Cupcakes can spice up autumn

Have you noticed all the buzz lately about cupcakes? They come in various shapes and sizes, from tiny, one-bite minis to gigantic ones that would give most bodies a sugar high that would last for hours.

There is almost a mystique about these small cakes. Bakeries that sell nothing but cupcakes have sprouted up all over the country, sometimes selling them at a pricey $4 a pop. The Food Network on TV has a popular program called "Cupcake Wars" centered on these little gems.

It's not hard to see why cupcakes are a trend. They are single portions, making them easy to serve. They transport well to the office or a party without making a mess. And the sky is the limit when it comes to decorating them creatively.

I'm hooked. So enchanted, in fact, that I recently taught a class on making cupcakes. I want to share one of the recipes that is perfect for this time of year. It is a pumpkin cupcake laden with nuts and raisins, topped with a cream cheese frosting and sporting a candy pumpkin on top. Pumpkin Cupcakes

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

3/4 cup golden raisins, optional

1 can (15 oz.) solid-packed pumpkin (about 1 3/4 cups)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup canola oil

4 eggs

Cream cheese frosting:

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar

Garnish: Chopped walnuts and/or candy pumpkins

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Spray with nonstick spray. Cupcakes will be quite large, and may make caps; the release spray allows easy re-moval without damaging the top of the cupcake.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spices and salt. Toss the walnuts and raisins with the flour mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition.

Add the flour mixture in three additions, stirring with a large spatula until just combined.

Fill the muffin tins almost to the top. Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the tins to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the tins and let cool completely then frost with cream cheese frosting. Makes 24.

To make frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter together in large bowl of electric mixer at medium speed until combined. Add cream and vanilla; beat in powdered sugar until creamy. Generously frost each cupcake. Place a candy pumpkin on top or sprinkle with walnuts.