Pumpkin Brownies

If you had a chance to shop for chrysanthemums with a chihuahua riding shotgun in a flower pot, wouldn’t you do it?

I did. It’s fun.

Master of his fate, captain of his soul…

And if you could dig into a luscious pumpkin brownie crowned with orange-flavored cream cheese frosting, wouldn’t you do that?

You should. It’s delicious.

That’s not such a stretch as a segue, actually, although I’m crazy about this little dog and will shamelessly steal an opportunity to show him off. Pumpkins and mums are natural autumnal partners, and a chihuahua goes with everything. This particular handsome sweetheart belongs to second born. Sorry, you’ll have to come up with your own; I’m just the babysitter. But I can make the dream of delicious pumpkin brownies come true for you! They are nearly as wonderful, super-easy to make, and a staple at my table this time of year, especially during the holidays. My family’s first taste of them came via the kind ministrations of first born’s fifth grade teacher, who made Pumpkin Bars for her class one day many years ago and then was inundated by recipe requests from her students’ parents. A photocopy of the recipe came home in all of the backpacks within days. I made them for years just as she instructed, and they were wonderful.

Then I saw another version, nearly identical, in a cookbook, and combining the best of both took these already-great pumpkin bars to a new level of deliciousness. The name of the cookbook is Perfect Party Food by Diane Phillips (© 2005 by Diane Phillips, published by the Harvard Common Press), where they’re called Peter’s Pumpkin Bars. They’re known as Pumpkin Brownies at my house, and they are beloved.

Pumpkin Brownies (a monster mash-up adaptation of recipes from Mrs. Steinhauser and Perfect Party Food)

4 large eggs

1  2/3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup canola or vegetable oil

1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 15×10-inch sheet pan with foil or parchment paper. Lightly coat with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, and oil. Add pumpkin puree, and mix well. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Pour into the large bowl containing the egg mixture, and stir until smooth. Scrape batter evenly into prepared pan, and bake until the cake tests done, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool completely in pan on rack.


3 ounces softened cream cheese

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened unsalted butter

2 teaspoons orange extract (You can substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla for the orange extract if you prefer. Clear vanilla keeps the frosting white and is available where cake decorating supplies are sold. Regular vanilla tints it beige.)

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Pinch of salt

Extra confectioners’ sugar or milk, as needed

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, and orange extract.  Beat with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Add all of the confectioners’ sugar and a pinch of salt, and beat again until the mixture reaches a spreadable consistency. After mixing, if the frosting is too liquid, add a little more confectioners’ sugar. If it’s too dry, add a little milk to thin. Mix, mix, mix, until the frosting is the right consistency. Spread on cooled brownies in pan. Makes about 40 2-inch bars.

We went to a pet supply store after shopping for mums. Where’s Waldo Bruiser?

This dog also has my heart, but she loves only first born and me. She’d just as soon chomp on the fingers of anyone else.

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