Eating Jewish: Pumpkin Cupcakes

Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.
Photo by Katherine Romanow

The cannon of Jewish recipes is an extensive one that spreads across many places and generations. Many of the recipes contained therein have been cooked by generations of women with only small changes in the way they have been prepared. Many of these recipes have come to be viewed as traditional dishes, prepared on holidays, Shabbat and other special occasions. They have come to play an important role at these times and are often specifically associated with these occasions. Due to the fact that these foods are not prepared on a daily basis, the occasions on which they are prepared become times to savor and enjoy them.

Rosh Hashanah Symbolic Foods: How to cook them for you holiday meal discusses the symbolic foods eaten at Rosh Hashanah Seders held by some Sephardic and Mizrahi families. These symbolic foods include pomegranates, dates, string beans, beets, pumpkins, leeks, and fish heads. At the end of the article, the author invites readers to make dishes that are inspired by each of these symbolic foods to serve at their own Rosh Hashanah table, whether they choose to incorporate other elements of the Seder into their own celebrations or not. It is this last line of the article, which got me thinking about dishes that are not traditionally served during Rosh Hashanah but whose main ingredient consists of one of these symbolic foods. I like this idea because it provides one with the opportunity to create new food traditions while still including the traditional symbols that represent so much during the New Year celebrations.

Among the delicious recipes suggested at the end of this article, it was the one for the pumpkin cupcakes that tempted me the most. On this holiday, pumpkins or gourds are meant to express the hope that just as a thick skin protects them, God will protect the Jewish community in the same way and gird it with strength. As explained in this article about Seders on Rosh Hashanah, before eating pumpkin the following blessing is recited: “May it be Your will, God, to tear away all evil decrees against us, as our merits are proclaimed before you.” This blessing plays on the word K’ra, the Hebrew word for pumpkin or gourd, which resembles the words for tear and proclaimed.

The recipe I chose to make produced wonderfully moist cupcakes that were tinged with the light orange of the pumpkin. The mix of spices created a taste reminiscent of pumpkin pie and the cream cheese frosting was the perfect complement to the warmth and spiciness of these cupcakes.

Have you chosen to include dishes that use symbolic ingredients in new ways into your Rosh Hashanah celebrations in the past? Are you planning to include any recipes of this type into your celebrations this year?

Pumpkin Cupcakes
From Martha Stewart on


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
I also added 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract to the batter

Cream Cheese Frosting
From Martha Stewart on

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.

  3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely

  4. Place cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, soften cream cheese. Gradually add butter, and continue beating until smooth and well blended. Sift in confectioners' sugar, and continue beating until smooth. Add vanilla, and stir to combine. Frost the cupcakes and enjoy!

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My mom makes a really good pumpkin cupcake from scratch. She just started selling them for her new cupcake business Cupcakes & Cream Puffs. I'll have to show her this recipe to see if it can be improved at all - her cupcake that is.

If you can get a fresh pumpkin, then I would suggest making your own puree by roasting pumpkin pieces in your oven until soft and then pureeing them in a food processor. You can substitute equivalent amounts of your homemade puree for the canned one called for in the recipe. I hope this helps.

i love the idea of pumpkin cupcakes but if anyone has shopped these past few days there is no canned pumpkin on store shelves. Got a recipe to make them with fresh pumpkin?

m a jewish based in france and i really miss home food. jewish food just taste so good. i am really going to try out this receipe on the weekend.

I am a bad cook but as long as it is edible it should be fine. and your receipe seems simple to follow.

How to cite this page

Romanow, Katherine. "Eating Jewish: Pumpkin Cupcakes." 7 September 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 2, 2023) <>.

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