Pumpkin Spice Cookies

pumpkin-spice-cookiesPeople lose their minds for pumpkin spice this time of year. Lattes, muffins, cakes, Oreo cookies, tortilla chips (seriously)…you name it, it’s been pumpkin spiced and put on display at your local coffee shop or market.

When I baked these cookies, I didn’t intend to call them pumpkin spice, partly because everything is pumpkin spice right now. But having tasted one, there’s really nothing else to call them. You could leave them plain if you like, but the icing really adds a nice extra kick of flavor.

Note: this recipe uses half of a 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree, so you could easily double it for a much larger batch.


For the cookies

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 7.5 ounces pumpkin (half a 15 ounce can)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons milk


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars.

Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla; mix well.

Slowly add flour mixture and beat until well combined.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 14 minutes, until cookies are set; bottoms will be very light golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing, combine powdered sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. Add melted butter and milk, then stir to combine; you want a thick drizzling consistency, kind of like the texture of very soft peanut butter.

Place icing in a zip-top bag and snip off the end; pipe drops of icing onto each cookie, then spread with a knife or small offset spatula.

Allow cookies to set before serving; store in airtight containers in single layers at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 36 cookies.

Halloween Cake

halloween-cakeYesterday’s witch’s brew cupcakes left me with about a cup and a half of cauldron-worthy green frosting and some bat mix sprinkles, so I decided to whip up a one-layer cake for Mike to take to his office tomorrow.

The cake recipe comes from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook and is called “busy day cake,” aptly named for its ease in preparation. You just put your ingredients into a mixing bowl beat them for a few minutes, then pour the batter – which will be lumpy, but that’s fine – into your pan and bake it. The original recipe called for a broiled coconut topping on this cake, which I may make someday.


  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 1 1/2 cups vanilla buttercream, tinted yellow-green (cut the original recipe in half to yield this amount)
  • Wilton Bat Sprinkles


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and baking powder. Add milk, butter, egg, and vanilla; beat on low speed until combined, then beat on medium for 1 minute.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Prepare frosting, then frost top and sides of cake.

Pour bat sprinkles into a bowl and gently place the bats on the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle remaining orange and green sprinkles over the top of the cake.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Crime Scene Cupcakes

crime-scene-cupcakesWant a fun Halloween cupcake? Make these. Seriously – they might be the most fun, creative cupcake I’ve ever made…and they’re incredibly easy to prepare.

When my colleague Rose asked if I’d bake for her Halloween party and come up with some creepy options, a “blood-spattered” cupcake instantly came to mind. While you can make edible blood with all manner of things, I chose to go with raspberry jam, tinted with red gel food coloring to make it more red than raspberry. You could certainly make any flavor of cupcake for these, and I look forward to making some vanilla ones in the future.


For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

For the frosting and blood spatter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; this recipe yields 16 cupcakes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well-blended, then make three wells for the wet ingredients.

Place vinegar, vanilla, and vegetable oil into the wells; add water and mix until the batter is smooth. The mixture will bubble up slightly when you add the water, so just keep mixing until you get a smooth consistency in the batter, which will be fairly thin.

Use a 1/4 cup measure to fill the cupcake wells about half full.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on wire racks.

Prepare the frosting and fit a 14-inch piping bag with a large plain tip. Pipe generous portions of frosting onto each cupcake, then flatten out each blob with a small offset spatula.

Stir together raspberry jam and red gel food coloring to your desired shade.

Using a teaspoon from your flatware, drop, drizzle, or splatter jam onto each cupcake. If you like, lightly drag a toothpick through the jam splatters to extend the splattered effect.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

crime-scene-cupcakes-2Here’s the dozen that went to the party – I hope they’re a hit!



Witch’s Brew Cupcakes

witch-brew-cupcakesAs a person who recently had to give up chocolate because of migraines, I’ve come to sincerely appreciate vanilla. These witch’s brew cupcakes feature a vanilla cupcakes frosted with vanilla buttercream – perfect for those of us who can’t eat chocolate (or simply don’t like it, which I find astonishing).

The bat sprinkles are a Wilton product, which I bought at Target; you can probably find them at your local craft store as well. For a full batch of these cupcakes – which yields 17 – you’ll need two bottles of sprinkles. I mixed up my sprinkles a bit after dipping every few cupcakes to make sure that all of the cupcakes got a few bats.



  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sour milk*
  • 1 recipe vanilla buttercream
  • Leaf green gel food coloring**
  • Golden yellow gel food coloring**
  • Wilton Bat Sprinkles

*To make sour milk, place 1/2 tablespoon in a glass measuring cup and add enough milk to equal one-half cup total. Stir; let stand for 5 minutes before using. 

**Leaf green and golden yellow gel food coloring are both made by Wilton and should be available to your local craft store. 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; this recipe yields 17 cupcakes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat for another 30 seconds.

Add vanilla and canola oil and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Batter will be very thin.

Using a quarter-cup measuring cup, scoop batter into prepared cupcake liners, filling half full.

Bake for 12-13 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

Prepare your frosting and use both leaf green and golden yellow gel food coloring to tint to a bright yellow-green.

Fit a 14-inch piping bag with a the Wilton M1 tip and pipe generous swirls of frosting onto each cupcake.

Place bat sprinkles in a bowl and carefully dip frosted cupcakes into the sprinkles.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

Vampire Delights

vampire-delightsThis weekend I baked for a colleague’s Halloween party, creating what I hope is a spooky yet fun menu. If you’re having a party for grown-ups or older kids (or if your little ones don’t scare easily), these vampire delights – Italian sugar cookies dipped in blood-red icing – would make a great addition to your menu.

To achieve a blood-red color for the icing, I used red gel, red liquid, and black gel food coloring. I mixed a few small test batches first to get the right color and highly recommend doing so. Too much black yields a purple outcome, but if you add the black a few dots at a time, you can keep mixing to the darker shade without bleeding (yes, pun intended) into a different color family altogether. Make sure you give these cookies a few hours to set before you serve them; the icing takes a while to dry.


  • 1 recipe Italian sugar cookies; I used both a 1-inch and 2-inch cookie scoop to create cookies of different sizes
  • Red gel food coloring
  • Red liquid food coloring
  • Black gel food coloring


Bake cookies and allow to cool completely before dipping.

Prepare glaze and add red gel food coloring, red liquid food coloring, and black gel food coloring a few dots or drops at a time to reach your desired color.

Dip tops of cookies in icing; allow icing to harden before you store or serve the cookies.

Makes about 30 cookies, depending on how many of each size you make.

Pumpkin Molasses Pie

pumpkin-molasses-pieWhat makes pumpkin pie better? Molasses. But what is molasses, exactly?

Molasses is a syrup that results from sugar production. To make sugar, sugar cane or beets are crushed to extract their juice, which is then boiled down to form sugar crystals. The crystals are taken out, and the remaining juice is molasses, which may be boiled two or three more times to extract more crystals. The most common type of molasses used in baking comes from the first boiling; it is the lightest in color and sweetest in taste. The second boiling results in dark molasses, and the third results in blackstrap molasses, which is the thickest and most bitter-tasting. Blackstrap molasses is said to have health benefits because it contains vitamin B6 and minerals like calcium and magnesium, but it’s usually not recommended for baking. In fact, I’ve read many a recipe that calls for molasses and then indicates “not blackstrap” to ensure a sweet result.

Last week, I took some pumpkin molasses cookies to work and my colleague Linda told me that she had a good recipe for pumpkin molasses pie. Naturally, I had to try it…and it was just as delicious as I expected.


  • 1 single pie crust, unbaked
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup evaporated milk


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line an 8-inch pie dish with crust, then trim and shape edge as you like. I did a classic crimped edge for this crust.

Place your pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper to catch any spills.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together pumpkin puree, light brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and molasses. Add eggs and evaporated milk, stirring very well to combine.

Pour filling into pie dish and place a crust shield* around the edge to prevent over-browning. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the crust shield and continue baking another 10-15 minutes. Pie is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; don’t worry about the little hole it will leave, as you can always cover this up with whipped cream before serving.

Remove pie from oven and cool completely before serving. Pie will be very puffy when it first comes out of the oven and will fall as it cools – this is completely fine.

Store pie in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

*You can buy a crust shield at King Arthur Flour and many baking supply stores. If you don’t have one handy, take a 12-inch piece of foil and fold it into quarters. Take scissors and cut out the center, leaving a 2-inch wide ring. Carefully unfold the foil and place the guard on your pie edge. 

Apple Honey Cake


L’shana tovah, friends! Rosh hashanah began tonight at sunset, and we’re celebrating the new Jewish year. Tonight we begin the Days of Awe, also known as the High Holy Days, which end at yom kippur, the Day of Atonement. Although I’m the Catholic one in our interfaith household, I absolutely love this time of year.

Sweet foods figure heavily in rosh hashanah celebrations, in keeping with wishes for a sweet new year. This apple honey cake combines two traditional rosh hashanah foods, apples and honey, in a delicious treat. The recipe below comes from the fine folks at chabad.org, and I added a thick powdered sugar drizzle icing just to dress it up a bit.

This cake is a dense, almost bread pudding-like treat with great apple, honey, and cinnamon flavor. Next time, I’ll probably add more allspice to the batter, and Mike has requested raisins as well (although I’d rather add something like pecans). Whatever you choose, I hope you have a sweet new year!


For the cake

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 apples, peeled, cored, and grated (I used 2 Granny Smith and 2 Gala; you want a combination of sweet and tart)

For the drizzle

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons water


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease a bundt pan (or spray with baking spray).

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat sugars and applesauce to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add honey and vanilla and beat to combine.

Add flour mixture and beat to combine. Fold in grated apples.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean.

Cool in pan for about 15 minutes, then turn onto a rack or cake plate to cool completely. I cooled my cake on a wire rack, and the bottom did stick to it a bit; this was fine in the end, because after all, you serve a bundt round-side-up anyway.

A few hours before serving, prepare the drizzle. Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and water in a small bowl until you have a thick drizzling consistency. Pour drizzle into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (or use a small zip-top bag with the corner cut off) and drizzle over cake.

Store at room temperature for up to 3 days; the moisture in the cake will make the bottom a bit gooey, but with all of the moisture in this cake, that’s not a surprise.