Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Touch out of Season

It's probably a good thing I don't live in the US or Western Canada. Though I've been known to have a long and torrid love affair with coffee, Starbucks' brews always seemed a bit - off. I don't know if it's the water temperature, the roasting time of the beans or the way it's perked, but I'm just not a huge fan. If you ask them, or lovers of their cuppas, you'd hear I just don't appreciate a good cup of coffee. Whatever. If I want regular ol' Joe, I'd trek to Second Cup or Timothy's before Starbucks and even Tim Hortons... but if it's a double espresso - straight up - I was after (especially in university during 25-page term paper weeks), I'd only trust their baristas. And I hate to admit it, but whoever supplies the caffeine conglomerate with baked goods is a pastry genius. I have never had fresher-tasting muffins or scones than at one downtown  Vancouver Starbucks franchise, and though the French bakery in Ottawa's Byward Market still tops the list as far as amazing croissants, danishes and bread goes, the 'bucks is no slouch there either. One of my favourite things about going to a Starbucks is the fact they usually carry Jones soda (an old vice of mine), and coupled with the nice cozy ambience of most locations I don't mind spending some time there.

I haven't eaten at any coffee shop - or indeed a restaurant serving anything but sushi - in a very long time, but the thing about taste and smell memory is that it never really dies. So when I was asked by my awesome massage therapist (and musical genius) to try and re-create the short-lived seasonal goody of their Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins, I figured why the heck not?

Of course, I had to be me and jazz up the basic recipe I found on (which I can't find now!!) to make it slightly healthier and with a touch of the "coffee shop" built right in. I cut down on some of the oil, replacing it with good ol' applesauce, and tossed in half a cup of whole wheat flour for texture and a little nuttiness. To bring Starbucks into the batter itself, I decided to toss in a hint - just a touch - of ground espresso coffee, which permeated everything with just a subtle "what is that"-ness reminiscent of a muffin that's been on display surrounded by constant coffee activity and consumed with a cuppa joe. The filling, which I baked right in, was nothing more than cubed cream cheese, though the next time I make these I'll probably whip it with a touch of sugar and nutmeg before dropping spoonfuls into the half-filled cups. You live, you learn!! The "muffin" part, though, is bona fide spectacular... I have a testimonial!

Scents of Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
Makes 6 jumbo muffins
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp ground espresso coffee
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup pumpkin
6 oz bar cream cheese, cut into 6 chunks
1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds  
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, line 6 jumbo muffin cups with paper cups.
  2. Mix flours, spice, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a medium bowl, set aside.
  3. Beat eggs, sugars, oil and applesauce in a large bowl until blended.
  4. Beat in pumpkin until well combined, then gradually add dry ingredients until fully combined.
  5. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way with batter, then place 1 oz cream cheese in the centre of each cup.
  6. Cover cream cheese with 1-2 tbsp additional batter.
  7. Top with pumpkin seeds.
  8. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes.
  9. Cool 15 minutes in the tins, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.
Amount Per Serving (1 jumbo muffin)
Calories: 439.5
Total Fat: 23.5 g
Cholesterol: 92.9 mg
Sodium: 130.2 mg
Total Carbs: 54.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
Protein: 8.7 g


  1. I have to admit that I usually drink Starbucks coffee at home. I like to freshly grind my beans every morning. I think that I prefer to make it home than to drink the one they brew. If I'm at Starbucks I will often get the Chai Tea Latte. Those muffins look really good.

  2. What a great muffin recipe!
    I totally agree about Starbucks - I think it is off as well. Great post!!

  3. I guess I'm strange. I like Starbucks, but it is not my favorite. It also depends on which Starbucks you go to. I prefer Forza (a local chain around here), but I have to admit that Starbucks food is fantastic. Now if you could recreate their peanut butter cupcakes.


Thanks for the feedback!