First Pumpkin Recipe of the Season! Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

I picked up the latest copy of Country Living magazine when I was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store. I was starving and fell for the photo of the halloween-themed chocolate cake on the front cover. The magazine promised that it was “Scrumptious!” and “Sooooo moist!” And how could I resist the cute orange frosting and dark chocolate glaze. The truth is that I am very easily swayed by advertising when I’m hungry.

After I got home and ate lunch, I really wasn’t that interested in the magazine anymore. In fact, I kind of forgot about it for a day or two. When I finally got around to thumbing through it, I realized the cake recipe was for a Chocolate Pumpkin Cake. “Mmmmmm,” I thought. “Possibly even better than just plain chocolate!” I’ve never combined chocolate and pumpkin before and I was instantly intrigued.

The problem was that I could feel the pounds piling on just by reading the recipe! A stick and a half of butter…two cups of sugar…4 eggs…and frosting made with both cream cheese and whipped cream. Wow! Normally I don’t worry too much about trying to lighten up desserts. Desserts are desserts and they’re supposed to be fattening. But I’ve been baking a lot lately and we’ve been eating way too much sugar. I think my body is at it’s limit because the amount of butter and sugar in that recipe was just not appealing to me.

So, I lightened it up. With the canned pumpkin in the recipe, I knew I could reduce the butter and still end up with a moist cake. I substitute fruit and vegetable purees for fat in my muffins all the time and it works great. So my first recipe ‘fix’ was to increase the pumpkin and decrease the butter.

I decided that the sugar could also be reduced since the frosting would be so sweet. I wasn’t really sure how much to reduce it so I went big and reduced it by half.

The other change I made was to substitute yogurt for buttermilk. I only did this because I happened to have a bunch of plain yogurt in the fridge and no buttermilk. Since I don’t think yogurt is quite as acidic as buttermilk (maybe I’m wrong, I never bothered to look it up), I threw in a teaspoon of white vinegar so that the baking soda in the recipe would have something to work with.

After scratching and scribbling for a while, I finally came up with a recipe that seemed like it would work. When I tried it, I baked a 9″x13″ sheet cake. It tasted good and was moist and tender, but I felt like I had cut the sugar a bit too much. The recipe has so much cocoa powder that my sugar reduction left the cake just a bit bitter. My husband actually liked it a lot, but I knew I wanted add more sugar next time.

The other thought I had when I tasted the first version was that it would be great with some chocolate chips in it! So much for reducing calories!

I also decided I wanted to try it in cupcake form the second time around. By adding a bit more sugar back in the recipe, along with some mini chocolate chips, I ended up with some really great cupcakes that may or may not be lighter than the original recipe.

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

And then came the frosting!

I did not use the frosting recipe from the magazine. I like my cream cheese frosting to taste like cream cheese so I didn’t think it needed to have all that whipped cream folded in. I used a fairly standard cream cheese frosting recipe but added cinnamon and nutmeg as was suggested by javagirlkt. The frosting turned out great and really complimented the chocolate pumpkin cupcakes!

The thing about mixing chocolate with fruit (or vegetable purees) is that the chocolate really covers up all other flavors. If you don’t believe me, try my Double Dark Chocolate Beet Muffins! These chocolate pumpkin cupcakes taste like a chocolate cake but there’s just a little something extra. The spices in the frosting seem to bring out the pumpkin flavor even though the cake itself isn’t spiced. It’s a little hard to explain but trust me, it works!

I did end up reducing the butter by 1/3 and the sugar by 1/4. If you leave out the chocolate chips and go light on frosting, these are definitely much better for you than the original cake. But I have to say that the chocolate chips are great and it is hard to go light on the cream cheese frosting! Oh well, I tried!

The candy corns on top are optional, of course! They just happen to be my favorite fall candy and I thought they looked really cute on these cupcakes! Turns out they make caramel candy corns now…I think I’m in heaven!

  • Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes
  • 1 1/2 C. cake flour
  • 2/3 C. cocoa powder
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 C. plain lowfat yogurt
  • 1 3/4 C. canned pumpkin (15 oz. can)
  • 1 t. white vinegar
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 C. lightly-packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners.
  • 2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt together; set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together the yogurt, pumpkin, vinegar, and vanilla extract, set aside.
  • 3. In a large mixing bowl, and using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Alternately beat in the flour and pumpkin mixtures in thirds (for example, beat in 1/3 flour mixture followed by 1/3 pumpkin mixture and repeat until everything is combined). Fold in the mini chocolate chips.
  • 4. Working quickly, spoon batter into cupcake cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Place cupcake pans in the center of the preheated 350 degree oven and bake approximately 25 minutes. Cupcakes are done when they spring back when lightly touched or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool pans on wire racks for 10 minutes then remove cupcakes from pans and let cool completely on the wire racks.
  • 5. While cupcakes are cooling, prepare cream cheese frosting (recipe follows). When cupcakes are completely cool, spread with frosting.
  • Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 C. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 C. powdered sugar
  • 1/4. t. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 t. fresh ground nutmeg
  • In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. If frosting is too soft, chill in fridge for 15-20 minutes.

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  1. Evie

    Well, I should have come here first, Just ignore or delete my question over at Flickr. LOL

    I know what I’m making this weekend…..The candy corn on top is a nice touch.


    PS When you use cake flour, do you sift it then put it into a measuring cup or do you you just use a spoon and put it in the cup that way? I usually dredge the cup down into the flour but that seems to give me a denser end-product than I should have.

    Thanks in advance!

    1:08 pm  Oct 3rd, 2007
  2. Nicole

    Evie: LOL! Usually my photos are up on flickr for a while before they make it here (if they ever make it here). As far as measuring cake flour, I spoon it out of the box and into the measuring up then level it off. I do sift it afterwards with the other dry ingredients in this recipe. Honestly, I don’t use cake flour that much so I don’t know if you’re normally supposed to sift it before measuring. Some recipes specify doing that so I just follow directions if that’s the case! This is a long-winded answer but I measure all my flours the same way (stir, spoon, level) unless specified differently in a recipe. Can’t wait to see how your cupcakes turn out!

    1:16 pm  Oct 3rd, 2007
  3. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

    Yum….those look good! Double chocolate with pumpkin sounds awesome! I blinked when you said you picked up the latest Country Living but then I remembered that you guys have a “little America” supermarket available! Lucky for you, you’re too far for a quick visit, or else I’d be dropping by πŸ™‚ I love candy corn, especially the Indian corn you have in the picture.

    1:21 pm  Oct 3rd, 2007
  4. Deborah

    Yay! I’m looking for pumpkin recipes, as I am going to make only pumpkin desserts for my work birthday treats this month. These sound wonderful – and look delicious!

    2:46 pm  Oct 3rd, 2007
  5. Danielle

    I am absolutely drooling over these! I’m trying to stay away from too much sugar, too, but instead of lightening my desserts, my scheme is to try to have some days without any junk food or desserts, and some days when I have small portions of really tasty sweets.

    2:55 pm  Oct 3rd, 2007
  6. Ruby

    Oh man Nicole these look FABULOUS! Fall is my favorite season by far, love the weather getting cooler, pumpkin, chocolate, Halloween and Thanksgiving feasts! It’s Emma’s 3rd birthday this weekend, maybe I’ll make these for her party.

    3:24 pm  Oct 3rd, 2007
  7. Nicole

    Sara: Yep! We’re pretty lucky to be able to shop at Italian stores as well as have the convenience of an American supermarket nearby!

    Deborah: I’m sure you’re not the only one looking for pumpkin recipes this month! I’m going to have to stock up on Libby’s canned pumpkin because our grocery store on base always runs out during october/november

    Danielle: Like I said, I usually don’t lighten my desserts (and really, I didn’t lighten these much at all), but this was one of those recipes that seemed a little overkill. What was the name of the place you took me to in New York where we had the good cupcake?

    Ruby: I love fall, too. Unfortunately it’s still really warm here, still feels like summer! But I’m going on a trip up north this weekend where we should finally get to feel some cooler weather!

    3:34 pm  Oct 3rd, 2007
  8. Becky

    Pumpkin and chocolate–what an interesting idea. Last year around this time I made a batch of Martha Stewart’s straight-up pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and they were amazing. Maybe this year I’ll try them with chocolate. My fear is that, as you said, the chocolate will cover up the pumpkin flavor… maybe I’ll tinker with the recipe a bit. Gorgeous photos!

    6:08 pm  Oct 3rd, 2007
  9. Katiez

    Chocolate and pumpkin definitely gets my interest. Love the first and have way too much of the second – or will as soon as I harvest!
    Word about the yogurt – as I have a hard time getting buttermilk here I always use yogurt: half yogurt and half 2% (which is also what I can get – or whole) for the buttermilk and cakes/soda bread actually raise higher than on buttermilk – you don’t need the vineger…or, at least, I don’t….

    7:33 pm  Oct 3rd, 2007
  10. Nabeela

    I try not to do my grocery shopping when hungry because I end up buying a lot of unhealthy snack foods!

    1:16 am  Oct 4th, 2007
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  12. kickpleat

    those look great…i too have never mixed chocolate and pumpkin in a cake and it sounds wonderful. and crazy as it may sound, i don’t think i’ve ever tried a candy corn (but i love how they look)!!

    3:13 pm  Oct 4th, 2007
  13. Mallow

    I love chocolate and pumpkin together – those look fabulous!

    3:17 pm  Oct 4th, 2007
  14. Katie

    Wow. These are so cute and they look so delicious!
    Pumpkin + Candy Corn + Nutmeg and Cinnamon = Me not missing summer at ALL anymore πŸ™‚

    8:19 pm  Oct 4th, 2007
  15. kate

    wow that was a nice read ! u ‘ve really worked on these cupcakes . No wonder they look so perfect. Blogging has really made a lot of us consume far more sugar that we shud be … P

    9:23 pm  Oct 4th, 2007
  16. cindy

    Wow~Just in time for Halloween!

    3:02 am  Oct 5th, 2007
  17. lara

    These are absolutely amazing!!!! I made them this weekend for the kids on the street, will be distributing them today.

    3:56 pm  Oct 7th, 2007
  18. Misslionheart

    I’ve snagged the pic and I’ll give you credit.

    It’s Spuds birthday on Sunday, so I will make these for him and his sisters. Not to mention Grandma and Garandad who we don’t see very often.

    Thanks x

    9:21 pm  Oct 7th, 2007
  19. Jonathan

    OMG. So so so so delicious looking. Can I discard the candy corn though? Just for decoration, but those things always tasted like candle wax combined with butter cream cake frosting.

    And by the way the site looks amazing.

    8:45 pm  Oct 8th, 2007
  20. Caroline

    I LOVE the idea of a spiced, cream cheese frosting. yum
    Thanks for the recipe.

    1:19 am  Oct 9th, 2007
  21. Anali

    These cupcakes are so pretty! And the chocolate pumpkin combination is the perfect fall pairing. Love it! ; ) And have a great trip!

    6:11 am  Oct 9th, 2007
  22. Nicole

    Becky: I’ve been craving some straight-up pumpkin bread or cake also so you’ll probably be seeing something like that soon!

    Katiez: Thanks for letting me know about the yogurt. I keep meaning to look it up but then forget!

    Nabeela: If I go to the store hungry, I end up buying the craziest things!!

    kickpleat: Not everyone loves candy corn, my husband can’t stand it πŸ™‚

    Mallow: This was my first time mixing the two flavors (that I can remember) and although you really can’t taste much of the pumpkin, it is a good combination!

    Katie: I’m definitely ready for fall too! πŸ™‚

    Kate: Yes, I’ll admit that foodblogging has probably contributed a bit to the amount of sugar I’ve been consuming lately!

    Cindy: Hopefully a few more halloween treats will be showing up on Pinch My Salt before the big day!

    Lara: Glad you like them πŸ™‚

    Misslionheart: Great!

    Jonathan: That was perhaps the best description of candy corn flavor ever! But I still love them πŸ˜‰

    Caroline: The spiced cream cheese frosting was perfect! I wish I had come up with the idea myself πŸ˜‰

    Anali: I did have a great trip, thanks!

    9:04 am  Oct 9th, 2007
  23. Amanda

    I tried this recipe on the weekend, and the cupcakes turned out GREAT! They were a hit and oh-so delicious πŸ™‚ I skipped the candy corn though.

    5:22 pm  Oct 9th, 2007
  24. David

    I tried your original cake recipe twice. I agree with your husband, liked it a lot. On the second go-round, I substituted fructose for sugar (the reduction factor is the same, i.e., 2 cups of fructose for 4 cups of sugar). Well, it came out nice as well. If the cake is tasty, I generally skip the frosting.

    Whatever, it satisfies the need for chocolate very well.

    6:25 pm  Oct 10th, 2007
  25. TomC

    Season! Double Chocolate Pummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmpkin Cupcakes, I once had Pumpkin Ice cream in Cincinnati .
    So Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes with pumpkin Ice cream sounds dreamy

    8:42 am  Oct 11th, 2007
  26. Nicole

    Amanda: I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed these! Candy corn isn’t for everyone πŸ˜‰

    David: Thanks for the feedback! I’ve never tried substituting fructose…I’ll look into it when I get back to the states. I’m not a huge frosting eater but if it’s cream cheese, I can’t stay away from it πŸ™‚

    Tom: Pumpkin ice cream is sooooo good! Now I’m going to have to find a recipe for my home ice cream maker! I’ll be thinking about it all day!

    9:07 am  Oct 11th, 2007
  27. Susan from Food Blogga

    These cupcakes are pure sweetness! Of course, if I made these, my husband would eat all the candy corns and frosting, and I’d eat all the cupcakes. Actually, that’s OK, right? Thanks, Nicole! πŸ™‚

    6:30 pm  Oct 12th, 2007
  28. Regina

    WOW! I never know what treasures I”ll find doing a Google image search. Yeah, that’s how I found you – with last winter’s pumpkin roll. I was so intrigued, I just had to read more. This recipe has me thinking about abandoning my plans for today & heading for the kitchen.
    I LOVE pumpkin treats and look forward to reading future posts.

    5:41 pm  Oct 13th, 2007
  29. Nicole

    Susan: Haha! It’s the opposite in my house…I love the cream cheese frosting and candy corns and my husband prefers the plain cake πŸ™‚

    Regina: Glad you found me, hope you come back and visit soon! There will defnitely be more pumpkin recipes coming in the next few weeks!

    11:46 am  Oct 14th, 2007
  30. Chris

    I love these! And, the adjustments you made are wonderful. I saw this month’s edition and wanted to make the cake as well. I still may, since I don’t eat cake. If I give it away, I don’t need to think about the poundage. πŸ™‚

    Love the candy corn!

    12:40 am  Oct 16th, 2007
  31. swirlingnotions

    How did I miss this? I’ve been looking and looking for a pumpkin cupcake recipe and, voila, here it is right on one of my favorite blogs ;-). Thanks Nicole!

    9:01 pm  Oct 31st, 2007
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  34. Allie

    Ok, so it isn’t exactly homemade, but my mother has made some amazing pumpkin chocolate muffins for years just using devils food mix and pumpkin. Nothing else, just the box with pumpkin, don’t add the oil or the eggs or anything, but cook it according to the box.

    Super-moist, super-chocolatey, and super-low in calories.

    2:16 am  Nov 6th, 2007
  35. Nicole

    Allie: I love recipes that use boxed cake mix! How much pumpkin for one box of devil’s food cake? I’d like to give it a try and I think I already have a box of the cake mix in my pantry that needs to be used up this week!

    2:00 pm  Nov 6th, 2007
  36. Shannon

    This sounds dee-lish!! Am I missing it but how many mini chocolate chips would I put in this recipe? The kitchen is not really my room…love decorating it but don’t know my way around it much. So this will be my 2nd time only in life that I make cupcakes. I guess I’m saying THANK YOU for the pictures. I need the visual. And I get nervous making microwave popcorn so I really need every detail to get this right. Just found your web site! Love it! From the bottom of my families heart thank you to your family for what you do! We support the troops!

    11:11 pm  Nov 13th, 2007
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  38. Nicole

    Shannon: You’re absolutely right, I didn’t include the chocolate chips in the recipe even though I talked about them! Sorry, my mistake! I will edit the recipe soon but in the meantime I’ll just tell you that I added one cup of mini chocolate chips. They can be folded into the batter at the very end, before you fill the cups! Sorry for the confusion…I can’t believe no one else asked me the same question! πŸ™‚

    8:14 am  Nov 14th, 2007
  39. Jennifer

    Hey there – I made the cupcakes tonight and once I got them out of the paper liner they were delicious. I had to wrestle with them and they fell apart on the way out of the liner- what did you all do so they woudn’t stick- or am I just a cupcake novice and should have used the foil liner w/the paper. Help!

    10:08 pm  Dec 7th, 2007
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  41. heidi

    I just made these cupcakes to celebrate my daughter’s adoption (we held an open house in lieu of a baby shower). Instead of candy corn I put a pinch of pink sprinkles on top. They were the BEST cupcakes I have ever tasted! This recipe is amazing. This recipe will become an integral part of her childhood because I will serve these cupcakes at many special occasions. What a great discovery. Thank you ‘pink my salt’! YUM!

    8:38 am  Apr 28th, 2008
  42. Nicole

    heidi: So glad you liked the cupcakes! And I can’t believe that I still haven’t edited this recipe to include the cup of mini chocolate chips! Did you happen to use the chocolate chips? I think they’re probably ok either way but I’m going to go ahead and edit the recipe now. Thanks again for your comment!

    5:12 pm  Apr 28th, 2008
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  44. Melanie

    I made these cupcakes this week and shared them with my dissertation group and sent some to my husband’s work (along with a tub of excess frosting). My colleagues just absolutely chowed down, and my husband said that his coworkers were walking around licking frosting off their fingers and fighting over the remnants of the frosting. So, I’d say this recipe is a success!

    6:35 pm  Oct 10th, 2008
  45. Zoë François

    These are adorable and I just love chocolate and pumpkin together! My kids will love the candy corn garnish!!

    7:31 pm  Oct 23rd, 2008
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  50. Sarah

    I made these for a pumpkin contest at work, and they were a big hit! So, thanks for the recipe! I made them last night, iced them, put on the candy corn, and stashed them into tupperware. By this morning the candy corns had kinda melted and it looks like they pee-ed on top of my cupcakes. Bummer! I just covered up the ‘juice’ with another candy corn, so all was well, but if you make these put the candy corns on at the last minute.

    10:12 am  Oct 30th, 2009
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  53. Charity

    I love chocolate, and I love pumpkin… so this recipe looked like a slice of heaven to me! I tried them out last week and they were a hit! I brought them to a work baby shower and I had one lady come up and hug me she loved them so much! I’ve never had that happen before πŸ™‚ I saved a couple for my boyfriend’s parents – who I was meeting for the first time – and I am pretty sure that was the icing on the cake (pun intended) for winning them over! I want to try this again and do it as a loaf – any thoughts on how long it should cook for?

    More pumpkin recipes please!

    @Allie – would love to know how much pumpkin is used for the box chocolate cake… that sounds great!

    12:13 pm  Nov 14th, 2009
  54. SippitySup

    I just came across this because I was searching for chocolate pumpkin recipes. Some how I missed it back in Oct! Glad I found it now. Thanks for the inspiration. You be happy to know this recipe come up first in google when I typed chocolate pumpkin recipe GREG

    9:51 am  Nov 21st, 2009
  55. Germaine

    I’m going to make this cake for my granny’s birthday!
    May I use mascarpone cheese instead of cream cheese for the frosting? What adjustments should I make or do I simply replace one for the other?

    7:20 am  Nov 26th, 2009
  56. Sara

    I found your recipes when I was searching the internet for something sweet to make with half a pumpkin that wasn’t pumpkin pie! I grew my own pumpkins last year and I was using up the last one to make soup, but it was enormous so I only used half of it. I’d already chopped the whole thing so I wanted something I could bake with the ingredients I already had in the house, so I decided to give this recipe a go. I live in England and we don’t use pumpkins very much at all, basically they’re in the shops for a couple of weeks around Halloween and that’s it, and it’s pretty much impossible to buy canned pumpkin puree here, so I boiled the pumpkin and then liquidised it to make the puree, and I had to make a few other substitutions for things I didn’t have – I used creme fraiche instead of yogurt, dark brown sugar instead of light, and cake flour doesn’t exist here so I just used plain white flour. I also left them in the oven for about 10 minutes extra. The cupcakes rose beautifully in the oven but then sank in the middle when I took them out, and when we ate them (still warm – we couldn’t wait!) we discovered that they were quite gooey in the middle – no bad thing, just unexpected! I’m looking forward to seeing what they’re like when they’re cold and have frosting on them. Thanks for the recipe!

    12:01 am  Feb 28th, 2010
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  59. susan

    thanks for tinkering with this recipe so i don’t have to!

    1:24 pm  Nov 4th, 2010
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  65. Sam

    I made these for Thanksgiving instead of a pie when my hubby and I visited my folks for Thanksgiving part 2. When these came out of the oven we were playing card and pretty heavy into the sweet wines and by then end of the night only two cupcakes were left… there were only 5 of us. Needless to say they were a big hit! I used fresh pumpkin instead of canned, buttermilk, skipped the chocolate chips, and didn’t have cake flour…. So I ended up having to do several substitutions, even so these were amazing. Chocolate and pumpkin and cinnamon… all the things I love, now together.

    2:01 pm  Nov 30th, 2012
  66. Jeniece

    These cupcakes were way better than I had expected. No offense at all, I just wasn’t sure how the pumpkin would turn out with the chocolate and the cocoa powder. I made them for bible study tonight and they were a hit. Very moist and just the right amount of chocolate without being overly sweet.
    Loved the cinnamon and nutmeg addition to the frosting-it certainly gave it a little something extra. I gave these a 10/10 (and I don’t hand out those ratings easily!)

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