Teenie Cake's Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins with Pepita Crunch

You win yet again, Starbucks. In terms of coffee, the only drink that keeps you in my good graces is a long standing love for bitter iced lattes. There's nothing quite like angry espresso paired with a sweet treat. The bakery department is where you've caught my eye.  

First it was the lemon bars... creamy and tart with a crumbly crust. We're talking full bars, not the minis they serve now to be health conscious. The bars vanished only to be substituted with black bottom cupcakes. These cupcakes were my study companions throughout college. For every chapter of Health Psychology outlined- I allowed myself a single bite as a reward. To my sorrow, they too vanished from the menu.

There are two pastries left that make me wide eyed with joy, and they're both seasonal. For the winter, it's all about the cranberry bliss bar. In the fall, pumpkin rules and the king is the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins! I set out searching the internets for a copy-cat recipe.

This search brought me to Teenie Cake's cooking blog! She created her own version based off of the Starbucks muffin. Glee! You can see that I commented on this recipe all the way back in 2010. It never left the radar and this fall, I found the perfect time to make them: our engagement pictures.

I brought them along for the shoot, which was done by Rick (a Sullivan family friend and growing professional photographer) and his cousin. I offered them as a small token of appreciation to the awesome camera crew who in turn snuck in a few snapshots. 

Don't mind the awkward picture, we were too busy stuffing our faces to care about the camera at this point. Everybody loved them! Even my mom said, "you made these?" They are triple threat with muffin, filling, and topping. There's a whole cup of pumpkin filling in the batter and the usual spice suspects (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves). Note, the recommended pumpkin is the filling version- not the straight canned pumpkin. Pumpkin pie filling already has the spices mixed into it which only helps deepen the flavor. The texture is moist and soft with a nice density. There's no granulated sugar-  it's straight brown sugar which gives that rich color. 

The filling is a combination of cream cheese, cottage cheese, and a touch of sour cream. The lemon zest is a crucial element to this filling. It's not overly sweet and is fun to eat around. I used the ENTIRE mix because I didn't want anything to go to waste. I also baked them in these jumbo cupcake tins. As you can see... this made for some mega muffins. Ohhhh darnnnn....

And finally, my favorite element: the pepita crunch. Pepita is a fancy word for pumpkins seeds. Simply toss them in some egg white and sugar! A few minutes in the oven and you have a delectable touch to an already yummy muffin. Mike's not too keen on pumpkin seeds and even he kept them on top. Heck, I saved some on the side as a snack.

If you feel so inclined, a little simple syrup helps seal in the moisture. Boil 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Stir until dissolved completely. Allow it to cool and then brush on top of muffins. Hooray for home-made baking adventures!

For the full recipe, check out Teenie Cake's blog! Thanks again Teenie for another great culinary treat!