Breads / Desserts / Snacks

Pumpkin Ensaymada

I’ve been craving ensaymada, probably because I can’t easily get one like I can back home in Hawaii.

If you’re Filipino or grew up somewhere with a big Filipino influence, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. But for those of you who have never had an ensaymada, it’s a delicious Filipino soft and sweet bread, covered with butter and sugar. A lot of times it’s covered in grated cheese or filled with an ube filling (or both!). It’s an adaptation of ensaïmada, which comes from Spain, but in my personal opinion, it’s a big improvement on the Spanish variation.

This is my grandmother’s favorite baked good and she’d probably be pretty skeptical about this fall variation. Still, I’m happy with how these turned out. The pumpkin pie flavors really stand out in this recipe and has the perfect level of spices. The buttercream is also pumpkin flavored, using whatever leftover filling you might have.

Some tips and tricks:

I used this video to learn how to roll the ensaymada. I made mine pretty small (so I could share with friends) but it’ll probably be easier to assemble if you cut the dough into bigger portions. A good amount of mine burst in the oven (still good but not as pretty), so make sure to be careful with how thin you roll your dough out.

Like most pumpkin things, the filling actually tastes better the day after you make it. So either make the filling the day before or serve the buns a day after baking. If so, don’t spread the buttercream on top of the rolls until the day of serving. Don’t sprinkle the sugar on top until serving either because it’ll melt into the buttercream with time.

The recipe is written so you make this without a stand mixer (except it’ll definitely be easier with one!) because that’s how I made mine. These are so delicious and will be good for up to 3-4 days. Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Pumpkin Ensaymada

A fall version of one of my favorite childhood sweets. Soft, pillowy buns, filled with a spiced pumpkin filling and topped with delicious buttercream.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 30 minutes
Rising Time 3 hours
Servings 20 rolls


For the tangzhong:

  • 1/3 cup bread flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup water

For the bread:

  • 2 1/2 cup bread flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened

For the filling:

  • 1 can pumpkin puree (drain excess liquid)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp softened butter

For the buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • leftover pumpkin filling
  • sugar, for topping


Make the tangzhong starter:

  • Pour the water and milk into a small saucepan. Add the flour and whisk until there are no lumps.
  • Place onto medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5-10 minutes. It should have a pudding-like consistency, pourable but thick.
  • Pour mixture into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Make the plastic wrap touch the surface of the mixture. This will prevent a skin from forming.
  • Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

Make the dough:

  • In a medium-large mixing bowl, place the lukewarm milk. Add 1 tsp of your sugar and mix to dissolve. Sprinkle your yeast on the surface of the milk and gently stir. Let sit for 10-20 minutes, until bubbly and frothy.
  • Add the rest of the sugar, 1/2 cup of tangzhong, egg, flour, and salt. Mix with a wooden spoon until a scraggly dough forms.
  • Let dough rest for 20-30 minutes. After 30 minutes, it should be slightly sticky but stretchy. (If you are using a stand mixer, you can skip this step)
  • Add your softened butter to the dough and coat your hands with it. Stretch and knead the dough in the bowl to incorporate the butter. It'll take some time but be patient with it. Keep kneading for about 10-15 minutes, or until the butter is well incorporated and you have a smooth, satiny, and workable dough.
  • Form the dough into a ball and place back into the mixing bowl. Cover with a dish towel or plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size (about 1-2 hours).

Make your filling:

  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine your pumpkin puree, sugar, spices, and butter. Place in a ziploc bag and place in the fridge until needed.

Assemble your pumpkin ensaymada:

  • Brush 20 cupcake liners with melted butter and place them on a baking sheet.
  • When the dough has risen completely, turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Punch dough down gently to remove air bubbles.
  • Cut dough into 20 equal portions and form into balls of dough.
  • Take one dough ball and roll out into a long rectangle shape. Pipe the pumpkin filling down the center and then quickly seal the dough around it. Roll out into a log and roll into a bun. Place into a prepared cupcake liner.
  • Continue with each dough ball until all are formed. It may take a couple of practice rolls to get you used to the amount of filling needed.
  • Cover with a dish towel and allow to rise another 40-60 minutes.
  • Toward the end of rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Before placing into the oven, brush with whole milk. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Make the buttercream:

  • While the buns are cooling, make the buttercream topping. Cream the butter, sugar, and any extra pumpkin filling in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
  • When rolls have cooled to room temperature, coat the top of each roll with a generous amount of buttercream.
  • Sprinkle sugar on top before serving. Enjoy!

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