From Pumpkin to Apple Spice, Here are Fall Sweets to Try at Home

So much yes.

As a savory chef, I’ve always envied people who are excellent bakers. As temperatures dropped, I caught myself thinking about all of the wonderful fall baking options — from apples, to pumpkin, to nuts and spice. It all feels like a warm hug. Since I’m no baker, I reached out to two experts in all things sugar and spice — Mandi Giunta and Amber Hash. They are the owners of Basically Bakers, a small baking business specializing in cakes. So, with their help we put together some decadent baked goods to help celebrate the season and usher in my favorite time of year. I got them to share some recipes and, of course, make some beautiful creations for this month’s shoot. If you’re not up for trying to master these on your own — Basically Bakers to the rescue.

Candied Pecans
This simple recipe for candied nuts only calls for seven ingredients. They are perfect for topping various salads, entrees and desserts. And they also make a delicious gift.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
4 cups (12 ounces) pecans halves, unsalted
1 egg white, whisked
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and cayenne to a large bowl or Ziploc bag. Toss or whisk until evenly combined. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, add pecans and egg whites, and gently toss until combined and the pecans are evenly coated. Add in the sugar mixture, and toss until combined.
Spread the mixture out in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (If your baking sheet is not that large, you may need to split the batch onto two baking sheets.)
Bake for about 40 minutes, removing the nuts and giving them a stir every 20 minutes, until the pecans are fragrant and the sugar coating is cooked. (The sugar will harden more once the pecans are out of the oven.)
Remove from the oven, and let the baking sheet cool on a cooling rack until the nuts reach room temperature. Transfer them to a sealed container and store until ready to use.


Basic Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Using whisk attachment, whip butter and cream cheese for 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time; mix for 1 minute between each addition.
Mix in cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Mix 1-2 more minutes or until light and fluffy.
Refrigerate frosting 15-30 minutes before piping onto cupcakes.


Apple-Spiced Cupcakes With Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
For the Cupcakes
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 cup Musselman's Apple Butter
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
For the Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in egg, apple butter, yogurt and vanilla.
Sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and salt.
Gradually mix in dry ingredients with wet.
Divide batter between 18 standard muffin tins prepared with paper liners.
Bake 25-27 minutes or until cooked through.
Transfer to rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Frosting:
Using whisk attachment, whip butter and cream cheese for 2 minutes.
Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, mix for 1 minute between each addition.
Mix in cinnamon, vanilla and salt.
Mix 1-2 more minutes or until light and fluffy.
Refrigerate frosting 15-30 minutes before piping onto cupcakes.


Swirled Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Bars With Gingersnap Crust
For the crust
2 cups crushed gingersnaps
1/4 cup melted butter
For the cheesecake
2 (8-ounce) packages cream
cheese, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
(not pumpkin pie filling)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a small bowl, stir together crushed gingersnaps and melted butter. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9-by-9-inch baking dish. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove to a wire rack.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or with an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, sugars and flour until creamy. Remove 3/4 cup of the mixture to a small bowl and set aside.
Add pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla extract to remaining mixture and beat until smooth. Stir in spices until combined.
Pour pumpkin mixture over the top of the crust.
Stir milk into reserved cream cheese mixture. Drop mixture by spoonful over pumpkin mixture. Using a knife, swirl the cream cheese mixture through the pumpkin mixture.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until center is set and knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If the top starts to brown and the center isn't set, cover with aluminum foil to prevent further browning.
Remove to wire rack to cool for 30 minutes before placing in the refrigerator for 2 hours or until completely cooled.


Sweet Potato Pecan Cake
For the Sweet Potato Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter,
melted and browned, bits included
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
6 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
22 ounces canned sweet potatoes puree
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and lightly flour three 8-inch round pans. Line with parchment paper circles.
Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, until butter turns brown. Remove from heat and let cool.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
In a large bowl, combine browned butter (including any brown bits on the bottom of pan), granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla bean paste. Whisk until combined.
Whisk in dry ingredients, adding in two batches.
Add sweet potato puree and mix well.
Divide batter evenly between the three 8-inch round pans.
Bake for 32-36 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

For the marshmallow buttercream:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
16 ounces marshmallow fluff
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and marshmallow fluff on medium speed for two minutes until creamy.
Add in confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing and scraping bowl as necessary.
Add milk and continue to mix on medium speed, 3-4 minutes until fluffy.
For the maple drip glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
4 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons light corn syrup, optional
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Use immediately.
For the assembly: Once the cakes have cooled, trim off the top so that they are level. Place one layer of cake onto serving plate or cake stand and top with 1 cup of marshmallow frosting. Repeat with second cake layer, more frosting and then last layer of cake. Crumb coat the cake and refrigerate 10 minutes until set. Frost the cake and smooth the sides and top, reserving about 1/2 cup frosting, for garnish. Using the tip of a spatula, create swirls on sides, if desired. Make glaze and drizzle over the top with small drips overflowing the edge. Wait 5 minutes for the glaze to set up a tad. Using a large round tip, pipe dollops of frosting on top of the set glaze, sporadically but in a circular form. Sprinkle with chopped pecans and a light dusting of cinnamon to finish.

NOTES:
1. Maple glaze should be used right after whisking, as it will harden as it dries. If needed, cover bowl of prepared glaze with a damp paper towel to prevent it from setting. Whisk again before using.
2. Milk can be substituted for the light corn syrup in the maple glaze, if desired. However, the glaze will not have the same shine.
3. 
Maple glaze should be thick yet pourable so that it flows down the side of your cake with a little resistance. Unsure if your glaze is the right consistency? Set a small bowl upside down on a larger plate and do a test drizzle onto the bowl. If it is too thick and doesn’t drip down the side, even with some assistance, add a few more drops of milk to loosen the glaze. If it is too thin and runs right off the side of the bowl and pools onto the plate beneath, add a little more confectioners’ sugar to thicken the glaze.
Serve at room temperature. Store in refrigerator. 

Special thanks this month to basicallybakers.com for providing all the cakes. For more info, please visit their website or Facebook page. Special thanks to Central Market for providing all the ingredients. For more info on Beth Maya, please visit foodbybethmaya.com.