Pumpkin season isn’t complete without pumpkin cupcakes iced with homemade cream cheese frosting. These cupcakes are easy to make, great to make ahead, and so fun to decorate!
Moist pumpkin cupcakes studded with walnuts or raisins or chocolate chips (or whatever mix-in you like!), topped with a swirl of tangy cream cheese frosting is just what the doctor ordered. They’re so amazing that my husband can be found hunched over a batch of them, eating one too many to count.
Have the kids help decorate them, with colorful sprinkles, candy corn, or Easy Candied Pecans!
If you love pumpkin desserts, these Pumpkin Bars are super similar to cupcakes, but are made in a sheet pan to feed a crowd!
Why You’ll Love These Pumpkin Cupcakes
It’s hard not to love cupcakes, and it’s even harder not to love these pumpkin cupcakes! Here are the top 5 reasons why you’ll be obsessed with this recipe:
- Just the right amount of pumpkin spice
- Moist, tender cake
- Creamy, tangy frosting
- Make them up to 4 days in advance (for maximum freshness)!
- Only takes 90 minutes to make, from beginning to frosted cupcakes!
Ingredients for Pumpkin Cupcakes
For the Pumpkin Cupcakes
- Plain pumpkin purée – 100% plain pumpkin purée is the base for amazing pumpkin cupcakes.
- All-purpose flour – flour is the base for most cupcake recipes.
- Light brown sugar – light brown sugar adds sweetness, moisture, and molasses undertones.
- Unsalted butter – butter adds moisture and flavor.
- Egg – a large egg creates structure.
- Pumpkin pie spice – pumpkin pie spice blend can be found at most grocery stores in the spice section! It’s typically a blend of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.
- Vanilla extract – vanilla adds flavor.
- Baking soda – baking soda helps the cupcakes rise.
- Salt – salt adds flavor.
- Chopped walnuts (optional) – chopped walnuts add a buttery crunch. You can omit these, or use chocolate chips or raisins instead.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- Full-fat cream cheese – cream cheese adds tang and creaminess.
- Powdered sugar – powdered sugar, AKA confectioner’s sugar, adds sweetness and turns cream cheese into cream cheese frosting.
- Unsalted butter – butter creates a luxurious buttercream.
- Vanilla extract – vanilla extract adds flavor.
- Orange zest (optional but recommended) – orange zest adds citrusy undertones that’s a heavenly combo with cream cheese and pumpkin.
How to Make Pumpkin Cupcakes
Full instructions in the recipe card; this is just an outline!
- Dry ingredients.
Whisk together flour, light brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt.
- Wet ingredients.
In a separate large bowl, mix together pumpkin, melted butter that’s been cooled, and the egg.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
Fold in the walnuts.
Place 12 paper liners in a greased muffin pan. Fill each liner evenly, about three-quarters of the way.
Bake cupcakes at 375 degrees for 22-28 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. Do not over-bake!
Let cupcakes cool for 10 minutes before placing them on a wire rack.
While cupcakes are cooling completely, in the bowl of a stand-mixer or with a hand-mixer, whip together the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes.
Add the vanilla, orange zest, and powdered sugar. Whip together ingredients on medium-high speed until a creamy frosting forms, in 1-2 minutes.
Use a piping bag or spoon to frost each completely cooled cupcake with however much frosting you like! If frosting is too loose to frost, refrigerate it for 10-15 minutes. Serve room temp or chilled.
Pro Tips for This Recipe
- My go-to choice is Libby’s pumpkin purée in a can (not an ad). Always opt for 100% pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling.
- Stick to a maximum of ¾ cup of mix-ins altogether.
- Cupcakes are ready when a toothpick inserted in the center shows moist crumbs. Don’t wait for a clean tester!
- Orange zest adds citrus that complements the frosting and the pumpkin cupcake itself.
- If you don’t have a muffin pan, you can use foil muffin cups along with paper liners.
- Expect some extra frosting unless you prefer generously frosted cupcakes!
- When using a piping bag, I find that frosting the cupcakes from the outside-in, in a spiral motion, is the simplest approach.
- Store pumpkin cupcakes in the fridge once they’re frosted.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Libby’s brand of 100% pumpkin is the best! This is not an ad.
Combine 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, and ½ teaspoon ground cloves to make your own pumpkin pie spice blend.
Once pumpkin cupcakes are frosted, they must be stored in the fridge since cream cheese frosting is perishable! If you prefer room temperature pumpkin cupcakes, you can take them out 30-45 minutes in advance of serving.
They last for 5-7 days, covered, in the fridge!
You can freeze the cupcakes themselves, unfrosted, for up to 3 months. Thaw them in the fridge overnight before enjoying. The frosting unfortunately doesn’t freeze well.
Plain vanilla buttercream, marshmallow frosting, mocha frosting, or caramel frosting are great options, many of which can be found in the grocery store for a quick alternative!
Decorate them with colorful sprinkles, candy corn, Easy Candied Pecans, more chopped walnuts, or a dusting of pumpkin pie spice.
More Pumpkin Recipes You’ll Love!
- Muffin pan with paper liners (or aluminum foil cups with paper liners)
- 1 can 100% plain pumpkin purée 15 ounces
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup light brown sugar packed
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter melted
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup chopped walnuts (optional) or other mix-in like raisins or chocolate chips
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces full-fat cream cheese room temperature for 30 minutes
- 3 cups powdered sugar (AKA confectioner’s sugar)
- 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter softened
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon orange zest optional but recommended
- Preheat oven to 375℉. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, light brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt until well-combined.
- In a separate large bowl, mix together pumpkin, melted butter that’s been cooled, and the egg.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Batter will be thick and creamy.
- Fold in the walnuts (or other mix-in).
- Place 12 paper liners in a greased muffin pan. Add batter evenly to the 12 liners, so each liner is filled about three-quarters of the way.
- Bake cupcakes for 22-28 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs (not batter). Do not over-bake!
- Let cupcakes cool for 10 minutes before placing them on a wire rack to cool completely.
- While cupcakes are cooling completely, in the bowl of a stand-mixer or with a hand-mixer, whip together the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes until creamy and uniform.
- Add the vanilla, orange zest, and powdered sugar. Turn mixer on low and then increase to medium-high speed. Whip together ingredients until a creamy frosting forms in 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Use a piping bag or spoon to frost each completely cooled cupcake with however much frosting you like! If frosting is too loose to frost, refrigerate it for 10-15 minutes to firm it up. Decorate if desired. Serve room temp or chilled.
- Libby’s brand of pumpkin puree is my favorite (this is not an ad). Look for 100% pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling.
- Keep to ¾ cup of mix-ins total.
- Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center shows moist crumbs. Don’t wait until your tester comes out clean or else your cupcakes will be overdone!
- The orange zest adds a delicious, complementary citrus touch. It’s highly recommended.
- If you don’t have a muffin pan, you can use foil muffin cups with paper liners.
- You’ll probably have some extra frosting unless you like extra-frosted cupcakes!
- If you’re using a piping bag, I find that frosting the cupcakes from the outside-in, in a spiral motion, is the easiest method.
- Store cupcakes in the fridge.