It’s nearly Thanksgiving! The best holiday of the American year! And let’s be totally honest: you’re not going to make these mini-muffins. It’s okay, I get it: I’m not going to make them either, because Thanksgiving is all about the pie. But I’ve been in a deep depressive funk for about a month now thanks to the presidential election, and these poor little autumnal muffins have been languishing in my drafts folder, their warm orange comfort sitting unloved in my Flickr photostream, unlinked and unnoticed. And meanwhile the Annual Day of Rapturous Feasting has been approaching and I’ve posted… nothing.
I mean, that’s just sad. So in an attempt to uphold my sacred duty as a food blogger around Thanksgiving, and on the off-chance that some heretic out there prefers a non-pie dessert at Thanksgiving, and CERTAINLY because at some point between now and spring you’re going to want a delicious baked good that isn’t a pie, I present to you these little gems of delight.
Because seriously, y’all. Let’s break this down: think of your favorite classic pumpkin bread. Got it? OK, now add in some subtly complex flavors to it: a little spice, a little turmeric bite, some coriander and cumin and fenugreek. Oh, and just a whiff of coconut. And then bring in the flavor of a classic cream cheese icing, cool and rich and satisfying. And now shrink it all down into a self-contained two-bite package, concentrating all that flavor into a cute little mini-muffin, maybe a lot of them? Maybe a big, precariously balanced mound of 48 of them, just waiting to be devoured? Yeah, that.
That is exactly what this is. I can’t at this point even remember what spurred me to make this recipe, it’s been so long since I did, but I’m terribly grateful to whatever spark of inspiration I had that brought them around. The interplay of warm spices with everyone’s favorite autumn squash and my personal favorite frosting of all time is almost too much to bear.
Just ask my coworkers, who ate half a batch and then looked at me plaintively, berating me for not bringing another two dozen. You’ve been warned.
Curried pumpkin-cream cheese mini-muffins
These little gems are basically everything I want to eat in the fall, all packed into a tiny two-bite package: pumpkin, curry, coconut, cream cheese frosting — I tell you what. (They also single-handedly justify my impulse purchase of a giant, 48-mini-muffin tin a few months back, which is always a nice bonus.)
For the mini-muffins
3 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 c brown sugar
2/3 c white sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 c pumpkin puree
1 c vegetable oil
2/3 c coconut milk
For the cream cheese frosting
1/2 c butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 c powdered sugar
For the mini-muffins
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease two mini-muffin tins (that is, 48 mini-muffins total) and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, curry powder, and spices. Make sure the brown sugar is completely broken up; you may need a sifter.
In another bowl, beat together the pumpkin puree, oil, and coconut milk until smooth. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture, and stir together until just combined; don’t overmix it.
Fill the mini-muffin tins (about 1 heaping tablespoon per well), and bake for 15 minutes, until the muffins are nicely browned, and a toothpick inserted into one of the muffins toward the middle of the tin comes out clean. Let cool in the tin for five minutes, then pop out and cool completely on wire racks.
For the cream cheese frosting
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter until they are thoroughly combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Beat in the vanilla, then add the confectioner’s sugar a big spoonful at a time. The cornstarch in the confectioner’s sugar thickens the frosting; add as much sugar as you like to get to an appropriate thickness and sweetness. In my opinion the frosting works better for this recipe when it’s on the less-sweet side, but it’s your kitchen, so do what you want.
Cut each muffin in half across its equator (basically separating the muffin top from its base), and use a butter knife to schmear some frosting between the halves. Don’t skimp, but don’t use so much that things get super gloppy. (Or go there if you like it super gloppy — that’s all you.)
You probably will have extra frosting, which is a nice problem to have.
Honestly I would have liked a stronger coconut flavor here; it ended up being very subtle. If you’re hoping for coconut magic, I suggest adding some dry, unsweetened shredded coconut to the frosting once you’ve finished adding the confectioner’s sugar — about a quarter cup would do it.
The curry powder is delightful here, warm and rich and lovely. But I know some people aren’t fans of curry flavors; while I’d love to be able to convince you otherwise, it would certainly be possible to make these muffins without. Just omit the curry powder, and add in a teaspoon of nutmeg or allspice for a more classic pumpkin spice flavor.
Muffins instead of mini-muffins? Should be fine: you’ll just need to cook them longer, between 20 and 25 minutes.
Don’t think you need 4 doz mini-muffins? My inner glutton wants to argue, but the rational part of my brain knows you’re probably being reasonably moderate. You can just halve everything to get a more normal 24-mini-muffin recipe.