Improv Cooking Challenge: Crunchy Sweet Potato Cupcakes

Let's just say that this month's ICC was a bit of a debacle.  And because of that, creating this post was a mad rush.  But in the end, I think I prevailed.  Sort of.
Let's first start with what I had to work with...

Potatoes and Cheese

Uhh, huh?  Crap.  First thing that crossed my mind was to skip this month's challenge, this was totally geared towards savory dishes.  But then I thought 'I ain't no quitter'! In those exact words, too.  So my brainstorming adventure began and I must say, I'm glad I took up the challenge. Even though these cupcakes caused me some stress, having something to snap pictures of was well worth it.  And they turned out pretty cute! 

So what we came up with [and I say we because several co-workers took part in this] was a Sweet Potato Cupcake topped with your classic Cream Cheese Frosting.  I'm [not so] secretly hoping that Kristen doesn't kick me out of the club for fudging the lines with sweet potatoes and cream cheese.  That's technically cheese, right?  Right?! 

But from this idea, I wanted to go just one step further.  I had a vision of Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes and to bring this idea to fruition, I added a crunchy layer of cinnamon-sugar pecan streusel [exactly like the streusel layer in my French Toast Cupcakes!].  Does that sound good or weird to you?  Well with my new found love for Sweet Potato Casserole, I went with it.

I started with a sweet potato cupcake recipe I found while browsing online, but here's where it all crumbled.  Literally.  I had to make a couple of ingredient adjustments and somewhere along the way, I didn't account for something.  Something I can't quite put my finger on, but what I ended up with was completely caved-in and overflowing cupcakes [somehow magically all at the same time].  The cupcakes were so incredibly delicate that the streusel layer literally sunk into the cupcakes.  But then I also apparently overfilled the liners so we had cupcake tops like no other.  And I am not a fan of cupcake tops.  I like my cupcakes sitting snugly within the liners, plain and simple.  So needless to say, those sad cupcakes marched their way straight to the trash.  Sad [and frustrating] day.

So onto the next sweet potato cupcake recipe!  Second time's a charm, in my book.  Learning from my previous mistakes, I adjusted accordingly and came out with these little guys.  The cupcakes themselves are not overly sweet potato-ey [which may be a good thing for some of you] and if you didn't know any better you could probably mistake them for pumpkin.  Texturely, they didn't quite come out how I would have liked but Hollyann vowed they're still good nevertheless.  Now on to that streusel!  I sadly have to admit that the streusel sank into the cupcakes a bit, but it still lends the cupcakes a hidden sugary, crunchy layer that is unexpected yet perfectly complements the generous helping of creamy cream cheese frosting.  And though these are a bit St. Patty's Day inspired, Hollyann and I wanted to give a nod to March Madness, which is beginning this weekend.  SO!  Hollyann made those adorable little fondant basketballs you see.  Too cute!

The fondant maker!

Aside from the near nervous breakdown, these cupcakes were a joy and true challenge.  So thanks again Kristen, from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker, for once again hosting a fabulous ICC.  On to April!

My Notes:
  • The original cupcake recipe only made a dozen cupcakes, so I doubled the recipe.  But if you're looking for a dozen cupcakes rather than 24, just halve all of the ingredients below.
  • I absolutely fell in love with this frosting.  Not only is it extremely tasty, but it was ridiculously easy to pipe.  I'm not a great piper by any means so this easy-to-use frosting was perfect for me.

Adapted from Picky Palate and Snappy Gourmet 

1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. chopped pecans
5 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1-1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. canned sweet potato pie filling
2 eggs
1-1/2 c. buttermilk

2 (8 oz. each) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 c. powdered sugar

  1. For streusel, combine brown sugar, sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and pecans in a small bowl.  Cut in butter with hands until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Heat oven to 350 F.  Line two muffin tins with liners; set aside.  For cupcakes, add flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, sugar, sweet potato pie filling, eggs, and buttermilk, in a large bowl.  Combine using a large spoon until well mixed (about 15 to 30 seconds). 
  3. Fill prepared muffin cups just about 3/4 full.  Top evenly with streusel, making sure to cover the tops.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.  Let cool completely on wire rack before frosting.
  4. For frosting, beat together cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until well combined.  Beat in vanilla extract.  Slowly beat in powdered sugar until smooth.  Frost cupcakes as desired.
Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

post signature


  1. Such fun - and so creative! Glad you didn't skip this month's challenge!

  2. A fellow Challenge participant dropping by. These cupcakes look AMAZING. And I have to try the cream cheese frosting. I have been looking for one with a high ratio of cream cheese to butter.

    I hope you'll check out my entry: http://cupcakesandkalechips.com/2012/03/15/march-improv-challenge-potato-goat-cheese-gratin-recip/

  3. These look like they turned out great in the end! I know what it's like to have those baking fiascos! =) So glad you didn't skip the challenge this month!

  4. These cupcakes ended up turning out great!! The cream cheese frosting looks so good and I like the crunchy streusel top too!

  5. These are great! I love that you thought outside the box! Very cool! I am a huge March Madness fan , so the basketball toppers are the greatest!

  6. First what a pretty blog you have!!! Second I think this is the only sweet potatoe recipe I saw! What a great idea! You little smartie = )
    Please come check out my colcannon casserole

  7. I love the idea of that streusal layer - even if it did sink down into the cupcakes!

  8. You are so funny. Of COURSE cream cheese is cheese ;-). I am glad you made something sweet.

  9. Oooh, I love sweet potatoes! I've never tried them in a sweet dish, but I bet they taste amazing in those cupcakes. And good job with the cream cheese icing--to me that totally counts as the cheese requirement. :D

  10. These cupcakes look so delicious! Thanks for joining us for "Strut Your Stuff Saturday." We hope you'll come back next week! -The Sisters

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