Move over pumpkin pie! Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Homemade Bourbon Marshmallows are ready to be the star of your Thanksgiving feast.
It’s not too hard to figure out where the inspiration for these cupcakes came from. When Thanksgiving rolls around my mom always makes a big pan of buttered sweet potatoes topped with golden toasted marshmallows. It’s nearly dessert, but somehow we all accept that it belongs on the plate next to the turkey and dressing.
Browned butter is what makes the cake extra-special. The toasty flavor harmonizes so well with warm spices and sweet potato.
Brown that butter.
Browning butter is easy, but it requires your undivided attention. And it’s the first step of this recipe, so let’s get into it.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Use a light-colored metal saucepan so you can easily see the color of the butter change. It’s much harder to judge the doneness in a dark nonstick pan. Cook until the butter foams and steams. Swirl the pan occasionally as the foam subsides and watch closely as the butter turns golden brown and the milk solids drop to the bottom of the pan. Pour the browned butter and butter solids into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not solidified.
Mixing the batter.
Oh, the spices! They will fill your home and give you all the warm and fuzzies. Whisk cinnamon, ginger and allspice into the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients, which includes unsweet mashed sweet potato. You could boil sweet potatoes on the stovetop in water and then mash them. Or save yourself some trouble. Buy a can of organic sweet potato puree (such as this).
Combine the wet and dry ingredients until smooth. Then add the browned butter along with the solids. Beat it in with an electric mixer, and you should have a thick, fluffy, perfect-looking cake batter.
Portion it into cupcake liners using an ice cream scoop. If you don’t have a scoop, then aim for about 2/3 full.
Look at these beauties! They rise and brown evenly, and have a soft, moist crumb.
I would understand if you wanted to plop a toasted ready-made marshmallow right on top of those cupcakes for an easy version of this recipe. However. I adore the bouncy softness of a homemade marshmallow. Ever since I topped this hot cocoa cake with homemade marshmallows. Well. I’m a changed woman.
They’re not all that difficult to make, but they will need some time to cure. You may want to make them ahead of the cake portion. I’ve added a grace note of bourbon to these marshmallows, which makes my southern heart a little happier, and it tastes divine with the sweet potato sponge.
After the marshmallow cures in the pan for two hours, slice the slab of marshmallow into 25 squares.
Simple cinnamon American buttercream is quick to whip up, and the perfect adhesive to hold onto the bourbon marshmallows. You’ll just need a little bit on top of each cupcake. (I used a Sultan tube, which pipes the perfect little ring of frosting.) Lightly toast the marshmallows using a chef’s torch, if you have one. Homemade marshmallows are extremely meltable, so use a light touch.
There’s a lot of love that goes into these cupcakes, from the browned butter to the homemade marshmallows. And if you’re feeling generous, drizzle a little caramel sauce over the tops of the marshmallows and sprinkle on some pecans. I call these toppings optional because there’s already quite a bit going on, but those finishing touches are nice when serving to a crowd.
One more thing – not everyone will have a chef’s torch to toast the marshmallows. There are oven instructions for this in the recipe notes.
Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Homemade Bourbon Marshmallows
- chef's torch
- 8×8 baking pan
- 2 cupcake pans
- paper cupcake liners
Sweet potato cupcakes
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups sweet potato puree
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 4 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
- 1/2 cup bourbon
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup divided
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 2/3 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- Milk or cream to thin
- 1/2 cup prepared caramel sauce
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Sweet potato cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with papers.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Use a light-colored metal saucepan so you can easily see the color of the butter change. It’s much harder to judge the doneness in a dark nonstick pan. Cook until the butter foams and steams. Swirl the pan occasionally as the foam subsides and watch closely as the butter turns golden brown and the milk solids drop to the bottom of the pan. Pour the browned butter and butter solids into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not solidified.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk the sweet potato puree with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and sour cream until well combined. Stir in the flour mixture and combine until only a few streaks of flour remain. Whisk in the browned butter until well combined.
- Divide the batter between the cupcake liners using a trigger ice cream scoop. If you don’t have a scoop, fill them about approximately 2/3 full. Bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes or until they spring back when pressed in the middle. Remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Lightly spray an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray and wipe away any excess with a paper towel.
- Let the gelatin dissolve in bourbon 5 minutes, or until well bloomed and thickened.
- In a medium saucepan with a candy thermometer clipped to the side, stir together the sugar, 1/4 cup corn syrup, 1/4 cup water and salt and place over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 240°F. Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1/4 cup corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Microwave the gelatin on high until it is completely melted, about 10-20 seconds. Pour it into the corn syrup. Set the mixer to low, and keep the mixer running while you check the sugar syrup.
- Once the syrup reaches 240°F, remove it from the heat. Keeping the mixer on low, slowly pour the syrup into the gelatin mixture in a steady stream, aiming for the space between the beater and the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 5 more minutes. Beat on the highest setting for 1 to 2 minutes more and beat in the 2 tablespoons bourbon; the finished marshmallow will be opaque white, fluffy, and roughly tripled in volume.
- Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan. Use an offset spatula to smooth the top. Combine cornstarch and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl to make the coating. Sift coating evenly and generously over the top. Let the marshmallow set for at least 2 hours. When the marshmallow has set, use a knife to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan. Invert the marshmallow slab onto a coating-dusted work surface and dust it with more coating. Cut into 25 large squares and dip the sticky edges of the marshmallows in more coating, patting off the excess. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature while you prepare the buttercream.
- Combine the butter and confectioners in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high speed until well combined, about 4 minutes. Add in the cinnamon. Add milk or cream 1 tablespoon at a time with the mixer running until the frosting comes to piping consistency. Transfer the frosting to a large piping bag fitted with a large sultan decorator piping tip (see blog post for link). Alternatively, you can use any large fluted piping tip.
- Pipe a small ring of buttercream on a cupcake and immediately top with a marshmallow. Repeat the process of piping and topping until all of the cupcakes are topped. Use a chef’s torch to lightly toast the marshmallows. Homemade marshmallows are extremely meltable, so use a light touch. Garnish each cupcake with a drizzle of caramel and a sprinkle of chopped pecans.
- Store the cupcakes airtight for up to 2 days at room temperature.