Pumpkin spice cupcakes or muffins – either way this grain-free date-sweetened recipe is the perfect fall snack or frosted dessert!
Or muffins. They can pull off the frosting-free look quite flawlessly too.
I posted these chocolate cupcakes last week, and judging by the remake rate since I think we can agree that cupcakes are quite possibly the most perfect dessert form. Chic. Shareable (or not). Less work than a cake. More frosting than a muffin. And actually healthy with a little date-sweetening savvy.
However I got a lot of questions asking for a grain-free option. WHICH I AM THRILLED ABOUT. Not because I had a ready and tested answer, I didn’t (although I do now!) But because I am obsessed with grain-free baking at the moment (a. it makes me feel good and b. almond flour is the best thing ever), and clearly I am not the only one. I was worried you wouldn’t be on board with the subtle oat → grain-free shift that has been taking place around here, but it seems many of you are. And I cannot even tell you how happy that makes me!
So. We are not just fall-ifying those cupcakes today, but switching up the flour situation too. Swapping from oat flour to almond flour is not just a straight, simple, 1-for-1 thing. On the one hand oat flour is very dry/absorptive and starchy/sticky, whereas almond flour is incredibly moist and not sticky at all.
That means some extra ingredients and amount adjusting is necessary…
More flour. Bottom line is you will need more dry and less liquid in the batter when baking with almond compared to oat. For this recipe that means adding an extra 1/4 cup of flour and leaving out the non-dairy milk.
Tapioca starch. Like I said, almond flour is not sticky and therefore not very good at binding on it’s own. That is where tapioca starch comes in. It is just the gluten-free “glue” these cupcakes need. Too much will turn them gummy, but just a couple of tablespoons holds things together without ruining the lovely crumb texture inside.
Nut/seed butter. This new addition is optional, but recommended. The batch I tested without is just a bit more…delicate. Like if you dropped one of each out of a second story window the one without nut butter would splat onto the pavement in more pieces than the one with nut butter. Yes, I think that’s the best way to describe it. Any kind of nut or seed butter will work, I personally used cashew butter because that’s what was in front on the shelf.
Not too complicated, right? And I promise well worth the adjusting because they turned out even more moist and tender and dare I say sweeter too somehow. This almond flour stuff is magic I tell you!
Now comes the part where we address how these aren’t chocolate but orange squash-ed and spectacularly spiced instead. Everything is getting the pumpkin treatment lately, muffincupcakes are not immune. Pumpkin puree blended with the dates makes up the base of this batter, and a generous teaspoonful (or 2…or 3!) of pumpkin pie spice…gah I could snack on them every day. Oh wait, I have for the past week now. But I could happily keep this snack streak going. And they already have my car snack stamp of approval too.
Frosting. If you want to go the cupcake route (because you’ve seen the quote, and these muffins are believers), there are a few frosting options…
I used my go-to coconut butter glaze, but popped it in the fridge for about 5 minutes after stirring everything together so it solidified enough to spread. Very easy, but very coconutty in flavor.
You could also use my vanilla sweet potato frosting to really up the fall feels even more. Not as simple, but low fat and really delicious to have leftovers of plus a spoon.
Or you could top them with date caramel. Chocolate frosting. Ice cream. If it’s creamy and compliments pumpkin – it counts.
Happy muffincupcake making to you, friends!
Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 6 cupcakes 1x
Cupcakes or muffins – either way this grain-free date-sweetened recipe is the perfect pumpkin spice snack or frosted dessert!
- 1 cup pitted medjool dates ((about 12))
- 1/2 cup non-dairy milk ((or water))
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 tsps pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1 1/4 cups almond flour ((*see notes for oat flour option))
- 2 tbsp tapioca starch ((can sub cornstarch or arrowroot))
- 1/4 cup nut/seed butter ((I used cashew))
Coconut Butter Frosting (see above for other frosting options)
- 1/4 cup coconut butter
- 1 tbsp maple syrup ((optional))
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3–4 tbsp non-dairy milk
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- In a blender of food processor, combine the dates, non-dairy milk, and pumpkin. Blend until well combined with minimal chunks remaining.
- Add the rest of the cupcake ingredients.
- Blend again until just combined.
- Divide the batter between 6 muffin tins that have been lightly oiled or lined with paper liners. Fill each so it is level with the top of the pan. Smooth the tops.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350F.
- Remove from the oven and cool completely before frosting.
- For the frosting, melt the coconut butter. Combine melted coconut butter with maple syrup and vanilla. Slowly add the non-dairy milk until creamy and pour-able (it may seize up at first, just keep stirring and adding milk). Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes or until thick and spreadable like frosting.
- Frost the cupcakes. Garnish with pumpkin seeds. Enjoy!
For the oat flour option: Replace the almond flour and tapioca starch with 1 cup oat flour.
The vegan 8 says
Oooh these look just glorious Natalie! Im drooling all over the place. Can you pass me one please? I’m cracking up too right now because I have an older recipe Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes/Muffins that are also grain free and made with almond flour and starch,lol! Great minds. 😊 Although I use maple syrup for mine 🙂 I loved reading how much you love almond flour in your post and like that you’ve started baking with it because you described why I’ve been baking with it for sooo many years! There is no better flour in my opinion. Slightly obsessed. 😂 And of course when spices are involved like pumpkin spices, it makes everything better and smell better! That frosting you put on top looks so good. I love coconut butter. Can’t wait to see what other pumpkin treats you have up your sleeve! Haha!
I feel like with each passing week/month/recipe I just agree with your baking ways more and more haha! I’ll catch up eventually just gotta get there my own date-filled way 😀 If almond flour wasn’t like 8 dollars a bag then I would agree with you–it’s perfect. But besides that little detail I am totally in love with it too (and eating it as I speak in banana bread form!) Taking a little apple break right now, but I’m sure I’ll be back to pumpkin soon!
Iris Koller says
How did you know I JUST finished making a cashew pumpkin chai cheesecake (haven’t even cleaned the food processor yet, for, well you know, reading a new recipe is much more fun)! I have just a tad more than a 1/2 cup of pumpkin left! Guess what I’ll be adding to our Rosh HaShanah menu 🙂
BTW – will you update the chocolate cupcake recipe now that you’ve found the right almond flour/starch balance to replace the oat flour?
Thank you for all you share – your recipes are great!
My goodness, I want to be in your kitchen right now–so many yummy fall-flavored things happening! Well I am happy to be able to put your extra pumpkin to good use, hope you and your family/guests love them 🙂 And yes, the chocolate cupcake recipe has been updated to include a grain-free option too!
Shirley D says
I just read a few days ago that Tapioca flour was not good for you but do not remember why. I believe it was from Dr Axae s
There are so many conflicting opinions online about every food/ingredient you can imagine, so you will have to decide whether you want to consume it or not for yourself 🙂 You can try leaving it out or subbing flax meal but the texture will not be as good.
Looks sooo good! Can I sub it with oat flour? Thanks!
There is a note at the very bottom of the recipe for subbing oat flour! Yes, but you will need to decrease to 1 cup and take out the tapioca 🙂
Sorry I missed that note hehe thanks!! I will definitely try this!
No worries 🙂
Where should I start…. Ok, first of all, they look amazing! I can totally see how rich, fluffy, soft and moist (sorry for this word, I know many Americans hate it 😂) they look. I must admit that I use a lot of rice and oat flour in my baking because I can buy it locally here. Almond flour (ground almonds) is expensive here and it contains 50% of fat, that’s why I don’t use it very often. But I agree, it makes everything very soft, rich (and moist) because of the high-fat content. And please tell me, why should I drop them out of a second story window, I will stuff my face with them. 😂 Great recipe Natalie!
Lol to the “moist” thing–it’s not my favorite word, but sometimes it’s the only one that fits😂 Gah yes, almond flour compared to oat or rice is quite a bit pricier too, I need to start ordering it in bulk online. It definitely is higher in fat, but I’ve been experimenting with a higher fat diet in general lately and actually really feeling good with it 🙂 As always, thanks for reading Ela!
Yay, I am so glad you are feeling good with a higher fat diet!! 🙂
Leah M | love me, feed me says
That texture!!! So fluffy and moist <3 These are such beauties, Natalie!! Forever impressed with your creative ingredient lists and kitchen magic!!
Almond flour is muffin moisture magical stuff, I don’t know how I’ve gone so long without it in everything I make?! (Although the oat days were sooooo much cheaper lol) Thank you lovely <3
First of all, I definitely second that almond flour is pretty freaking magical when it comes to cake batters. These are a perfect example, I can tell by the photos alone they’ve got amazing fluffy texture!! Second of all, two cupcake recipes in less than a week?! SO not mad about this. Cupcakes honestly are just such a classic, you can never go wrong. And with a flavor like pumpkin spice…call them muffins, cupcakes, whatever (though partial to cupcakes cause DAMN look at that frosting!!), I’ll take as many as possible before fall is over!
Cupcakes + ice cream and really I’d be set for life as far as desserts are concerned, childhood bday parties had it right! Haha I’m partial to the cupcake title too, frosting or not it just sounds more decadent and fun🙂 As many as possible–coming right up!
I LOVE your recipes. You’re a true inspiration and I’m so glad I discovered your website. Your videos are FANTASTIC. I just have one comment about almond flour. It’s very calorie-dense and the huge quantity of almond flour of this recipe (or last weeks’) is disconcerting. I’m in my 50’s and my metabolism has slowed down. I therefore have to watch my calorie intake unfortunately! Just thought I’d put in my two cents worth!
P.S. Would love to read more healthy icing recipes.
Hey! Just wanted to point out that in the recipe it does mention that you sub oat flour, which is calorically comparable to all-purpose flour, in place of the almond flour + tapioca starch.
These are cerrrrrrtainly do-able as either cupcake or muffin – I’m down for either one at any time of day! Those chunks of whole-grain are lookin beautiful. Yum yummmmmm!
Both at all times of day sounds about right to me🤗
These are THE BEST Pumpkin Cupcakes/Muffins I’ve had yet!! I did sub out for the oat flour option and they turned out perfect! I did realize, of course after Baking, that in your video you add salt, but it’s not in the ingredient list. I’ll have to try salt next time to see if there is much of a difference. I’m so happy I found you a while back. With being a high raw vegan for nearly 5 years, baking as a vegan has been disappointing. But now I’m convinced it can work!! So good!!
I am so happy to hear it!! That is wonderful feedback, thank you for sharing. Oh you are correct–my mistake. Thanks for catching that, I just updated the written recipe to include salt too. I’ve made them with and without and both are delicious, but it does add a nice little extra flavor balance. Well I wish you many more SUCCESSFUL vegan baking adventures to come 🙂
Harriet Emily says
I am sooo happy that it’s pumpkin season! These cupcakes are so cute Natalie! I love the frosting. I can’t wait to try these <3
YES! Probably my favorite thing about fall. Leaves and cooler evenings are nice too…but pumpkin desserts 😀 Thanks girl!
Ellen Lederman says
I loved these! They came out perfectly. It did take a while for the icing to set/harden, even after being cooled in the fridge for 10 minutes and then a short stint in the freezer. I was able to ice them but let them set in the fridge overnight (are you impressed with my willpower? I’m like the only woman who has never eaten a pint of ice cream in one sitting when upset! Don’t know if I have missed out on one of life’s great experiences, but now I am enjoying homemade desserts and desserts like this so much more) and they were perfect for tonight. I did melt the coconut butter in the microwave, so maybe I got it too hot to set right away, but worth waiting for.
Loved both the cake and the icing. Not too sweet. And the cupcake is so dense and satisfying, unlike regular cupcakes.
I’ve never learned to decorate cupcakes with gorgeous frosting swirls—I liked that I could just spread the icing on and place a few pumpkin seeds on it and voila!
Thanks so much! I haven’t had cupcakes (or even muffins) for several years. Definitely a treat.
I am so so happy to hear they were a success Ellen!! The coconut butter frosting can be a bit tricky, coconut butter in general really. Melting it in the microwave can definitely cause it to take longer to set if you go too long, I find 5-10 seconds max is all it needs usually. Wow never eaten a pint of ice cream…ever? That is a rare feat, although I usually do it at fun times with friends rather than when upset😊 Well I am happy you broke the no-cupcake streak, life needs sweet treats if you ask me🤗 Thanks for the feedback and enjoy the rest!
These are so delicious.
Made two batches since you posted the recipe.
I love sll your videos and site, thank you so much !
I will try a third batch with sunflower seeds flour to reduce the cost 😍
I am so happy you are enjoying these Carine! Thanks for the kind words and feedback 🙂 Sunflower seeds in the batter? I am so intrigued, you have to let me know how that goes!
Absolutely love your recipes…honestly I had just given up on healthy treats when I found your YouTube videos. The oat flour ones turned out perfect…soft fluffy and smelling of cinnamon. Going to make loads of your other recipes…I take my hat off to you girl!
Karin! Your comment makes me so so happy, that truly means a lot so thank you <3 That is exactly my goal--healthy but not weird/gross/complicated. I am so happy these turned out delicious, and can't wait to hear what you try next!
Hi! Thanks for your recipe! When making the coconut butter frosting, do you melt the coconut butter til it’s completely melted? Left it on the stove for a second and it got kinda toasted! Trying it again but on low heat now it won’t melt all the way! Or I’m just impatient? Trying to get it right for my 1 year olds party this weekend! Thank you!!!
And I tried the chocolate cake recipe too- which was delicious but too messy for the kids. Chocolate was everywhere! 🙈
So coconut butter can be finicky and varies a lot based on the brand and where you live to be honest. Here in FL mine is liquid if left out at room temp so I don’t heat/melt it at all in the summer. In the winter I usually microwave it for literally less than 10 seconds. You don’t want to heat it very much at all, just until it’s easily stir-able. I rarely do it on the stove so I can’t tell you an exact time, but again it shouldn’t take much at all. If you need it for a b-day cake this weekend, coconut whipped cream frosting may be easier and there are tons of recipes out there like this: https://www.cottercrunch.com/how-to-make-coconut-cream-vegan-frosting/ Hope that helps!
Your photography is so inspiring and I love the look of everything you do! I do a lot of grain-free baking and I was intrigued how you could have a recipe that has an almost equal swap of oat flour for the almond flour + tapioca because I always thought there was more to it than that. I was also curious how this was a grain-free recipe if it contained baking powder, which is not grain-free. It occurred to me that perhaps there was an error and that the recipe should read baking soda instead. Alas, I went for it with the grain-free version and they did not turn out at all. They were super dense and I followed the recipe perfectly. I used hemp milk for the milk and cashew butter for the nut butter. My baking powder was a new container. Anyway, just curious if this recipe with the grain-free version should have baking soda and a little vinegar to react with it instead of the baking powder? Thanks!
Hi Lauren. The recipe is meant to use baking powder, not soda, although you could sub 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice if you prefer. Traditional baking powder is not grain-free, that is true. There are “paleo” baking powders made with tapioca starch instead of cornstarch, which you could use if you like. I’ve had tons of successful remakes on both version of this one and tested it many times so not sure where the problem is. Hemp milk and cashew butter are both fine, how thick/pour-able was your batter? The batter should be quite thick for the grain-free version, small variances in measurement can affect it so if that’s the case I suggest more almond flour next time 🙂
Accidentally used two tablespoons of baking soda lol. Bc I can’t read. And reas the measurement for the ingredient listed above and it still turned out delicious if that helps. Lol. I will try it the way it was written next time. Lol
I made these cupcakes and they turned out delicious! I used unsweetened peanut butter and ground almonds. Although I didn’t make the frosting it didn’t harm the taste in any way. I also baked your savory sweet potato muffins, they were tasty! I am so happy that I have found your website because I am always looking for (sweet) recipes without refined sugar. Let’s see which of your recipes I am going to make next 🙂
Greetings from Germany
YAY!! I am loving the sound of this peanut butter + pumpkin flavor, that sounds delicious! I love them without the frosting too, they play the muffin part quite well 🙂 I am really happy to hear you are enjoying the recipes Sternie, thanks for the feedback and I cannot wait to hear what you make next!
I made this as soon as I saw the recipe and wow, it is tasty. It’s going to be added into our favorite weekly breakfasts even after the season. I used the original recipe with the almond/tapioca flour. And I don’t regret it haha. I will try the oats one next time! I had to make it in a loaf pan and just added 5min on, it came out perfect! Thank you for another great recipe!
Ah yay!! I am so happy you tried them and went the almond flour route too, that ones my fave. The oat are delicious as well, just not quite as…decadent. But would be lovely for breakfast 🙂 Good to know it worked so well in loaf form too. Thanks Vik!
OMG, those look so good! And that coconut butter frosting…
You know, everytime I want to bake something sweet, I come back here to your blog! Love your recipes 😉
You are so sweet Melanie–let the sweet tooth guide the way 😀
Was wondering if I could use less dates to make it less sweet or would that mess with the texture?
Hmm I worry it may throw off the texture, but if you do try it I would add more pumpkin and less water to make up for it. Good luck!
That’s what I was thinking thank you! Also just tried your chocolate cupcakes and they’re amaaazing!
Can you substitute medjool dates with deglet noor dates? I love your recipes by the way!
Sure! You will want to use about 1 cup packed (or slightly overflowing) or better yet if you have a kitchen scale go for approximately 200g. I hope they turn out amazing!
Hi! if I bake this in a loaf pan, should I still bake it for 30 mins at 350F? Thanks!
It will definitely need longer as a loaf, probably 40-45 minutes or so. But this recipe really works best as cupcakes or in a round cake pan, especially the almond flour version. A loaf pan makes it much thicker and often the center won’t cook through properly. If you wanted to use a 9 inch cake pan, the bake time will be around the 35 minute mark, but for any of them the toothpick test is a good idea 🙂
I did it for 45 mins at 350F but I will cut it tonight when I get home.. The suspense is killing me haha
Ahhhh now I’m waiting impatiently to hear too…!
Hi!! It came out perfect! I used almond flour.. it is dense… maybe next time I’ll do oat flour.. and just double the recipe and bake it for 1 hour… also I used purple sweet potato in place of pumpkin purée since it’s in season now and I love purple sweet potato… what I really want is a sponge purple sweet potato cake… maybe u can do one someday.. ofcourse it should be date sweetened hehe 😉
I am so happy it came out delicious even if a little dense. Almond flour loaf cakes are tricky without egg, a round cake will always bake more evenly and less dense. Oooh I love the idea of a purple cake, I will definitely add that one to my list 🙂 Enjoy the rest!
It tastes amazing! Omg love it!! Thanks for your advises ❤️
Yay!! Anytime 🙂
What is coconut butter? Do you make it?
Thanx for your recipe. Many years ago I created my own pumpkin banana bread recipe. Now you have helped me recreate it healthier.
I’ve been on the hunt also to duplicate my carrot cake recipe which I got from working at a company a competitor to Pillsbury.
Thank you for what you do. Such a great help♡
You can make it, yes! Just by grinding up shredded coconut (just like you would for peanut or almond butter). But it’s easier to buy it, I like this one: http://amzn.to/2EpkEFZ I am so happy I could help you find a healthier alternative! And I have a couple of carrot cake recipes in the archives already, so maybe give them a try 🙂
would this work with almond meal? or does it need to be blanched almond flour?
For this one it really needs to be almond flour. Sorry!
Erin @ Texanerin Baking says
This is my favorite recipe of yours! I’ve made them a few times now. I use sunflower seed butter and love the flavor it adds! I make them without vanilla and the spices for my son (because he can’t have them) and he devours his little muffin every time. 😀 Thank you! I’ve been making double batches but will start quadrupling them because I always end up eating my son’s portion (I add the vanilla and spices to mine!)
Okay I gotta try these with SunButter now, because that’s my new fave and it’s surprisingly good with pumpkin I’m finding too. Aww that makes me so happy to hear you kiddo is loving them too😊 Hehe never too many pumpkin muffins stashed in the fridge/freezer!
This recipe was delicious. The texture was perfect. I was trying to find a gluten free paleo cake that wasn’t too dense or dry which seems to happen a lot unless you make one of those flourless chocolate cakes. But not always in the mood for chocolate you know? Anyways I thought I would turn this recipe into a cake and it turned out fantastic. My only question would be is what the nut butter in essence replacing. Even though it was delicious I felt I tasted the nut butter more than the pumpkin. Would eggs since I don’t have an aversion be an option. Trying to think of what the nut butter is doing that I could replace it with or not use as much. Thank you for this recipe. SO GOOD!
So so happy you loved them! And yes totally understand not always wanting everything grain-free to be chocolate😆 The nut butter provides fat/moisture and structure, so yes eggs could work in place but you would also need to add some sort of oil to add the fat element. I’d recommend trying 1 egg and 1 tbsp coconut oil, and you may need more flour since that’s a lot of liquidy additions. Sorry that’s not the easiest swap, but hopefully that helps you experiment!
No, thank you so much. That definitely helps and gives me a starting point. I will experiment and I will let you know! Thanks again for such a great recipe!