pumpkin spice mini muffins

2 pumpkin mini muffins, foodlets
DON’T GET ME WRONG, I STILL LOVE my Barefoot Contessa. But today’s makeover recipe from Paula Deen looked so good — and had so many amazing reviews (766 and counting!?) — on Food Network.com that I couldn’t really resist. They’re both big ladies with even bigger personalities, and all that laughing. Come on, it’s joy in the kitchen which is such a welcome change from the usual fussing in mine (Sorry Estelle, I know you’re only 9 months old but we really need to work on this…)

But while the littlest Mathews was still sleeping Phoebe and I got a head start on all things pumpkin muffin, or “cakes”as she calls them. First, we made apple sauce. I wanted to substitute half the cup of oil in Ms. Deen’s recipe but those ready made cups don’t seem to exist in Rome. Plus it’s nice to make your own if you have the time. That way you know its fresh and not full of anything weird like fillers, preservatives, and so on. Apple sauce requires just two ingredients: apples and water. Even we can manage that. (Note: If I DID have access to a little cup of already made organic apple sauce I would buy it (or 20) in an instant so don’t feel pressure here. Just saying it’s not hard.) Plus, the toddler had a built-in snack after her nap. Of course, she had to point out, “I don’t like apples” about 20 times before she started crunching into this one, then proceeding to eat as many of the peeled cubes as she could before I threw them into the pan. I actually tried a new technique when she started resisting the apples, and this one may have legs: I just shrugged and said, okay. No need for a hard sell. The last thing I’m going to worry about is apples. Plus, who has the energy?

Hilarious note: You can see a purple fleece in the picture and its not as sloppy as it looks (though things do get plenty messy at our place). Phoebe put it on the eggs “to warm them up” because I’d mentioned that room temperature eggs work better for baking.

Anyway, as I usually do with BC’s tasty delights, I wheat germed it up and took out a lot of sugar. So I’ll post the recipe below with a new format: A Little Healthier and Even Healthier. Neither are very complicated but if you don’t have everything on hand don’t worry. One of the selling points of these muffins is how easy they are to make. The other is how delicious they are. Phoebe ate three this morning. Take that, toast.

{Foodlets Recipe Makeover: Delicious Recipes Made a Little Better for You}

  • ORIGINAL RECIPE: Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Bars
  • A LITTLE HEALTHIER: Just reduce the sugar. The recipe calls for 1 2/3 cup of sugar. You will not miss that extra 2/3 cup. Trust me. And use whole wheat flour.
  • EVEN HEALTHIER: Reduce the sugar, use whole wheat flour and make two substitutions: use 1/2 cup of apple sauce for half the oil and replace 3/4 cup of flour with wheat germ. My recipe below includes these changes along with more spices and baking instructions for mini muffins (or bars).

Pumpkin Spice Mini Muffins (and Cake)

Adapted from Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Bars

This recipe makes 4 dozen mini muffins OR 2 dozen mini muffins plus an 8×10″ cake pan OR a single cake using a 10 x 13″ cake pan


  • 4 eggs
  • 1 12 oz. can pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup wheat germ
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Plus extra cinnamon and sugar to dust on top


Note, if you’re using mini muffins preheat the oven to 425. If you’re baking a pan, preheat to 350 instead. If you’re doing both at the same time, split the difference at 375. Grease your pan(s) with butter or use muffin liners.

Using a handheld beater or standing mixer, beat wet ingredients together until frothy: eggs, pumpkin, oil and apple sauce. Add the sugar. Put a sifter over the mixing bowl and add the flour, wheat germ, spices, baking powder, salt and soda. Sift into the bowl then stir together, breaking up clumps but don’t over-mix. Stopping at just the right time, when everything is well incorporated, will keep your cakes fluffy.

Fill pan(s) about 3/4 full and bake.

Mini muffins: 8-10 minutes (425 degrees F)

Regular muffin pan: 15-17 minutes (375 degrees F)

8 x 10″ pan: 25 minutes (350 degrees F)

10 x 13″ pan: 30 minutes (350 degrees F)

While your cake(s) are cooling, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.




  1. charlene mathews says

    My 11 yr old grand daughter & i made these after Thanksgiving and they were exceptionaly delicious . We had 4 doz Hi rise mini muffins and a small loaf to slice and use with cream cheese for a quick breakfast for her 12 yr old sister. Next time i will reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup and bake them as regular size muffins because they were eaten so fast and the family didn’t want to loose any “cake’ on the paper liners.
    This recipe is a real winnner! thanks charity!

  2. charityc says

    I’m so glad they worked for you guys! I just posted some chocolate chip cookies today; not my recipe but I think they’re really tasty too. Thanks so much for your notes and keep me posted on other recipes you’re trying! Would love to see any of your greatest hits in the “Submit Your Recipes” section too. Happy New Year!

  3. Jennifer says

    I made this in a 9×13 cake pan today and it’s my favorite recipe on your site so far! It’s moist, flavorful and delicious and that is with all the healthy modifications of applesauce, wheat flour, wheat germ etc. My kids are going to love this as an after school snack!

  4. charityc says

    Agreed! The best thing so far right? Thank you Paula Deen… I might make the carrot version again this week. Pumpkin is too hard to come by here!

  5. Charlene says

    Made these fabulous muffins/cake for the 4th time . This time frosted them with a cooked white icing because it swirls nicely and is low fat & not overly sweet. I put them on a tired serving tray and served them for a Bridal shower . Looked lovely and tasted great!

  6. Amy G says

    He ate them! He ate them! And on a non-eating day, to boot! Bonus: they were so easy to make that I was able to wake up and make them before breakfast.

    • charityc says

      I knew it! Go Douglas! These muffins are magical. Try the banana millet too — a current obessession w both of them here. And they loved the newest apple muffins too. (Maybe its the cinnamon.) Muffin addicts, a good thing? Not sure but I’ll take it anyway!

  7. Jamie says

    Made these today for the first time. We didn’t have wheat germ so we used 1 and 1/4 cup white flour and 3/4 cup wheat flour. We used 2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites and that seemed to work fine as well. The texture is perfect, but next time we’ll probably amp up the spices some (or maybe add some allspice or cloves) and might add an extra 1/4 cup sugar to the batter (we prefer ours without the sugar or icing on the top). Great job on the conversion from Paula Deen’s!

  8. Susan says

    Love these! Didn’t have applesauce in the house, so I used vanilla greek yogurt instead and fresh pumpkin puree. Had to add chopped walnuts for my husband. So moist! Thank you!

    • charityc says

      Love that idea Susan. The vanilla flavor sounds like a delicious addition. These muffins are so versatile, you can substitute all sorts of things – sweet potato or even carrot purée and I think honey would work well in place of the applesauce too. Thanks for your note!

  9. Julie says

    That makes 4 tear eyes! I so appreciate you tackling the “kids enjoying healthy food” challenge that is a daily battle for us moms. And the fact that my son is ENJOYING cooking with me, (baby steps, I know, but I’m cherishing the moment) gives me hope that a connection through food will always be there. I love that about cooking. It transcends barriers and let’s kids taste, touch, smell and LOVE what they create. Talk about food for the soul!

  10. Grace says

    I’m about to make these but in a regular muffin pan and not mini-muffin pan. Anyone know what temperature I bake for regular sized muffins? There’s guidance for mini muffins and pans but not regular muffins!

    • charityc says

      Hi Grace! Try 375 degrees F for 15-17 minutes. Test them by pressing your finger on the tops and if it springs back, they’re done. Take ’em out ASAP.

      I just updated the recipe accordingly so let us know how it goes!

      • Grace says

        These turned out great! They took about 20 minutes in the regular muffin pan at 375 but I did make some modifications. Instead of the cup of sugar, I used 1/3 cup of maple syrup and 1/4 cup of sugar. I meant to use 2/3 cup of maple syrup but I ran out, hence the sugar. They are just perfectly fluffy and just lightly sweetened.

        Thanks for a great recipe!

        • charityc says

          That’s so great to hear, Grace! Thanks for letting us know. Love the maple syrup substitution. It always takes longer to cook when you add liquid sweeteners (like honey too) but totally worth it.

    • charityc says

      Hi Gretchen — YES coconut oil would be wonderful. It wasn’t available in Rome, where we lived when I wrote this post originally, but I am going to make an update to suggest it. Even olive oil is nice in these muffins, which is certainly plentiful in Italy. :) Thanks for the suggestion!

  11. Julie says

    Thank you, Charity! I was searching the web a few weeks ago for healthy kid-friendly recipes, and came across your website. What a treasure! These pumpkin muffins are now a go-to breakfast or snack, and yesterday, my boisterous 2 1/2 year old son asked me if we could make them together! Thanks to a great recipe, he willingly traded a ball for a blender, and we had 25 great (but messy) minutes together. Love your website and your recipes. What can I say? We’re groupies.



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