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These super moist pumpkin cupcakes are easy to make, perfectly pumpkin spiced, and finished with tangy cream cheese frosting. I adapted this recipe from my very favorite pumpkin cake. They’re a must-try during the fall season!

a bite taken out of a pumpkin cupcake topped with cream cheese frosting

Pumpkin cupcakes deserve their own spotlight, right?

I received some questions about turning my pumpkin cake into cupcakes, so I figure a completely separate post for pumpkin cupcakes would be helpful. Compared to cake, cupcakes cook faster and are easier to decorate, transport, and serve. LOVE THAT!

pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

These are the BEST Pumpkin Cupcakes

And I have a list to prove it!

  • Easy to prepare
  • Simple, basic ingredients
  • Moist and soft
  • Heightened pumpkin spice flavor
  • Sweetened with brown sugar
  • Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting
  • Fun to decorate! 🙂
pumpkin cupcake batter in a glass bowl

Let’s Compare

Let’s compare these pumpkin cupcakes to my beloved pumpkin muffins recipe. There’s definitely a few differences!

  • Ease: Both pumpkin cupcake recipes are super low maintenance. You don’t need a mixer to make either batter (though you could certainly use one!) and both batters come together in minutes.
  • Actual Recipes: The recipes themselves are pretty similar. Here I cut out the milk and reduced the flour to make up for less liquid. You only need 1 cup of flour, so you are basically guaranteed mega moist cupcakes. There’s also slightly less pumpkin because it can weigh down your baked good (totally fine in a hearty, slightly denser muffin though).
  • Flavor: The flavors are pretty identical, including spices.
  • Texture: But here’s the real difference– these pumpkin cupcakes are not quite as dense. They’re incredibly moist and soft, but have more of a cake and cupcake texture and less of a muffin texture.

My tip: As with most of my cupcake recipes, fill the liners only about 2/3 full. This is about 3 full Tablespoons of batter per cupcake. (See 9 more tips for baking the BEST cupcakes!)

2 images of pumpkin cupcake batter in a cupcake pan before baking and pumpkin cupcakes in a cupcake pan after baking

Ingredients in Pumpkin Cupcakes

Because this homemade pumpkin cupcake recipe is based off of my pumpkin cake, you’ll notice the ingredients are almost exactly the same. In a nutshell, we halve the cake recipe to yield about 12 cupcakes. The spices and vanilla extract aren’t completely halved. Rather, I kept both on the higher side for plenty of FLAVOR!

Here’s what you need:

  1. Flour: All-purpose flour serves as the base. It’s sturdy enough to support the thick batter.
  2. Baking Powder & Baking Soda: These help the cupcakes rise.
  3. Cinnamon & Pumpkin Pie Spice: Instead of prepared pumpkin pie spice, you can use 1/2 teaspoon each: ground allspice and ground ginger AND 1/4 teaspoon each: ground nutmeg and ground cloves. I love using homemade pumpkin pie spice here!
  4. Salt & Vanilla Extract: Both add flavor. Try making your own homemade vanilla extract sometime.
  5. Oil: Oil, as opposed to butter, guarantees a moist crumb.
  6. Eggs: Eggs provide structure and moisture.
  7. Sugar: I only use brown sugar to sweeten these cupcakes because it’s the best!
  8. Pumpkin: Use 1 cup of pumpkin puree in this recipe, then browse my pumpkin recipes to use up the rest of the can.
Cream cheese frosting with stand mixer

Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese frosting is a pumpkin cupcake’s BFF.

Here’s what I love most about this duo: cream cheese frosting doesn’t take away from the pumpkin flavor. Rather, it lets the pumpkin cupcakes shine. Cream cheese frosting is not selfish. That’s a true friend, is it not?! 😉 We’d have a different story with, say, vanilla buttercream because it’s too sweet, too heavy, and too overpowering.

This cream cheese frosting will hold a little shape if you pipe it, though a simple swirl with a knife works too. I like to use a round tip for piping, like Ateco 808 large round because it resembles a big puffy cloud on top. It’s the same frosting and piping tip I use for carrot cake cupcakes, too.

If you really want to go wild, try this brown butter cream cheese frosting from my banana layer cake, this cinnamon cream cheese frosting from my banana cupcakes, this pumpkin spice cream cheese frosting from my pumpkin bars, or this salted caramel frosting!

pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting on a wood slice cake stand

I’m unable to find a link to the exact pumpkins you see in the photos, but these pumpkin decorations (affiliate link) are also adorable. You can also decorate these cupcakes with festive fall sprinkles or mellowcreme pumpkins!

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pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 12 cupcakes 1x
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This is my favorite recipe for super moist and easy pumpkin spice cupcakes topped with delicious cream cheese frosting.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons store-bought or homemade pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canola or vegetable oil*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup (225g) canned pumpkin puree*
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces (224g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar, plus an extra 1/4 cup if needed
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice together in a large bowl. Set aside. Whisk the oil, eggs, brown sugar, pumpkin, and vanilla extract together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and use a mixer or whisk until completely combined. Batter will be thick.
  3. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners – fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  4. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add 3 confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. If you want the frosting a little thicker, add the extra 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar (I add it).
  5. Frost cooled cupcakes however you’d like. I used an Ateco 808 large round piping tip for these pictured cupcakes. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Special Tools (affiliate links): KitchenAid Hand Mixer, Glass Mixing Bowls, Cupcake Liners, Cupcake Pan, Reusable Piping Bags or Disposable Piping Bags, Ateco #808 Frosting Tip, and Tree Slice Cake Stand
  3. Pumpkin Pie Spice: You can find pumpkin pie spice in the baking aisle of most grocery stores or make your own homemade pumpkin pie spice. If you don’t have either and want to use individual spices, use 1/2 teaspoon each: ground allspice and ground ginger AND 1/4 teaspoon each: ground nutmeg and ground cloves. This is in addition to the 1 teaspoon of cinnamon—you will still add that.
  4. Oil: Instead of 1/2 cup of oil, try 1/4 cup (45g) unsweetened applesauce and 1/4 (60ml) cup oil. The cupcakes are just as moist.
  5. Pumpkin: I strongly recommend using canned pumpkin puree over homemade in this recipe, though 1 cup of homemade would work just fine. I found the flavor better with canned. I prefer Libby’s brand.
  6. Mini Cupcakes: For around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 12-13 minutes, same oven temperature.
  7. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!

Keywords: pumpkin cupcakes

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I used this recipe with a mini-bundt cake pan and made 12 individual bundts. They were delicious! I used a simple vanilla glaze for the top – would need to thicken that up a bit. Definitely a recipe I will use again.

  2. Hi, I have leftover pumpkin pie filling from your pumpkin pie recipe. Would it be possible to use the leftovers to bake this or a similar muffin? Thanks!

    1. Hi Elise, what an interesting challenge! We’ve never tested that but let us know if you do.

  3. Oh my goodness, these cupcakes are soooooo moist. Instead of cream cheese frosting I went with a crumb topping. Don’t get me wrong though as next time will be cream cheese topping. I can tell you though the cupcake alone is amazing.

  4. I made this recipe with steamed and mashed butternut squash (canned pumpkin is not a thing here in Australia), whole wheat flour and light flavoured olive oil. Plus less sugar to suit my taste. They were the moistest, most melt-in-your-mouth cupcakes I have ever made. Absolutely delicious! Even without the frosting. I’ll be making these again!

  5. These were so delicious! Got rave reviews. Since I made them for a long outdoor event, I made a streusel topping of finely chopped almonds, sugar, and cinnamon. Went down a treat!

  6. Hi Sally,
    I was wondering if I could make this into a 6 inch cake instead of cupcakes?
    If so how long would I bake it for?

  7. Omg Amazing! So moist and delicious. don’t like nutmeg, so instead of pumpkin pie spice I used 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ginger and 1/8 tsp cloves. And made it in a brownie pan.

  8. Could you add pumpkin spice mix to the cream cheese frosting for added pumpkin flavor? If so could you recommend how much?

    1. Hi Andrea, absolutely! It really depends on how prominent you’d like the pumpkin spice flavor in the frosting. We’d start small (say, around 1/4 teaspoon – 1/2 teaspoon), give it a taste, and then add more if needed.

  9. This recipe calls for less butter than your other cream cheese recipe. I’m trying to figure out what difference that makes! Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Drea, this frosting is the same as our cream cheese frosting recipe. The cream cheese frosting for pumpkin bars has less butter to (1) produce less and (2) create a thicker, sturdier frosting so the bars can be more portable. Hope this answers your question!

    1. Hi Nadia, we don’t recommend it. Adding that much liquid would change the batter quite a bit, so it would take some recipe testing to find a way to successfully incorporate maple syrup. Best to stick with the brown sugar here.

  10. Loved this! Babies ate 2 not long after it’s cooled. Didn’t even have the time to make cream cheese frosting yet. Somehow, my oven temp must be a little higher. Bottom seems to create a hollow space in the middle of the cupcake. It’s still moist however. Always have extra pumpkin at home from cooking. Great recipe!! Will definitely try again ❤️

  11. These cupcakes are some of my favorites! I doubled the recipe for a pre-homecoming party! They were a hit! I will make them again!

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