Secret Center Pumpkin Muffins


Our daughter was probably the last kindergarten girl alive to see Frozen. She was belting out the songs with the rest of her classmates for months before we finally got around to seeing the actual movie, when it had been showing at the second-string multiplex for ages. It was no surprise she knew all the characters and major plot points going in; hopefully these were no surprises to the other people in the theater with us, either, because my darling girl blurted out all the twists well in advance. Sorry, fellow movie-goers!

Keeping secrets is clearly not our strong point here, so I’ll give away the twist on this recipe and tell you that the surprise in these muffins is a deliciously creamy dollop of sweet cream cheese in the middle. Just like my now first-grader, I come late to trends: I had never tried the winning combination of brown sugar and cream cheese until recently. So good! Almost butterscotchy. I’ve been finding ways to use it everywhere.

These muffins are otherwise not too sweet and have good things like whole wheat flour and flax meal in them, so that not-so-secret center is a real treat, if not a surprise. It’s a little bit of a process to make each one, so if you’re feeling lazy straightforward, just drop a spoonful of the filling on the top when you’ve portioned out the muffin batter – it will sink down a bit under the weight of its own deliciousness, and be every bit as tasty.

Secret Center Pumpkin Muffins
Yields 12
Healthier muffins, with a sweet cream cheese surprise
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
17 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
17 min
Total Time
30 min
For the batter
  1. 1 cup whole wheat flour
  2. 1 cup all purpose flour
  3. ¼ cup flax meal
  4. ⅓ cup brown sugar
  5. 1 tsp baking powder
  6. 1 tsp baking soda
  7. ¾ tsp salt
  8. 1½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  9. 1½ cup pumpkin puree (contents of one can)
  10. 1 egg
  11. ¼ cup oil
  12. ⅓ cup buttermilk
For the filling
  1. 4 Tbs (2 oz) cream cheese, softened
  2. ¼ cup brown sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°, and oil a 12-cup muffin pan (or line with cupcake papers).
  2. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese and ¼ cup brown sugar until thoroughly blended. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the flours, flax, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and spice in a medium bowl. In a large measuring cup, combine the pumpkin puree, egg, milk and oil until well mixed. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined; the batter should be thick with some lumps remaining.
  4. Using a medium ice-cream scoop or a spoon, place a dollop of the batter into each of the muffin cups. Spread it around if needed to cover the bottom. Using two small spoons, drop about half a tablespoon of filling on top of the batter in each cup. Cover with the remaining batter, so each cup is about ¾ full.
  5. Bake for 12 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° and bake for another 5 minutes or until the muffins are nicely domed and spring back when touched. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.
Emperors Crumbs

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