Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins with Candied Pepitas

So…this was a challenge. I literally thought about the perfection of this recipe in my sleep for 3 days straight. You may be asking yourself, why in the world would she dream about muffins? Well, if you’ve had the pleasure of biting into the absolute deliciousness of what is the Starbuck’s Pumpkin Cream Cheese muffin, you would totally understand. The Starbuck’s muffin is, in my opinion, more cake than muffin – it’s dense, extremely moist, bursting with pumpkin flavor, and has the perfect amount of gooey cream cheese right in the center, just enough so that you can have a little bit of cream cheese with each bite, if you’re careful. To my dismay, when Frank and I went out for a late night coffee and dessert a few weeks ago, Starbuck’s had no pumpkin cream cheese muffins in sight. When I asked about them, the barista said they’d been out of muffins for weeks! Everyone all over the country is eating up the muffins faster than Starbuck’s can make them! As we made due with a slice of pumpkin loaf (which is also amazing, and possibly something I will attempt to recreate in the future), I decided that my next cooking quest was to figure out how to make my own pumpkin cream cheese muffins that would give Starbuck’s a run for their money. And that’s what we have here…

I scoured the Internet for copycat recipes, but found surprisingly few “quality” recipes that seemed worth the time and effort to try out on my own. There were so many I saw that had too few ingredients, not enough pumpkin, too much work, not enough work to get that delicious consistency I fell in love with, etc. I finally settled on one that appeared legitimate, but after the first bite of the batch I made at home, I was massively disappointed. Now, it wasn’t a bad muffin per say, but it wasn’t fantastic either. It wasn’t sweet or moist enough, the proportion of cream cheese to muffin was way off, the size and shape of the muffin was strange, and in general, it just wasn’t a “wow” muffin. It was just a muffin. So, I went back to the drawing board, and the muffin dreams began. I started to go through the recipe ingredient by ingredient in my head, trying to figure out what I could tweak to make the final product better, but I just wasn’t satisfied with that. I was really stuck, and confused, as to why the recipe called for vegetable oil, which I personally think is a really lousy replacement for good old butter. When I started pondering that specific fact, I suddenly remembered that I already had a recipe for pumpkin muffins that used butter – my mother’s amazing Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. The decision was immediately made – I would fuse the two recipes, taking the best of each, and hope that the muffins would rise. Well, they did! And they’re amazing! I’m not sure whether or not they’re quite as good as the Starbuck’s original, but I have the distinct feeling that I’m crazy to think I, the woman of very little baking competency, can even begin to compete with what I’m sure are the amazing bakers employed in the Starbuck’s kitchen. But, it’s my pleasure to present to you, just in time for Halloween, my own version of Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins. Enjoy!

* I had to throw in a little treat…a picture of our precious puppy, Eva Marie, dressed as a bumble bee for her very first Halloween.*

Ingredient List
Cream Cheese
4 oz. cream cheese, softened     [400 calories]
3 tablespoons granulated sugar     [144 calories]
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Candied Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)
½ cup pepitas (either roasted & salted shelled, or raw shelled)     [380 calories]
3 tablespoons granulated sugar     [144 calories]
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Muffin Batter
1 2/3 cups (233 grams) all-purpose flour     [775 calories]
1/2 cup (112 grams) granulated sugar     [384 calories]
¾ cup (144 grams) dark brown sugar     [540 calories]
¼ teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon (7 grams) baking soda
¼ teaspoon (3 grams) salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs [140 calories]
1 stick salted butter, melted      [800 calories]
1 cup pumpkin     [100 calories]

Makes 12 large muffins
Calories per serving: 305

In a small bowl, combine softened cream cheese, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract. Using an electric mixer on low speed, combine ingredients until smooth (1 minute). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill to allow mixture to solidify somewhat before baking.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

* It can be difficult to find raw, shelled pumpkin seeds; most grocery stores in our area tend to carry the roasted and salted shelled version for snacking only. If you purchase the roasted and salted shelled variety, you don’t need to toast the seeds before caramelizing the sugar. If you purchased the raw seeds, toast them in a small saucepan over medium heat for ~ 5 minutes, stirring constantly, or until the seeds begin to pop.*

Spray a large baking sheet with Pam for Baking. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Once warm, add the granulated sugar and stir constantly until it begins to liquefy and caramelize, about 2 minutes. Immediately add the pumpkin seeds, stirring well to combine. Add the cinnamon and mix well.

Transfer pumpkin seeds to the baking sheet, making sure to separate any large clumps and spread out the seeds as much as possible. Once they have cooled fully, you can use your fingers to pull apart the individual seeds.

* This step is very time-consuming, and honestly, slightly unnecessary. As long as you don’t have 2 huge clumps of seeds on your baking sheet, you can deal with small clusters of seeds as your topping. If you’re truly a perfectionist, feel free to separate all of the pumpkin seeds from each other before adding to the top of the muffins. *

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and all 5 of the spices. In a medium bowl, crack the eggs, and then add the pumpkin and the melted butter. Fully combine the wet ingredients with a large whisk.

* Be sure to actually melt your butter in the microwave before adding to the eggs and pumpkin. You want this part of the mixture to be smooth and creamy, not textured which is what you’ll get if you just soften the butter and try to mix it together as best as you can. *

Pour the wet ingredients on top of the dry ingredients. Using a large wooden spoon, fold the ingredients together until well-mixed. Do not use an electric mixer for this step; folding by hand is necessary to achieve the desired muffin batter texture.

Spray a muffin tin with Pam for Baking, or line with paper cups. Fill each muffin mold nearly to the top with batter. Remove the cream cheese mixture from the refrigerator, and spoon ½ – 1 tablespoon of cream cheese onto the top of each muffin. Push the cream cheese down a little bit into the batter with your finger or a spoon; alternately, you can use a knife to swirl the cream cheese around the top of the muffin instead, but it’s a tricky process and takes a bit of time.

* If you feel so inclined, you can add the cream cheese to the middle of the muffin instead. To do so, fill the muffin mold halfway with batter, add the cream cheese, and then fill up the muffin mold the rest of the way with batter. *

Sprinkle the muffin tops with the candied pepitas. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin itself (not the cream cheese) comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool before removing from the muffin tin.

Recipe – Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins with Candied Pepitas – PDF Version


There really is no “original” version of this recipe, because…I made it myself! Well, sort of. This is a blend of my mother’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins recipe, and a copycat Starbuck’s recipe provided on Tastebook by Christine Boozer, which can be found here
Starbuck’s Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins.



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