Fifteen years ago, I graduated from high school. I don’t remember much about graduation day. I kind of remember getting my diploma, I kind of remember going out to eat with my brothers, their wives, Best Friend and my parents. One specific memory sticks out to me, though. My oldest brother, who is older by 10 years, gave me one of the best presents I’ve ever received.
Now, before I tell the story, I need to tell you that Oldest Brother is brilliant, mischievous, adventurous, slightly irreverent, fiercely protective and independent. I have always adored him for those qualities. As a teenager and twenty-something, he wasn’t super affectionate or outwardly sentimental but it never bothered me. He is Oldest Brother. I’ve always felt safe and cared for and slightly in awe of him.
After the graduation ceremony, we went back home and I opened presents. I’m sure I got money and little tokens. But Oldest Brother gave me a very worn scrap of faded material. Everybody went very still and then got teary.
This little scrap was from my childhood Winnie-the-Pooh blanket. It was pale blue and silky and fit perfectly in my toddler fist when I sucked my thumb. It was fringed and worn around the edges. (My mom cut my large blanket into smaller pieces so I could always have it with me and never totally lose it. Smart lady.) When I was three, our family pediatrician had a heart-to-heart with me about the evils of thumb-sucking. I have no idea what she said, but it definitely worked. I went straight home, gathered up all my pieces of blanket and threw them in the trash. I vowed never to suck my thumb again and didn’t look back. Nobody thought to hang onto a piece of blanket for posterity.
Except Oldest Brother.
He kept that ratty scrap for 15 years; through an Alaska-to-Texas move, junior high, high school, college, marriage, several cities and apartments, and most of the 80’s and 90’s. His 13 year-old self salvaged and kept it safe in a drawer until he was ready to give it back to me. Few gifts hold as much meaning for me.
We share the same parents, the same Other Brother, and the same love for the outdoors, twisted humor and good food. Neither of us eat much sugar these days, so I wanted to create something just for him. His first love is chocolate, and normally I’m up for chocolate. But he can do chocolate on his own exceptionally well, and I wanted to create something different. His second love is pumpkin pie. I came across a similar recipe and it inspired me. These little bites of bliss aren’t completely pie, and they’re not quite cake.
So this is for Oldest Brother… Not-Quite-Pie Pumpkin Cupcakes, created with a tremendous amount of gratitude and affection. Happy Thanksgiving!
- 1 can full fat unsweetened coconut milk (or 1 cup cream if you don’t mind dairy)
- 1 15 oz can 100% pumpkin puree (no additives)
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or whole milk)
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 40 drops NuNaturals vanilla stevia
- 1 cup sweetener of your choice (I like coconut sugar)
- 1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp cardamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- pinch of salt
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, eggs, erythritol, almond milk, stevia, vanilla extract and only the cream from the coconut milk (It separates if you chill it slightly. Just skim it off the top and reserve the watery part for another use.)
- In a smaller bowl, sift coconut flower and combine with baking powder, spices, and salt.
- Combine wet and dry ingredients until smooth.
- Pour batter into lined muffin tins (you can fill them at least 3/4 of the way) and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. The tops will be slightly firm to the touch, but it will still be fairly wet.
- Refrigerate overnight, then top with whipped coconut cream flavored with pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract.