I am not someone who rushes out for pumpkin spice lattes on the first day they come out out. I'm definitely not someone who relishes pumpkin pie. In fact, most of thanksgiving dinner is something i've grown to appreciate rather than something i've always loved. i don't know, call me crazy, but turkey's always been a little dry (until bill brined it for four days, wrapped it in bacon and basically made it not taste like turkey), i didn't like mashed potatoes until i was in my late 20s (i'm only like a quarter irish, so it's barely sacralige), and the rest...well, i ate dinner rolls and salads only during thanksgiving well into college. I still don't like pumpkin pie, but i did start to like pumpkin bread when i worked at a coffee shop at college (#clichejob). And when this recipe for pumpkin cupcakes crossed my scrolling, it seemed just right to try when i needed to unwind after a particularly difficult day.
I am one of those weirdos that grab a can of real pumpkin puree around this time of year in case...of i don't know what. Panic pumpkin baking? And this day I was so glad i did. It called for ground cloves, which we don't generally keep, but i happened to have whole cloves. I grabbed my pestle and mortar and got to work. Every time i cook with clove, i can't help but remember my father's love of spouting the fact that it is so potent it's used a numbing agent in dentistry since the 19th century. Every. Time. So now you have to remember it's truth, too. I modified it a bit (as per the usual - GF flour, monk fruit for sugar, no one ever notices and bill doesn't read this), and actually did the typical dry added to wet process for cakes (even though the recipe didn't call for it). Call me old fashioned. The smells that came from the kitchen that evening were heavenly. The spice and heaviness of the pumpkin mixed to create the warmest our kitchen ever felt. It was amazing.
I iced them the next day. I'm not going to lie - making the brown butter was annoying. The recipe also mentioned Maple syrup for the frosting but didn't list it. Since the frosting only called for a tablespoon of milk, i added a tablespoon of maple syrup. It's such a great natural sweetener, i prefer baking with it when possible. I am terrible at piping, but i was able to get the frosting on the cupcakes without embarrassing myself too much.
And then the acid test - what wine to pair it with. The cupcakes were so spicy and heavy and the frosting was surprisingly light and airy...It needed a lighter wine. It needed our 2018 Estate Syrah Rose. Syrah is one of the darkest colored grapes, full of flavor, our syrahs carry high fruit notes in all forms. We were surprised when the rose came out a little more subdued than her red bottled cousin. But the subtle notes of white pepper and charcoal makes pairing her with everything a favorite of mine. She would be perfect for these cupcakes.
Rose is not just for your summer afternoons, she's also for your after dinner heavy desert pairings apparently. The rose made the pumpkin and cloves spark, almost coming to life in my mouth. The pumpkin cupcake in turn, actually made the rose more, somehow highlighting the charcoal notes in the roof of my mouth. I was suddenly on my back porch in august, a little too hot, watching maddy chase a shadow, waiting for bill to come back from the vineyard so we could have a quick dinner before the winds kicked up. How can pumpkin bring back summer? Is that why everyone loves it so much? Doubtful. But I'll take it.
PS Bill confirmed the leftover frosting tastes great with graham crackers if your kiddos have the palette I had through college 😉