Ombré Spice Cupcakes

overhead image of cupcakes with orange ombre frosting

Happy Monday to you all! How was your weekend? Did you catch any football? Bake pumpkin cookies, decorate for fall? Melt in the 95°F, 80% humidity weather? (Really, September?) I did all of the above. My favorite part was either the Lumineers concert or tackling a pumpkin cookie recipe I’d been working on all week. I’ll share them on my blog soon, promise.

In case the weather outside your window is frightful– and in the blistering hot sauna sort of way– maybe these ombré spice cupcakes will put you in the Autumn mood. Grab your PSL (or homemade pumpkin spice creamer + coffee!!) and take a seat. It’s time to begin that Fall baking magic.

spice cupcakes with orange ombre frosting

This recipe is actually in partnership with McCormick. I’m on their blogging team this year and am thrilled to bring you recipes using all sorts of their products. One item I’m particularly excited about is their new food color: Color from Nature. I know you’ll appreciate these new colors as much as I do because I’m often asked about ways to naturally color icings, cupcakes, cakes, etc. These 3 new colors are all made with ingredients from nature like plants, veggies, seeds. And it comes in powder form. I think that’s pretty freaking cool!! You can mix and match + blend and combine to get all sorts of different shades.

Like ombré Fall colors. Aren’t these so fun!   ♥   ♥

overhead image of cupcakes with orange ombre frosting and McCormick Color Nature food coloring

I’ll get back to the colored frosting in a sec because I want to chat about the spice cupcakes themselves. These spice cupcakes are an adaption of my new vanilla cupcakes. I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful feedback from you on that recipe, so I’ve been inspired to play with it to create new awesome flavors. Like SPICE! I love spice cupcakes from their deep flavor to their moist texture and everything in between. Not to mention how timeless they are; they’re a must every Fall season.

To make my version, I’m going to ask you to whip out dark brown sugar and butter. These two combined– creamed– will be the base of your spice cupcakes. You can use light brown sugar instead of dark brown if it’s easier for you, but let me be honest. Dark brown will give you that little extra boost of flavor. I love the stuff this time of year!

spice cupcake batter in a glass stand mixer bowl

Also we’ve got all those wonderful spices. Here’s the spice line-up:

ground cinnamon
ground all-spice
ground ginger
ground nutmeg

These four warming spices will give your cupcakes most of their flavor. When I was testing this recipe, I kept switching up the amounts of each– but I’m satisfied with the amounts you’ll see in the recipe below. Maximum spice flavor. Also important: cake flour and sour cream! The two will produce the most incredible light, cakey, and fluffy spice cupcakes.

spice cupcake batter in a glass bowl with a whisk

We’ll use a deliciously sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting on the cupcakes. I’ve always loved spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting– reminds me of pumpkin cake, carrot cake, or banana cake… my favorites!

And now we can add the pretty ombré colors! I mixed and matched the Color From Nature Food Colors to get varying shades. Like, some of the Berry Nature Food Colors and some of the Sunflower Nature Food Colors to get an orange. I have it all out in the notes below so you can make all sorts of festive Fall shades.

Cream cheese frosting in glass bowl with a hand mixer

overhead image of cupcakes with orange ombre frosting

Have fun with these! Get in the Fall spirit and color your heart out.

spice cupcakes with orange ombre frosting

More recipes to get you in the fall spirit:

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spice cupcakes with orange ombre frosting

Ombré Spice Cupcakes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 14 cupcakes
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Flavorful and beautiful ombre spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.


Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)*
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk, at room temperature

Autumn Colored Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces (224g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • McCormick Color from Nature Food Colors*

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2 liners – this recipe makes about 14 cupcakes. Set aside.
  2. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, all-spice, ginger, nutmeg, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  5. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners – fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  6. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes.
  7. Divide the frosting up into however many colors you’d like. I made 2 batches of frosting to get this many colors, so stick with 3 colors for the 1 batch of frosting. Stir in the McCormick Color from Nature Food Colors to reach your desired color.
  8. Frost the cupcakes using one colored frosting on each one. I simply used an icing knife. Arrange the cupcakes in an ombre formation, from dark to light.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, use this homemade cake flour substitute.
  3. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Flex Edge Beater | 5-qt Tilt Head Glass BowlGlass Mixing Bowls | Cupcake Pan | Cupcake Liners | KitchenAid Hand MixerIcing Knife
  4. Frosting Colors: For a yellow frosting, use ½ teaspoon Sunflower Nature Food Colors. For a light yellow frosting, use ¼ teaspoon Sunflower Nature Food Colors. For an orange frosting, use ¼ teaspoon Berry Nature Food Colors + 1 teaspoon Sunflower Nature Food Colors. For a light orange, use 1/8 teaspoon Berry Nature Food Colors + 1/2 teaspoon Sunflower Nature Food Colors. For a reddish orange, use 1/4 teaspoon Sunflower Nature Food Colors and 1/2 teaspoon Berry Nature Food Colors.
  5. Room Temperature Ingredients: Why are all the ingredients supposed to be at room temperature? Here’s why!

Keywords: ombre cupcakes, spice cupcakes

76 Comments

  1. heather (delicious not gorgeous) says:

    love that they’re made more naturally, and that they look more natural, too! these shades of orange actually remind me of leaves and pumpkins and fall, rather than neon bursts of color that i’m weary about eating.

  2. Peppermint Dolly says:

    These turned out so well – awesome job!

    Rxx
    www.peppermintdolly.com

  3. Omg these sound amazing, I definitely need to try these! Sophie x

    sophiehmstewart.com

  4. Oh my gosh, Sally, the picture of the beaters in the frosting!!!!!!!!!!! SO so so so pretty! I love it 🙂 Just like I love this recipe! I’m not one of the absolutely spice-crazy people, but I do like it a lot in fall, so I’m excited to see what all you baking mavens come up with! 🙂

    1. Thanks Caley!

  5. You were at that concert? So were half the people I know this weekend! SO jealous. But I heard that it was a blast!
    These are so pretty. And I love spice anything. Time to bring in those flavors DESPITE the crazy 90-degree Saturday we had!

    1. Yes! It was a lot of fun, but so so so humid!!

  6. patricia @Sweet and Strong says:

    I am so ready for Fall, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it yet outside with this heat.  And I do love some Fall spices, it’s def my favorite ‘foodie season’.  So awesome McCormick makes natural food coloring now because colored frosting looks so much prettier!

  7. Marina @ A Dancer's Live-It says:

    How beautiful!! Spice cupcakes are definitely a Fall-must. LOVE the use of the natural food color in these too. It makes them look so authentic!

  8. Dawn - Girl Heart Food says:

    What a perfect thing to see on a Monday morning 🙂 These looks gorgeous! And love all the spices in there! Yum!

  9. Those natural food dyes by McCormick are genius – it’s never really bothered me to use the unnatural, filled with preservatives food dyes, but if such a natural alternative is so readily available, I’m going to use that instead. Boxed spice cake was always one of my favourites growing up, so I love these. Glad to see everyone’s starting to get into the Fall spirit 🙂 Anyways, the ombre frostings on these cupcakes are gorgeous; I’m going to have SUCH a hard time deciding which of your cupcake bases I want to use for Halloween cupcakes! 

    1. I 100% agree. It never bothered me too much either, but when an option like this is available– I’m using it for sure!

  10. Such a great concept! I can totally see an ombre cupcake display at a wedding or baby shower 😀

    1. Perfect occasion for something like this, yes!

  11. I made your iced pumpkin coffee cake for breakfast yesterday morning, and I’m having another piece of it for breakfast today with my vanilla almond tea. My hubs isn’t a big pumpkin fan but when I make that coffee cake, he eats a quarter of the pan right from the start 🙂

    These cupcakes look amazing…love the colors on the frosting and spice cake sounds wonderful. Now if only the weather would cooperate and drop a few degrees so I can believe fall is on its way…

    1. I love that he still eats the coffee cake! Ha!

  12. Andrea @ Cooking with a Wallflower says:

    Oh my gosh! These cupcakes look so amazing and so perfect fall! The color is so gorgeous!

  13. I just love Spice cake! Now I love,Love chocolate. But if I had to choose between the two I’d go with Spice. But I don’t like frosting…..I know I’m really weird. I’m not a real sweet lover. Could this recipe be baked into a cake, if so what size? Or a bunt cake which I usually sprinkle powder sugar on.
    Thanks for all your hard work to bring us these great treats.

    1. Hi Barbara! I’d go with an 11×7 cake pan for this.

      1. Thanks I’ll try this size. And play with the baking times. Maybe 28 min???

      2. I’d start with 28 and keep checking with a toothpick test. 🙂

  14. Michele Mallory-Davidson says:

    It’s like you were reading my mind! My parents are coming at the end of the month and my dad said on the phone the other day that he hadn’t had spice cake since his mother passed away. I thought, I need to find a spice cake or cupcake recipe, and boom they you were!
    These look amazing, can hardly wait to make them for my dad! Thanks!

    1. I hope he loves them. Thanks for sharing! <3

  15. These are pretty darn spectacular! I love these colors and it makes me want to decorate my house now!

  16. Del's cooking twist says:

    I love your opening to the fall baking magic! Fall is my favorite season for its beautiful ingredients, and it smells delicious spices until here in Chicago! Can’t wait to give these adorable ombre spice cupcakes (love the name) a try 🙂

  17. I.am.SO.making.these. It’s not quite as easy as picking up the box in the grocery store, but I know it will be so much better AND I have all of these ingredients on hand. It is a sign! Thank you for sharing this recipe with us Sally!

  18. Demeter | Beaming Baker says:

    These cupcakes are absolutely gorgeous Sally! 🙂 I sooo missed your blog these past few weeks (you can thank crazy pumpkin bread test kitchen adventures for keeping me away lol). The ombre colors are so beautiful. For some reason, I always think of mermaids when I hear “ombre.” So this is pretty much how I’d imagine mermaid’s hair would look like in the fall. 🙂 Something about your blog always makes me feel all dreamy (could it be the unicorn sprinkles and fun?) Btw, love your new gravatar pic! Have a great week Sally! xo

    1. Thanks Demeter! Whenever I think of ombre I think of mermaid hair too. Or bridesmaid dresses!

  19. Marie @ Sugar Salt Magic says:

    These look beautiful Sally.

  20. Jessie @ Chasing Belle says:

    Oh my goodness these look delish! How festive and pretty with the different colors 🙂

  21. Sally these cupcakes are absolutely stunning :)… Do you know when these natural colours would be available in Canada? I love how beautiful the colours turned out. Happy Fall Baking!

    1. Let me find out for you! 🙂

    2. Hi again Jenn! I asked my contact at McCormick and the colors are not available in Canada yet. And, unfortunately, they do not know when they will be. Ahh, sorry!

  22. lol, I resisted doing anything “Fall” because I love summer so much, and on Saturday, there were still eleven days left of it! I’ll start baking in about two weeks. I’m gonna start with
    gingerbread!. Although I may change my mind because of these ombre cupcakes…

  23. Christina Sorensen says:

    These look delicious! I can’t wait to try them!

    Do you think that the cake is stable enough to hold up to a mini cake mold. I just ordered (Williams-Sonoma) a fall style mini-cake pan with molds for leaves, acorns, etc and am so excited to try it out with a spice cake recipe.

    1. Hi Christina– I feel like these cupcakes (turned into a cake) would be too light and fluffy. Best to use something with a little more body. I have a spice cake recipe that would be PERFECT coming to my blog next week if you can wait. 🙂

  24. Jennifer Berkey says:

    Oh, goodness! I always love that sweet indulgence!

  25. Amy @ Thoroughly Nourished Life says:

    These are absolutely beautiful! As always, Sally 🙂
    I love the ombre colour theme, and the fact that these colours are derived from natural products! We shall definitely be indulging soon, even though it’s turning into a warm spring around here – we can still pretend it’s fall in Australia, right?

    1. Even though I LOVE spring, it would be pretty sweet to have 2 Falls. 🙂 Enjoy the weather there my friend!

  26. Laura | Tutti Dolci says:

    Spice cake may be my very favorite fall dessert. These cupcakes are gorgeous!

  27. I made these yesterday, they are so good! My husband doesn’t like pumpkin which is a complete travesty! so I thought he might like these and I get my fall spice fix in 🙂 They were so good and he also liked them so I don’t have to eat all 14 cupcakes myself! Now I need to make those pumpkin cookies, they look so good and easy.

    1. Thanks Patricia– and guess what? My husband also doesn’t like pumpkin! He enjoyed these though.

  28. Do you happen to know what stores carry this new Color From Nature product? I also live in Chicago and checked Mariano’s and they don’t have it. Baked the cupcakes tonight (they are DELICIOUS) and frosting them tomorrow…hopefully if I can find this coloring! 🙂

    1. Hi David– I see it at my grocery store and it should also be available at places like Target and Walmart. 🙂

  29. I am so excited that there are “mainstream” natural colors! I’ve often had to search far and wide, and pay a handsome price, for natural colors as I absolutely loath artificial anything. Thank you for bringing these to my attention, Sally! And thank you McCormick! 

    1. I’m really excited about them too. Thanks Lucy!

  30. October 18 is National Chocolate cupcake day. I’m going to make your Devils Food cupcakes with this Ombre Cream Cheese frosting for my fellow nurses at work!!

    1. SO festive, I love it.

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