All Hallows

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot …

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark …
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

-Wm. Shakespeare, Macbeth (4.1.5-37)

What I won’t be making for Hallowe’en this year — and not only because I’m not sure where to find a dragon’s scale on such short notice …

No: Instead, I’ve made pumpkin cupcakes with a chocolate ganache frosting, with which I think even Sir Shakespeare could not find fault. With enough butter and cream to make one of those horrid witches forget about rooting under rotted logs for newts and worms and other creepy-crawlies, they’re still light, fluffy, and pretty enough for human consumption. And pumpkin = squash = vegetable = good-for-you, right?

[Pumpkin cupcake batter, October 2007.]

As this is a holiday marked by begging the neighbors for sweets and treats, perhaps we can forget about eating healthfully just this once (and like I mentioned before, pumpkin is a vegetable so really you’re getting a bit of nutritional value — vitamins C and E make a notable appearance — anyway). I made these cupcakes last year and brought them in to work; when I asked if I should do it again the answer was, overwhelmingly, yes please. So, then, I did.

Slightly reminiscent of pumpkin pie, but thoroughly cake-like — all that butter, you know — and crowned with a lovely swirl of rich chocolate ganache, I think this is now a yearly tradition. I’ve made pumpkin bread, and pumpkin cookies (and pumpkin pie, of course), but I think my new favorite sweet pumpkin configuration is les petits gateaux.

Plus, making these was also a chance to test out my new birthday cupcake-carrier — and luckily for me, the bus wasn’t too crowded as I made my way down to work in the early-morning gloom.

[Cupcakes, after the oven.]

If you can’t stomach the thought of lots of melted butter, four eggs, and heavy cream, here’s something that might be of interest instead: A story I wrote for NPR about quinoa, which includes three recipes, as promised. I do adore quinoa, and I hope you do, too.

Coming soon: roasted vegetable and barley soup and a delicious potato-chard lasagna that’s perfect for fall.

In the meantime, of course — cupcakes. And try not to walk under any ladders.

Pumpkin cupcakes with chocolate ganache, adapted from and

2 cups flour, all-purpose
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
15 ounces pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin purée.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool.

Makes 2 doz. cupcakes.

Chocolate ganache frosting

10 oz. semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream and salt just to a boil. Immediately pour over the chocolate. Using a whisk, stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Let cool to room temperature and frost cupcakes.

ETA: Wikipedia describes pumpkins as a “squash fruit” rather than a vegetable.

nicole spiridakis © copyright 2023