Introduction: Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes

Who has the time during the holiday season to create healthy and beautiful desserts that the whole family will LOVE? I know for sure that I barely have time to visit both sides of the family let alone spend four frustrating hours in the kitchen decorating cupcakes that only end up being made fun of by my siblings and cousins. However, fear no more, with this instructable, any busy mom or artistically untalented high schooler can make professionally looking plant-based cupcakes with only a few ingredients and a little bit of clean up. There is no room for stress during the holidays, and the only stress that will occur during this process is fighting off greedy hands as they try and steal your cupcakes before they're done.

Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients

For the Cupcakes:

Cherryvale farm's pumpkin spice bread mix

1/2 cup of oil

1/2 cup of water

15 ounce can of pumpkin

For the Frosting:

Pillsbury's Cream Cheese Filled Pastry Bag

Orange food coloring

For the Decorations:

Green Airheads

Mini Tootsie Rolls

Step 2: Heat That Oven

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a cupcake tray with silver tin foil liners.

Note: While the color of the liners isn't all that important, I think tin foil liners make the cleanest looking cupcakes. Paper liners tend to lose their color when heated which shows 'greasy' looking marks on the liners.

Step 3: Lets Mix It All Together

Now it's time to get to the fun part. Pour Cherryvale farm's pumpkin spice bread mix into a large mixing bowl and add in 1/2 cup of oil*, 1/2 cup of water, and one 15 ounce can of pumpkin. Once everything has been added, mix the batter thoroughly until combined and lumpy. Do not over mix*.

Tips: For the oil, I recommend liquid coconut oil as it provides a healthy and more nutritious alternative than canola or vegetable oil. However, the texture and taste will be the same either way. Also, be aware of the batter during the mixing process. Make sure the batter is combined thoroughly but is still slightly lumpy. Overmixing can cause the batter to become stiff which will take the fluffiness out of our cupcakes.

Step 4: Bake It! Bake It! Bake It Real Good!

Since these cupcakes are made using a bread mix, I recommend filling the tins up 3/4th with batter. While they will rise, we want them to form a nice rounded top that protrudes above the tinfoil edge. Once filled, place cupcake tray into the oven for 45 minutes* until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Once the cupcakes are baked to perfection, let them cool for at least an hour. The cooling process is one of the most important steps in the baking process, if they are not completely cool, the frosting will run off and things will start to get messy.

Tip: If you are using a dark pan, make sure to keep an eye on the cupcakes as time runs toward the end. Darker pans typically will be done before the recommended time.

Step 5: Did Someone Say Icing?

Now, this is where we begin to turn our average homemade cupcakes into "Where did you get these?" cupcakes. While our cupcakes are going to taste AMAZING (I promise), the real crowd stopper is the decorations. Effortlessly beautiful.

To make these cupcakes as easy as possible, we are going to use Pillsbury's Cream Cheese Filled Pastry Bags. Having the piping bag already filled not only is cheaper than buying a box of piping bags but also keeps the icing from coming out the top during the frosting process and can be thrown away after icing. NO CLEAN UP *wink* *wink*

In order to dye the icing orange, cut open the top of the icing bag (not the end with the tip) and add in as much orange food coloring until your desired pumpkin color is reached. Thoroughly mix the orange food coloring into the icing to make sure there are no white streaks remaining. I've found that a butter knife works best because it won't puncture the bag but can reach all the way down into the piping bag.

Step 6: Lets Pipe This Thang

Using the newly orange frosting bag, begin frosting your cupcakes by spiraling the frosting toward the center of the cupcake. Make sure to apply a firm amount of pressure on the piping bag as we want a thick amount of icing to come out.

WARNING: Beware of sneaky children's hands who believe the cupcakes are done and are grabbing for a bite.

Step 7: We Want Pumpkins

Once your cupcakes are beautifully frosted and you've fought off the pesky cupcake stealers, it is time to turn these beauties into pumpkins... with only a Tootsie Roll and an Airhead.

Using mini Tootsie Rolls, create the stems of the pumpkins by slightly molding them to look like a stem and placing one tootsie roll at the top of each frosted peak.

To create the vines, mold a green airhead in a curlicue to look like a (green) pig's tail. Place the vine on the cupcake by the stem.

And... VOILA!! In under 10 minutes you can turn average frosted cupcakes into pumpkins.

(Check out the above video for clearer depictions of making the decorations)

Step 8: Show Them Off

I don't know about you, but while I love baking and decorating, there is nothing better than sharing a treat I made with friends and family. These cupcakes are perfect for the holiday season and are a great token to show thanks to those you love.

So now, let those pesky hands enjoy the best homemade cupcakes they've ever had, and when people ask "When did you become so talented in the kitchen?" ... just smile and say "It's easier than it looks".