Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins are perfectly spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg- add orange zest to the mix, then top with a delicious walnut streusel and these baked beauties are elevated to a new level of irresistible goodness.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins are sure to become a favorite for you and everyone you share them with. It’s nothing new that recipes made using pumpkin are super popular during the fall and holiday season and it’s no wonder! Just the color of baked goods made with pumpkin reminds us of the changing season. Also, pumpkin is frequently paired with cinnamon which has such a distinct flavor reminiscent of cooler weather and indoor family gatherings, hello Christmastime! This recipe does all that and more…
Moist and beautiful thanks to the pumpkin puree, perfectly spiced thanks to a good dose of cinnamon in addition to ground ginger, and fresh nutmeg; but then to bring everything forward in abundant flavor, orange zest is is used in this recipe to bring brightness to the muffins for the perfect balance with the deep spices. A hint of citrus makes all the other flavors come alive and taste even fresher. The sweetened cream cheese in the center is a fun trick, but if you don’t want to bother with it the muffins still taste fantastic without it. That’s my opinion even though I had others tell me the cream cheese was absolutely necessary. So, it’s a good thing baking the cream cheese in the muffins is super easy. Also, let’s not forget the streusel topping made with ground walnuts, sugar, flour, and butter for just the right amount of sweet crumb.
Ingredients for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins-
- All-purpose flour (I’ve subbed in equal amounts of almond flour and whole wheat flour before as well)
- Baking powder and baking soda – Using both baking powder and baking soda helps to make these muffins rise nicely.
- Spices – Cinnamon, ground ginger, and freshly ground nutmeg (If possible, start grinding whole nutmeg yourself whenever a recipe calls for this spice. The difference noticeable).
- Orange zest – This ingredient is the key to this recipe, I promise. The brightness from the orange zest enhances all the spices and the pumpkin.
- Cream cheese – As with all baking recipes, using the best you can afford is important. I stand by Philadelphia or Trader Joe’s.
- Salt – Salt is so important to make a recipe not taste bland and flat. Unless you’re on a strict diet limiting salt, don’t cut back on it.
- Pumpkin puree – Make sure you use canned pumpkin puree and not canned pumpkin pie filling. Pie filling is already spiced and sweetened.
- Granulated sugar – The amount of sugar listed in this recipe is perfect for that sweet treat, but you can actually reduce it and even leave it out if needed. If you leave out the sugar, the flavor is quite plain but they’re still tasty and look fantastic. If you’re set on cutting out a lot of the sugar, I get it, I try to do that often too. I’d still add 3/4 cup at the minimum, which is not much per muffin.
Looking at muffins and cupcakes that are filled with cream cheese or other soft filling can seem difficult to achieve but it’s not hard at all. See the photos and instructions below-
How to fill pumpkin muffin batter with cream cheese-
- Fill each muffin cup with just enough batter to cover the bottom, about two tablespoons.
- Drop a two teaspoon-size of sweetened, chilled, cream cheese over the top of the batter.
- Then cover the cream cheese with another generous two tablespoons of batter to completely cover the cream cheese so it stays inside the muffin as they bake.
- Top with about a tablespoon of streusel mixture over the top of the muffins before baking.
How to bake muffins so the tops rise nicely, especially if you live in altitudes over 4,000 feet-
Bake the muffins for 4 minutes at 400°F, during this time the muffins will rise quite a bit. After 4 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 350°F for the remainder of the baking time, approximately 16-19 minutes or until a toothpick gently pricked into the top of a muffin comes out mostly clean. If the streusel topping starts to brown too much, carefully place a sheet of aluminum foil over the muffins for the remaining time. This may happen during the final 7-8 minutes.
So there you have it. The Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins have become a friend and family favorite but be sure to check out all the pumpkin recipes here. A couple of my personal favorites are Pumpkin Truffles and Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce with Kale and Pasta.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
Cream Cheese Filling:
- ½ cup cream cheese, softened
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ tsp orange zest
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Walnut Streusel Topping:
- ¼ cup walnuts, finely chopped
- ½ cup flour
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp butter, melted
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp nutmeg, freshly ground preferred
- 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ cup canned pumpkin puree
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil or other neutral flavored oil like avocado or canola.
- 1 ½ tsp orange zest
Cream Cheese Filling
- Mix together all the ingredients until smooth. Put in refrigerator to firm up a little until needed in recipe. About 10 minutes is all you need.
- Mix together all the ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse sand with several pea size crumbs in it. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Place oven rack one place above center. Line a muffin pan with muffin tin liners. See notes below regarding oven temperatures needed for successful muffins.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger, and ½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg.
- In a large bowl, add 1 ¼ granulated sugar, 1 ¼ pumpkin puree, 3 large eggs, and ⅓ cup vegetable oil.
- Mix in flour mixture until just incorporated. Make sure all the dry ingredients are absorbed and not showing, but don't mix more than that.
- Add about 2 tablespoons batter to the bottom of each muffin cup, just enough to cover the bottom. Place about 2 teaspoon-size balls of the cream cheese filling to the center of each muffin cup. Then add another generous 2 tablespoons of the batter to cover the cream cheese and fill the rest of the cup till nearly full. You won't use all the batter for the first 12 muffins. Read on :).
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the streusel on top of each muffin. You will have quite a bit of streusel left over.
To bake the muffins with high, bakery style tops, or for high altitudes
- Bake the muffins for 4 minutes at 400°F, during this time the muffins will rise quite a bit. After 4 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 350°F for the remainder of the baking time, approximately 16-19 minutes or until a toothpick gently pricked into the top of a muffin comes out mostly clean. If the streusel topping starts to brown too much, carefully place a sheet of aluminum foil over the muffins for the remaining time. This may happen during the final 7-8 minutes.
- Remove muffins to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes for the muffins to remain intact when opening, but to be able to serve slightly warm. They're incredible warm! If they're completely cool, you could heat in the microwave about 5-7 minutes just enough for warm delights.
If you don't live at altitude or don't care if your muffins rise super high
- Bake the muffins at 350°F for 21-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick comes out mostly clean. The muffins will rise but may not get that bakery high peak. This method requires less muffin-sitting to watch them as they bake.
- See above instruction in the high altitude section for removing muffins from the oven, cooling, and serving.
Storing leftover muffins
- Store any leftover muffins in airtight container in the refrigerator due to the cream cheese center. Muffins will keep an additional two days after baking.
- Regarding the above directions for how to bake your muffins- after much experimentation, living at over 8,000 ft altitude, in order for me to ensure that my muffin tops rose nicely rather than spreading, I had to start at the higher temperature and reduce once the muffin tops rose. If you don't want to bother with having to watch the muffins so much as they bake, feel free to keep them at the lower temperature and just let them bake until golden. The tops may be more flat, but they're still lovely and, of course, amazing.
- You may use up all the cream cheese filling for the first 12 muffins and then the remainder of batter will make 3 regular muffins. If you prefer to make all the muffins without the cream cheese center, they're absolutely fantastic without, just fill the cups to 3/4 full and bake at 350F degrees for 20-25 minutes.
- I've made this recipe replacing the all-purpose flour with 1 cup almond flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour. They're delicious and even more moist this way. The almond flour/whole wheat flour muffins are best eaten within a day of baking for optimal flavor.
- The orange zest makes all the flavors in this recipe sing. I list 1 1/2 teaspoons of orange zest in the recipe. Add anywhere from 1 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons to the recipe. I don't recommend making the recipe without the orange zest though. This addition is that good.
- If no matter how you baked your muffins, they happen to fall in the center, the reasons for this happening are usually- A) Overfilling the muffin cups and baking at too low a temperature so the tops have no where to go after baking but down. B) Not taking the muffins long enough and the moist centers fall in. If this happens, an easy fix that will leave your guests clueless but will make the muffins look nicely done, just add some of your leftover streusel to the centers to fill in the gape. 😀