Pumpkin Muffins with Pepita Streusel

Pumpkin Muffins with Pepita Streusel | A Sweet Spoonful
I might’ve spent the better part of the past two weeks trying to get these pumpkin muffins right. Before Oliver was born it would’ve been the better part of a single morning, with a good cup of coffee in hand. Uninterrupted time at home — the kind of time I need to weigh ingredients, take recipe notes and photograph ingredients — is pretty scarce these days. I often cook and bake in the evenings to prep for future meals, but obviously for the blog I like to snap a few photos to show you and that’s pretty hard to do at 10 pm. The upside is that I tested these muffins a few times to get them just right and did lots of futzing and experimenting with ingredients. In my mind, they’re the perfect pumpkin muffin: not too sweet, whole grain, fragrant and warmly-spiced.

Pumpkin Muffins with Pepita Streusel | A Sweet SpoonfulI’ve lately been thinking about trying to carve out time to feel more creative in the kitchen. We do a lot of cooking, but it’s generally quite dutiful, purposeful and specific: bake some squash for dinner and bang out a simple tomato sauce, for instance. While you’re at it, puree a little baby food. But the days of languishing in the kitchen feel a bit far off, at least for now. Sam shared an article with me by Kim Brooks called A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mom: Is Parenthood the Enemy of Creative Work? When I saw the title I sighed, refusing to believe the headline, although more and more these days realizing I may just be a living example of it.

Pumpkin Muffins with Pepita Streusel | A Sweet Spoonful

In her article, Brooks explores the effect that domestic life has on creative work and the conflict that arises between being a parent and being a writer or artist (or creator of any kind).  She says, “The idea that writers, artists, inspired and creative people make bad spouses, parents, homemakers, partners is nothing new. It’s a trope that has served the (usually male) writers of the canon well… although it’s easy to dismiss such pronouncements for their obvious misogyny, women writers, too, have often struggled with domestic obligation.” The down and dirty of it, she says, is that “the point of art is to unsettle, to question, to disturb what is comfortable and safe. And that shouldn’t be anyone’s goal as a parent.”

You need those long stretches of time to sit and daydream and watch the curtains flap in the breeze — to think some unsettling thoughts that may (or may not) just drive you towards your next creative project. But if you do that long enough, whose going to feed the baby and clean the kitchen counter?

I kept thinking to myself while reading, ‘so what’s the solution?’ I want to write another book eventually. I have projects I’m excited about starting. My sewing machine is gathering dust. I want to stare at some damn curtains flapping in the breeze. A few of the women in Brooks’ piece ended up re-jiggering their focus a bit, still creating but the subject was different. Maybe approaching creative projects in a new way than they did before. For me, the key is managing expectations. It would be too hard to run a granola business, work on a food writing career and have hours in the week to tackle creative projects — all while raising and loving on one small Oliver. Something’s got to give.

Pumpkin Muffins with Pepita Streusel | A Sweet Spoonful

I’m currently ghostwriting a cookbook for someone else, which is wonderful because I still get the satisfaction of seeing a project come together from start to finish, but I’m not generating the creative juices behind the book (the recipe concepts). And frankly, I’m not sure I could pull off my own cookbook right now. I conquer specific tasks really efficiently, but finding the spaciousness in my day (and my mind) to sit down to brainstorm and just let my mind wander — all the necessary building blocks of creating something new — just isn’t a currently reality. And for now that’s just fine. And for later, a little more of this (thanks to my friend Nicole Gulotta for pointing me to it), please:

Getting it Right
Lying in front of the house all
afternoon, trying to write a poem.
Falling asleep.
Waking up under the stars.
-Jack Gilbert

Pumpkin Muffins with Pepita Streusel | A Sweet Spoonful

These pumpkin muffins are based on the Pear Hazelnut-Oat muffins from my cookbook  which have long been a fall favorite around our house. I decided to try them with 100% spelt four to amp up the nutrition a bit, but as always, if you’d like to use all-purpose flour instead, by all means go at it. I think these would be great with whole wheat pastry flour or kamut flour, too. The streusel is unapologetically buttery, fragrant and has nutty bits of pepitas strewn throughout. I could eat it all on its own. The muffins came out of the oven nicely domed and made the house smell like October. I cut one in half and took it on my early evening walk with Oliver — thinking about that Jack Gilbert poem and waking up under the stars, but simultaneously feeling quite happy to be out on a walk with my boy.

Pumpkin Muffins with Pepita Streusel

Pumpkin Muffins with Pepita Streusel

  • Yield: 12 large muffins
  • Prep time: 30 mins
  • Cook time: 25 mins
  • Total time: 55 mins

These spelt pumpkin muffins are not too sweet and delicately spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. I use ground pepitas in the muffin batter itself, and then a generous hand with that buttery pepita streusel on top. If you’re using canned pumpkin, you’ll end up with a little extra and I’ve been using it up in pancake batter on the weekends or smoothies during the week. While I did use buttermilk in this recipe, I have a hunch whole milk or your favorite nut milk will work just fine, too.



2 tablespoons muscovado or brown sugar
1/4 cup (35g) pepitas
3 tablespoons rolled oats
3 tablespoons whole spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed


1 3/4 cups (210g) whole spelt flour
1/4 cup (25g) rolled oats
1/3 cup (45g) pepitas, ground (or almond / hazelnut meal)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup (150g) turbinado sugar or muscovado sugar
1 cup (250g) pumpkin or squash puree
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Butter a standard 12-cup muffin tin (or line with papers)

Make the streusel: Combine the muscovado sugar with pepitas, oats, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, press the butter into the dry ingredients and mix together until the streusel comes together when squeezed. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, ground pepitas, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar. Fold in pumpkin puree. Whisk in the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture gently, being careful not to overmix.

Fill the muffin cups nearly to the top and sprinkle generously with streusel topping. Put the muffins in the oven and bake until the tops are golden brown and feel firm to the touch, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing muffins from the tin. Serve warm or room temperature. Muffins will keep for 3 days in an airtight container.


  1. shanna

    Not a lot to add to this discussion but a nodding head. Enjoyed reading!

  2. Kasey

    Everything about this, times 1,000. I, too, miss feeling creative in the kitchen -- especially about dinner! I still somehow manage desserts :) But, as you said, dinnertime feels dutiful and purposeful. One thing that brings comfort to me is hearing moms of older children tell me that we'll get this time back. I hang on to that. xo

  3. Eve

    My kid's 15: yes, you'll get your mojo back. But some years will pass first and it is kind of startling to come out the other end and realize how much older you are. On the other hand, you mentioned one little-noted advantage of having a young child: you learn to develop an amazing efficiency and focus. These are skills that will continue to stand you in good stead once the kid is no longer taking up so much of your time. And there is nothing better (as far as creative cooking goes) than having your teenager arrive home, come into the kitchen, and pretentiously waft the scent from your cooking pot or cooling cake towards their face with their hand.

    The whole photography-at-night thing is a problem I have too. I have time to cook dinner daily... at dinnertime!

  4. Lu

    Jack Gilbert is my absolute favorite poet!

  5. Kristine

    Recipe sounds great! Can whole wheat or regular flour be subbed in for spelt? Does the leavening need to be adjusted?

    1. megang

      Hi, Kristine. I haven't tested them with 100% whole wheat but all purpose flour can be subbed in just fine and I'd could with whole wheat pastry flour if I were you. Whole wheat will likely work just fine - it might just need a bit more moisture. And no, leavening shouldn't need to change. Enjoy!

  6. Halley

    Hi Megan - Do you think this would work as a loaf cake? How might you adjust if so?

    Thanks so much!!

    1. megang

      Hi Halley! I do think it would and thought about making it a loaf instead of muffins. You're going to need to increase the bake time and shouldn't need to do anything else. My guess is that it's going to take 45-55 minutes, but certainly check it starting around 35 and stick a tester (toothpick or skinny) knife in. You want the edges to slightly pull away from the pan and for the top to feel set. Let it cool a good 1 hour before slicing. Let me know how it goes!

  7. mcs3000`

    Megan, please write another book! I love your cookbook, but I hope your next one is a novel. I am reading this from Curtis Sittenfeld: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/my-friend-has-cancer - both of you have a beautiful gift to capture life: ups/downs, milestones, love, humor + joy.

    1. megang

      Aww thank you so much, Mary. Makes my day. I really would love to write another book one of these days. Very much so! And I'm looking forward to checking out this piece you linked to. Have a great weekend. xox

  8. K

    An interesting alternative perspective on that article

    I always enjoy your blog and for what it's worth, as a parent whose family is struggling with a couple of big challenges, you are doing wonderfully and have a lot of wisdom!

    1. megang

      Oh fantastic. Thanks so much for your comment. I look forward to checking this out (always great to have other perspectives; thank you for sharing).

  9. Pauline

    Thank you for this honest post. I just had my first baby boy this month, and I have also been reflecting on balancing my multiple identities with work, creativity, and family. I took a year off work so that I could stay home with my little guy, but also so that I could use that time to explore new creative projects. Of course that all depends on his schedule and routine. In any case, I'm still determined to see how to make it work since creativity is such a huge part of my life - as is family. Best of luck to you as you navigate this terrain, too! I'm looking forward to reading more posts on this subject. Here's another hopeful perspective from artist Amanda Palmer "No, I Am Not Crowdfunding This Baby" https://medium.com/@amandapalmer/no-i-am-not-crowdfunding-this-baby-an-open-letter-to-a-worried-fan-9ca75cb0f938#.46vqfcw9k.

  10. Thomas Marzahl

    Do you think this recipe would work in loaf form as well? I know you don't have time to experiment... but I'd be keen to try this out for a potluck on Saturday, and muffins don't really work for an evening meal for a crowd.

  11. Thomas Marzahl

    Silly me, someone already asked this question a bit higher up. Query withdrawn, will let you know how it worked out!

    1. megang

      Let me know how it works out, Thomas! I think it will be just fine (you just want to adjust the bake time - longer bake time). Good luck!

  12. Mary

    I am currently roasting a squash, couldn't say what kind, all warty and vibrant orange inside, and was just hunting for a squash muffin recipe in your book. So glad you have one here! I am so excited to dive back into your book now that I am no longer working mornings. Night baking does have its perks!

    1. megang

      Enjoy the muffins, Mary! And have a great weekend.

  13. Anna

    This recipe was delicious! I made a few changes - using leftover sweet potatoes instead of pumpkin, pecans instead of pepitas (so good!) and baking it as a loaf. I love that it's not too sweet. I was planning to snack on it all week but came home to find my husband had eaten literally a third of the loaf in one sitting, so that was the end of that, ha!

    1. megang

      So glad to hear, Anna! Your tweaks sound really delicious -- I'll have to try pecans! Have a great week.

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