Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Writer's Breakfast: Pumpkin Muffin Tops from Cleo Coyle

A lighter, healthier alternative to fried doughnuts or syrup-laden pancakes yet just as filling and satisfying with a hot cuppa joe...

Cleo Coyle,
lover of java, pumpkins,
stray cats (with attitude),
and author of the
Coffeehouse Mysteries
I'm a lover of muffin tops--the kind you eat and the other kind, because mangia means love in Italian and love handles make it easier to hold on to the ones you love. :)

Of course, as a writer, I spend most of the day sitting on my assets. So, while I love indulging for the holidays (butter and I have a longstanding relationship), when it comes to daily eating, I'm always looking for recipes that taste good but aren't crazy-high in calories. This recipe does that for me. I posted a version of it last November, but with so many new followers on our blog this year, I thought it might be nice to share it once more...

Now that Holiday Grind is released to bookstores, my editor is waiting for me to deliver my next Coffeehouse Mystery, which means Clare Cosi and Company are in the thick of it again. So the quicker my laptop gets fired up every morning, the better.

At the start of the week, I'll make a double batch of these babies and store them in the fridge. Each day I'll pop two in the microwave, spread a little butter on top, pour a fresh cup of coffee (of course!), and I'm good to start writing.

Nemo and the pumpkin!
To find out the title of my next book in the series and see an early draft of the cover, click here, jump over to my web site's message board and scroll down.


To download this recipe in a convenient PDF format that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Servings: about 12 muffin tops


2 large eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil (I use canola)

1 cup whole milk
½ cup canned pumpkin
¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1-½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (*see end note on making your own)

Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour (NOTE: for higher, prettier muffin tops, you can increase the flour by 1/4 cup, but in my opinion they don't taste as good


(1) One bowl mixing method: Preheat oven to 425° Fahrenheit. Place eggs in bowl and whisk. Add oil, milk, canned pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt. Whisk until blended. Finally, sift in baking powder and flour. NOTE: Sifting the flour lightens it for better rising and texture. Sift after measuring for correct amount. Stir well to blend in the flour. Batter should be smooth but don't over mix. Now chill that batter for 15 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator. This batter really needs to rest and hydrate for best results.

(2) Prep pan and drop: For best results, line baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop batter onto baking sheet, about 2 tablespoons per muffin top (simply drop one tablespoon of batter right on top of the other). These will double in size so leave room between. On the 2nd batch, allow pan to cool before dropping batter or
tops will spread too flat.

(3) Bake: Oven should be well pre-heated to 425° F. Bake muffin tops about 10 – 12 minutes (depending on oven). Rounds will rise slightly in center, resembling muffin tops. Serve warm with butter or dust with powdered sugar. Do not allow muffin tops to cool on hot pan. Bottoms may steam and become tough. Be sure to store in refrigerator (either wrapped in plastic or placed in an airtight container).


Pumpkin pie spice can be found wherever other spices are sold. Spice mixes like this (and apple pie spice) are good to keep in mind when looking for economical shortcuts to your holiday baking. If you would rather not use pumpkin pie spice (or run out of it on occasion, like I do!) here is how you can make your own (this information is also included in the PDF of this entire recipe, just click here to get it for printing, saving, or sharing)...

1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice =

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice or cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg


Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

A Coffeehouse Mystery

The national
bestseller in hardcover
is now a bestseller
in paperback!

To get more of my recipes,
win free coffee, or learn

about me and my Coffeehouse Mysteries, visit my *virtual* coffeehouse at:


“Fun and gripping…” —The Huffington Post

“Some of the most vibrant characters I've ever read. Coyle also is a master of misdirection and red herrings. I challenge any reader to figure out whodunit before Coyle reveals all.”
Mystery Scene


  1. I loaded this page, looked at the picture and thought, "Cleo made breakfast for me!" :)

    This looks delicious! It's even better that it's light and pumpkiny and fall-like. Thanks for sharing it (and the recipe for the pumpkin spice.) :)

  2. Here from Twitter - oooh, I am bookmarking this recipe - they look fabulous.

  3. These look amazing. Love the idea of muffin top cookies. One of my island discoveries. Add some of the dried fruit (think better than raisins) and you have something...

    Pumpkin-papaya muffin tops.. get sucked in by the alliteration, stay for the taste

  4. These look delicious. Wish I had one to go with my cup of coffee right now. I like the Pumpkin Spice Recipe too.

    Thoughts in Progress

  5. Replies to --

    @Elizabeth - It's funny. As I prepared this post, I kept thinking about one you did at Mystery Writing is Murder. You talked about the distractions at home that particular day and the problems at the local coffee shop (where acquaintances kept stopping by to say hello). So you drove out to the country to a diner with no wi-fi where no one knew you, lol. Sometimes writing at home is wonderful and sometimes getting out works much better. So I split my time -- at home some days (with the muffin tops) and at the coffeehouse on others. I've been considering sneaking one of my muffin tops with me but have been too cowardly. (It's a little like sneaking your own popcorn into the movie theater, which I have done, I confess.) At coffeehouse, I usually buy a banana. :)

    ~ Cleo

  6. Replies to --

    @bookwoman - thank you kindly.

    @cillaclare - welcome from ye twitter-verse! Glad to have you. :)

    ~ Cleo, who is also
    a twitizen of ye twitter-nation
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  7. Replies to --

    Year on the Grill - Good morning, Dave! Oh, I love your island muffin tops twist. Reminds me of that old culinary philosophy that when you take the fat out of food (for a lighter recipe -- which is what this one attempts to do, using pumpkin for moistness instead of more oil), then you'd better put in lots of flavor! Flavor is definitely the goal and this is a good basic recipe for experimenting with additions and change-ups. Cheers and thanks, as ever, for brightening our days here at MLK. <3

    @Mason - delighted to see you dropping in from Thoughts in Progress. I love your blog. So many books, so little time! Glad you like the pumpkin spice recipe, too. Have a great week.

    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. It's so hard to eat right when there are so many wonderful sour cream and butter laden recipes out there. Thanks for sharing a lighter touch, Cleo. Now, why aren't they sitting on *my* desk like they are in your picture?

    ~ Krista

  9. Now that I don't live in Florida, where turning on any kitchen appliance was avoided at all costs, I'm cooking more. And it's showing. But these look too good to pass up.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  10. Cleo, it looks like you and I are on the same page this week with adding vegetables to recipes in new and exciting ways ::grin:::
    These look delicious and I can't wait to try them. Perfect for these fall days! Thanks so much!

  11. Replies to --

    @Krista - Oh, you said it, sister - so many tempting foods at this time of year. Speaking of which -- I'm still salivating over your pecan lace sandwiches. Have any extras?!

    @Terry - I hear you on that hot Florida kitchen. I'm sure the folks you left behind in sunny FLA are appreciating the fall. BTW - I so love the photos you publish on your blog. Every time I see them, I tell Marc we should move to the Colorado rockies. One day, he may take me up on that. :)

    ~ Cleo
    still taking the subway in Queens, NYC
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  12. Cleo - you're welcome to come visit -- as soon as the basement remodel is done!

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  13. I love the name of your next Coffeehouse Mystery!

    Now, you know what a tea-lover I am, but when I was smelling these pumpkin muffin tops baking, I realized it had to be coffee. A cup of Panama Casa Ruiz Peaberry, with two pumpkin muffin tops, and I've got the perfect late-morning snack.

    And just how did we ever manage to bake without parchment to line the baking sheets?

  14. Mmmmm, these look delicious. Thanks so much for the recipe. I am just about finished with the first coffeehouse mystery and I am hooked!


  15. Oh, Cleo, I love muffin tops, too. What is it about them? The softness? The shape. Love the recipe and how to make them. Yum. Can't wait to share this. And thanks for the link to other recipes. Great idea.


  16. Replies to...

    @Terry Odell - Aw, TY for the sweet invitation. I can almost smell the mountain air, lol.

    @LaineShots - Sounds like a wonderful coffee. (Warning, coffee geek speak coming...) I love Panamanian beans and peaberries are almost always excellent quality. (Coffee geek speak over now.) Oh, yes, and I too am a lover of parchment. :) Always enjoy seeing you stop by the Kitchen!

    @Lisa - I am always THRILLED to hear when a new reader has entered Clare Cosi's coffeehouse. Thank you so much for stopping by to let me know, and I hope you'll drop back again!

    @Avery - I loved your Bouchercon breakfast post and it was so much fun to link to everyone's idea of a writer's breakfast. Cheers!

    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  17. YUM! I just bought donuts -- it was a craving, what can I say? Now I want pumpkin muffin tops!

  18. Both Emily and Connor will thank you profusely in the morning!!! I actually have all the ingredients so will be up early to whip them up :-) Em is on a huge pumpkin this year...
    Your autumn view is gorgeous :-)