First Fall

When we packed up and relocated earlier this year, we only moved about 150 miles from our previous location. Really, this is a drop in the bucket as far as moves go. A quick trip. Even so, it’s amazing what a difference a buck and half of distance can make in your surroundings.

In Iowa, our little house on the outskirts of town was surrounded by flat, endless fields of grain. Peppered with quaint, rustic farmhouses and sun scorched barns, it was the portrait of the plains. In the heat of the summer, stalks of corn grew tall along two lane country roads, stretching toward an uninterrupted blue sky. From those roads, the horizon looked like a destination – a tangible place you could step into if you just drove far enough to reach it. It was beautiful in it’s own simple, Americana kind of way, but certainly not what most would call a stunning view.

Our new house is tucked back just far enough from the Mississippi River in a small, waterfront town. It’s etched into rolling hills and sits squarely under a thick canopy of trees. In the summer, our backyard stayed cool and breezy as the forest brought sweet, shady relief from the blistering sun. A simple walk to Main Street felt like a vacation. Sitting on the patio next to the river at a local place with an ice cold beer watching boats go by, it was easy to forget we were only half a mile from home.

But summer has faded and the first hints of fall have officially arrived. Mornings are chilly and afternoons are just right for college hoodies and comfy cardigans. That thick canopy of green is now tinted with hints of amber, rust and plum. Leaves fall like snowflakes, a warning of things to come. Early in the morning, as the soft, hazy sunlight peeks out from behind the woods, it throws thousands of tiny sparkles onto the water where they bob for a split second before disappearing downstream with the current.

It’s official. This will be my favorite time of the year in our new house. It’s really very beautiful. Fall belongs to the river. I’m quickly realizing how lucky we are to be able to experience it this way.

Here’s another great way to experience fall – cinnamon roll cupcakes! All the spicy, nutty, cinnamony filling, all the smooth, creamy frosting, but none of the yeast. None of the waiting. None of the hassle. These are such a perfect bite to cozy up with on a chilly fall day. A basic buttery yellow cake is layered with a ribbon of cinnamon, brown sugar and pecans. More of that goodness is pressed into the tops of the cupcakes where it melts into a crunchy topping. Then each cake gets a generous portion of sweet vanilla buttercream. If you’re a cream cheese frosting fan, by all means. Do it. 🙂

I would have liked to have done a rustic smear of frosting across the top of each cupcakes to better mimic a cinnamon roll (no one PIPES frosting a cinnamon roll! Please…) but the cinnamon sugar mixture was a little too loose for that. I was worried about all the topping getting caught up in the frosting and looking not-so-pretty. I’m sure I’m the only one who would have been bothered by that, but…you know…

Anyway! Get yourself a cozy sweatshirt and piping hot cup of coffee and enjoy this dessert spin on a breakfast classic. They’ll warm you right up. 🙂



  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1-3/4 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • 1 recipe Creamy Butter Frosting (recipe follows)
  • Additional cinnamon and pecans, for garnish (optional)


1. Allow butter and eggs to stand warm to room temperature for about thirty minutes. Meanwhile, line 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper liners. Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl  combine brown sugar, pecans, and cinnamon. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar slowly, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed until combined, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes more or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined (batter may look curdled).

3. Spoon about 1 tablespoon batter into each prepared liner. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of the brown sugar mixture over batter in cups. Spoon remaining batter evenly over brown sugar mixture in cups. Sprinkle remaining brown sugar mixture over each cupcake.

4. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire racks for 10 minutes before removing from. Cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

5. Spread or pipe Creamy Butter Frosting onto cupcakes and sprinkle with additional cinnamon and pecans if using. Store cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes about 26.

Creamy Butter Frosting: Allow 1 cup butter to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and a dash salt and beat to combine. Gradually add 4 cups powdered sugar, beating well after each addition. Beat in 1/4 cup whipping cream or whole milk. Beat in 4 additional cups of powdered sugar. Beat in 2 to 3 tablespoons additional whipping cream or milk until frosting is light and fluffy and reaches a spreading or piping consistency. Makes about 4 cups.



Filed under cupcakes

3 responses to “First Fall

  1. These look so good! I love the cinnamon cupcke idea-yum!

  2. Erin's Mom

    These look delicious! I’ll be right over!!! (I Wish!!)

  3. Brianna

    Wow, beautiful description of your new home. I wish I lived near a river. Of course, I’m not complaining that we live near the ocean, but like you said, rivers reflect seasons much better. I’m drooling over these cupcakes. Yum.

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