Introduction: Nutella Pumpkin Surprise Cupcakes (Gluten Free)

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It really hasn't started to feel like autumn at all here in Orlando, but I am hoping to change Mother Nature's mind with these healthy-ish yet decadent treats! Think of it as a layer of lightly sweetened pumpkin pie stuffed into a moist chocolate cupcake... it's so good that I didn't even need frosting. I was tickled pink when my friends gobbled them up without even realizing they were GF... win! 

I know you're going to want to make a big batch of these right now, so let's get started! ;-) 

(FYI, I got my inspiration from a guest blogpost by Amber of Slim Pickin's Kitchen... it took me a few times to get my GF recipe how I like it, but it was so worth it!)

Step 1: Ingredients

This looks like a long list of ingredients, but most of it will be stuff that you would have in any gluten free kitchen, so here's what you'll need...
For the cupcake part:
1/2 can of pumpkin (1 cup)
1/4 cup coconut oil (in liquid state, so warm it slightly if necessary... my house is hot, so I didn't have to)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup Nutella*
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp arrowroot powder**
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup GF all purpose flour (regular wheat flour might work too, but I haven't tried)

For the pumpkin pie surprise:
Other half of canned pumpkin (just under a cup bc mine was a 15oz can)
3 tbsp milk (I like coconut but almond, soy, or cow's milk would all be fine)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp arrowroot**
2 tsp cinnamon*** 
1/2 tsp ginger*** 
grated nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp)***

Other supplies:
Fork and/or spatula for mixing
Muffin tin (regular or mini)
Silicon baking cups or paper liners
Cooling rack

* To make this a vegan recipe, you can substitute 1/4 cup of cocoa powder
** You can substitute corn starch if that's what you have on hand.
*** If you have a pumpkin pie spice mix, you can use a little less than 1 tb of the mix instead of the three separately.

(Sorry I have two photos, but I was originally going to use Cocao powder, but had an ephiphany in the middle of baking that Nutella would be awesome instead! And in case you are wondering why it's not in English, I got it from Romania and concur with what others have said... the European version is much better!)

Step 2: Making the Cupcake Part

1. In a large bowl, mix the first 4 ingredients together, so that's the pumpkin, coconut oil, pumpkin, vanilla, and Nutella.

2. Mix in the next 5 ingredients, so that's the cinnamon, sugar, arrowroot powder, sea salt, and baking soda. 

3. Lastly, sift and mix in the GF all purpose flour in small batches. Smush out any lumps in the batter and set the bowl aside.

Step 3: Pumpkin Pie Surprise Part

1. Empty the rest of the can of pumpkin into another large bowl. You can try hard to really scrape every last yummy bit out, but there's always a little left in the rings, so I pour the milk into the can and swirl it around to get the last bits. (I hate to waste!)

2. Pour milk into bowl along with the rest of the ingredients in the list, so that's vanilla, sugar, arrowroot, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. *Make sure there are no lumps... lumps are not yummy. 

3. Set your two bowls of goodness aside for a minute.

Step 4: Putting It Together

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and decide if you're making regular cupcakes or minis (I personally think the bigger ones turned out better, but if you decided to go with the mini, jump ahead to the last step). 

2. Line muffin tin (I found that the silicone baking cups worked better for this because the cupcake is so moist).

3. Fill the cups about a third of the way with the cupcake mixture.

4. Divide the pumpkin mixture among the cups. 

5. Divide the remaining cupcake mixture among the cups to cover the pumpkin. *Don't worry if the cups are pretty full, these cupcakes only rise a bit.

6. If necessary, smooth out the tops with wet fingers. 

Step 5: Bake, Cool, and Devour!

1. Bake the regular sized cupcakes for 35 minutes (you'll see that they start to pull away from the baking cup).
*Again, see next step for mini instructions. 

2. Carefully remove them from the tin and cool on a rack for at least 25 minutes (preferably 35 minutes if you can wait that long). They're pretty moldable while they're hot, so try not to mush them out of shape when you remove them. 

3. Remove them from the baking cups and enjoy!! There's really no need to do this, but if you cut them in half, you can see the pumpkin layer. 

Bonus step: Feel free to top these bad boys with whipped cream, more Nutella, and/or with a side of ice cream! 

Step 6: Making Minis (and Other Variations)

If you've gone the mini route, then follow these steps:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tin with liners. 

2. Fill almost halfway with cupcake batter, distribute pumpkin filling, and top with remaining cupcake batter. 

3. Bake for 20 minutes and cool for 5 minutes. 

4. Remove mini cupcakes from tin and cool on a rack for another 20 minutes. 

*I think because it's smaller, the pumpkin part melded into the cupcake part, but it was still totally delish! Hope you enjoy them as much as I do! =) 

Other variations that I'd like to try: Adding shredded coconut or chocolate shavings to the top of the cupcake, including chopped nuts in the cupcake, using sweet potato instead of pumpkin in the filling, and adding chocolate chips to the cupcake... mmm, more chocolate! =)
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