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Just as blueberries own the month of July, for August it has got to be peaches – hands down. Peaches and nectarines dominate the farmers markets around here starting late June, and boy do they rule in August! These cupcakes adapted from smitten kitchen are one of my first “summer” bakes from a decade ago, and I can confidently say that I’ve made them – with a few tweaks here and there – every summer since. Light batter, juicy peaches, and brown sugar cream cheese frosting so perfectly matched to the cupcakes’ flavor, this one’s a keeper. I’ve made this into a layered cake for many summer birthdays over the years, and it just had to be the final installment of my seasonal cupcake project! In fact, when I started planning it, August was one of the first months I locked in with Peach (even though it was the last month in the series)!
Without further ado, let us get started – those peaches are not going to peel, dice (and stain all your kitchen towels) themselves!
The light crumb of these cupcakes are the courtesy of cake flour, and we start by sifting it with the baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg. I always do this on a piece of parchment paper so that its easier to transfer to the stand mixer later, and saves me a bowl during cleanup! I wipe the paper and reuse it.
Combine the butter with salt and vanilla extract in the stand mixer bowl – adding the salt and vanilla extract at this stage helps distribute it throughout the batter more evenly than adding it with dry and wet ingredients respectively. Cream the butter with the 2 kinds of sugar, and then beat in the eggs, followed by the buttercream. You can also use yogurt or sour cream instead of the buttermilk. Gently stir in the flour, and fold in the peaches, being careful not to over mix the batter.
Fill 2 cupcake tins (lined with cupcake liners) with the batter (24 cupcakes total), and bake at 400 degrees F for 5 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake the rest of the way, for a total of about 20-22 minutes. Cool.
The cream cheese frosting is very simple and can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. Combine and sift together the brown sugar, cornstarch and confectioners sugar, making sure you remove any hard/dry bits. This will result in a smooth frosting! Beat the butter and cream cheese together until fluffy, and then add the sugar mixture and beat again. Be sure to chill the frosting for at least 30 minutes before using it on the cooled cupcakes. The frosting is on the runnier, softer side and lacks the body and stiffness of a buttercream, but it tastes heavenly so its worth any adjustments you may have to make to your decorating plans!
Case in point, these cupcakes – I couldn’t commit to how I wanted to decorate these. It started out with just a rustic “slather on”, then I couldn’t resist piping on some tiny roses once I saw how well the frosting was behaving. Oh well, they were delicious anyway!
Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 24 moderately-frosted cupcakes (1.5x the frosting for more heavily frosted cupcakes)
Adapted from smitten kitchen
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks or 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark or light brown sugar, packed (dark brown sugar will yield a much sweeter cupcake)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) buttermilk
3 large or 4 medium peaches, peeled, cored, and diced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 muffin tins (24 muffins total) with cupcake liners.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg on a sheet of parchment paper, and set aside.
Combine the butter, salt and vanilla extract in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with electric beaters), and mix on low speed until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the sugars and cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed, beating until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition. On the lowest speed of the stand mixer (“Stir”), gently mix in the buttermilk. Stir in all the dry ingredients on low speed, being careful not to over mix (if using electric beaters as opposed to a stand mixer, please carry out this step by hand using a wooden spoon). Turn off the mixer and fold in the peach chunks using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until uniformly distributed.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners, filling up between 2/3rd and 3/4th of the way up. Bake at 400 degrees F for 5 minutes. Then, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue to bake for a total of 18 to 20 minutes, or until a tester or a thin knife inserted into the center of cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes for five minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, fluffed with a fork, hard/dry bits removed by hand
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch and powdered sugar. Sift the mixture over a piece of parchment paper and set aside. This step is essential to get a smooth, uniform frosting.
In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with electric beaters), beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture and vanilla, and beat until frosting is smooth and light, an additional 1-2 minutes.
Cream cheese frostings always benefit from a quick chilling session in the fridge, so chill it for at least 30 minutes before frosting (cooled) cupcakes. You can also chill it (in an airtight container) overnight and then leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes before using the next day. If the frosting seems too stiff, just beat it with a whisk or electric beaters for 15-20 seconds, and it should be good to go. Use the frosting as chilled as possible.