These Sourdough Discard Pumpkin Cupcakes are moist, plush and tender with a comforting mix of warm spices. Sourdough discard and earthy pumpkin puree keeps these fresh and flavorful for days. Topped with a creamy, buttercream maple frosting these cupcakes are bound to become your go-to fall bake.
This post is another collaboration with Mimi Council. At first, Mimi and I planned to co-publish my recipe for Sourdough Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. We quickly found out that they don’t work at high altitudes since cakes have a tendency to flatten out and spread at higher elevations. Don’t worry - whoopie pies work great if you’re baking at sea level!
Mimi loved the flavor of the cakes so much she suggested we make them into cupcakes instead. This was such a great idea so we’re sharing this recipe with you. That’s why I love our collaboration! We can nail these recipes together before sharing them with everyone.
Check out other tried and tested recipes from our collaboration, Sourdough Irish Soda Bread, Sourdough Red Velvet Cake Balls, Sourdough Lemon Lavender Bundt Cake, Sourdough Chocolate Shortbread Cookies and Sourdough Whole Wheat Crackers.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Easy and quick to prepare - ready in less than an hour.
- Warm spices that enhance the earthy pumpkin flavor - perfect for fall!
- Moist and plush cakes topped with rich maple buttercream
- Sourdough discard adds a delicious tangy flavor that keeps cupcakes moist
Baking with Sourdough Discard
Sourdough discard adds a great tangy flavor to these pumpkin cupcakes. Since you’re not using it as a leavener, your sourdough starter does not need to be activated or fed for it to work in this recipe and you can use it straight from the refrigerator.
Older discard will have a tangier, bolder flavor than active sourdough starter. Both will work for this recipe, you’ll get a slightly different flavor but your cupcakes will still be delicious!
What you need
Pumpkin puree: Use canned pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling since it has added spiced and sugar or homemade roasted pumpkin, which may alter your bake's texture due to varying moisture levels. It's a great ingredient that I use in all my pumpkin recipes, like my Pumpkin Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls and Pumpkin Discard Bread.
Pumpkin spice: Use individual spices for the best results, feel free to substitute your favorite store-bought pumpkin spice mix if you prefer. You'll need about 1 tablespoon of pumpkin spice mix.
All-purpose flour: Don’t try to use another type of flour for this recipe especially whole wheat or your bake will turn out dry.
Sourdough discard: If you don't have any sourdough discard, substitute active sourdough starter or simply add 56 grams flour and 56 grams water to your batter.
Dark brown sugar: Reacts with baking soda to help these rise and bake up soft and fluffy, do not try to substitute white sugar.
See the recipe card for the detailed ingredient information.
TIP: Start with room-temperature eggs, butter, and dairy. This helps them capture more air, leading to the creation of softer, fluffier cupcakes.
STEP 1 Mix the wet ingredients: Blend butter and sugars until no lumps remain (image 1). Add in sourdough discard, egg yolks and milk (image 2).
TIP: Make sure your discard is fully dissolved before adding the flour. This will prevent rubbery spots from forming in your cake.
STEP 3 Make the batter: Fold the salt, baking soda, spices and flour in (image 3).
TIP: Expect this batter to be quite thick (image 4), in between a cake and cookie batter. Mix the batter thoroughly but don’t over-mix, aim to incorporate all the bits in the bottom of the bowl but just until the last of the flour is fully incorporated.
STEP 4 Bake: Fill prepared muffin tins ¾ of the way full (image 5). Bake cupcakes at 375 for 18 to 22 minutes (image 6).
TIP: No peeking! Avoid opening the oven door before your cupcakes are fully baked. Doing so will let out heat quickly, potentially causing your cupcakes to sink and become dense.
STEP 5 Assemble the cupcakes: Make the cream cheese filling (image 7). Frost cooled cupcakes (image 8).
TIP: Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting, otherwise your frosting will simply melt off.
How to frost your cupcakes
If you've been following the blog for a while, you'll know that I don't love finicky decorations. My preferred way to frost is by using a small cookie scoop to top my cupcakes with frosting and spreading it out with a small offset spatula. This results in a more rusting looking cupcake which I love.
If you'd prefer fancier cupcakes with lots of icing on top, I recommend using a piping bag.
- Weigh your ingredients instead of measuring by volume (tablespoons and cups), it’s more accurate and will help guarantee the success of this bake.
- If your baking soda has been in your pantry for some time, test its viability by combining a teaspoon with a drop of vinegar. If the mixture fizzes then you’re good to go!
- Both sourdough discard and active sourdough starter will work for this recipe.
- Whip your cream cheese thoroughly to prevent any big lumps. If you forget to let it soften at room temperature, no worries! Whipping it well allows you to use it cold, straight from the fridge.
Absolutely! Simply use the same proportion of freshly fed sourdough starter in the recipe. Your starter won’t add a strong tangy flavor to your cookies, but will still work.
If you don’t have a starter, but still want to try out this recipe, simply add 56 grams of all-purpose flour and 56 grams of water to your batter.
Homemade pumpkin puree has a different moisture content than canned pumpkin puree. This could change the hydration level of your batter and adversely affect the result of your bake. It’s best to use canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling).
There’s a few reasons:
- Your baking soda and baking powder may be past their prime and not able to leaven your bake.
- You may have developed too much gluten in your batter by over mixing.
- You may have opened the oven door before the center of your cupcakes are fully baked, unfortunately this would cause them to sink and the center to be dense and gummy
- You may have measured your ingredients incorrectly, weigh your ingredients to make sure your proportions are correct.
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Pumpkin Sourdough Discard Cupcake Recipe
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- 226 grams unsalted butter softened
- 400 grams dark brown sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 425 grams pumpkin puree canned
- 113 grams sourdough discard
- 6 grams salt
- 8 grams baking soda
- 5 grams ground ginger
- 8 grams ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg optional
- 300 grams all-purpose flour
- 226 grams salted butter softened
- 118 grams cream cheese
- 88 grams maple syrup
- 590 grams powdered sugar
- 14 grams cane sugar
- ½ grams ground cinnamon
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 1 muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.
- Make the batter: Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks in one at a time. Mix in the pumpkin puree and sourdough discard until the starter has fully dissolved into the mixture.226 grams unsalted butter, 400 grams dark brown sugar, 2 egg yolks, 425 grams pumpkin puree, 113 grams sourdough discard
- Using a spatula (or with your mixer on the low setting), fold in the salt, baking soda, spices and a third of the flour into the pumpkin mixture. Continue adding in the remaining flour and stir just until all of the flour has been incorporated, don’t overmix or your cupcakes will turn out tough and rubbery.6 grams salt, 8 grams baking soda, 5 grams ground ginger, 8 grams ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, 300 grams all-purpose flour
- Bake: Bake the cupcakes for 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Take the cupcakes out of the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer) add the butter, cream cheese, maple syrup, and powdered sugar. Mix on low until combined, then speed mixer up to high and whip for 1 to 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle to mix throughly so you have a smooth texture.226 grams salted butter, 118 grams cream cheese, 88 grams maple syrup, 590 grams powdered sugar
- Make the topping: In a small bowl, add the cane sugar and cinnamon and stir to combine completely. Be sure to have this ready before frosting the cupcakes so when you sprinkle this on top, it sticks and the frosting hasn’t began to set yet.14 grams cane sugar, ½ grams ground cinnamon
- Assemble the cupcakes: Place a dollop of frosting (about 1 tbsp) on top of the cooled cupcake. Spread the frosting using an offset spatula.
- Enjoy and store: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
These recipes were developed and tested using grams for precise measurements. To increase your chances of success, I recommend investing in a kitchen scale. I've included rough volume estimates (in tablespoons and cups), but they might not be totally accurate.
Remember all ovens are unique, these recipes were tested in my oven which runs cooler than others. You might need to lower the temperature if your bake appears to be browning too quickly. Monitor your bake closely and make adjustments if needed.