“When the frost is on the punkin”: Pumpkin Ginger Muffins

When I was growing up, as soon as the fall leaves started swirling and the first cold-front hit Oklahoma, my father would go around saying: “When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!”. As a former English teacher, turned school superintendent, he was able to quote quite a bit of James Whitcomb Riley’s poem. As he worked at doing all the things you do when winter is coming, like bringing in the lawn furniture and closing up the garden shed, he would go on and on and on with this poem, so there was no chance that his kids would ever forget it, and I still haven’t.

Now, as the leaves have started to swirl here in the Berkshires, and the trees are in the process of turning those beautiful shades of orange, red, burgundy, and yellow, and all kinds of shades in between, it’s time once again to think about pumpkins. The town of Lenox is heaped   with pumpkins. The “Apple Squeeze” street fair was last weekend and every store in town got ready for it by setting up a display of pumpkins in front of their store. These tableaus of autumn consist of hay bales piled with pumpkins in all hues of pumpkin-orange and white, ornamental cabbages in jade green and purple, ornamental squash in shades of green, and ubiquitous mums in every imaginable color, watching over everything.



“But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze

Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days

Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock-

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.”

                                                                   – James Whitcomb Riley




In my mind, any “ode” to pumpkins has to include some pumpkin muffins. When the leaves start turning, that’s one of the first things I start craving. I got my first taste of a really good pumpkin muffin when I lived in Boston for a while, a few years back. There was a little coffee shop located several blocks from my apartment in Back Bay; I think it was on the corner of Newberry Street, but don’t remember the cross street. Anyway, they had the best pumpkin muffins. They were a deep autumn color almost as dark as gingerbread but with a pumpkin-orange hue, moist and dense, with lots of spices and chunks of candied ginger. Yum. I bought one almost every time I went near that corner. Here’s my best shot at those muffins.




Ingredient Note: Pumpkin Purée

I have tried many times to make my own pumpkin purée and have never been able to quite match the flavor and consistency of Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin, which is what is called for in this recipe.  Note that this product is different from Libby’s Pumpkin Pie Filling in that the 100% version has no added sugar or spices. The reason that it is so hard to make a good purée has to do with the pumpkins themselves, not the ability of the cook. For one thing, it is very hard to find “pie” pumpkins of a quality that both tastes great and produces a good texture. Libby’s uses a special variety called Dickinson as explained on these sites: (Those jack-o-lantern pumpkins just won’t do it.) SG





Pumpkin Ginger Muffins: Step-by-Step




Pumpkin Ginger Muffins
These are muffins with a deep autumn color almost as dark as gingerbread, but with a pumpkin-orange hue. They are moist and dense with lots of spices and chunks of candied ginger. Yum!

YIELD: 14 LARGE MUFFINS - 135g (4.75 oz) EACH

  • 425 grams Libby's 100% pure pumpkin - 1 (15-oz) can
  • 300 grams light brown sugar (1½ cups packed)
  • 100 grams unsalted butter, melted (7 tablespoons)
  • 100 grams canola oil (1/2 cup)
  • 200 grams whole eggs (4 large)
  • 120 grams buttermilk (1/2 cup)

  • 500 grams unbleached all-purpose flour (3½ cups)
  • 10 grams baking powder (2 teaspoons)
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2½ teaspoons Viet Nam cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons Korintje cinnamon
  • 4½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

  • ADD-INS: (Omit for Plain Pumpkin Muffins)
  • 170 grams diced crystallized ginger - cut in ¼" dice (1 cup)

  • 1925 grams = Total 68 oz (4# 4 oz)

  • TOPPING: Turbinado Sugar
  • Or: For a "Frosted" look, use Sparkling sugar or Sanding Sugar

  1. MIXING METHOD: Muffin Method - Liquid + Dry
  2. PRE-HEAT OVEN TO 450°F.
  3. SET UP MUFFIN PAN: Use one 12-cup muffin pan and one 6-cup muffin pan lined with 6" diameter (jumbo) paper liners. Set the muffin pans on half sheet pans.
  4. TO MIX: WHISK LIQUID INGREDIENTS together in a large bowl until smooth.
  5. WHISK DRY INGREDIENTS together in an extra-large bowl until well-mixed and aerated.
  6. ADD liquid mix to dry and fold in with a rubber spatula until half mixed.
  7. SCATTER the crystallized ginger over the batter and finish folding until all the flour is absorbed.
  8. SPRAY the paper liners with non-stick spray (with flour) and scoop batter into the cups, using a #8 Gray scoop - level (1/2 cup) .
  9. TOPPING: Sprinkle tops generously with Turbinado or Sparkling sugar.
  10. TO BAKE: Turn oven down to 425°F when the muffins go in and bake for 15 minutes.
  11. ROTATE pan and turn oven down to 400°F to finish baking; another 14-15 minutes. Total baking time: 29-30 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean.
  12. INTERNAL TEMPERATURE = 209° to 210° F, if using a thermometer.
  13. COOL: Let the muffins cool 5-10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Recipe Ancestry Notes:
This recipe was adapted from a recipe in Nantucket Open-House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase (1987). I made a few changes to the original recipe, primarily to make the muffins more moist: by using half butter / half canola oil instead of all margarine and by using buttermilk instead of apple cider. Following my "less is more" motto when it comes to leavening, I cut back on the baking soda. Also, since older recipes tend to have too much sugar, I used less sugar.


Pumpkin Ginger Muffins

Pumpkin Ginger Muffins


Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy!