Pumpkin spice muffins are compact in size but are super easy to make and tasty. (Photo: Courtesy of Michelle Higgins)

One spouse’s frustration is the other spouse’s opportunity. That’s how the Higgins Eats household recently became home to four dozen muffins when Mrs. Higgins Eats wanted to give a family favorite recipe the pumpkin spice treatment.

The original recipe that “probably came from Pinterest” is simple: stir together one box yellow cake mix, one can of pumpkin and a couple splashes of water. Scoop batter into 12 muffin pan cups coated with nonstick spray. Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes. 

But, for better or for worse, we’re in the height of pumpkin spice season and I’m married to a pumpkin spice enthusiast. Unable to find a spice cake box mix at our usual grocery haunts, I offered to make one from scratch.

I identify as pumpkin neutral, but I am a make-cake-from-scratch enthusiast.

After four batches of muffins (including an attempt at a non-spice version) and an unscientifically valid taste test among friends, we had a winning spice cake mix. 

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Servings: 12 muffins

1½ cups flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¾ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cloves

15 ounces (1 can) pumpkin puree

Dash of water (if needed)

Nonstick spray

Heat oven to 350 F. Coat muffin pan with nonstick spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Stir in pumpkin, adding a splash or two of water until all dry ingredients are moist. Batter should be thick.

Spoon batter into muffin pan cups.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

Allow to cool in pan for about 10 minutes.

Serve warm. Store leftovers in air tight container.

(Recipe from Higgins Eats household)

TASTING NOTES: These aren’t Instagram photogenic mammoth muffins. They would be overlooked in a bakery display case next to the cupcakes posing as muffins. (Let’s be honest, the only difference between most muffins and cupcakes these days is the time of day they are eaten.) Looks are deceiving.

What you get are dense, moist, mildly sweet and pumpkin-centric muffins with a dash of spice. It’s pumpkin pie filling in the form of a muffin.

EQUIPMENT: Measuring cup, two measuring spoons, mixing bowl, mixing spoon and muffin pan. 

PRACTICALITY: Measure, stir and bake. It doesn’t get much easier. I can’t provide an exact measurement on what qualifies as a couple “splashes” of water because Mrs. Higgins Eats isn’t a big believer in measuring. I’d guess a couple of splashes is a tablespoon or two, just enough to dampen the dry ingredients. Most of the moisture comes from the pumpkin. Since this is her recipe, she did the mixing and baking. My involvement ended with blending the dry ingredients. Well, that and the tasting.

COST: About $3.

HACKS/INSIGHTS: I make no claims that this mix replicates the flavor of Betty Crocker, Pillsbury or other brands.

Making a spice cake blend from scratch puts you in control of the spice blend. Love cinnamon? Add a dash more. Hate ginger? Cut it back.

Personally, I like cloves, so you may want to cut that measurement by as much as half.

Also, I’m officially done eating pumpkin foods until Thanksgiving Day.

TEACH ME YOUR RECIPE: Do you have an easy family recipe you’d like to share? Email it to me for consideration as part of the No Budget Cooking Series.

ABOUT THIS SERIES: I test recipes found on food packages in my very average kitchen with my moderately above average cooking talent and meh presentation skills. I’ll provide some insights and basic cooking tips. If you don’t find these stories useful, hopefully you find them entertaining. 

More: Make this Bolognese sauce if you’re a novice home cook with a few extra minutes to spare | No Budget Cooking Series

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More: Easy recipes tested and reviewed here. Follow these links to past No Budget Cooking Series stories

Contact Daniel Higgins [email protected]. Follow @HigginsEats on Twitter and Instagram and like on Facebook.

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