We’ve had a slight chill in the air for a few consecutive days now, which has me finally experiencing those old familiar yearnings for fall.  Like so many of you, baking with fall flavors and spices is way high up on the list of reasons I love this season so.  Every year when the time finally arrives, it is such fun to bake that favorite inaugural treat, whatever your favorite may be.  In our home, the pumpkin cream cheese muffins I have been making for years will forever hold the number one spot.

The original version, while irresistibly delicious, tend more toward dessert than legit breakfast food.  However, Andrew adores these muffins and asks for them all the time.  Last fall and winter, we kept them in near constant supply in the freezer to pull out for his breakfast many days.  As soon as I realized they were becoming more routine than special treat, I gave them a mini-makeover to make them more suitable breakfast food.  We’ve been making them this way for a while, so I figured it was high time I shared the lightened up version with you.  The all-purpose flour is replaced by white whole wheat, much of the oil is replaced by applesauce, and the sugar is reduced.  I added oats to the streusel topping for extra texture and a bit of fiber.  These are still a hit with our whole family but now we feel much better about eating them.

  • Yield 2 dozen muffins


For the filling: 
8 oz. cream cheese (reduced fat is fine), at room temperature
2 tbsp. honey

For the muffins: 
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
1½ cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
½ cup vegetable or canola oil
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce

For the topping:* 
4 tbsp. white whole wheat flour
7 tbsp. old fashioned rolled oats
3 tbsp. turbinado (coarse) sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
3 tbsp. cold butter, cut into pieces


  • 01

    To make the filling, combine the cream cheese and honey in a bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer until smooth.  Transfer to a pastry bag.  Pipe into 24 equal dollops onto a parchment-covered baking sheet.  Freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.

  • 02

    To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree, oil and applesauce. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

  • 03

    To make the topping, combine the flour, oats, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

  • 04

    To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons).  Place a dollop of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

  • 05

    Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. (It may be hard to resist immediate consumption, but the cream cheese filling gets very hot!)

  • 06

    *Topping is completely optional, and they are good both ways.  I think some chopped pecans or walnuts would also be very good mixed in with the topping.