Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Brown Sugar Buttercream

Now that the word about my food blog has started to spread, it has become an expectation that I will bring food with me everywhere I go.  It’s not really a bad thing, because it gives me a good excuse to get rid of some of the baked goods that I love to make but really shouldn’t eat!

So, last week when I was heading to the salon to get my hair cut, I knew I couldn’t go empty handed.  I’ve been meaning to make some festive fall cupcakes for Halloween, so I decided they would be the perfect treat for my favorite stylists!  I adapted my pound cake recipe to make pumpkin pound cake cupcakes.  I wasn’t in the mood for the usual cream cheese icing that I would typically pair with pumpkin, though.  So I whipped up a quick cinnamon brown sugar buttercream icing instead.  The cupcakes were good, but the icing was fantastic (I did save a few for the hubby and I).

I love holiday foods, so I decided that it would be fun to use some Halloween candy to decorate the cupcakes. One of my favorites is the autumn mix of candy corn, Indian corn, and mallowcreme pumpkins.  So, I topped half of the cupcakes with candy and sprinkled them with some additional cinnamon. They were fun, festive, and even got me a marriage proposal from one of the men at the salon. Sorry, I’m already happily married!

Pumpkin Pound Cake Cupcakes

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened

Combine all of the ingredients (yes, I said all of the ingredients) in the bowl of your stand mixer (or just a large mixing bowl if you are brave and have a hand mixer). Beat on medium speed for 20 minutes (that’s why I said you must be brave… or at least energetic).

While the mixer is doing all of the work, preheat the oven to 350°F, line two standard muffin pans with cupcake papers (for 24 cupcakes).  I found cute pumpkin ones at the store, so I used those for my festive cupcakes.

Once the batter is smooth, fill each of the cupcake liners about 2/3 full with batter.  Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool the cupcakes in the pans for a few minutes, and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Buttercream

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 cups powdered sugar (varies based on temperature/humidity)
  • 3 tablespoons half and half (varies based on temperature/humidity)

In a large mixer bowl, combine the butter and shortening. Whip together with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy.  Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and whisk until well combined.

Gradually add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Alternately add the half and half, whipping the icing on medium-high speed after each addition, until the desired consistency is reached.

Fill a pastry bag with the icing and pipe the icing onto the cupcakes.  I used a round tip to pipe spikes and swirls of icing.  Top the cupcakes with Halloween candy and a sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired.

72 Responses to Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Brown Sugar Buttercream

  1. I love holiday baking too. Halloween isn’t even past and I’m already jazzed for Christmas baking! Your pumpkin cupcakes are cute and sound delicious. Lucky salon folks (including the marriage proposal guy…lol)

  2. I used to eat those sara lee pounds cakes like there’s no tomorrow. It’s been a while since I’ve had some. I think I’ll have to try making my own one of these days. I love the buttercream on top. Cinnamon and brown sugar, you can’t go wrong with that.

  3. oh wow these look wonderful. I”m addicted to pumpkin everything right now! And your pictures completely drew me in – great job!

  4. I have been searching for a pumpkin cupcake receipe that did not have cream cheese frosting – this sounds yummy! Just one question….why must you mix it for 20 minutes? That seems like a long time…however, I do not bake much.

    • Sharon – Honestly, I don’t know why the cake must mix for 20 minutes. It is based off of my grandmother’s pound cake recipe, and that’s just how she always made it. I have wondered that myself a few times, but have never been daring enough to try mixing for a shorter amount of time. It is a long time, but it creates a wonderfully smooth batter.

      • I wanted to know why you beat it for 20mins too? And you said something about pound cake so is this gonna have the texture or consistency of pound cake?

    • ngs – I have not yet tried it, but I think this recipe would work fine as a cake. The original pound cake recipe was for a bundt cake, so I imagine it would make two 9 inch cakes (round/square) or one 9 by 13 inch cake.

  5. OK – just curious, as I always hear not to over-beat a cake batter. I will try it! It sounds super-easy and delicious! Thanks for posting.

  6. Fantastic! I used this recipe as a 9×13 cake for work today. It was gone before noon!
    The frosting rocks!
    Thank you for sharing it!

  7. This is a fantastic recipe! And as for why the recipe says to beat it for 20 minutes, I think that’s just how pound cake goes. You’re supposed to activate the gluten in the flour (which takes some time) and also make sure that the butter is evenly distributed, otherwise you don’t get a dense cake. For fluffier cakes, you should avoid over mixing. I didn’t beat for 20 minutes, however; more like five. And it still worked out fine!

    Also, I hate people who say that the recipe was great but they changed X, Y and Z, but I have to be one of those people. I was feeling like a cream cheese frosting when I made these, but not too creamy, so instead of the shortening (which I’m not fond of using anyway), I substituted cream cheese. It came out to a beautiful consistency, and absolutely heavenly! I did however add about twice as much cinnamon to the frosting than suggested. I’m just a big cinnamon fan.

    Anyway, great recipe. Thanks for sharing!

    • Julie – Thanks for weighing in on why to beat for so long. It does make sense that you would beat pound cake batter and not other cakes because the pound cake is supposed to be dense (also why you don’t have to cream the sugar in advance).

      Glad you liked the recipe… and I don’t take offense to changes. I rarely follow a recipe (even my own!)… I think the cream cheese would be delicious. I often use shortening just to make sure the icing is stiff enough for piping cupcakes and because it doesn’t need to be refrigerated right away.

  8. I was looking for a nice pumpkin cupcake recipe to make some cupcakes for a bake sale. I found yours and tried it and everything was perfect. Everyone kept raving about them. The frosting is so amazing I kept licking the bowl and utensils. I would definitely use this recipe again and recommend it to all my friends.

    Just one thing, i really was not comfortable throwing everything in the bowl and mixing for 20mns (it goes against everything I learned about making a cake, plus it was already after midnight!) so I mixed it following a regular pound cake method. It still came out perfect.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Nerlande – Thanks for your comment… I’m glad the cupcakes turned out well for you! As for the mixing method, I’m glad it worked for you without mixing for the 20 minutes. I will have to try it differently next time. As long as I can remember, everyone in my family has always mixed the pound cake recipe (that this was based off of) for 20 minutes, so I never really questioned it!

  9. They look very pretty. Thank you for the recipe!
    I’m kinda new to baking so forgive my ignorance but are these cupcakes perishable? I volunteered for my Niece’s Fall Festival and I need a frosting recipe that can sit out over night.
    Thank you so much for any info you can share. (:

    • Bella – As with most cupcakes, they are somewhat perishable, but typically buttercream recipes are OK to be out overnight, assuming it’s not hot and humid. Just be sure to keep them covered so that they don’t get stale.

  10. Can’t wait to try these. I had also been looking for a pumpkin cupcake recipe without cream cheese as I was going to use the cupcakes for a fund raiser and they would be out all day. These sound yummy and look wonderful!

  11. Thank you for sharing this recipe. I have 3 girls who are on Fall Break and we had so much fun making these cupcakes. The frosting is wonderful and we want to try it on top of chocolate cupcakes next.

  12. made these last week and my family raved! I just finished 2 more batches to take for my kids halloween party at school!

  13. Jen – just made these cupcakes tonight for the first time (I’ve had my eye on them for a while now) and I had a question about the texture of the finished cupcake. The flavor was great…hubby loved them! But, the outer texture seemed almost rubbery and they didn’t rise a whole lot. :( I followed the instructions almost exactly, with the only exception being I cut the salt in half b/c I had to use salted butter. Any suggestions? I’ve made pound cake before, but I don’t remember it having this type of texture. Overall, LOVED the final cupcakes! My husband hates buttercream (crazy, I know), but absolutely loved this frosting! :) :) Perhaps he’s finally coming to the other side! :)
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    • Amy – Glad you enjoyed the cupcakes. Even though I typically throw in all of the ingredients and just mix them, you may be able to improve the texture by creaming together the butter and sugar, then adding eggs/vanilla and then alternately adding the remaining dry and wet ingredients alternately, mixing just enough that the ingredients are incorporated. These are a dense cupcake, though, so they may just be a bit different from what you are used to.

      • Thanks Jen! I did try that basic method the next night and I also decreased the eggs by one and added a bit more cinnamon and vanilla. They turned out awesome! Very light and fluffy. :) So many compliments on them at school…they were a hit! Thanks for a great recipe!!!

    • I had the same problem! They were tough and didn’t have the mouth-feel I associate with pound cake. Thanks for posting and, Jen, thanks for posting the reply!

  14. I made these last night and really liked them. They didn’t rise much, is that typical? Or did I not beat them long enough? The frosting is muy bien!!!

  15. Jen, how amazing that I wanted to make pumpkin cupcakes for a party but am so fed up with the cream cheese frosting thing so I googled a cinnamon buttercream frosting which I thought would be delightful and your site came up!!! So excited that you have done this already with great success. Can’t wait to try them. Thanks!

  16. Hi! I am going to use your frosting substituting vanilla extract for the cinnamon on choc chip cookie dough cupcakes! I have never used brown sugar in buttercream before so I am a little worried about the texture being grainy…. is the final product smooth or still a bit grainy? Thanks for the recipe and for your help!

    • Hi, Amber – The finished texture is a bit grainy, I guess. If you whip the buttercream pretty well in the mixer, it kind of blends in, though. I got rave reviews for this recipe, though, and no one seemed to mind/notice the texture. Hope you like it!

  17. Hi! I found this recipe on Friday and I went straight out and got the stuff I needed and whipped these up as soon as I got to my mixer. The pumpkin cake recipe is amazing and I love it.

    The frosting had a great taste, everyone seemed to love it, except I had a question about it. Is it supposed to be gritty? I know the brown sugar is like that, but I wasn’t expecting the grittiness in the frosting. Apparently I was the only one that has an issue with it as everyone at work and home loved it. Is is supposed to be like that? Is there a way to get rid of the grittiness?

    • Hi, Jessica – Yes, my frosting did have a bit of a grittiness to it due to the brown sugar. I didn’t mind the texture, but I can understand how some would. You could try pulsing the brown sugar in your food processor to break it down a bit prior to mixing it into the icing.

  18. after being so excited to try these, i was a little dissappointed. =( they were so dense and more like a muffin than a cupcake. after going back and reading other comments, sounds like it turned out perfectly – for a pound cake. they were very yummy, just not quite what i had in mind. i will, however, be using the frosting again! oh well, not like pumpkin anything will go to waste! =)

  19. Wow these were good. I made a batch in mini cupcake form for a family BBQ and every one was very impressed (I’m still a tween)and now I’m making some for my schools harvest festival. I am positive they will be a great hit.

  20. Thanks for the recipe! I used your cupcake recipe, but a different frosting one. My guests really enjoyed it. I actually didn’t mix for 20 minutes like you suggested. I creamed the butter and sugar first, then added the eggs, then alternated between the flour mixture and milk and pumpkin.

  21. These have become my go-to fall cupcake recipe. I added two things the second time I made them and had lots of compliments so I thought I’d share. Rather than decorate with candy corn, I chopped up some store-bought gingersnaps and used those to sprinkle the frosting. I also tried a caramel filling on one round and that was great as well. Thanks for sharing great recipes!

  22. This recipe is one of my absolute favorites!!!
    I made the cupcakes twice last year then
    Lost the recipe when my computer’s hard drive
    Crashed last spring! Glad to have found it again
    And can’t waitro make them this weekend!

  23. I love this recipe. So easy and delicious. Just a note though, if you are using a hand beater (which I did), you only have to beat for about half the time to get smooth.