “But you need a good sandwich!” I will say that NO ONE makes a sandwich like my grandfather. Joey Tribbiani would’ve ditched Ross and Chandler for him.
I made the dessert last night. For weeks, I’ve had this recipe marinating to perfection (I hoped!) in my head, and this seemed like an opportune time to try it. My grandparents love to taste my cooking- especially my grandfather. I guess three is the magic number. He told stories about three sandwiches for lunch and then he ate three cupcakes last night. Even nana had two. They were a hit! I’ll warn you, though…if this picture makes you shudder, turn back now!
Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream filling and Maple Italian Meringue Frosting
1 stick butter (melted)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs (at room temperature)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup and 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 can pumpkin
1/2 Tsp. vanilla
1/2 Tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tsp. cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
*Preheat oven to 350. Makes 24 cupcakes.
1. Crack eggs into mixing bowl and beat at medium speed for 30 seconds.
2. Add the melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla, pumpkin, nutmeg, and cinnamon, put mixer on medium speed and allow mixture to double in size, reduce speed and stream in the vegetable oil slowly.
3. Add baking powder, baking soda, and salt, mix in thoroughly.
4. Slowly add the flour a little at a time, beating the flour into the batter thoroughly before adding more. Make sure you use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl!
6.Bake cupcakes for 25-30 minutes at 350. Use a toothpick to gauge readiness. When the toothpick comes out clean, they’re ready!
While your cupcakes cool down on the cooling rack, you can start to prepare the Cinnamon cream filling.
For Cinnamon Cream
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 block of cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 Tsp. Vanilla
1 and 1/2 Tsp. cinnamon
1. Put your whipping cream in your mixing bowl and beat on high until it starts to thicken. Add half of the confectioner’s sugar and continue to beat until you have a stiff whipped cream.
2. Add cream cheese and mix thoroughly. Increase speed gradually and ensure that there the cream cheese is completely mixed in, with no remaining lumps.
3. Add cinnamon, vanilla and the remainder of the sugar- mix thoroughly.
You want to wait until your cupcakes are completely cooled because warm cream filling is a recipe for disaster and will leave you will completely mushy and leaking cupcakes. Patience pays off in this case. I used a pastry bag with a syringe to inject my cupcakes- you can get them for 3 bucks in your baking aisle at your grocery store, or, barring that, you CAN cut a small divot in the cupcake, hollow out a little hole, fill, and replace the divot. If you have the patience for this, then all the more power to you. Anyone who knows me, however, would laugh in my face if I suggested I would do this.
Carefully inject filling into your cupcakes. If you watch, you will see them start to plump up. Just as they plump, STOP. If you continue to fill, they will crack. Fill all 24 cupcakes. You will have some cream filling leftover, but you can use it for all sorts of things- topping for raisin toast, bagels, french toast, hot chocolate, etc.
Lastly, you want to do your frosting. Now, everyone knows I very very rarely follow a recipe. The ONE recipe I will always follow is the one I found for Italian Meringue Buttercream frosting from Joe Pastry, which you can find here (scroll to the bottom of the page for the recipe). I added 1/2 tsp of organic Maple extract and 2 Tbsp. of REAL maple syrup (Do NOT use faux maple syrup. If I get wind of it, i’ll drag you to Vermont and tie you to a maple tree.) at the end for the flavoring. I used a pastry bag to pipe the frosting onto each cupcake, and lightly sprinkled cinnamon on the top for aesthetic purposes.
Here is the finished product. While this isn’t a project to do when you are pressed for time, it is WELL WORTH the time that it takes to make these. Oh, and please pardon my poor piping skills. i’m still learning!
I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend so far. Enjoy your Sunday. We’re going to tag our Christmas tree! I.E. My stepdad and I will spend the next hour or so teasing my mom about her tendency to pick anemic looking Charlie Brown trees. One year we ended up with a tree that bent at a 45 degree angle about 3/4 of the way to the top. Here’s to a great tree this year!