“Those are not muffins,” said my friend JR when I insisted that he try one. “Those are cupcakes.”

One cannot, he maintained, put frosting on a muffin.

And when one does, I discovered, her guests may eat three each.

(So obviously, one should never serve a muffin without frosting again.)

Pumpkin Muffins with Walnuts, Cranberries and Maple Cream Cheese Icing

(I started with this recipe and messed with it to the point of requiring typing below. And then, you know, added frosting.)

For the muffins:

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (use half applesauce if you’d like)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 overripe banana, mashed
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg — use fresh, if you can
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans, or fill muffin tin with muffin cups, and do not grease. Beat sugars and oil in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, molasses, and the banana. Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, salt and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Mix in walnuts and cranberries, if desired.

Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes for muffins, or 1 hour 10 minutes for loaves. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, cut around edge of loaves. Turn loaves out onto racks and cool completely.

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon maple extract

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

large pinch of salt

1 1/2 – 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, to taste

(This is a kind of fussy way to mix the icing, but it ensures no lumps.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter with one cup of the powdered sugar on low speed until smooth. Add the cream cheese, and mix until smooth. Add the rest of the sugar, and mix again until smooth. Stir in the pinch of salt, maple flavoring and vanilla extract.

Pipe stars onto muffins, and top with crystal sugar for sparkle.

My pretty parchment baking cups above are from ABC Baking Cake Decorating in Phoenix, and I love how they make baking projects look posh. The mini muffin cups in the top photo are technically nut cups, also from ABC, and they work perfectly for tiny treats. (Find the sparkly sanding sugar there, too. If you’ve never been to ABC, a warning: head-spinning, fantastic place.)