Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pudding

My grandma used to say that adding instant pudding mix to box cake mix was the secret to making it moist.  I suppose it was a lot of people’s “secret”, because  pretty soon cake mix manufacturers started adding it to the mix, and  if you had a recipe that called for cake mix and added pudding, you had to be careful to use a brand that didn’t advertise “pudding in the mix” or you’d have a doubly moist, overly soft cake.  Today’s cake mixes are all pretty moist with or without the pudding, but what happens when you put pudding in a scratch cake?  After eating a somewhat dry carrot cupcake yesterday at the bookstore, I decided to see what a packet of instant pudding mix would do for a scratch pumpkin cake.

It was great!  I’ve used pudding mix in other scratch cakes and found them to  be kind of squishy, but it worked really well in the pumpkin cake and added a subtle vanilla flavor.  As for the frosting, I was going for tart, not too sweet and light, so I added whipped cream and a dash of lemon to one of my favorite  cream cheese icing recipes to get what I think is probably my new favorite icing for cupcakes.  And if you like the way I piped it out as a star, all you need to do it yourself is a pastry bag and  Ateco Tip #825. Mine is from a set of extra wide tips I found on Cooking.com, but Ateco sells them on their website as well.


Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pudding in the Mix
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Scratch pumpkin cupcakes with instant pudding
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 24
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spices
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 oz unsalted or salted butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, fresh
  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 muffin cup with line paper muffin liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla and pumpkin puree.
  3. Mix the flour, pudding mix, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice together in a separate bowl, then gradually add to the pumpkin mixture stirring just until blended
  4. Pour the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing.
  5. In a mixing bowl, beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form and set aside. In a second bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and lemon juice until creamy. Stir the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Frost the cupcakes.

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  1. says

    I would have never known about the additions to cake mixes. I do love instant pudding as my main thickening agent. These look great.

  2. Darlene says

    Anna, your cupcakes look outstanding!
    Another good recipe for pumpkin cake/cupcakes/muffins is Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Bars. I don’t cut and serve them as bars, I just treat it like a 13×9 cake. They also taste great unfrosted and make 2 dozen regular size muffins or 4 dozen mini-muffins. When I send them to work or school, I just throw some chocolate chips in the batter and leave off the frosting. The batter is very moist, flavorful, and a big hit with kids and adults, alike.

  3. Martha in KS says

    I like your idea of adding whipped cream to cream cheese frosting. I’ll try it next time I make a cake.

  4. Jennifer says

    I haven’t made the cupcakes but I used the frosting recipe for my daughter’s red velvet birthday cake tonight. So good! I had to sub in lime juice because I only had limes in hand. I was afraid it might taste too lime-y but it’s perfect. I doubled the recipe and just put in the juice of one lime.

  5. says

    Thanks for reviewing the frosting, Jen! Fuzz and I love it too. I’m not sure I’d ever use any other cream cheese frosting after trying this. Oh, and glad the lime worked. I guess if you added a little more lime juice plus some zest you could have a lime flavored cream cheese frosting. That might not be bad, actually.

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