I confess I love just about any muffin or cupcake a little better when there's cream cheese involved. These get just a swirl — not too sweet, and not too much — of cream cheese spiced with nutmeg and livened up with rum. It's a little kick of eggnog in the tender, gingery muffin. Some of cream cheese filling spills over the top in a swirl, and some of it stays in the center of the muffin as a creamy surprise.
Muffins are perhaps the best take-and-go breakfast, and they can double as a snack or even dessert. Top one of these off with a squirt of whipped cream for a not-too-sweet little cake to close a fall meal of soup and salad.
Pumpkin Muffins with Eggnog Cream Cheese Swirl
makes 12 muffins
For the filling
8 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature for an hour
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
3/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
For the muffins
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups pureed pumpkin
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsulphured dark molasses
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Dash of freshly-ground black pepper
To make the filling, whip the softened cream cheese with a whisk or hand mixer until very smooth and creamy. Whip in the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, rum, nutmeg, and cinnamon. (Can be made a day ahead and chilled in the refrigerator, if desired.)
To make the muffins, heat the oven to 375°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
Whisk together the melted butter, eggs, and pumpkin. Add the brown sugar and molasses and whisk until smooth. Dump in the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper, and whisk until just combined. The batter will be relatively thick.
Take out about 3/4 cup batter and set aside. Divide the remaining batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups. They will be nearly full. Use a spoon to poke a deep cavity in the center of each muffin, and fill this cavity with the chilled cream cheese mixture. Put a tablespoon of the reserved batter on top of the filling.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the filling in the center is puffed and set, just barely golden brown, and the muffin batter is fully cooked through. Cool at least 5 minutes before eating.
If you're feeling celebratory, serve with a squirt of whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.
Store for up to 5 days at room temperature in a covered container.