Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting

Sometimes I have a little bit of pumpkin puree leftover in the bottom of the can and wonder what I’m going to do with it. Too much to toss, but not enough to make something big with.

But bigger isn’t always better and in the case of these cupcakes, good things came in a batch size of just six cupcakes.

Really, I don’t need more than six cupcakes at once. A dozen is only good if I have a party to attend and two dozen is only good if I plan to go up a size in my jeans. Cupcakes tend to dry out quickly, the frosting hardens and becomes crunchy, and they just don’t hold up well to the test of time. And by cupcake number 19 in a batch of two dozen, they are being forced upon anyone who can choke down a dry, pitiful excuse of a baked good.

I solved the big-batch problem and the question of what to do with the last dribble of pumpkin puree in one fell swoop with these.

I made the batter in one bowl, with a whisk, in about 66 seconds.  Simple combine the first eleven ingredients together into a bowl, all at once, and whisk. I know that sounds like a lot of ingredients for a simple recipe, but it’s largely sugars and spice and everything nice. If you don’t have all the spices on hand, don’t worry about it and use what you do have.

Then add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and you’re ready to bake off the half-dozen amber gems.

Some people bake marshmallows on top of their sweet potatoes, but I’d rather add marshmallow frosting to the top of pumpkin cupcakes. While the cupcakes baked, I made the marshmallow buttercream. I wasn’t going to make anything other than a simple glaze using confectioners’ sugar and splash of cream because I didn’t want to over-complicate a situation that came about and was intended to use up leftovers, not create more food or more work. However, I like a little cupcake with my mountain of frosting, and making frosting was a priority worth dirtying my mixer.

I beat one stick of butter, half a jar of marshmallow creme, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract until it was smooth and light. The frosting is fluffy yet dense, buttery, rich, sweet, and indulgent; the way frosting should be. The recipe makes a bit more than you’ll likely need for the six cupcakes, and can be refrigerated for many weeks and used in any holiday baking projects you have coming up. Or you can just grab a spoon and go to town on the extra.

The frosting was a bit too soft to pipe and I despise piping bags anyway because so much of the precious commodity becomes stuck to the sides of the bag and is wasted. We don’t waste frosting in this house; we eat it. So with a spoon, I dolloped the frosting onto the cupcakes, making little peaks and crests as best I could, and my family was too busy wiping their sticky hands to notice my decorating job anyway.

Fall-themed spices including cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and cloves are favorites of mine and are so well-suited for pumpkin. I especially adore cloves and I need to remember to bake with them more often throughout the year, rather than just in the fall. Inhaling the robustly fall-flavored scents that emanated from the cupcakes was almost as good as licking the frosting from the top.

These little cupcakes were so moist from the pumpkin puree and from the Greek yogurt I added to the batter. I also used oil instead of butter, which makes for moister cakes and cupcakes.

I kept the baking powder to an absolute minimum and although some is needed for lift, I find that using any more than a very slight amount results in dry cupcakes or dry baked goods in general. Plus, I am keenly sensitive to its chemically taste and am careful not to over-do it. Although some people enjoy a lighter and more delicate crumb and texture, I prefer cupcakes a bit heavier and denser. I like to be able to sink my teeth into a cupcake and have a nice solid bite, not at all airy or crumbly, and the texture on these was just how I like it.

For a recipe that was intended to use up the last bits of the pumpkin puree in the can and made using a batter that I eyeballed, tossed together in one bowl, in one minute flat, I cannot complain. Nor could Scott. He loved these things and scarfed down three in twelve hours. Clearly no issues with lingering leftovers.

And because they’re made with a vegetable, well technically pumpkin is a fruit, you could probably even convince yourself they’re good for you. Exactly.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is a small-batch recipe and makes just 6 cupcakes, perfect for times when more is not better. The recipe will also help you make use of that last little bit of pumpkin puree in the bottom of the can that you didn't know what to do with. The cupcakes are moist, dense, and robustly-flavored with fall spices. The sweet, creamy, fluffy yet dense, marshmallow buttercream is the perfect complement to the half-dozen little cupcakes.
Serves: 6 cupcakes
  • For the Cupcakes
  • 1 large egg
  • heaping ¼ cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla or plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • pinch salt, optional
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • For the Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • about ¾ cup Marshmallow Creme or Marshmallow Fluff, about half of one 7-ounce jar (you don't need to measure it since it's so sticky, just eyeball it and use half the jar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ to 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted is preferred
  1. For the Cupcakes - Preheat oven to 350F and line a standard-sized muffin pan with 6 paper liners or spray with cooking spray; set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine egg, pumpkin, oil, yogurt, sugars, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cloves, salt, and whisk until smooth and combined. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and stir until just Incorporated, taking care not to over-mix and over-develop the gluten, which results in tougher cupcakes. Divide batter equally among liners (they will be over ⅔ full, not quite ¾ full) and bake for about 18 minutes, or until tops are golden, domed and set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, taking care not to overbake and even just 2 extra minutes can result in a much drier cupcake. Allow cupcakes to cool in pan for 5 to 10 minutes before removing them and tranferring to a rack to finish cooling. While they are baking or cooling, make the frosting.
  2. For the Marshmallow Buttercream - To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and beat on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes until fluffy. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the marshmallow creme and beat on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until fluffy. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla extract, 1½ cups confectioners' sugar, and beat to incorporate, starting slowly and then beating on high speed for about 2 minutes. Depending on desired frosting consistency, add more sugar until desired consistency is reached. If you've added too much sugar and frosting has become too thick, add a dollop of marshmallow creme to thin it back out, or a splash of milk or cream. Frost cooled cupcakes and serve immediately. After they're frosted, cupcakes should be stored in the refrigerator (due to the butter in the frosting) and will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days; however they are best eaten fresh.

Related Recipes:

Pumpkin Banana Bread with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting – Moist and rich, this quick bread pairs two of my favorites, pumpkin and bananas, into one easy loaf and the frosting isn’t too shabby either

3 Musketeers White Chocolate Cupcakes with Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream – Make quick work of your lingering Halloween candy with these candy-stuffed cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Granola (vegan, GF) – A very adaptable recipe that’s great for using extra pumpkin puree, extra dried fruit, nuts, or seeds. You’ll never have need or desire to buy overpriced storebought granola after making your own easy and flavorful blend at home

Caramel Maple Pumpkin Pie Smoothie – When all else fails, make a smoothie with extra pumpkin puree. Sweet, rich, and dessert-like

Pumpkin Cinnamon Overnight Pull-Apart French Toast with Vanilla Maple Butter – Bread marinates overnight in a mixture of pumpkin puree, maple syrup, cinnamon, sugar, and spices and it’s baked off the next morning for a bread pudding-meets French toast-meets pull-apart Monkey bread. A virtually effortless hot breakfast that’s perfect for day-old bread, lazy weekend mornings, brunches, or holiday gatherings and the syrup is scrumptious

Do you have a favorite way to use that last little bit of pumpkin puree in the can?

All my Pumpkin Recipes are here, some of which use a whole can 15-ounce can, but many of my recipes as well as those I read and try from others, use only a half cup or one cup. Therefore, I’m frequently left with partial cans of pumpkin puree wondering what to do with it. Necessity is the mother of invention and I start tossing things together, hoping for the best. This savory pumpkin and potato recipe was borne from that situation.

And with these half-dozen cupcakes and my last bits of pumpkin puree used up, I bid Pumpkin Season 2012 adieu. This will be my last pumpkin post until 2013. Bring on the molasses and the ginger.

My favorite recipes from fall 2012’s pumpkin lineup:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache – I love this cake and it goes down as one of my favorite cakes ever, not just favorite pumpkin cakes, but favorite cakes, period. Skip the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and make this cake

Pumpkin Banana Bread with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies – These cookies really grew on me and I made them twice in a matter of one week, which almost never happens with desserts because I’m always onto something new

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin Cinnamon Overnight Pull-Apart French Toast with Vanilla Maple Butter

Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Granola (vegan, GF)

Pumpkin and Cheesy Baked Potato Casserole (vegan, GF)

Please link up your favorite pumpkin recipes.

Thanks winners of the Pure Vanilla Cookbook Giveaway are Cassie, Laura Dembowski, and Chef Amber Shea

The winner of the Vanilla Bean Sampler Pack and Glass Jar Giveaway is Paula

95 comments on “Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting”

  1. One of your pictures says ‘small bath recipe.’ Does that mean it’s enough to take a small bath in? If so, I’m in.

    These look great and so moist!

  2. I baked up another pumpkin today. The puree is draining and just waiting to become either pumpkin chocolate chip cookies or cupcakes with marshmallow buttercream! What a battle! I’ve made the cookies and know they are good, and these cupcakes look scrumptious! One thing I’ve really enjoyed about your recipes is that my results actually look like your pictures! They must be very good directions for that to happen! I’ve pinned these and several others! Thank you!
    P.S. I use the liquid that drains from the pumpkin in my cinnamon craisin bread! Yum!

    • Thanks for all the feedback and so glad you’ve made my recipes, that your results turn out like my photos! It’s a peeve of mine when I read someone’s recipe/directions and they are very vague – I’d rather be overly verbose and wordy than not wordy enough – I find sometimes the smallest thing can really help something to ‘click’ for the person who’s making it so I try to be really descriptive, at the risk of being wordy, but oh well!

      And thanks for the pins and being supportive! Keep reporting back as you make things – I love the feedback!

  3. Perfect timing! I made a chocolate pumpkin cake last weekend and had some pumpkin left and was wondering what to do with it. I made these this morning and they are delicious.

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  5. Pumpkin, spices and tasty marshmallow, that just can’t be bad. These cupcakes are mouthwatering, I’ve featured them on my blog, hoping that you don’t mind, but if you do, please contact me and I’ll remove it. All the best.

  6. Pingback: Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting

  7. So I had to use some pumpkin up and decided to give these a shot. Let me tell you…I messed with your recipe a LOT! Besides the fact that I added protein powder, subbed almost everything (sugar, oil, eggs, flour), added more pumpkin than I should have, AND under-baked them…they are DELICIOUS! Thanks for always being an awesome starting point for my next baking experiment! :p

    • Wow…you changed the amount of pumpkin, swapped out sugar, oil, eggs, flour; added protein powder, changed baking time AND they still worked out…that’s pretty awesome! Thanks for LMK!

      And I love that you’re using pumpkin in June. Me too! I just haven’t been blogging about it :)

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  10. WOW- I made these and they are amazing. Definitely something I’m going to re-make for Thanksgiving. Thanks for the recipe!

  11. Pingback: Day 103 – Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes | my year of cupcakes

  12. I have a cupcake blog called My Year of Cupcakes. I featured your Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes recipe on day 103. Here’s the link if you wanna take a look: http://myyearofcupcakes.com/2013/11/11/day-103-pumpkin-spice-cupcakes/
    Thanks for the yummy recipe!!

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  14. I just made the pumpkin spice cup cakes and got AWSOME reviews, I did make a double batch of cupcakes since I had enough pumpkin to do so…I made the frosting called for in the recipe .to bad I didn’t have more pumpkin becasue I had enough frosting for six more cupcake………I’m so glad you have share your wonderful talents with us. Thank you so much.

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