Pumpkin Cupcakes – Cuppacakes di Zucca

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell

Just pumpkin cupcakes? Not hardly, especially for those inclined to complicate the simple by chasing food trends. Let us spin some trends for you with this one little recipe called Cuppacakes di Zucca.

One, fancy restaurant-y name. Cuppacakes di Zucca–Zucca means squash and pumpkin in Italian.

Two, cupcakes.  This dessert trend may be peaking so jump in on it anytime.

Three, baking with olive oil. Italian olive oil cakes are big right now (the only thing we’ve left out is the rosemary), but as all oils work the same, use what you like. A well-flavored olive oil will only change the flavor a bit.

Four, expensive imported ingredient to replace a pantry stand-by. Our Italian icing features triple cream Mascarpone instead of regular cream cheese (which tastes great, too, and for about seven bucks less).

Five, farmer’s market pumpkin. Ride the locavore train and cook your own pumpkin. Or, cheat and use Libby’s excellent canned pumpkin puree.

Six, seasonal ingredients—pumpkin, orange, almonds—sounds like fall to us.

Seven, regional southern ingredient. Use Nashville’s iconic Martha White self-rising flour with “Hot Rize,” perfectly premixed with salt and leavening. These cupcakes should pretty much take care of your trendy food needs this holiday season. Now back to choosing between the canned pumpkin puree and fresh cooked pumpkin. Is it worth the extra step?

Well, our goal is to keep you in the kitchen, so if cooking your own pumpkin has you clicking elsewhere, by all means use canned pumpkin. We love canned pumpkin. With no added ingredients, it’s pure, convenient, consistent, and delicious. Keep a can or two in your pantry.

Here’s fresh cooked pumpkin on the left. Libby’s canned pumpkin on the right. Both are good.


We tested the cupcakes both ways and the biggest difference was color—the canned is darker, the fresh brighter, more like butternut squash. We couldn’t tell a difference in flavor for this application. Both versions are winners.

To cook your own pumpkin—it’s very simple and no different than any other winter squash. Pick up a pie pumpkin at the farmer’s market or where they stock winter squashes at the supermarket. Cut it in half and remove the seeds. Leave the stringy stuff in there and the skin on, both of which are easier to remove after cooking.

Cut the pumpkin into smallish chunks and pack it into a casserole with a lid. Add a splash of water. Cover and microwave for 15 minutes.  Let stand a few minutes. Check for doneness. A knife should easily slide in when the pumpkin is pierced. If not, microwave it a few more minutes. Let cool. Scrape the stringy parts away from the flesh and remove the skin with a knife or your fingers. For a nice puree, you’ll have to use a food processor. Otherwise, if you don’t mind more texture, you can mash it up with a fork (probably too stringy for a pie, but okay for breads and cupcakes). 

One smallish pumpkin will make one batch of cupcakes or a pie. The pumpkin freezes well so you can make a few, measure out the puree into one pie amounts. Store in marked and dated freezer bags and it’s ready to go when you need it.

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