These Pumpkin Cupcakes with Butterscotch Frosting are my favorite pumpkin anything, ever, and they have been for the past 13 years.


This Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes Recipe is award winning delicious!  They are wonderfully fluffy and moist infused with hints of pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla and SO EASY starting with a spice cake mix!!  And the easy Butterscotch Frosting is to live for!  

close up of a pumpkin spice cupcake in a cupcake liner

Easy Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes Recipe

That might change one day, but for now, this is it for me.  It all started with my college days when my roommate introduced these Pumpkin Cupcakes to me and would bake them every Fall for all of our neighbors – and all of  our neighbors would swoon over their deliciousness and then demand the recipe.  So a couple years ago when my work was having a blind “pumpkin eating recipe contest,” I knew just what to make.

These easy Pumpkin Cupcakes with cake mix won.  And that was even pre-butterscotch frosting (I used a plain frosting at the time of the contest).

With the weight of representing to you how knockout crave worthy these Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes are,  I was really worried my frosting job would ruin it, because we eat first with our eyes – it’s a fact –  and I’ve never frosted a cupcake with a decorative piping tip before in my life.

Until now.

I had the photoshoot all set up on our living room table as Patrick and I each took turns frosting the Pumpkin Cupcakes with the piping bag, each attempting different techniques, bemoaning how awful our skills were….but somehow, in the end, we ended up with beautiful cupcakes.  Even after Patrick saw the pictures, he said, “How did you pull that off?!”

Only with the help of an artistic husband.  I’m pretty sure all the “best” Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes used in these shots are his.  The man has skillz.  And yes, he is super sweet to help me, but I think he really just wanted me to be done faster so he could sink his teeth into the soft cupcakes sooner.  And I don’t blame him.  Not one bit…

These winning Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Buttercotch Frosting are pillowy soft and super moist with a hint of pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla.  I could eat the cupcakes plain all day and all night (and that would be why I sent them all with Patrick to take to work – I’d like to say I’m really that nice, but I really just have no self control when it comes to these enticing morsels).  

And that can be a bad thing, especially considering how easy they are to make.  All you do is beat spice cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, eggs, oil, and water together and somehow magic happens.  Fluffy, golden magic…

four pumpkin spice cupcakes on a white platter

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes Ingredients

I used a few shortcuts when making these easy pumpkin cupcakes, but these babies taste 100% homemade. Here’s what you’ll need to make the pumpkin spice cupcakes and butterscotch frosting:

  • Duncan Hines  Signature Spice Cake Mix: I’ve tested this recipe with other cake mix brands, and Duncan Hines is the best I’ve tried.
  • Pumpkin puree: Not to be confused with pumpkin pie filling. Two totally different things!
  • Vegetable oil: You can use another neutral oil, if desired.
  • Vanilla instant pudding mix: Needs to be instant pudding, NOT cook and serve!
  • Eggs: Make sure your eggs are room temperature before you add them to the batter.
  • Cinnamon: Because extra cinnamon is always a win in my book.
  • Butter: Needs to be at room temperature, otherwise the frosting won’t whip up properly.
  • Brown sugar: I love the caramel-y flavor that brown sugar adds to the frosting.
  • Vanilla extract: Use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
  • Heavy cream: Must be heavy cream, whole milk or another alternative won’t work as well.
  • Salt: Helps balance out the sweetness of the frosting.
  • Powdered sugar: Be sure to sift the powdered sugar before adding it to the frosting, otherwise you’ll end up with lumpy frosting.
  • Milk: Just a a few splashes is all you’ll need to create the perfect creamy frosting!
close up of four pumpkin cupcakes with cake mix in cupcake liners

How to Make Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

  1. Add the Spice Cake Mix, pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, vanilla pudding mix, eggs, cinnamon and water  to the bowl of your electric mixer and beat on low speed until just moistened (to prevent air bubbles) then increase speed to medium and beat for two minutes, scraping down the sides of your bowl as needed.
  2. Divide batter evenly among 24 greased muffin cups (about two-thirds full) and bake at 350 degrees F for 18-22 minutes or until a tester inserted in center comes out clean.
  3. Cool cupcakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

How easy is that?!  Now it’s time for the best Pumpkin Cupcake Frosting.

How to Make Butterscotch Frosting

This Butterscotch Frosting is every bit as deadly delicious as it sounds – but easier to make than it sounds.  Simply melt butter and brown sugar in a pan, bring to a boil, and stir in milk, vanilla and cinnamon.  After the butterscotch cools for 20 minutes, beat in the powdered sugar and you have fluffy, sweet, butterscothy frosting.  Here are the details:

  1. While your Pumpkin Cupcakes are baking, prepare frosting by melting butter over medium low heat. Stir in brown sugar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  2. Stir in heavy cream, cinnamon, vanilla and salt and return to a boil. Boil for 30 seconds, stirring constantly then remove pan from heat and cool until lukewarm, about 20 minutes.
  3. Transfer butterscotch to the bowl of your electric mixer and add 1 tablespoon milk and powdered sugar and beat until combined. Add 1 more tablespoon milk and beat until smooth, adding additional milk a little at a time if needed to reach desired consistency (additional milk will depend on how much your butterscotch has thickened as its cooled – I use 2 tablespoons milk total). Note this frosting is smooth and silky, not light and fluffy.
  4. Frost cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with sea salt.

Pumpkin-Spcie-Cupcakes-with-Butterscotch-Frosting8

Tips for the Best Pumpkin Cupcakes

  • Use Pumpkin Puree.  Take care you are using pumpkin puree and NOT pumpkin pie filling because they are not the same thing.  Pumpkin puree is cooked and pureed pumpkin without any added sugar or spices.  Pumpkin Pie filling, however, is sweetened and seasoned with Fall spices.
  • Add ins. Feel free to add chocolate chips, coconut, walnuts, pecans or dried fruit such as raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried apricots, etc. to your Pumpkin Cupcakes although I think thy are perfect in their simplicity.
  • Duncan Hines.  *I have tried other Signature Spice Mixes and the cupcakes are not the same!  I strongly recommend the Duncan Hines brand.
  • Pudding Mix.  Take care you purchase the INSTANT pudding mix and not the cook and serve.  Also take care to purchase the correct size.
  • Frosting.  I love these Pumpkin Cupcakes with Butterscotch Frosting but you can also use your favorite cream cheese frosting or even store bought.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcake Variations to TRy

  • Chocolate chips: I always add chocolate chips to my pumpkin muffins because chocolate and pumpkin belong together. I bet chocolate chips would also be divine in this pumpkin cupcakes with cake mix recipe.
  • Walnuts or Pecans: Nuts add a delectable crunch. 
  • Seeds:  You can add seeds such as pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds directly to the batter.
  • Dried fruit: Raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried apricots – whatever your favorite dried fruit is, would be delicious!
  • Coconut: Sweetened, toasted coconut flakes would be delish folded into the batter.


Pumpkin-Spcie-Cupcakes-with-Butterscotch-Frosting7

HOW TO STORE PUMPKIN Spice CUPCAKES

Leftover cupcakes should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving or I like to microwave mine for 10 seconds or so for warm pillowy goodness – like SO good!

HOW TO FREEZE PUMPKIN Cupcakes

  1. Cool cupcakes completely.
  2. Freeze Pumpkin Cupcakes in the muffin tin until solid, approximately 1-2 hours.
  3. Wrap cupcakes individually in plastic wrap then place all cupcakes in a freezer safe container or freezer bag, taking care to remove excess air.
  4. Freeze for up to 3 months.

HOW TO THAW PUMPKIN cupcakes

  1. Thaw on Counter (best for cupcakes with frosting): Place Pumpkin Cupcakes on the counter and thaw overnight. I then like to microwave my muffins for 10 seconds or so.
  2. Microwave from frozen (best for non-frosted cupcakes): Place a frozen Pumpkin Cupcake in the microwave and heat at 30 second intervals until warmed.
  3. Bake from frozen (this will only work with non-frosted cupcakes): Unwrap Cupcakes and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes. Frost per directions.

Award winning Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Butterscotch Frosting Recipe.  Mouthwatering delicious no matter how you frost them.

side view of frosted pumpkin cupcakes on a white plater. The front cupcake has a bite missing.

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Pumpkin Cupcakes with Butterscotch Frosting

These Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Butterscotch Frosting are my favorite pumpkin anything, ever, and they have been for the past 13 years. This Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Butterscotch Frosting Recipe is award winning delicious! 
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 24 minutes

Ingredients

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

  • 1 Standard Duncan Hines Signature Spice Cake Mix*
  • 1 1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable oil
  • 1 5.1 oz. package vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water

Butterscotch Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk plus more as needed
  • sea salt

Instructions

  • Add all of the Cupcake ingredients to the bowl of your electric mixer and beat on low speed until just moistened (to prevent air bubbles) then increase speed to medium and beat for two minutes, scraping down the sides of your bowl as needed.
  • Divide batter evenly among 24 greased muffin cups (about two-thirds full) and bake at 350 degrees F for 18-22 minutes or until a tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
  • Meanwhile, prepare frosting by melting butter over medium low heat. Stir in brown sugar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in heavy cream, cinnamon, vanilla and salt and return to a boil. Boil for 30 seconds, stirring constantly then remove pan from heat and cool until lukewarm, about 20 minutes.
  • Transfer butterscotch to the bowl of your electric mixer and add 1 tablespoon milk and powdered sugar and beat until combined. Add 1 more tablespoon milk and beat until smooth, adding additional milk a little at a time if needed to reach desired consistency (additional milk will depend on how much your butterscotch has thickened as its cooled - I use 2 tablespoons milk total). Note this frosting is smooth and silky, not light and fluffy.
  • Frost cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with sea salt.

Notes

*I have tried other brands and the cupcakes are not the same!

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21 Comments

  1. Sandra Shaffer says

    You both definitely nailed the frosting technique! Was it a flat tip?I love the way it looks, and oh my goodness butterscotch frosting sounds amazing! Perfect blend of Fall flavors!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Sandra – it took some time to nail it – LOL! Yes it was a flat tip and surprisingly easy after some trial and lots of error 🙂 You will love the butterscotch frosting – it really is amazing! Happy eating!

  2. Michele @ Flavor Mosaic says

    These cupcakes are beautiful. Your photos are gorgeous as usual. I’m going to have to try these cupcakes, but I won’t be able to make the frosting look as pretty as you did.

    • Jen says

      The good thing about cupcakes is that they taste the same, no matter how you frost them! Can’t wait for you to try them Michele!

  3. Carrie B says

    Gorgeous! Pinned it already!

    • Jen says

      Thanks Carrie! Can’t wait to hear what you think!

    • Jen says

      Thanks Valerie! and I’m impressed too – the man is full of surprises – good surprises! 🙂

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Kristin! We got over the pretty frosting job really quickly as soon as the photos were done and started devouring them 🙂 Hope you enjoy!

  4. Beth says

    20 to 24 minutes at what degree? I made these and they were beautiful. But as they cooled they shrunk. Any tips. Thanks

    • Jen says

      Hi Beth! 350 degrees (its on the 3rd line, can be easy to miss). As far as shrinking goes, it could be a couple things-cakes tend to shrink if they are overbaked (or left in the baking tin too long), but more likely they shrink if overmixed causing too much air to get into the batter so as they cool the air shrinks – and so does the cake/cupcake. Sorry your cupcakes shrunk – I hope they still tasted good!

  5. Patty says

    I can only find Duncan Hines Spice cake which is only 16.5 oz.. Will that affect this recipe? What brand Spice Cake do you get? Thanks in advance!

    • Jen says

      Hi Patty, I also used Duncan Hines Spice Cake Mix and just double checked and mine is the 18.25 oz. size – that is so odd, I don’t know why its not the same size! I think the couple ounces shouldn’t make a difference. Please let me know how they turn out!

      • Patty says

        Hey Jen.. Since I was worried.. I bought another Spice cake and added the difference to make it 18.25 oz. All the boxes at the store said 16.5 oz. I am making them as we speak for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Your cupcakes are so much darker then mine for some reason? I will let you know what everyone thinks about them 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!

  6. Karrie says

    Took these to the Thanksgiving office potluck. YUM!! I was glad I tried one at home to “test it out” before they disappeared. Mine were not quite as pretty as yours, but they still looked great. I used the Duncan Hines Spice cake. I have found that the new cake mixes are ALL the 16.5 ounce variety but appear to be formulated for the same amount of the other ingredients (eggs, water, oil). Many of my recipes start with a cake mix as the base, and I have not had any issues with using the new 16.5 ounce mixes. Thanks for sharing these little jewels.

    • Jen says

      Hi Karrie, What a great dessert to bring to a potluck! You were very smart to do a “test run” 🙂 Thank you so much for letting me know all cake mixes are now 16.5 ounces – and that those proportions work in this recipe – I really appreciate it. I will modify the recipe accordingly. I hope you have a very Happy New Year!

  7. Fran Russell says

    Hello…these sound delightful and I’m making a double batch sans frosting for breakfast muffins to take to a PTA morning meeting. Think it will work as a muffin? How do you grease the paper muffin cups? Spray? Thank you!

    • Jen says

      Hi Fran, I use nonstick cooking spray that contains flour in it – that’s my favorite way! Enjoy!

  8. Lisa says

    Could this be made as a cake instead of cupcakes

    • Jen says

      Absolutely! I would follow the instructions on the box for baking times.