Make pumpkin chocolate chip with cinnamon buttercream cupcakes for a decadent fall treat. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Make pumpkin chocolate chip with cinnamon buttercream cupcakes for a decadent fall treat. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

On the strawberry patch: In honor of ‘Cupcake Mondays’

Pumpkin chocolate chip with cinnamon buttercream cupcakes brighten up the dreariest of work.

Most of us never saw combat, but we are shell shocked, nonetheless.

We were stationed in paradise but spent our days in a dim, flickering fluorescent-lit sea of gray cubicles and mildewy carpets, the recirculated atmosphere tense and often hostile.

The office was a minefield fueled by intense competition for advancement and the power struggles amongst the leaders of the various civilian and military factions, all warring for control of the mission for their own political gains, and we were both the soldiers and the ammunition in their battles.

Our mission was dire, and sometimes tragic, but due to the nature of it we could not discuss our troubles for relief, and the trauma of it took its toll. I watched my friends’ spirits break over time, their footsteps grew heavier, the light in their eyes fading with each passing week.

So, every Monday morning for a couple years I would carry a few dozen cupcakes down the ¼ mile of asbestos-lined tunnel to provide a sugary distraction.

We started calling it “cupcake Mondays” and it was the highlight of my week.

This recipe was one of my very first and quickly became one of my most highly requested, especially in the fall: pumpkin chocolate chip with cinnamon buttercream.

Ingredients for about 18 cupcakes:

1 cup pumpkin puree (either canned or fresh)

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

¼ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup brown sugar, packed

11⁄3 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch of salt

2⁄3 cup chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your cupcake tins with paper liners.

Mix your melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, milk, eggs, oil and pumpkin puree until smooth.

Sift together your flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold together until just combined.

Fold in your chocolate chips.

Portion the batter into the cups filling ¾ to the top.

Bake for 22 minutes, rotating halfway, until the tops are firm and springy.

For the buttercream:

½ cup room-temperature unsalted butter

2½ cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons heavy cream

With the paddle attachment whip the butter until the color lightens slightly.

Drop the speed to the lowest setting and very slowly add half the powdered sugar.

Add the cream and cinnamon.

Add in the second half of the powdered sugar.

When all the sugar has been incorporated, kick the speed up to high and whip for 3-5 minutes until the buttercream is light and fluffy.

Wait until the cupcakes have cooled completely before frosting or your buttercream will melt.

Store finished cakes in the refrigerator.

When people think of Veterans Day they think of combat veterans, and they of course deserve our admiration, thanks and respect on this and every day of the year, but the reality is the vast majority of service members and veterans fill support roles like I did.

They are the mail clerks, yeoman, corpsman, translators, cooks, etc. who keep the missions running at home and abroad.

I remember them as friends.

The sweet blonde girl from Wisconsin who would sing Disney songs with my sister and me, the wild child who came back from leave in Ireland with blue hair and crazy stories, the California girl who knew all my pop culture references, and, of course, the salty and sarcastic Army Sgt. who pretended to be tough but was a caring and dedicated mentor.

I only wish I could share these cupcakes with them again to thank them for their service and the blessing of their camaraderie in our unique battlefield.

Tressa Dale is a U.S. Navy veteran and culinary and pastry school graduate from Anchorage. She currently lives in Nikiski with her husband, 1-year-old son and two black cats.

More in Life

Appease your child’s picky palate with these tasty Tater Tots. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Tots to be thankful for

Two years ago, I spent the entirety of Thanksgiving Day in my green rocking chair, cradling my newborn son.

Minister’s Message: Keep in step

Sometimes it takes going half way around the world to learn how to “keep in step” as I journey.

Shelli and Mike Gordon pose in October 2011 at their Halibut Cove, Alaska, home in an Alaska Gothic version of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” painting. (Photo courtesy of Mike Gordon)
‘Dagnabit’ features tales of ’80s wild Alaska

Gordon’s second book also tells of Ruben Gaines, creator of Chilkoot Charlie.

Before boiling, this handmade pasta is rolled, cut and tossed in flour to keep from sticking. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Pasta by hand

Learning one of the most important task of the Italian kitchen: making the pasta.

Will Morrow (courtesy)
The Great Thanksgiving dessert debate

Our holiday gathering is going to be smaller than it sometimes is, and it was argued that we didn’t need two desserts.

Dianne Spence-Chorman’s “Fig Study” is one of the works showing in the Homer Council on the Arts “Fun wtih 5x7” show through Dec. 22, 2021, at the gallery in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
‘Fun with 5×7’ offers affordable art

HCOA annual art show presents art in a variety of media, all in 5x7 format.

Make pumpkin chocolate chip with cinnamon buttercream cupcakes for a decadent fall treat. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: In honor of ‘Cupcake Mondays’

Pumpkin chocolate chip with cinnamon buttercream cupcakes brighten up the dreariest of work.

Nick Varney
Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Back off, Zeus

If this wet-n-warm, freeze, then start again, continues much longer, Kachemak Drive will need a complete redo.

The cover of Tom Kizzia’s book, “Cold Mountain Path,” published by Porphyry Press in October 2021. (Photo provided)
‘Cold Mountain Path’ explores ghost town history of McCarthy

Kizzia’s book looks at McCarthy history from 1938 to the town’s revival as a tourist destination.

Melinda Hershberger works on her installation for the Kenai Art Center’s collaborative mural project on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Wall-to-wall creativity

Artists collaborate on a single mural at the Kenai Art Center this month.

This spectacular and simple marshmallow recipe is an easy way to wow at holiday potlucks. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Power puffs

Don’t dread the dreaded potluck with this five-ingredient marshmallow recipe.

In this 1950s image, Chell Bear (left) and Lawrence McGuire display a stringer of small trout they caught through the ice in front of the homestead cabin of Bob Mackey, for whom the Mackey Lakes were named. (Photo courtesy of the Kenai Peninsula College Historic Photo Repository)
History with a sense of humor, Part 2

The second in a two-part collection of humorous tales gleaned from old newspapers on the central Kenai Peninsula.