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Oct 1, 2008 06:11 PM

Pumpkin cupcake--oil or butter

I am making a trio of cupcakes for a party this weekend, and I thought a basic pumpkin cupcake, likely with a cream cheese frosting, would be nice option for one of the cupcakes. I've found a few recipes online specifically for pumpkin cupcakes (as opposed to pumpkin cakes) but am unsure if I should stick with a cake using butter or oil. Here are the recipes I'm considering:
(uses oil, but in a considerably lesser quantity, even when accounting for a lower overall yield, than the Dominomag recipe below

(this recipe uses a lot of oil as well as orange juice, though I feel pretty good about it given its source

(uses butter in a quantity that seems to be somewhere between the other two recipes' fat levels


Any thoughts? Alternatively, do you have a reliable pumpkin cupcake recipe? I'm looking for something pretty basic, as opposed to one with a "twist," and I'm not necessarily looking for one that screams "spice" or "pumpkin pie" or anything like that. Basically, a sweeter as opposed to spicier cupcake would be better in this instance. Thanks!

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  1. i use this recipe that has coconut milk. it happens to be vegan. you can't taste the coconut at all but it gives a lovely silky texture. i never add the shredded coconut listed in the recipe. it is the best pumpkin bread i've had, and whenever i make it people ask for the recipe, which is so easy that you almost can't believe it.

    i've only ever made it in a loaf, but i think it would be fine as cupcakes.

    1. All of these recipes, it appears to me, seek to imitate the pumpkin pie flavor (they all use pumpkin pie spice or a combination of spices that amount to pumpkin pie spice) so they may not be what you actually want. That said, if you don't use pumpkin pie spices, you'll need to come up with some concoction of your own.
      If it were me, I'd choose this one:
      and, of course, butter would always be my choice for muffins of any variety.

      7 Replies
      1. re: todao

        Thanks for your input Todao. I should have clarified that I was actually planning on cutting down on some of the spices a bit, likely using a pumpkin pie spice mix regardless of whether the recipe called for individual spices of this spice mix. I don't mind some spice, but don't want this cupcakes to taste tangy in the way that I think a "good" pumpkin pie probably should. I'm still torn about the whole butter/oil thing...I normally would say butter all the way but then I think of the fact that my favorite chocolate cake recipe uses oil and I realize it isn't as black and white of an issue as it might seem to be.

        1. re: Laura D.

          I can see why you'd be somewhat torn between butter and oil. Oil certainly does contribute to texture; but that's what I dislike about oil in muffins. I am sooo familiar with those commercial muffins (usually four inches across and as tall) that leak cooking oil onto the plate or the fingers of the consuming party at every attempt to take a bite. I guess that's what feeds my bias against oil. If you've got the time, why not make up a sample batch (divide the recipe in half and make half with oil, half with butter) and see how you feel about the result. If you find that you prefer the oil I'd like to hear about it. I'm never too old to learn (or adjust my biases)

          1. re: todao

            Interesting point. I definitely don't want anything oozing out of my cupcakes...except perhaps love and a tab or two of cream cheese maybe I'll go with butter. Since I don't need to make a special shopping trip for any ingredients for these recipes I'll probably just make a last minute decision tomorrow night when I get home from work about which one I'll make. I like your idea about trying both options, but unfortunately I won't have time for that during this particular baking adventure, as I'm baking two other kinds of cupcakes tomorrow night as well and simply won't have the time for an additional recipe. I'll save the bake-off for another night, though!

            1. re: Laura D.

              I don't know about pumpkin cupcakes, but I know from experience that in a pumpkin quick bread (or muffins), using melted butter or oil, the amount of fat is not important. I've even forgotten it without noticeable effect.

              1. re: paulj

                That's very interesting Paul. I know that pumpkin puree is often used as a substitute for fat in lowfat baking, so perhaps that's why. After I reviewed the recipes I noticed that, while one does definitely seem to have more fat than the others, it isn't quite as much more as I originally thought, given the quantity of things like the sugar, etc. in that particular recipe.

                1. re: Laura D.

                  There's a commercial oil substitute that is basically prune and apple puree.

                  What I make is similar to the recipezaar. The dominomag one has a lot more sugar, and oil, but otherwise is similar (3 cups flour, 4 eggs, 1 can pumpkin etc). The cookwithme on uses the 'cake method' - creaming the butter with sugar; the others are the muffin method - combine wet, combine dry, combine wet and dry.

                  I'm aiming for breakfast bran-muffin alternative, so cut the sugar to 1c per 3 c flour, and use a mix of whole wheat, brans, ground nuts etc.

                  My usual spice mix is molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, but this varies. Sometimes I like to up the ginger as much as possible; other times I go light on the molasses.

                  The recipe I work from uses baking soda along with the baking powder, but no buttermilk, so I am guessing that the pumpkin and the molasses contribute acid.

              2. re: Laura D.

                Butter can give you that same greasy, oozing effect as oil. It seems to depend more on the quantity than which ingredient. I agree with Paul that you can often go for a lower amount, especially with the pumpkin puree to add moisture, though I've never left it out entirely.

        2. Just made cupcakes the other night and noticed there is a pumpkin cupcake recipe in Joy of Cooking. I assume, like the recipe I used, that it calls for butter.

          1. I just wanted to report back that I went with the recipe I originally thought I was least likely to go with, the cookwithme recipe, and it was very good. Instead of all of the individual spices listed I used about 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice mix. I was intentionally looking to make a less spicey and more sweet final product, and this seemed to work. I made these into mini cupcakes with a cream cheese icing and really enjoyed them. One note, though...these cupcakes look more like muffins than cupcake, in that they were somewhat "rough" on the top as opposed to having the more smooth (though sometimes rounded) top one often gets with a cupcake. Thanks to everyone for the advice!