These Pumpkin Spice Muffins Are Hiding a Sweet, Maple-y Secret

Hint: Cream cheese may be involved.

November 17, 2018
Photo by Julia Gartland

Thanks to a little help from our partner KitchenAid and the brand's Artisan Mini Stand Mixer and Precision Press Coffee Maker, we're bringing your favorite fall flavors to the breakfast table with these easier-than-they-look, maple cream cheese-filled pumpkin muffins!

Fall is slow to arrive this year. The leaves are starting to turn a russet red, the edges of the trees tinged in vermillion and orange, but the days are still warm. The in-between weeks have me even more ready for a change in season, because to me, baking is the most important way to usher in colder weather.

Winter holidays get billed as the biggest baking season, but let me encourage you to rethink this. Fall is the finest time to turn on your ovens, not just for the warmth it spreads through your kitchen, but to make the most of the bountiful produce and big fall flavors. Autumnal ingredients are the coziest ones; it feels like being wrapped in a big hug every time I bite into a warm muffin spiced with cinnamon, or a sugary apple cider doughnut.

Photo by Julia Gartland

The queen of all fall flavors is, of course, pumpkin spice. And my new favorite way to pay tribute to the queen? These tender-crumbed muffins filled with a sweet cream cheese maple frosting and topped with a crunchy cinnamon streusel. Before you scoff at yet another pumpkin spice recipe, wearily shaking your head at its omnipresence, let me assure you that this recipe will leave you thinking, "Oh! So that’s why pumpkin spice got so popular!”

These muffins deliver on flavor and texture: They’re moist in the way of a great pumpkin quick bread or banana bread, but also lighter and springier, like a perfect yellow layer cake; they combine the richness of pumpkin with warm, fragrant ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

They’re an adaption of a very popular layer cake I made using a vintage Land O’Lakes recipe for Vermont Spice Cake. You could call them cupcakes, and you wouldn’t be off-base enjoying one for dessert. But in my opinion, they’re really best savored for breakfast on a crisp fall morning, alongside a cup of coffee and the morning paper.

Photo by Julia Gartland

Filling the center with frosting is simple: Just spoon your frosting into a piping bag fitted with a round or star tip. Insert it carefully into the center of the muffin top (the smaller the tip, the less you’ll disturb the streusel topping) and very slowly squeeze the frosting into the center. You’ll know the muffin is filled enough when the top starts to bulge ever so slightly. Don’t have a pastry bag? You can also use a zip-top bag (the sturdier the better); just snip a small bit off of one corner of the bag and insert that into your muffin. (This method is a little trickier as the zip-top isn’t as long and narrow as a pastry bag with a tip, but it will get the job done!)

Here’s a tip for making this recipe work even more of its fall magic on you: Double the amount of streusel and spread the extra on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, then save it to spoon over yogurt or baked apples (or even ice cream!).

Whether you're enjoying a lazy weekend or rushing to get to work, a batch of pumpkin-spiced muffins—enjoyed alongside coffee brewed using the KitchenAid Precision Press Coffee Maker, which retains heat and flavor thanks to a dual wall—is guaranteed to make any fall morning a little bit sweeter. This recipe comes together in a cinch (and without making a mess!) with the KitchenAid Artisan Mini Stand Mixer, which does double-duty on the batter and cream cheese filling. This handy mixer has all the same power and functionality of the classic version, but is 20% smaller and 25% lighter—leaving you more room to cook up your favorite autumn recipes.

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I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.