Fluffy pumpkin and red ale cupcakes come together fast thanks to a cake mix shortcut. Make them fancy with a salted butterscotch icing and candied bacon on top.
Red ale and canned pumpkin turn regular cake mix into a fall dessert that’s made for beer lovers. Serve these cupcakes on their own, or up the ante with this salted butterscotch frosting and a candied bacon crumble. (Because who doesn’t love bacon?)
5 strips bacon
1 cup (250 mL) + 5 tsp (25 mL) packed brown sugar, divided
1 432 g package golden cake mix
1 1/2 tsp (7.5 mL) ground cinnamon
1 cup (250 mL) canned pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup (125 mL) red ale
1/3 cup (80 mL) vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
6 tbsp (90 mL) 10% cream, divided, plus up to 1 tbsp (15 mL) more as needed
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) icing sugar, sifted, divided
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla
Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with foil. Place a large wire rack on top of foil.
Lay bacon strips side by side on rack, leaving a little space between each strip. Sprinkle each strip with approximately 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) brown sugar and gently press it in so it sticks. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Flip each strip and sprinkle with another 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) brown sugar. Bake, watching that it doesn’t burn in final few minutes, until bacon is almost crisped up, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Mince bacon to a sprinkle-like consistency; set aside.
Reduce oven to 350°F and line 17 muffin cups with liners. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk cake mix with cinnamon until combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, ale, oil and eggs. Add to cake mix mixture and stir vigorously until well-mixed, 1 to 2 minutes.
Fill each muffin cup approximately two-thirds full and bake in preheated oven until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.
Melt butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add remaining 1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar and salt, and whisk until blended. Increase heat to high and bring to a gentle boil, whisking constantly. Once mixture starts bubbling, whisk constantly for 1 minute so it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and whisk in 3 tbsp (45 mL) cream. Let come to room temperature, 30 to 45 minutes.
Transfer brown sugar mixture to a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat in 2 cups (500 mL) icing sugar, remaining 3 tbsp (45 mL) cream and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Beat in remaining 1/2 cup (125 mL) icing sugar until texture is thick, smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. If frosting is too thick, beat in 1 tbsp (15 mL) cream, 1 tsp (5 mL) at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
Spread or pipe salted butterscotch frosting onto cooled cupcakes and top with candied bacon sprinkles.