Pumpkin Cake for Two

pumpkin cakeCould you eat an entire pie by yourself? The answer to that question is probably yes. And really, I’m not here to judge. But each year I bake both apple and pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, and because apple is Mike’s favorite and my mom doesn’t eat much dairy (including the evaporated milk in my pumpkin pie recipe), part of my delicious pumpkin creation goes to waste. Not wanting such a result this year, I chose to bake a little pumpkin cake, perfect for just a few servings. The funny thing is that with the way I frosted it, this cake actually reminds me of a pie.

The original recipe for the cake comes from Carla at Homemade In The Kitchen, a fellow Pittsburgh baker who focuses on small-batch recipes, perfect for just one or two people. I paired her pumpkin cake with some caramel cinnamon buttercream frosting of my own, and I cannot wait to have it for dessert later today. Mike and my mom will enjoy the apple pie I baked yesterday, and Tucker, our new pup, will get some pumpkin puree for his dessert. Everyone wins, and nothing goes to waste. Happy Thanksgiving!


For the cake

  • 1/2 cup flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the frosting

  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • About 1 1/2 tablespoons caramel sauce, to taste
  • Cinnamon to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 6-inch round cake tin and line the bottom with a parchment circle.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt; set aside. In another medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, sugars, egg, and vanilla. Gradually add the dry mixture to the pumpkin mixture, stirring to incorporate completely.

Pour into cake tin and bake for 22-27 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean; the original recipe said to bake for 22-25 minutes, but my cake needed a few more – everyone’s oven is different. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then invert on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1 minute, then add powdered sugar and beat on low until all of the sugar is incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla and caramel and beat to combine, about 2-3 minutes. Add cinnamon to taste – truth be told, I didn’t measure this, but rather just sprinkled a few dashes into the mixture and tasted it to see when I’d reached my desired flavor. Frost the cake using an offset spatula; if desired, fit a piping bag with a leaf tip and pipe leaf shapes around the edge.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for about 2 days; pumpkin cake is very moist and can get soggy if kept longer. Makes one 6-inch cake, about four servings.

Molasses Oat Drops

molassesoatdropsIf I had to choose a flavor profile for any treat, molasses and spices would make my top five for sure. Called black treacle in Britain, molasses results from the sugarcane or sugar beet refining process. The good folks at Southern Living have a great explanation of the molasses-making process, as well as the different types of this dark syrup, in this article.

This recipe came from Ambitious Kitchen and was originally made as a sandwich cookie called gingerbread oatmeal cream pies. But once I baked them, I realized that they would be perfectly delicious without a filling of any kind. While I certainly plan to make a sandwich version at some point, these treats stand perfectly on their own; a delicious blend of spices and rich flavor from the blackstrap molasses along with a soft, chewy texture.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (I used light, but you can also use dark)
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a medium bowl, stir together flour, oats, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and brown sugar. Add molasses, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until smooth – the mixture may look slightly curdled, but that’s fine. With the mixer running on low, slowly add flour mixture and beat until dough is just combined. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment. Remove dough from the fridge and scoop using a 2-inch cookie scoop, placing about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until edges are set and tops are puffy. remove from the oven and allow to cool for several minutes on the baking sheets, then place on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature; makes about 30 cookies.

Maple Apple Blondies

maple apple blondiesI have a very cool and fulfilling job, but if Better Homes & Gardens ever wants me to work in their test kitchen, I’ll be there in a heartbeat. I’d love to bake all day, coming up with new and interesting recipes. And for me, BH&G recipes are always reliable – I’ve never had them go awry, and that’s something I really value as a baker. Nobody likes kitchen disasters, right?

Adapted from the original BH&G recipe in their 2017 Fall Baking magazine, these blondies take full advantage of seasonal flavors, using pure maple syrup and apples. I chose to enhance the recipe by adding 1/2 teaspoon of apple pie spice to the batter, and as I expected, they turned out incredibly well. 


For the blondies

  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 2 Fuji apples, peeled and diced (or your favorite baking apple)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice*
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

For the icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

*No apple pie spice? Make your own! For 1 teaspoon, combine 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon with 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon allspice with a dash of cloves.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking tin with foil, extending over the sides, and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, apple pie spice, and baking soda; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add apples and cook on medium heat for about 10-12 minutes, until apples are tender but not mushy. Pour apples into a bowl and set aside.

In the same saucepan, melt remaining butter. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar, sugar, and maple syrup, until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla, stirring to combine. Add flour mixture and stir until smooth, then stir in apples. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool in the tin on a wire rack before icing.

To make icing, stir together powdered sugar, maple syrup, and melted butter; add enough milk to make an easily spreadable icing (I added 1 tablespoon). Pour over bars and spread evenly; allow to set before cutting. Cut into 24 squares; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Pumpkin Patch Sugar Cut-Outs

IMG_9069To some people, frosting dozens of cut-out cookies might be stressful. But for me, it’s Zen time; this endeavor allows me to be completely focused on one task. And that task, when complete, will bring joy to others. It’s a win-win for my mental health, I’d say.

Yesterday I baked a batch of pumpkin-shaped cut-outs for Halloween and decided to frost them with various shades of orange, along with green and white. They turned out really well, and Mike will take them to work tomorrow for his colleagues to enjoy. Granted, I’m keeping a few back for us – I think the green ones are my favorites.

For the cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1-2 teaspoons water

For the frosting

  • 3 egg whites*
  • 9 tablespoons shortening
  • Dash of salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Orange, yellow, red, moss green, and brown gel food coloring


Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Add vanilla and about half the flour mixture, beating until combined; beat in remaining flour. If necessary, add 1-2 teaspoons of water for a less crumbly dough; you’ll need a more pliable dough to roll and cut later.

Divide dough in half and knead each just slightly until dough sticks together.  Form each half into a disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until just barely firm, about 20-30 minutes.

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

Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes; I used large, medium, and small pumpkin-shaped cutters. Be sure to bake like-sized shapes on one sheet – otherwise you’ll have an uneven bake. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheets for 2-3 minutes before carefully transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

For the frosting, combine egg whites, shortening, salt, and 2 cups powdered sugar in a mixing bowl.  Beat on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium, then high, and beat for one minute.

Add additional cup powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed for one minute. Add vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat on high speed for one or two minutes, until very well combined.

Check the frosting’s texture; it should be like very, very soft peanut butter and very easily spreadable.  If necessary, you can add one to two teaspoons of water to thin the frosting and beat well to combine.

Tint to your desired shades; I used a very light orange with just one drop of orange coloring, then darker shades that blended yellow, red, and brown into the already-orange frosting. For the stem colors, use brown for some and moss green for others; the green pumpkins are tinted with a generous amount of moss green coloring. 

Frost to look like pumpkins, using your knife to make the ridges. Allow icing to set before storing cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container. Makes about 5 dozen, depending on the size of your cutters. 

Peanut Butter Bars with M&Ms

pbbarswithmmsHalloween season means baking for my nieces and nephews, and these peanut butter bars with M&Ms Ghoul Mix candies traveled to North Carolina for my nephew Roman, who is 14. I remember when he was a tiny little person, dressed up as a lion for his day care Halloween parade. Last year (at least I think it was last year), he went as a legionnaire…or a Roman, if you will. Ha! This kid seems to have my sense of humor.

This recipe is incredibly easy to make, and the end result is beyond delicious. The first time I made this, with Reese’s Pieces instead of M&Ms, Mike and I ate the entire pan ourselves. Granted, that wasn’t the smartest decision, but they were just so tasty we couldn’t resist.


  • 12 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled for 3 minutes
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10-ounce bag M&Ms Ghoul Mix, divided


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk melted butter and brown sugar together until smooth. Whisk in peanut butter, then eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla until well-combined.

Add flour, baking powder, and salt and stir together using a rubber spatula; batter will be very thick. Stir in about 1 cup M&Ms, then spread batter into the baking pan, flattening as best you can to create an even layer. Sprinkle remaining M&Ms on top.

Bake for 30 minutes, then insert a cake tester in the center; blondies are done if the cake tester comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Be careful not to over-bake these; peanut butter treats tend to dry out if they’re baked too long.

Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan; lift out using parchment paper and cut into 24 squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for several days; if shipping, back well in an airtight container with layers of waxed paper to prevent breakage.

Joe Frogger Cookies

froggersJoe Frogger cookies have a long history, dating all the way back to 1700s  Massachusetts. According to various sources, Joseph and Lucretia Brown owned Black Joe’s Tavern, and Lucretia originally baked these treats in a skillet, so they were pancake-sized. Some say these cookies were called froggers because they were as large as the lily pads in the nearby pond, while others believed the batter looked like a frog when it hit the skillet. Whatever the reason, I wonder why they’re not called Lucretia Froggers, since she’s the one who invented them. The patriarchy, man. It’ll get you every time.

Regardless of why they’re called what they’re called, they are absolutely delicious. They’re quite large – I baked no more than five or six on one baking sheet at a time – and made with molasses, rum, and warm spices. Really, how can you go wrong with such amazing ingredients? The recipe below comes from my trusty King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, though the size in the original recipe is “somewhere in size between a table tennis ball and golf ball.” I just used my 2-inch scoop, and it worked really well.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum


In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and baking soda; set aside. In a medium saucepan set over low heat, melt butter, brown sugar, molasses, and rum, stirring until smooth. Pour into flour mixture and stir to completely combine; the batter will be very thin, like cake batter, but will firm up once chilled. Chill the batter for about 1 hour, until firm enough to scoop – it will still be quite sticky.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough into prepared sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between them. Lightly spray your fingers with baking or cookie spray and press to flatten slightly; the cookie dough is very sticky, so it helps to grease your fingers.

Bake for 10-11 minutes, until edges are set but centers still look a bit puffy. Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire racks for several minutes; the cookies are very fragile when they’re first out of the oven. Once cookies are firm enough, remove them to a wire rack to cool completely. My recipe made 17 cookies, but the original was supposed to yield 16.

Dutch Apple Pie Squares

dutchappleconcoctionThere’s a pretty big difference between sliced apples and diced apples. Slicing means to cut, while dicing means to cut into small, uniform pieces. And if I’d read the King Arthur Flour Dutch Apple Pie Bar recipe correctly, I would have diced, rather than sliced, my Granny Smiths. Eh, live and learn.

The funny thing is that I thought I’d done something wrong when I poured my filling into my baking pan, but I went with it anyway. The good news is that Mike thinks this concoction is absolutely delicious, though the bad news is that it’s definitely not something I can slice into squares and send to work with him. Not that he’s upset about this; apple pie is one of Mike’s favorite things ever, and this is essentially a rectangular apple pie. Next time, I’ll dice my apples and see how it goes.


For the crust

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons ice water

For the filling

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Granny Smith Apples, sliced*
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the topping

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray a 9×13 baking tin with baking spray and set aside.

To make the crust, whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut cold butter into pieces and rub (or cut in with a pastry blender) into the flour mixture until the mix looks like coarse crumbs. Drizzle beaten egg over the top and toss with a fork to combine. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing to combine until the dough starts to clump together. If you take a handful and it sticks together, you’ve added enough water.

Roll out your dough to a rectangle, large enough to fit in your baking tin; I roll my crust between two sheets of parchment to make it easier to handle. Prick all over with a fork, then bake crust for 10-12 minutes, until just set.

In another large bowl, combine flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Add apples and toss to coat, then add vanilla extract and heavy cream, stirring to combine. To make the topping, combine flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and stir in melted butter, then vanilla and almond extract. Stir until fairly even crumbs form.

Pour filling over crust, then sprinkle with topping. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 30-35 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Remove from oven and cool in the tin; if you actually dice your apples you could slice this into squares for individual servings, but I’m just leaving mine in one rectangular slab and Mike will cut slices in whatever size he likes. I suspect this would be delicious when served warm, with some vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

Caramel Pumpkin Cupcakes

caramel pumpkin cupcakesAmy Bakes in the ‘Burgh finally has a new kitchen! After about seven weeks of renovations, our new kitchen is complete. We have basically the same footprint, just with upgraded cabinets, countertops, and appliances, in a neutral color palette that makes me incredibly happy. And for the first time in 13 years, we have a dishwasher. I didn’t realize how much I missed having one until I got one back – it’s such a time saver.

My first bake in my new oven was actually a batch of chocolate chip cookies a few weeks ago, before everything was even finished. But these caramel pumpkin cupcakes were the first treats I baked in the fully finished kitchen, using the convection setting on my oven. Delicious and appropriate for the season, they were a huge hit at Mike’s office last week.


For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 – 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 3 tablespoons caramel sauce,* to taste

*I used Smucker’s caramel ice cream topping to save time. 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; my recipe yielded 14 cupcakes.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In a large glass measuring cup, combine pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix well, then add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir until well-combined and smooth.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, fill cupcake wells about 2/3 full.

Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven; immediately remove from tins and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, then add 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar all at once and beat on low until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla and 1 tablespoon caramel and beat, continuing to add additional caramel to taste. You may need a bit more powdered sugar if you go for three full tablespoons like I did.

Fit a piping bag with a large star tip and pipe swirls of frosting onto each cupcake. Store at a cool room temperature for 2-3 days; these cupcakes are very tender and will get a bit sticky if they’re left out much longer.

Chambord Brownies

chambord browniesAmy Bakes in the ‘Burgh will be on hiatus for a few weeks while Amy’s Kitchen Gets Remodeled. Friends, this has been years in the making. Thirteen years, to be exact, when we first bought this house and I said “someday we’re going to redo this kitchen.” At last, someday has arrived.

As a last bit of baking before the Great Demolition Project begins this week (I cannot wait to swing a sledge hammer, let me tell you), I decided to bake these Chambord brownies. If you’re not familiar with Chambord, it’s a raspberry liqueuer that’s been made in France, and its bottle looks a bit like that orb thing kings and queens have to hold along with a scepter when they get crowned. It’s also delicious, though I don’t think the raspberry flavor was quite strong enough in these treats. I’m also not totally convinced about my decorating skills on these, as the chocolate drizzle against the pink looks a bit like animal print…and that is definitely not my jam.


For the brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 50 ml Chambord (about 3 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

For the Chambord icing

  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 50 ml Chambord (about 3 1/2 tablespoons)

For the chocolate drizzle

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dutch process cocoa
  • 2-3 teaspoons water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking tin with foil and spray lightly with baking spray. Sprinkle the bottom with sugar; this is my tip for a slightly crunchy bottom crust that adds a nice texture to otherwise soft treats like brownies.

In a large pot, melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar and continue heating for another minute while stirring, until the mixture is just hot. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder, then whisk in eggs, Chambord, and vanilla extract. Stir in flour, then spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.

To make icing, place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and add the Chambord, stirring to combine; you may need to add just a bit more powdered sugar if your mixture is too runny – you want a consistency that’s thicker than honey, but still pourable. Spread over brownies, covering the top completely. For the drizzle, stir together powdered sugar and cocoa, then add enough water to make a drizzling consistency. Place in a piping bag, snip the tip, and drizzle over the icing. Allow icings to set before cutting into squares. Makes 24.

Oatmeal Bars with M&Ms

oatmeal mm barsOur kitchen remodel begins in 15 days. This weekend, in an effort to clear out our cabinets, I baked zucchini bread, chocolate chip pumpkin bread, brownies, and these oatmeal bars with miniature M&Ms.

Fun fact about this recipe: it was originally written for cookies, as a “make it mine” recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens Baking book. Wanting to save a bit of time, I decided to bake my adapted recipe, which uses peanut butter as part of the fat content and miniature M&Ms as the stir-in ingredient, as bars. Some cookies convert easily, but if you’re not experienced with this, check out this very useful post from King Arthur Baking for tips on how to figure out the right size pan and baking time.


  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 cups M&Ms miniature baking pieces


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with foil and spray lightly with baking spray. Note: next time, I might not spray the foil and see what happens; the bottom of the bars were softer than I expected and I suspect the baking spray is the reason why.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and beat until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat, then beat in flour and oats. Stir in miniature M&Ms.

Press dough into prepared baking pan and bake for 25-28 minutes, until top is light golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center  comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, then lift the foil out and cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars; store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 24.