These pumpkin cream cheese muffins are inspired by Starbucks’ baked treat but is made from scratch and so much easier on the budget!
I’ll be completely honest with you guys. I rarely go to Starbucks. It’s not that I don’t like coffee. I actually LOVE coffee. But I also happen to live in San Francisco, where there are plenty of small individual coffee shops that sell fantastic coffee drinks. But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the call of the pumpkin spice latte (which inspired my pumpkin spice latte bread as well as my pumpkin spice frappuccino). Mostly though, I stop by a Starbucks to pick up a muffin or baked good when I’m in a hurry. And when they have them, my go-to choices is their pumpkin cream cheese muffin. Finally, I decided I needed to develop my own version at home. Now, I may never visit that big coffee chain shop again!
How do you make pumpkin muffins?
Inspired by Starbuck’s classic pumpkin cream cheese muffin, this recipe looks complicated to make but isn’t. Preheat an oven to 450°F and grease or spray a 12-muffin tin with cooking oil.
Making the pumpkin muffin batter like any other muffin batter. Whisk together the dry ingredients of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. In a separate bowl combine the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, white sugar, cooking oil, eggs, pumpkin spice, and vanilla.
Then fold in the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients until just moist. Don’t over mix as this will lead to a tough muffin. Divide the dough into a 12-cup muffin pan.
To get a mimic Starbucks-style muffin, sprinkle the edges around the muffin batter with some chopped pumpkin seeds, turbinado sugar and a touch of salt.
Then combine softened cream cheese with a little bit of sugar, flour and vanilla. Spoon or pipe the cream cheese filling into the middle of each muffin batter.
Place the muffin pan in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 350°F. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
And if you’re a video person, here’s a short video on how to make the muffins!
Why do preheat the oven so high?
Preheating the oven to a high temperature does two things. The act of opening up the oven to place something in it will drop the temperature, sometimes as much as 50°F. Preheating the oven to a higher temperature compensates for that.
But more importantly, the initial high temperature for a muffin helps with the oven spring, the act of a baked good rising high and fast before it bakes and sets. Oven spring and high initial baking temperature leads to a bakery-style domed top for the muffin. Start the oven out at such a high temperature and then drop it down to make sure the remaining center of the muffin bakes through.
What is pumpkin pie spice? Can I substitute?
Pumpkin pie spice is blend of various warm wintery spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. You can buy pumpkin pie spice pre-blended at the grocery store, or make your own custom pumpkin pie spice blend using my homemade pumpkin pie spice recipe.
But if you don’t feel like making your own blend, just substitute 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg in place of the 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice in this recipe.
What is the best pumpkin puree to use? Can I use homemade pumpkin puree?
I tested this recipe using Libby’s brand pumpkin puree in this recipe because it’s the most common and easiest find brand of pumpkin puree. I have found that other canned pumpkin puree will work but the moisture content of them varies per can. Organic canned pumpkin tends to be more watery than convention canned pumpkin.
However, with this recipe you can use whatever canned pumpkin puree you have on hand. You can even use homemade roasted pumpkin puree if you have it. To make your own pumpkin puree, cut a small sugar or pie pumpkin in half, scoop out the pumpkin seeds and stringy parts. Roast in a 400°F for 45 to 60 minutes then scoop out the flesh and puree it in a food processor or blender. Homemade pumpkin puree will be more watery as well, so you might want to consider cooking the puree down slightly on the stove to remove some of the water and concentrate the flavor.
Do not use pumpkin pie filling in this recipe. Pumpkin pie filling is a premade filling in a can with added sugar and spices. This muffin recipe is designed for pure pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling.
How customize this muffin
There are many ways to customize this muffin. If you want to take the recipe to the next level, make my candied pumpkin seeds and then use those to top the recipe instead of using plain pumpkin seeds. Omit the sugar and salt on top if you do.
Or you can substitute the pumpkin seeds for a different seed like sunflower seeds or flax seeds. Or swap out chopped nuts like pecans, walnuts or pistachios.
Or skip the cream cheese filling and top the muffin with a streusel topping instead. You can use the topping for my pumpkin coffee cake and sprinkle it on top of the muffin before baking.
Try mixing in dried fruit like dried golden raisins, dried cherries, or dried cranberries into the batter. Fold in 1 cup of dried fruit into the batter just before dividing it into the muffin tin.
Or sprinkle some chopped crystallized ginger to the top of the muffin. About 2 to 3 tablespoons of chopped crystallized ginger on top will give a little sweet spice to every bite.
Finally consider mixing in some spices to the cream cheese filling. You can add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon or pumpkin spice to the filling or add 1 to 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder to go in a chocolate direction. You can even mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons of mini chocolate chips to the cream cheese filling for more chocolate punch!
How do I store these muffins?
You can store these muffins at room temperature for up to 24 hours under a cake dome or in an airtight container. Because of the pumpkin puree, they stay very moist. But after a day, I recommend storing them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. But I’ve never had leftovers last that long!
These muffins do taste best when they are at room temperature, so leave them out on the counter for 30 minutes if you are pulling them from the refrigerator before serving or microwave them for 10 to 15 seconds to warm them up from the fridge.
I don’t recommend storing them in the freezer though. The cream cheese filling tends to break and become gummy in consistency.
If you like these pumpkin cream cheese muffins, check out these other pumpkin recipes
- Pumpkin Star Bread with Dried Cranberries
- Pumpkin Coffee Cake
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
- Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Graham Cracker Crust
- Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 280 grams
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 15 ounces pumpkin puree a scant 2 cups
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar 165 grams
- 1/2 cup white sugar 100 grams
- 1/2 cup neutral cooking oil like corn or canola
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin spice see section above for substitutions
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
- 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar or white sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt like Maldon or kosher
Cream cheese filling
- 4 ounces softened cream cheese 1/2 brick
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 450°F and make a mental note that you will be lowering the temperature of the oven when you place the muffins in the oven. Generously spray or brush a standard 12-tin muffin pan with cooking oil.Make the muffin batter by placing the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Use a balloon whisk and stir vigorously until the dry ingredients are blended.Place the pumpkin puree, brown and white sugar, cooking oil, eggs, pumpkin spice and vanilla extract in a different bowl. Whisk together until smooth.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of the dry ingredients. Using a large rubber or silicon spatula fold the ingredients together, bringing the spatula up from the bottom of the bowl and folding over the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Keep doing this until most of the dry ingredients are absorbed. Do not overmix though. A few dry spots are ok.
- Evenly divide the batter into the muffin tin. I use a standard ice cream scoop to do this, but you can just spoon them in. The batter should fill and come mostly to the top of each cup.If you are using them, sprinkle the topping ingredients of the pumpkin seeds, turbinado sugar and salt around the edge of each muffin batter tin, leaving the center empty. Don’t worry too much if you get a few seeds or some sprinkles of salt in the center. Just try to keep most of it on the edge of the circle.
- Make the cream cheese filling by combining the cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla in a small bowl. Stir with a fork until smooth.
- Spoon about a teaspoon of cream cheese filling into the middle of each muffin center, pushing a little bit into the batter to make sure the filling is nestled in. You can also pipe it into the center if you wish with a frosting bag and a plain tip but I’m not fussy so I found a spoon worked for me.Place the muffin tin in the oven and immediately lower the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the pumpkin part of the muffin comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing them and let them cool completely on a wire rack.