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Milk Street Recipe
Milk Street Bowtie Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Cream Cheese-Caramel Frosting

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Cream Cheese-Caramel Frosting

1½ hours

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Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Cream Cheese-Caramel Frosting

Free

These ochre-toned, spiced cupcakes with a light orange scent are an adaptation of a recipe from “The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook” by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day, owners of Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia. The frosting here is no ordinary cream cheese frosting. It’s flavored with a buttery, bittersweet caramel that brings out the earthiness of the sweet potato and the warm notes of the spices in the cupcakes. Store extras, if you have any, in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three days; bring to room temperature before serving.

12

cupcakes

Tip

Don’t add the caramel to the cream cheese base if the caramel is still warm; it will make the frosting too soft for spreading onto the cupcakes. And as soon as the caramel is incorporated into the frosting, stop the mixer, as overbeating will also result in a goopy consistency. (If the frosting does end up too soft, refrigerate it for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it firms up enough to be spreadable.)

1½ hours

336 grams (12 ounces) orange-flesh sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-cubes
130 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 large eggs, room temperature
109 grams (½ cup) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
107 grams (½ cup) white sugar
113 grams (8 tablespoons) salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, room temperature, divided
2 tablespoons heavy cream
8 ounce package cream cheese, cut into rough ½-inch chunks, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
124 grams (1 cup) powdered sugar
For the cupcakes
  • 336

    grams (12 ounces) orange-flesh sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-cubes

  • 130

    grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour

  • 1

    teaspoon baking powder

  • ½

    teaspoon baking soda

  • ½

    teaspoon table salt

  • ½

    teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ¼

    teaspoon ground ginger

  • ¼

    teaspoon ground cloves

  • ¼

    teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 2

    large eggs, room temperature

  • 109

    grams (½ cup) packed light brown sugar

  • ½

    cup grapeseed or other neutral oil

  • 1

    teaspoon grated orange zest

  • ¼

    cup whole milk, room temperature

For the frosting
  • 107

    grams (½ cup) white sugar

  • 113

    grams (8 tablespoons) salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, room temperature, divided

  • 2

    tablespoons heavy cream

  • 8

    ounce package cream cheese, cut into rough ½-inch chunks, room temperature

  • 1
  • 124

    grams (1 cup) powdered sugar

Directions
  1. 01
    To make the cupcakes, in a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the sweet potato and ¼ cup water. Cover and microwave on high until completely tender, about 8 minutes, stirring once about halfway through. Pour off and discard the liquid in the bowl, then mash the potato with a fork until smooth. Measure out 186 grams (¾ cup) of the sweet potato and set aside; discard the remainder or reserve for another use.
  2. 02
    Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with muffin liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cardamom; set aside.
  3. 03
    In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and brown sugar on medium until well combined and lightened, 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixer running on low, add the oil, orange zest and the mashed sweet potato, then beat until homogenous, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl.
  4. 04
    With the mixer running on low, add about one-third of the flour mixture followed by about half of the milk. Next, add about half of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining milk and finally the remaining flour mixture. Mix on low until just combined, about 30 seconds. Fold the batter a few times with the spatula to ensure no pockets of flour remain.
  5. 05
    Divide the batter evenly among the cups of the prepared muffin pan; each should be about two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted at the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes directly to the rack. Cool while you make the frosting.
  6. 06
    To make the frosting, in a medium saucepan, combine the white sugar and ¼ cup water. Cook over medium, occasionally swirling the pan, until the sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes. Increase to medium-high and cook, gently swirling the pan, until the caramel is medium-dark amber in color and smokes lightly, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add 85 grams (6 tablespoons) of the butter and the cream; the mixture will bubble vigorously. Whisk until the caramel is smooth, transfer to a small bowl and cool to room temperature.
  7. 07
    In the stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese, vanilla and the remaining 28 grams (2 tablespoons) butter until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the powdered sugar, then beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer, add the caramel and beat on low until well combined, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl as needed.
  8. 08
    Top the cooled cupcakes with the frosting, either spreading it with a small icing spatula or piping it on with a pastry bag fitted with a tip.
Tip: Don’t add the caramel to the cream cheese base if the caramel is still warm; it will make the frosting too soft for spreading onto the cupcakes. And as soon as the caramel is incorporated into the frosting, stop the mixer, as overbeating will also result in a goopy consistency. (If the frosting does end up too soft, refrigerate it for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it firms up enough to be spreadable.)
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Reviews
Anne F.

I just made these and they are delicious. The cupcakes are fluffy and tender. I had a ton of frosting leftover so I think you could cut that amount in half and have plenty. I also used store bought caramel in the frosting and it seemed to work fine.

Keith T.

Please check your weight of brown sugar. I've been baking for years and weighing my ingredients. A half cup of brown sugar should be around 100 grams.

Lynn C.

Hi Keith -

Thanks so much for pointing this out! You're right, we had the wrong weight on this recipe. Our baking weight for brown sugar is 218 g. per cup, so 1/2 cup should be 109 grams. We have updated the recipe to reflect this. For more information on our sugar weight testing, please see this article https://www.177milkstreet.com/2017/12/sugars-measured-up.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Keith T.

Meanwhile, these were cupcakes were incredible! If you like spice cake, these hit the mark. And the caramel cream cheese frosting is to die for.

Keith T.

Meanwhile, these were cupcakes were incredible! If you like spice cake, these hit the mark. And the caramel cream cheese frosting is to die for.


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Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Cream Cheese-Caramel Frosting

Get Ready to Cook

12

cupcakes

1½ hours

Tip

Don’t add the caramel to the cream cheese base if the caramel is still warm; it will make the frosting too soft for spreading onto the cupcakes. And as soon as the caramel is incorporated into the frosting, stop the mixer, as overbeating will also result in a goopy consistency. (If the frosting does end up too soft, refrigerate it for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it firms up enough to be spreadable.)

For the cupcakes
  • 336

    grams (12 ounces) orange-flesh sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-cubes

  • 130

    grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour

  • 1

    teaspoon baking powder

  • ½

    teaspoon baking soda

  • ½

    teaspoon table salt

  • ½

    teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ¼

    teaspoon ground ginger

  • ¼

    teaspoon ground cloves

  • ¼

    teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 2

    large eggs, room temperature

  • 109

    grams (½ cup) packed light brown sugar

  • ½

    cup grapeseed or other neutral oil

  • 1

    teaspoon grated orange zest

  • ¼

    cup whole milk, room temperature

For the frosting
  • 107

    grams (½ cup) white sugar

  • 113

    grams (8 tablespoons) salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, room temperature, divided

  • 2

    tablespoons heavy cream

  • 8

    ounce package cream cheese, cut into rough ½-inch chunks, room temperature

  • 1
  • 124

    grams (1 cup) powdered sugar

Step 1 of 8

Cook then Mash the Potatoes

336
grams (12 ounces) orange-flesh sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-cubes
¼
cup water

To make the cupcakes, in a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the sweet potato and ¼ cup water. Cover and microwave on high until completely tender, about 8 minutes, stirring once about halfway through. Pour off and discard the liquid in the bowl, then mash the potato with a fork until smooth.


Measure out 186 grams (¾ cup) of the sweet potato and set aside; discard the remainder or reserve for another use.

Step 2 of 8

Make the Flour Mixture

130
grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
1
teaspoon baking powder
½
teaspoon baking soda
½
teaspoon table salt
½
teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼
teaspoon ground ginger
¼
teaspoon ground cloves
¼
teaspoon ground cardamom

Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with muffin liners.


In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cardamom; set aside.

Step 3 of 8

Prepare Your Stand Mixer

2
large eggs, room temperature
109
grams (½ cup) packed light brown sugar
½
cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
1
teaspoon grated orange zest

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and brown sugar on medium until well combined and lightened, 2 to 3 minutes.


With the mixer running on low, add the oil, orange zest and the mashed sweet potato, then beat until homogenous, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl.

Step 4 of 8

Make the Batter

¼
cup whole milk, room temperature

With the mixer running on low, add about one-third of the flour mixture followed by about half of the milk.


Next, add about half of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining milk and finally the remaining flour mixture. Mix on low until just combined, about 30 seconds.


Fold the batter a few times with the spatula to ensure no pockets of flour remain.

Step 5 of 8

Bake the Cupcakes

Divide the batter evenly among the cups of the prepared muffin pan; each should be about two-thirds full.


Bake until a toothpick inserted at the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.


Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes directly to the rack. Cool while you make the frosting.

Step 6 of 8

Make the Caramel Sauce

107
grams (½ cup) white sugar
¼
cup water
85
grams (6 tablespoons) salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, room temperature
2
tablespoons heavy cream

To make the frosting, in a medium saucepan, combine the white sugar and ¼ cup water. Cook over medium, occasionally swirling the pan, until the sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes.


Increase to medium-high and cook, gently swirling the pan, until the caramel is medium-dark amber in color and smokes lightly, 6 to 8 minutes.


Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add 85 grams (6 tablespoons) of the butter and the cream; the mixture will bubble vigorously.


Whisk until the caramel is smooth, transfer to a small bowl and cool to room temperature.

Step 7 of 8

Make the Frosting

8
ounce package cream cheese, cut into rough ½-inch chunks, room temperature
1
teaspoon vanilla extract
28
grams (2 tablespoons) salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, room temperature
124
grams (1 cup) powdered sugar

In the stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese, vanilla and the remaining 28 grams (2 tablespoons) butter until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.


With the mixer running on low, gradually add the powdered sugar, then beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.


Stop the mixer, add the caramel and beat on low until well combined, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl as needed.

Step 8 of 8

Top the Cupcakes

Top the cooled cupcakes with the frosting, either spreading it with a small icing spatula or piping it on with a pastry bag fitted with a tip.

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Done!

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