Outside of the Breadbox and www.outsideofthebreadbox.com is in no way affiliated with, endorsed by, or sponsored by Outside the Breadbox, Inc., a Colorado corporation, or its federally-registered trademark, Outside the Breadbox®. If, however, you would like to try the best gluten-free baked goods in the world, visit www.outsidethebreadbox.com.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Recipe: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

...but not just any Pumpkin Cupcakes. Certainly not! You don't build a reputation for excess with a little Cake and some Frosting.

Anything but ordinary, these are full-on tributes to the Flavors of Fall. Starbucks, your Pumpkin Spice Latte finally has a fitting Pastry partner (because, let's face it... your pastries are... um... yeah).

"Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cupcakes...
      ...with Chocolate and Citrus Spice Cream Cheese Frosting...
            ...Topped with Spiced Candied Pepitas"

This Cake recipe is somewhat unique in that the batter includes Cream Cheese, both for flavor and richness. And borrowing a trick from Shirley Corriher's "BakeWise", dairy is added in the form of Whipped Cream. She is spot on when she praises the way Whipped Cream produces an "airy, silky smoothness". Modesty be damned, the texture of this Cake is remarkable.

As for the Spiced Candied Pepitas, it should be obvious by now - I'm a sucker for crunch. And you can't find a more seasonally appropriate topping for Pumpkin Cakes than Pumpkin Seeds

Cut Pumpkin Cupcake
The pairing of Pumpkin and Chocolate might seem odd, but it works extremely well. And consider that Pumpkin itself does not have the strongest flavor. What most people identify as the flavor of Pumpkin is usually the accompanying spices: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger and Clove.

Butter, Cream Cheese, Sugars and Spices to be Creamed
This batter begins with Butter, Cream Cheese, Sugar, Brown Sugar and Spices. 

The Cream Cheese is similar to Butter in both texture and higher fat content. However, the Cream Cheese adds a depth of flavor with slightly sour notes.

The Spices are added at this early stage because fats (e.g. the Butter and Cream Cheese) are excellent carriers of flavor.

Creamed Butter, Cream Cheese, Sugars and Spices
Using a whisk attachment, whip the ingredients for several minutes until they are light and airy. The more air that is whipped into the batter, the lighter the final cake. And seeing as the batter does not contain any Flour at this point, you don't need to worry about over-mixing.

Eggs, Oil and Vanilla Extract to be Emulsified
Oil, Eggs and Vanilla Extract are added next. Since oil- and water-based ingredients do not mix, the batter must be emulsified. With the mixer on medium to high speed, slowly stream the Oil and Eggs into the Batter. The slow incorporation will allow the ingredients to hold in suspension. Natural emulsifiers in the Eggs help to keep the suspension stable (i.e. the oil will be better "locked" and will not separate from the batter).

Emulsified Batter
Continue whipping the Batter until it is again light and airy. There should be a considerable amount of air trapped in the Batter.

Pumpkin Puree
It's not Pumpkin Cake without Pumpkin. You can always roast a Pumpkin and make your own Puree (go ahead, Martha), but the canned product is perfectly fine. Just make sure that you purchase "Pumpkin Puree" and not "Pumpkin Pie Filling", which includes many additional ingredients besides the Pumpkin.

Whipped Cream
Before the Pumpkin Puree is added to the batter, it is combined with Whipped Cream. Adding Whipped Cream to a Cake Batter helps to make the texture more smooth and airy.

Whipped Cream Folded into Pumpkin Puree
Once the Cream is whipped to medium peaks, fold it into the Pumpkin Puree. Always fold lighter ingredients into heavier ingredients (and dry ingredients into wet ingredients).  

Pumpkin Puree Folded into Batter
Then fold the Whip Cream Pumpkin mixture into the Sugar Mixture. Be careful when folding the ingredients. You want to keep as much air locked in the batter throughout the mixing process.

Pumpkin Cake Dry Ingredients
Next up are the dry ingredients, including the Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda and Salt. Always sift or whisk all of your dry ingredients before adding them to a batter. Not only does this remove any large lumps, it ensures that the leavening agents (e.g. Baking Soda and Baking Powder) are evenly distributed. 

If the dry ingredient are poorly combined, you can end up with a batter than contains pockets of leavening. If you're making Cupcakes, some of the batter may contain too much leavening while other parts contain none. The result: extremely inconsistent Cupcakes.

Folding Dry Ingredients into Cake Batter
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in three additions. Fold each addition until the ingredients begin to combine but the batter is still streaky (as in the above photo). Then introduce the next addition. 

This process keeps the mixing to a minimum, which is important once the gluten-containing Flour has been added. Over-mixing the batter at this point will result in a poor-textured Cupcake.

Fully Mixed Pumpkin Cake Batter
Stop mixing as soon as the ingredients are combined. The batter will appear somewhat lumpy, but this is perfectly fine.

Optional Chocolate Chips Added to Pumpkin Cake Batter
And for those who are taking this to the finish line, gently stir in the Chocolate Chips to truly complete the batter. 

Individually Portioned Cupcake Tins
Prepare a cupcake pan with paper liners and fill each cup about 7/8th of the way full... that's just shy of the rim.

You can simply scoop the batter using two spoons or an ice cream scooper. I prefer to fill a pastry bag with a large hole cut in the tip - it's the fastest way to fill a large number of cups.

Baked Pumpkin Cupcakes
Bake the Cupcakes for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius). The baked Cupcakes will be gently springy to touch, and a cake tester should remove clean. Given the color of the Pumpkin, there will be no visible browning as an indication of doneness.

CItrus Spice and Chocolate Cream Cheese Topped Pumpkin Cupcakes
Once the Cupcakes have cooled, it's time to go crazy with frosting and toppings.

Cream Cheese Frosting is an easy option. Start by beating soft Butter and Cream Cheese in an electric mixer. When the ingredients are smooth, add Powdered Sugar. That is a Cream Cheese Frosting in its simplest form.

Extracts such as Vanilla, Almond and Mint are an easy way to flavor a Frosting (but a little Extract goes a long way). For a Citrus variation, add Lemon or Orange Zest. Cocoa Powder makes for a very simple Chocolate. And dried spices like Cinnamon and Nutmeg are perfect seasonal picks.

Spiced Candied Pepitas
But the unadorned Frosting, no matter how delicious, is only half done until you add the Spiced Candied Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds). The Pepitas add a sweet, salty and spicy crunch that truly complete the Cupcakes.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cupcakes with Citrus Spice and Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting and Spiced Candied Pepitas

- The Recipe -

Pumpkin Cupcakes:

YieldApproximately 30 Cupcakes (~75g each)

  • Butter, cubed: 115g (0.5 Cup / 1 Stick)
  • Cream Cheese: 115g (0.5 Cup)
  • Sugar: 250g (1.25 Cups)
  • Brown Sugar: 150g (0.75 Cups)
  • Cinnamon: 2 Tsp
  • Ginger: 1 Tsp
  • Nutmeg: 1 Tsp
  • Clove: 0.5 Tsp

  • Eggs: 200g (4x)
  • Vegetable Oil: 110g (0.5 Cup)
  • Vanilla Extract: 6g (1.5 Tsp)

  • All Purpose Flour: 480g (4 Cups)
  • Baking Powder: 10g (2 Tsp)
  • Baking Soda: 5g (1 Tsp)
  • Salt: 6g (1 Tsp)

  • Heavy Cream: 120g (0.5 Cup)
  • Pumpkin Puree: 440g (15oz Can)

  • Chocolate Chips: 340g (12oz Bag)


1. Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the Butter, Cream Cheese, Sugar, Brown Sugar and Spices until light and fluffy.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the Oil, Eggs and Vanilla Extract. With the mixer on medium to high speed, slowly stream the Oil & Egg mixture into the Butter & Sugar mixture. Continue mixing until the batter is well emulsified.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda and Salt. Whisk well to combine. Set the Flour mixture aside.

4. In (yet another) bowl, whisk the Heavy Cream to medium peaks. Fold the Whipped Cream into the Pumpkin Puree. When the ingredients are well combined, fold the Sugar & Egg mixture into the Pumpkin mixture.

5. Next, fold the Flour mixture into the Pumpkin mixture in three additions. Add each subsequent addition while the batter is still streaky to prevent over-mixing.

6. Lastly, gently stir the Chocolate Chips into the batter.

7. Using a spoon, ice cream scooper or pastry bag, portion the batter into a cupcake pan fitted with paper liners. Fill each cup about 7/8th of the way full. Bake the Cupcakes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, rotating the cupcake pan half way through baking. The baked Cupcakes will be gently springy to touch, and a cake tester should remove clean. Allow the Cupcakes to cool completely before frosting or decorating. 


- Frosted Cupcakes will keep for several days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Allow the Cupcakes to temper at room temperature before serving. The cake will become dry over time, and the Cream Cheese frosting can spoil.
- Unfrosted Cupcakes are best stored in an airtight container at room temperature. The Cupcake will keep for up to a week if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator but will dry over time. Unfrosted Cupcakes can be frozen for up to a month.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

Yield: Each recipe makes about 2 cups - enough for 18 Cupcakes


Citrus Spice
  • Butter, cubed: 115g (0.5 Cup / 1 Stick) 
  • Cream Cheese: 275g (1 Cup)
  • Powdered Sugar: 240g (2 Cups)
  • Salt: 0.5 Tsp
  • Orange, zest: 1x
  • Lemon, zest: 1x
  • Cinnamon: 1 Tbls
  • Ginger: 2 Tsp

  • Butter, cubed: 115g (0.5 Cup / 1 Stick) 
  • Cream Cheese: 275g (1 Cup)
  • Powdered Sugar: 240g (2 Cups)
  • Salt: 0.5 Tsp
  • Cocoa Powder: 60g (0.5 Cup)


1. Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the Butter and Cream Cheese until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2. Sift the Powdered Sugar and Salt into the mixer bowl. Starting at low speed, mix the Powdered Sugar into the Butter and Cream Cheese. Once the ingredients are mostly combined, increase the speed and beat the Frosting smooth.

3. Add the recipe-specific flavoring ingredients (Zest, Spices, Cocoa Powder, etc) to the Frosting and mix to combine.

Chef's Note: Milk can be added to the final Frosting to make it thinner, if desired. Add just one tablespoon at a time. 


- The Frosting should be refrigerated at all times and will keep for up to a week.

Questions? Comments? Send me an email or leave a comment.
Stay connected with Outside of the Breadbox on Facebook, view on Instagram,
follow on Twitter @BreadChefMark. And sign up for the email list.


  1. Sir! Just made these cupcakes. PHENOMENAL. I start the pastry program at ICC on March 8th and it makes me so happy to know I'll be able to turn out recipes like this when all is said and done. Really, really great.

    1. Best of luck to you at school. You will work hard, but you will love it. Keep me posted on how it goes. And enjoy it while you're there.. the time will fly by!