Hungry Monkey’s Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cranberry Cupcakes

… with Maple Cream Cheese Buttercream!


These can be served as a sweet surprise for Thanksgiving Day breakfast (just leave off the frosting) or a new tradition for after dinner.

Makes 24-30 regular sized cupcakes/muffins

  • 3/4 cup orange flavored dried cranberries, found at Trader Joe’s (can also use regular dried cranberries).
  • 1/2 cup Cointreau (orange flavored liquor), or triple sec liquor (optional) OR, for a non-alcoholic substitute, use  1/2 cup boiling water mixed with 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup + 2 TBS low-fat buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2  1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 1/8 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2  teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated (optional)
  • 2 1/2 cups (21 oz.) canned pumpkin (I prefer Libby’s brand). Make sure to buy 100% pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees in regular oven; 325 degrees convection oven.

Soak dried cranberries in Cointreau or water and orange juice. Soak for at least an hour. Drain thoroughly and set aside.

Mix eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla together with paddle attachment of stand mixer or hand-held mixer on low; mix until just incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Add sugar until just incorporated, about 30 more seconds.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and salt together lightly until incorporated.  Then, slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture on low, stopping to scrape down the sides of bowl, until flour mixture is completely mixed. Be careful not to over-mix;  the batter will toughen when baked.

Lastly, add the pumpkin puree & orange zest. Again, scrape down the sides of the bowl, until just incorporated. Stir in cranberries by hand.

Using a large-sized retractable metal scoop, pour one scoop of batter into a paper cupcake liner in regular-sized cupcake pan. This will ensure consistency in baking since all cupcakes will have the same amount of batter in each paper holder.

Bake 14 minutes and then turn pan around in oven and bake another 13 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into middle of cupcake.

Cool 10 minutes on rack and remove cupcakes from pan.  Finish cooling on rack. Can be made ahead up to 3 months and frozen; simply remove 2 hours before frosting or serving.

Maple Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 packages cream cheese (8 ounces), room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar (or to your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or more to your taste)

Using a hand-held or stand mixer with whip attachment, cream butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add powdered sugar, slowly, to taste; then add vanilla extract and maple syrup.

Frost each cupcake using an inverted knife, or put frosting into a pastry bag with round tip and pipe on top of cupcakes.

Refrigerate; then remove 1 – 2 hours before serving.


Cindy Kienzle is the owner of Hungry Monkey Baking Company, which is “Mom-owned, kid-approved and local,” and is all about putting a modern twist on old-fashioned favorites. They specialize in a small line of all natural, handmade, “crazy-good” sweets, using only the finest ingredients. Hungry Monkey’s sweets include their signature Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, Original Banana Bread, Carrot Cake with Buttermilk Glaze, Pumpkin Bread, Lemon Vanilla Bean Cake with a Lemon Buttermilk Glaze, decadent Triple Chocolate Brownies and Chocolate Chip Macaroons. Hungry Monkey’s sweets are available at all five Sunset Foods, Mariano’s Fresh Markets (Arlington Heights, Vernon Hills & Roscoe & Western in the City), Potash Markets (Clark Street), Northfield Farmers Market during the growing season, and via