Sweet Spot: Volume One

Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cheese muffin review

Sep 26, 2022

Each week, the Sweet Spot puts desserts from eateries around town to the test, deciding whether they hit the spot or miss the mark.

Two Inkspot staffers review each product based on taste, presentation and value – separating the savory sweets from the crummy confections.

This week, Avani Rai and Marielsie Iglesias review Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cheese muffin.

12:01 a.m. August 30.

Pumpkin spice season strikes the country.

Pumpkin Spice Cheerios. Pumpkin Spice Oreos. Pumpkin Spice Goldfish.

Yogurt. Jello. Marshmallows.

These “limited edition” products seem to know no limit as store shelves turn shades of orange.

Starbucks perhaps offers the most renowned product of pumpkin spice season — the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

This fall, our reviewers wanted to see where the coffee chain’s other squash snack — the Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cheese muffin — ranked.



Avani: Missed the mark

I could bask in that perfect pumpkin scent of fall-flavored food every day for the rest of my life. It’s the first thing I look forward to when the blankets come out and the leaves start to turn.

When the opportunity arose to start the Sweet Spot column with Starbucks’ seasonal Pumpkin Cream Cheese muffin, I was filled with anticipation — even forgoing breakfast to ensure my stomach was ready for the burst of fall flavor coming its way.

Marielsie walked in holding that unmistakable Starbucks paper bag like a prize.

She set it down in front of me, and I could imagine the absolutely wondrous delight hidden inside. A delight which Starbucks describes as a “spiced pumpkin muffin topped with sweet cream cheese filling and a sprinkling of chopped, spiced pepitas.”

And then she opened it.

An unnerving beige muffin top, flecked with pale green seeds, greeted me.

The first words that came to mind – unappealing and unappetizing.

The muffin was misshapen and discolored – like it needed a little more love in the oven.

(Image Courtesy of: Starbucks)
In person, the muffin was significantly less appealing, less symmetrical and less baked than its counterpart on the Starbucks’ website. Avani Rai

I had been catfished by an image online.

What I expected to be a bounty of fall flavor was a fall failure.

Oh – and there in the middle of the muffin’s top? An unremarkable, unmemorable, undersized dollop of cream cheese.

The only saving grace from my first impression was the faint aroma of spiced vanilla vaguely emanating from the muffin – an underwhelming presence that was reflected in the muffin’s taste.

I questioned why this flavorless food even had pumpkin in its name – it was severely lacking in anything reminiscent of fall food.

The toppings, cream cheese and pepitas — green shell-less pumpkin seeds, further detracted from the muffin’s overall quality, creating a dysfunctional blend of awkwardly paired flavors.

The muffin’s lone redeeming quality was the moistness of its base – a mediocre quality that far from justified the 345 cents spent on this lackluster product.

So, for all of my fellow fall food enthusiasts looking for some seasonal snacks – don’t waste your time.

My advice?

Wait until the cafeteria starts selling pumpkin bars for half the price instead. Because if you think this review was bad – know that the muffin was worse.

Marielsie: Missed the mark

Pumpkin and I have a love-hate relationship. 

Pumpkin bars? Adore them.

Pumpkin pie? Despise it. 

When Starbucks released its fall offerings this year on Friday, Aug. 30, the Pumpkin Cream Cheese muffin intrigued me. 

Despite my questionable relationship with pumpkin, my stance on Starbucks is clear. 

While some call my love of all things Starbucks an addiction, I simply call it good taste. 

So, as a Starbucks aficionado, I figured, after nearly a decade on the chain’s seasonal menu, it was finally time to order the Pumpkin Cream Cheese muffin.

I was filled with anticipation when I lifted Starbucks’ trademark brown and green bag from the mobile order counter. 

I was eager to bite into what the coffee chain advertised in the past as “moist,” “perfectly spiced” and “richly spiced,” to taste the combination of the cream cheese filling and “caramelized” pepitas they called “a delightful balance of salty and sweet.”

That feeling soured when I removed the muffin from its brown paper concealment.   

Who ever bakes Stabuck’s snacks for their promotional photo shoots does not seem to be employed at the Bloomington-Normal chains. (Image Courtesy of: Starbucks // Kelly Sheppard)

Had I not ordered online, I would have rethought my order. I would have seen the muffin in its true form under the glass display case’s lighting.

Maybe I would have gone with another seasonal offering like the Pumpkin scone?

I was conned by convenience.

I felt betrayed – by a muffin.

The green pepita seeds had me doubting the safety of the snack (were they supposed to be that color?).

A misshapen glob of cream cheese in the muffin’s middle didn’t help the product’s presentation in the slightest. 

The muffin’s appearance was, well, underwhelming.

At least the muffin part of the baked good looked normal? This thought placated me slightly. 

When I cautiously went in for that first bite, I realized that the sad-looking muffin had some redeeming qualities. 

The bread was moist! While lacking in pumpkin flavor, it had the advertised spongy texture one looks for in a muffin, a texture that contrasted pleasantly with the crunchiness of pumpkin seeds.

The seeds themselves had a pleasing warm toasted note. 

And yet, there was nothing that left me wanting to come back for more.

Nothing world-changing, nothing mind-blowing. Just… decent. 

Would I get it again? 


Would I recommend it? 

Probably not, unless you are a die-hard Starbucks fan wanting to try all their products. 

The Pumpkin Cream Cheese muffin is an average experience that requires no fanfare or excitement. If you’re not seeking to sample each and every one of Starbucks products, save your money. 

It is better spent on one of the millions of other pumpkin spice products on sale for “a limited time only.”


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