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Birthday Pumpkin Muffins

Photo by Ryan Dausch
  • Makes
Author Notes

Out of all my personal recipes, this one is “The Recipe I Want To Be Remembered For,” because it is so loved by my husband and kids; it has become a ritual that is almost sacred in our house! It probably started 7 or 8 years ago. My husband wasn’t going to be home for dinner on his birthday, and this really disappointed my daughter who was maybe seven years old, so we decided to make pumpkin muffins for breakfast that morning. That way he would have something to put a candle in for making a birthday wish. Somehow this became a regular birthday morning event, and we haven’t missed a birthday since then – even on hectic weekday mornings we squeeze in this family ritual. I have several loose copies tucked into cookbooks so that the recipe can always be found by whoever needs it. They are not super fancy, and my kids like them “plain” without the nuts or cherries, but they are fairly quick and easy if you prep the night before, by mixing the dry ingredients together (and stored covered on the kitchen counter), and mixing the wet ingredients (and stored covered in the fridge.) The next morning I can whip them up while not quite awake. I sometimes add toasted pecans (or walnuts) and dried cherries. We spread them with plain whipped cream cheese, as “frosting.” —Sadassa_Ulna

  • Test Kitchen-Approved


  • 2 cups

    unbleached flour

  • 2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon


  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground cloves

  • 1 cup


  • 1 cup


  • 1/3 cup

    vegetable oil

  • 1/2 cup

    canned pumpkin

  • 1


  • 2 teaspoons

    orange zest (or 2 drops orange oil)

  • 1/2 cup

    dried cherries (optional)

  • 1/2 cup

    chopped toasted pecans or walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Liberally butter muffin tins without paper baking cup liners (or line 18 muffin tins with paper baking cups and spray with unflavored canola oil spray.) Omitting the paper liners and baking the muffin in buttered dark metal tins will give the muffins a nice crunchy crust!
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the first 7 ingredients.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients together. Add orange zest – if using orange oil be very sparing, two tiny drops goes a long way.
  5. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir by hand to until well mixed. Add nuts and berries.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each about 2/3 full.
  7. Bake 20-25 minutes.
  8. Serve with soft whipped cream cheese or your favorite cream cheese frosting. If it’s your birthday top with a lit candle and make a wish!

Growing up I was the world’s pickiest eater, that is, until my children were born. Karma. Neither of my parents were much into cooking; it was the height of eating fat-free or anything with oat bran added. I taught myself some basics, mostly baking, following the guidelines of a well-worn copy of Joy of Cooking. I was a ballet dancer and a teacher suggested I lose weight. As I began reading about diet and nutrition I became interested in natural foods, which led to a job at a macrobiotic natural foods market in Center City Philadelphia; this was way before Whole Foods came to the area. I learned a lot about food in general. I ate strictly vegan for a while, although I don’t now, but I still like it when a recipe can taste great without butter or bacon! In short, my approach to cooking is idiosyncratic, and I don’t know very much about cooking meat or proper technique. I love to bake and I am still working on expanding my palate and my repertoire. The hardest part is getting the whole family to try new things!
So aside from my food status, I am an architect who likes to garden and play music. I’m married with two kids, and I hope to get a dog someday.

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