And along with the return of the pumpkins, come all the other wonderful things fall brings. First and foremost, at least for me, a welcome relief from the heat. As the temperatures drop and the leaves begin to turn I’m starting to see how people fall in love with this place. As the stifling blanket dissipates, you can feel Virginia coming to life. Perhaps it’s just because it’s my first autumn here, but it feels much more like a beginning than an end. But back to food. Is there anything better than all the spice stuff that comes with this time of year? There’s a traditional progression from apple spice to pumpkin spice to eggnog and eventually to gingerbread. As usual, I’ve ignored tradition and started with pumpkin. Perhaps I’ll do apples next. For now, I bring you these amazing pumpkin spice bars… cakes?... whatever. Filled with warm spices, studded with chocolate chips, and topped with cream cheese frosting, they are to die for, and yet, they are so simple, you can throw them together in just a few minutes.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 ¼ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- ⅓ cup buttermilk
- ⅓ cup oil
- 7.5 oz pumpkin (half of a 15 oz. can)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
First things first. Since these come together so quickly, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350° and butter an 8x8 pan.
Next, whisk together all your dry ingredients.
Add the chocolate chips and stir them into the mixture. I prefer mini chocolate chips for this recipe, but if you don’t have any, go ahead and use the regular ones.
In another vessel, combine the buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla.
Whisk them together thoroughly and add the pumpkin.
Whisk that in, and pour the whole thing over the dry ingredients.
At this point you want to lose the whisk and switch to a spatula or spoon. Stir just until everything comes together. Don’t over mix or you’ll end up with air tunnels because this is basically a muffin recipe. In fact, you could certainly make muffins from this same recipe.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan. I know, you can’t believe it was really that simple.
Spread it to the edges of the pan and smooth out the top. Doesn’t that color just scream fall?
Into the oven for about 35 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean, and your kitchen will be filled with the aroma of all those fabulous spices.
Now for the hard part. That cake has to cool completely before it’s frosted. I left mine overnight… well, most of it. Ahem. Ok! Let’s start on the icing! Half a block of cream cheese and 2 Tablespoons of butter walk into bowl…
I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Anyway, make sure they’re both softened and then mix them until they’re well combined and fluffy.
Sift in ¾ cup powdered sugar and a pinch of salt.
I know, sifting is a bit of a pain, but for some ingredients it’s just a necessary evil. Unfortunately, powdered sugar is one of those ingredients.
Mix until the sugar is completely incorporated and you have a smooth consistency.
I forgot to add vanilla before the sugar, but now will be fine. Just a splash… maybe ½ teaspoon or so.
And more mixing. We have now arrived at frosting perfection.
Spread that on top of your cake. Mine seems to be missing a bit. What? Don’t judge me. I was um… testing it. I had to make sure my recipe was perfect. OMG was it!
I topped mine with a few pieces of shaved chocolate. You could also use chocolate chips or even a sprinkling of nutmeg. The mini chocolate chips are perfect because you never have an overwhelming flavor of chocolate. It’s the perfect blend of chocolate, pumpkin, and spice.
What’s your favorite thing about fall?