Pumpkin Dessert Squares

Originally posted November 18, 2011

Confession: Every time I go to the mall I stop by Williams-Sonoma with rarely any intention of buying anything.  I am there for the sample of the day.  This particular sample is my favorite.  A layer of pumpkin between a cake bottom and a crumb top makes for a particularly gooey and delicious bite.

I had completely forgotten about this recipe until I stopped by the store the other day and they had some fresh out of the oven.  When I came home the other night in the mood to bake, I knew this is what I wanted.

While W-S would love for you to use their Pecan Pumpkin Butter… I’m here to tell you that it does not matter.  I used Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter and it works just as well.  For the crumb topping, use your favorite fall spices.  I added a little all-spice (which is a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) to the teaspoon of cinnamon the recipe calls for.  Also, I had a “Butter Recipe Golden” cake mix on hand, rather than a yellow cake mix, and it worked equally as well.

This recipe is super simple, and the only annoying part is that you will have to wash three bowls, one for each layer.

Pumpkin Butter Dessert Squares
(adapted from Williams-Sonoma Recipe)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bottom Layer
Yellow (or butter recipe) cake mix (remove 1 cup for topping)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 large egg

Pumpkin Layer
13.5 oz. pumpkin butter (any brand will do)
2 egg
2 Tbsp. milk

Crumb Layer
1 cup cake mix
1 Tbsp. flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. all-spice (or nutmeg or cloves or more cinnamon)

In separate bowls, mix together ingredients for each layer.  In a greased 9×13 pan, layer with cake, then pumpkin, then crumb topping.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.

Pumpkin Puree

Originally posted October 24, 2011

Homemade Pumpkin Puree!  Easier than pumpkin pie!
I’m never going back to canned pumpkin again, and I recommend that you test it out.

I’ve already made pumpkin bread, and I plan on making pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin soup, pumpkin…  I’m out of ideas – please let me know if you have any!

I don’t have any good stories for this blog post – I’ll blame that on the fact that I’ve been spending too many hours re-writing my job market paper and writing cover letters.

Here are the steps for pureeing pumpkin!

Get some pie pumpkins.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice up one pumpkin and remove the seeds.


Place slices on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 45 minutes.


Allow to cool, and then peel the skin off of each slice.


Put in a food processor and blend!


You are done!  (You can also drain using a strainer or a cheesecloth, but I didn’t see much difference after I drained the pumpkin for an hour).

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Originally posted October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!!!

I didn’t dress up or carve any jack-o-lanterns this year, but I did enjoy plenty of pumpkin. I made these pumpkin cupcakes for school today and also because yesterday was a beautiful Sunday!  Most of the blogs I have seen used browned butter icing, so I thought I would use the same.  It adds a nice twist and an extra flavor to the pumpkin cupcake.

This recipe is adapted from a pumpkin square recipe that my friend’s mom gave me (thanks to Becca and her mom!).

I’m glad I got plenty of pumpkins before the holiday snuck up because apparently the grocery stores are all out!

Trick-or-treaters: I bought pumpkin shaped reeses, so feel free to come by my house!

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Adapted from Nancy Thomason’s Pumpkin Squares

Cake Ingredients
4 Eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup cooking oil
1 16 oz. canned pumpkin (or 2 cups fresh pumpkin)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 tea salt
1 tea baking soda

In a mixing bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy.  Stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.  Add to pumpkin mixture and mix thoroughly.

Add batter to paper lined cupcake pans.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size you are baking.

Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients

1 8oz. pk. Cream cheese
½ cup butter, browned
1 tea vanilla
3 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar

Brown butter in a skillet.  The butter will give off a nutty aroma and start to bubble and brown.  Allow butter to cool.  Beat together cream cheese and butter.  Mix in sugar and vanilla.

Color with food coloring if desired.

Add to cooled cupcakes.

Gooey Mint Cookies

Originally Posted December 17, 2011

I’ll admit that sometimes I can be a baking snob.  When I first made a version of these cookies, I turned my nose up at them.  They were too easy – what’s the fun in that?  Then I ate one… another… another …  I lost track of how many I ate.  The next day at school, they got rave reviews.  I went from being above them to being a huge fan.

After making them for the first time (and thinking about them for a while afterward), I decided I want to try them with a mint flavor.  My original idea was to add peppermint extract to the dough instead of vanilla.  Then I ran across some mint chips on display at the end of the aisle at the grocery store and settled with them. (Hey!  One of my classmates studies the effect of end of the aisle displays – here is an application.)

Mint chocolate chips are excellent.  I definitely tested a few before throwing them into the batter.  They add a nice twist to the chocolate cookie, and I bet would be good thrown into some brownies as well.  The mint flavor is similar to a Thin Mint, but these are incredibly soft cookies, as opposed to the crispy nature of the Girl Scout version.

Gooey Mint Cookies
Adapted from “Gooey Chocolate Cookies” by Pete and Denay
1 (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pkg. chocolate cake mix – whatever kind you find on sale
Hershey’s Mint Chocolate Chips

Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.
Beat in egg and vanilla.
Add cake mix and mix well. Add chocolate chips.
Dough will be sticky. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.  (oops, I forgot this step.)
Form balls and bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes.

Chocolate Brownies with a Touch of Sea Salt

Originally Posted June 25, 2011

Nashville is an amazing place to live.  Not only do you run into Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman at Starbucks, but you hear can hear the best live music for very cheap (and sometimes free).

The Station Inn is apparently the most famous place to hear bluegrass music.  You would never know it by its appearance.  Across the street from fancy new condos and hip restaurants, it is a run down building that looks abandoned.   Last Saturday night, we went to see “Off the Wagon” play their last performance with their banjo player, Blake.  Blake is famous, and the band will truly miss him.

Ok, I’m not sure if Blake is famous, but I know him!  As a thank you to him and his wife, Katie, for getting us in and saving a couple of tables, I made them these brownies.  Katie loves Lindt Excellence “A Touch of Sea Salt” Dark Chocolate bar.  Knowing this obsession, I knew she would love these brownies, even before I had ever made them.

How to eat:  It is best to eat these brownies upside down.  That way the salt touches your tongue first.

Citation: I found these on a blog (http://www.betsysbites.com/2011/05/omfg-brownies/)  of a blog (http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/desserts/salted-fudge-brownies/).  I changed the name but nothing else.  If I were to make them again (which I’m sure I will), I would add more salt into the brownie batter and not just on top.  You can find the recipe here: http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/desserts/salted-fudge-brownies/

The recipe says they need to be chilled, but I ate one while it was still warm with a glass of milk.  I was not disappointed.


Pretty Please Brownies with Cherries on Top

Originally posted Dec. 18, 2011

A few years ago, I was watching the food network and the pillsbury bake-off was on.  I knew right then that some day I wanted to enter this competition. This year was it.

Every Christmas my mom makes triple chocolate cake for all of our family friends. It is a super rich cake with a hint of almond. Half of the recipients confuse the almond flavoring for cherry. While cherries and almonds are quite different, they go amazingly together; and I decided that I would combine them for this competition.

My first attempt involved pillsbury pie crust, and it was an utter failure.

Then I decided I would combine an almond flavored brownie, an almond glaze, and cherry preserves.  Once I had that decided, I just needed to settle on the presentation of the dessert. Bite size brownies?  Cherries in between two layers of brownies?  Cherries below or above the almond glaze? My classmates were forced to test out a different version every couple of weeks.  Finally, I decided on a brownie cooked in a pie pan with the almond glaze topped by cherries; served like a cake.

I brought the dessert to a NCAA basketball championship watching party last spring and had people rate it and provide name suggestions. The runner up name was “cherry bomb,” and I’m planning on making another dessert that would more accurately depict that name (I’m picturing a cake pop with cherries in the middle).  “Pretty please brownies with cherries on top” won the prize for the perfect name!

The rules of the competition included that the recipe could never have been posted on a blog before, and you could not be a paid food blogger.  There are no advertisements on this blog, and up until this point, I have never posted the recipe.

Well, I lost.  Actually worse than lost, I never made the bake-off… Guess I should stop dreaming about what I would do with the million dollar prize.  So now as my Christmas present to you, I share with you my award winning (in my book only) pretty please brownies with cherries on top.

This is one of those recipe that is best after it has cooled and the flavors have had time to come together.

Pretty Please Brownies with Cherries on Top
Adapted from my Pillsbury Bake-off Recipe

Grease a 9×9 pie pan.  Line with parchment (important).

Prepare boxed brownie as instructed on the box.
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips (if you are using a fudge brownie mix with chocolate chips already in it, then
1/2 a cup is probably enough)
Pour in pie pan and bake as instructed on box. (Under cook as much as you like, but make sure it doesn’t
come out as pudding.)

Meanwhile prepare icing:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. almond extract

When brownie is done, allow to cool slightly, then flip onto a serving dish.  Drizzle with icing.

Finally, top with 3/4 of a jar of Pillsbury Cherry Preserves.

Allow to cool completely, then slice and serve!



Cake Pops!

I was originally skeptical of this new dessert fad: cake pops.  Who wants a ball of dried cake dipped in chocolate?  When a friend sent me some for my birthday, I was forced to try them.  As I bit in, I realized it was not at all what I expected.  Instead of finding dry cake inside, I discovered the exact opposite.  The cake was actually mixed with icing!

After having my first cake pop, I knew I wanted to make them.  First step: get all of the supplies.  This is the part that took awhile.  I found the chocolate shell that you dip the cake into, but I kept forgetting (and when I didn’t forget, couldn’t find) the Popsicle sticks and Styrofoam.  Last week, I finally went to Michaels and got the sticks and foam.  I was ready to go.

I split the process up into multiple days.  The first day I made the cake.  I just used a box of butter recipe golden cake mix because I had it on hand.  After the cake had cooled, I put it in the fridge.  The next night, I mixed the cake up with a few spoons of cream cheese icing from a container.  I scooped the cake into balls with a mini-ice cream scoop and put them on a plate in the refrigerator.  (I’m sure all of my culinary friends are turning their noses up at me for using a cake mix and pre-made icing, but I’m ok with that).  The third night, I first dipped the sticks into the chocolate and then into the cake pops (apparently it helps keep the sticks on).  After leaving them in the fridge for an hour, I dipped the whole thing in chocolate and then poured on some sprinkles.

I have to say, they turned out pretty good.  They weren’t as perfect looking as the cake pops you see in Starbucks, but they have a little more character.  🙂


1. Make cake and cool.  Store in fridge.

2. Mix cake with a few spoonfuls of cream cheese icing.

3. Spoon cake into small balls and put into the fridge.

4. Melt some of the chocolate in microwave and dip the popsicle sticks into the chocolate and then into the cake pops.  Put in the fridge for 1 hour.

5. Melt the rest of the chocolate.  Dip the cake pops into the chocolate and add sprinkles.

6.  Chill in fridge until ready to serve.