These quick-bread Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream are moist and packed with the fall flavors of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and Chinese 5 spice and are topped with a Swiss meringue buttercream studded with vanilla bean paste. They’re perfect individual-sized Thanksgiving desserts!Jump to Recipe
Sweet Potato Cupcakes
There are a couple of reasons why these Sweet Potato Cupcakes are perfect for fall and are so moist.
Roasted Sweet Potato
What Thanksgiving is complete without sweet potato casserole? Without a lot of effort, roasted sweet potatoes become caramelized sugar bombs perfect for baking with. Like pumpkin, banana, and zucchini, sweet potatoes add moisture and extra flavor.
Roasted sugar is some amazing stuff. It has a toasted caramel flavor and isn’t as sweet tasting as regular sugar. And the cool thing is that it still behaves like plain sugar in any recipe. Meaning it still provides the structure that baked goods need.
Because it takes up to 2 hours, it’s beneficial to roast a whole 4-pound bag of sugar at once.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour 4 pounds of refined white sugar into a 9×13 inch glass baking dish and roast for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
The sugar should be a sandy tan color and coarse, like turbinado sugar. Let the sugar cool completely and store up to a year in an airtight container.
I’m sure you are already seeing a pattern. Roasted & caramelized sweet potato + roasted & caramelized sugar = all the toasty and delicious scents and flavors of fall and Thanksgiving. But there’s more.
Stout is the third ingredient that makes these Sweet Potato Cupcakes incredibly moist and flavorful. But first, there are some misconceptions about baking with beer I’d like to address.
First, you don’t bake with beer to make baked goods taste like beer. It shouldn’t taste like you are eating a beer. Ideally, you will be able to pick out tasting notes from the beer in the baked goods.
So, for example, a coffee stout might have lots of toasty warm aromas with coffee and chocolate tasting notes. Pairing it with a baked good that complements those flavors will elevate both the beer and the baked good.
Second, you don’t bake with beer to get tipsy from eating cupcakes. Baking evaporates all the alcohol. You’re using the beer because of the flavor it imparts to the baked good and because
- It helps baked goods turn out moist
- The yeast in beer can act as a leavening agent like baking soda and baking powder
And those are the reasons why stout is the third ingredient that makes these Sweet Potato Cupcakes so good.
One of the stouts I always have on hand is Modern Times Coffee Roasty Stout. Normally I think of pairing it with chocolate baked goods. But there are enough caramel notes in the stout that made me think it would go great with the other caramelized flavors in these cupcakes.
You don’t have to use the same stout as me. Think about some of your favorite stouts and how you think they would pair with the other ingredients.
These cupcakes are full of fall spices including
- Freshly grated whole nutmeg
- Chinses Five Spice
The Chinese Five Spice adds a little kick-it’s a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechwan peppercorns.
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Swiss meringue buttercream is made by cooking egg whites and sugar over indirect heat in a double boiler, whipping them into steak peaks (meringue) and then adding butter and flavoring.
For an excellent and more in-depth tutorial on how to make Swiss meringue buttercream, read this post from Liv for Cake.
Some basic tips though include:
- All your equipment should be completely 100% grease-free
- Make sure no egg yolks get into the egg whites (even really tiny amounts)
- Constantly stir the egg whites and sugar while over the heat-if you don’t, small bits of egg can get cooked and you’ll have scrambled egg whites
- The egg white and sugar mixture shouldn’t be grainy-if in doubt, heat it until it reaches 185 degrees Fahrenheit
- Whip the egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form and the bowl is completely cool-you don’t want the butter to melt when you begin to add it
- Switch to the paddle attachment before you begin to add the butter
There are a couple of options for how to add the vanilla flavor. I used Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste and really liked how the frosting tasted.
But I ran out of the paste and tried a different brand the next time and didn’t enjoy the flavor nearly as much.
If you can’t get your hands on any good vanilla bean paste, you can use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean.
Another frosting option, if you want to take the sweet potato casserole similarities even further, is to make this 7-Minute Frosting, which is basically like marshmallow fluff.
Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream
These quick-bread Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream are moist and packed with the fall flavors of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and Chinese 5 spice and are topped with a Swiss meringue buttercream studded with vanilla bean paste. They’re perfect individual-sized Thanksgiving desserts!
Sweet Potato Cupcakes Ingredients
- 3 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice blend
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup ground flaxseed
- 2 and 1/2 cups roasted sugar*
- 2/3 cups canola oil
- 2/3 cups stout
- 1/2 cup egg substitute* at room temperature
- 2 eggs at room temperature
- 1 and 3/4 cups pureed roasted sweet potato*
Vanilla Buttercream Ingredients
- 6 egg whites
- 1 and 1/2 cups roasted sugar*
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized slices
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste*
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Sweet Potato Cupcakes Instructions
Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a standard cupcake baking tin with cupcake liners.
Combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and Chinese Five Spice Blend in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk.
Combine water and flaxseed in a small bowl and set aside.
Combine roasted sugar, canola oil, stout, egg substitute, and eggs in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until well blended.
Add the flaxseed mixture and sweet potato and beat on low speed until just blended.
Add the flour mixture and beat until combined.
Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 of the way up. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the center of the cupcake bounces back when you lightly press your fingers to it or a toothpick comes out clean.
Take the cupcakes out of the baking pan and let them cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
Vanilla Buttercream Instructions
In the bottom portion of a double boiler, add water. Make sure when you put your mixing bowl (your stand mixer bowl or whatever you’re using) on, the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat over high heat until the water comes to a boil and then lower the temperature until it is simmering.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar (off the heat). Set over the steaming water and stir and scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula until THE MIXTURE IS NO LONGER GRAINY and the temperature has reached 185 degrees Fahrenheit (about 10-12 minutes).
Take off the heat and beat the eggs with the whisk attachment on until they are glossy stiff, and cool to the touch. Take off the whisk attachment and put on the paddle attachment or the regular beaters.
Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time and beat at high speed until the buttercream is thick and creamy. Mix in the vanilla bean paste and almond extract and mix on low until combined.
Pureed Sweet Potato Instructions
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wrap two sweet potatoes in foil and place them on a baking sheet.
- Bake for 50 t0 60 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are soft.
- Split sweet potatoes open, scrape out the flesh and puree in a food processor or blender until smooth.
- Wait for the puree to cool down until at room temperature.
Roasted sugar is from Stella Parks BraveTart cookbook and it can be used exactly the same as plain sugar.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Pour 4 pounds of refined white sugar into a 9×13 inch glass baking dish and roast for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
- The sugar should be sandy tan color and coarse, like turbinado sugar.
- Let the sugar cool completely and store up to a year in an airtight container.I used Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste, where 1 tablespoon vanilla paste = 1 tablespoon vanilla extract = 1 vanilla bean.
I used Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste, where 1 tablespoon vanilla paste = 1 tablespoon vanilla extract = 1 vanilla bean.
Use your preferred vanilla bean paste or simply substitute 1 tablespoon vanilla paste with 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean.