Macy’s Parade & Pumpkin Spice Mini Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

When I think of Thanksgiving morning, I think of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Growing up within driving distance of New York City, my dad would take us to the parade each holiday morning. This year, with a gorgeous 50-degree forecast and family visiting from out of state, we decided to recreate childhood memories and go to the parade again.

Our day started as it always did, piled in the backseat of the car and pulling out of the driveway in the 6 a.m. darkness, with only headlights to light the way.

By the time the city skyline was in view, the sun was rising

and, after a quick drive through the Lincoln Tunnel,

and a few blocks’ walk from the parking garage,

we joined the crowds of people at 74th & Central Park West

(Photo Credit: Dennis Loria)

waiting for the parade to begin at 9 a.m.

While some people might argue that the parade is for the young,

I can assure you it’s also for the young at heart.  From the moment the first balloons came down the parade route,

the energy and excitement grew.  Listening to and dancing along with the marching bands,

the crowd waited to capture glimpses and photos of celebrities on floats,

(Jimmy Fallon & The Roots)

many of whom were just as excited to capture photos of them!

But the true celebrities of the parade were the balloons,

many of which brought back fond childhood memories.

Yes, you could watch the parade on TV, the way more than 44 million people do, but I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to see up close how the balloons are constructed

or who’s holding and steering them.

I’m also convinced that you can’t appreciate the sheer size and grandeur of the balloons without getting to see them firsthand and compared to the size of the nearest light post.

It’s enough to make the largest of adults feel like the smallest of children!

The parade captures the entire holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving

and transitioning to Christmas.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,”

and he’s the last float of the parade, led by his reindeer

and joined by Mrs. Claus.

The sight of them lets you know the parade is over, and it’s time to head home for the Thanksgiving feast.

My experience at the parade inspired me to take something big and make it small again, so I found a Bon Appetit layer cake, tweaked it slightly, and turned it into Pumpkin Spice Mini Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting!

Click Here to Print this Recipe. 

Pumpkin Spice Mini Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
  • 7.5 ounces canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 + 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/8 cup (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Candied orange peel for garnish (optional)*


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line mini cupcake tins with foil liners.
  • Whisk first 9 ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

  • In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat pumpkin, sugar, and oil. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Once incorporated, mix in orange peel. Add flour mixture in two parts; beat on low speed to blend.

  • Fill liners with batter until 2/3 full. Bake until inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 8 minutes. Cool in pans for 4 minutes and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

  • For frosting, sprinkle 1/4 cup powdered sugar over bottom of a small, nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until sugar melts (do not stir). Cook until sugar turns deep amber, stirring occasionally, about 1-2 minutes. Carefully stir in 1/4 cup cream, vanilla, and salt (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir in remaining 1/2 tablespoon cream. Transfer to small bowl and cool caramel to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter. Gradually beat in remaining powdered sugar. Beat in cooled caramel. Cover and chill frosting until firm enough to spread, about an hour and a half.

  • Using an offset spatula, frost mini cupcakes and top with small pieces of candied orange peel.

*For instructions on making homemade candied orange peels, like those in this post, click here and cut the recipe in half.



6 responses

  1. Happy Thanksgiving!
    Fun to read about your adventure to NYC and the parade. Brought back fond memories of our trips there with you guys.
    Love, Marilyn and Steve

  2. Going to the parade really sets the tone for remainder of Thanksgiving Day. Though the crowds can be overwheleming, everyone is kind(most) and they make room so the little ones can see. The kids are almost as interesting as the parade itself, as they are mesmorized by the floats, ballons, and the explosion of color that’s before their eyes.

    The pumpkin mini cakes were like Popums – bite size, full of flavor, and you couldn’t just eat one!

  3. Loved these bite size goodies. Although I only watched the parade on TV the cupcakes in person were worth the wait as always. Soft, bursting with flavor, and satisfying to the tummy. Can wait for the next treat and post!

  4. Once again, you captured the best of a trip to the Macy’s Parade, creating a truly wonderful story accompanied by beautiful photos. The mini-cupcakes were the perfect dessert after a huge Thanksgiving feast: bite-sized treats full of flavor!

  5. Your pictures and narrative make the parade come to life! As a result of reading your blog, the parade is on my list for Thanksgiving 2013. I can vouch for the dessert – the perfect ending to a holiday meal – DELICIOUS!!!

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