Playing with Pumpkin: Pumpkin Spice Cake

Apparently, Anthony Bourdain’s little one and a half year old daughter has the palate every foodie hopes their child will have. She eats olives like candy, munches on capers, and dines on roast rabbit and polenta with nettles for dinner. Naturally, this makes Tony very proud–and me, well, let’s just say I feel the need to let off some steam.
How did I end up with the picky eater again? Did I not eat enough beating cobra hearts when I was on my world travels?* Didn’t I do my time in the kitchen trenches? It is the smoking?

I think I might like him a little less now. Darn, it so hard, though. If he hadn’t made that oh-so-memorable No Reservations episode here in Quebec and wasn’t like my favorite celeb chef, I just might have it in for him and his perfect little girl.

Ach, Tony, I guess I’m happy for you.

How to tie that rant in with this super-moist pumpkin spice cake? I have no idea, but I guess if you have a picky eater and want to disguise some squash, this recipe is for you.
We certainly loved it and this weekend I’m doing a cupcake version for my mother-in-law’s wedding shower. That’s right, we’ve gone from a jam factory to a cupcake bakery here at UtHC. More on that coming soon.

These are originally called ‘bars’ but when I hear ‘bar’ I think nuts, caramel, gooey…these are like a slice of cake and that’s all there is to it. The recipe is adapted from here. I know, I know, I won’t make a habit of it.

These also make some pretty decent cupcakes, but I bet you’ve already thought of that.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

4 eggs
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

15-ounce can pumpkin

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter,softened

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth.
Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

To make the icing:
Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and maple syrup and mix again. Fill a piping bag and pipe frosting onto cooled pumpkin bars.

*For the record, I have never eaten a snake’s heart, but Bourdain has. He was in like Morocco or someplace. It’s a good story.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. I made this recipe in October and it was a hit at an Halloween Party that I attended.

  2. yummy!

    and i am loving the toys in the last few posts… whats next? plastic espresso maker?

  3. hello from berlin!i ate a pumpkin-chicken quiche today,which was gorgeous and was wondering if you happen to have a recipe for that? love your blog:-)best,anja [email protected]

  4. I want that mixer, please!

  5. Ohhh, I want it. I haven’t had enough pumpkin this year.

    I didn’t know that about Tony’s kid. That’s strange. I bet somebody made that up. Aren’t all kids picky eaters?

  6. Girl,

    I am an example that picky kids change and will change. My daughter is not as half the picky I was.

    I could have lived my entire childhood with some glasses of orange juice and a slice of ham. My mother reminds me all the time how much I have changed.

    My mother used all the strategies she knew to fool me. I ate nothing but fruits and ham. I started swimming when I was eight but it was not until I was competing on the beginning of my teen years that I would change. I was living more in the company of friends, met different people, and I then changed my interest for food.

    I didn’t want to show people I didn’t like to eat anything so I changed. I changed also because other people had a lot more interesting food at home than I did. My mom tried hard but the food was more what my brother liked and he was the good eater.

    Slowly and since I was 16, 17 or 18 I was already another girl who ate it all. I applied my curious personality to everything. I learned to enjoy even ‘eel sushi’ which I tried by accident.

    My non-picky brother, the one I was always compared to, is unfortunately overweight and made very little changes in his diet from the stuff my mother used to serve. He doesn’t eat anything different and he didn’t update his eating habits, what is the most surprising thing to me. However, it all fits with his personality.

    I believe picky has a lot to do with the personality and I see how curious, open to life and open to different cultures my daughter is, just the way I was. She is surely to become interested in trying and eating it all. As I did. What makes the person is the personality, to be curious, to know things, different things, to be attracted to histories and stories and environments. Food eating should not be a moment isolated from the other process of life. Once they learn stuff they get interested and they can learn things at very early ages. I am pretty sure it works more than anything else.

    Don’t suffer with you picky eater, they will grow and the universe around which you raise them will influence more than the food you fool them to eat.

    My mother never eat raw vegetables or raw meats and I love them. She can’t eat a bowl of fresh ruccola, water cress or spinat with a twist of lemon if they are not cooked. No slices of carpaccio over a bowl of leaves. She never ate a sushi and she used to avoid following me to Japanese restaurants. She liked boiled vegetables and I have always hated soft over cooked vegetables. I prefer raw stuff or al dente, made over steam.

    But anyway, my bet is that we are a little guilty when a kid is picky. I see my faults too but I try to compensate educating my daughter theoretically at least. She has been learning a lot more than eating. But I trust she will be just fine.


  7. I think your pictures turned out much better than the ones in the original recipe 🙂 I loved this set of posts.

    As too the picky eater thing……I thought that I had it so good. Alex started eating solids and he would inhale anything that I could think to give him, now he is so picky almost every meal is a mental hurdle for me. I can only hope it is a phase that will pass quickly.

  8. What a cute little mini-stand mixer!! Good-luck with your little eaters!

  9. Hi Helene- You’re one step ahead of me!

    Hi Abigail- You’ll just have to wait and see!

    Hi Anja- Welcome to UtHC! Thanks for stopping by. Your quiche sounds lovely; unfortunately I don’t have a recipe for it.

    Hi Lydia- It actually mixes pretty well, but Chef Noah would not be happy to part with it.

    Hi Emily- I read it on his blog. No, some kids eat anything (including non-food items, naturally this is a problem.)

    Hi Claudia- Welcome to UtHC! Wow, thank you for your insight and encouragement. My son IS curious, so that’s a good start!

    Hi Michele- Oh, I feel for you. I hope it gets better. He had such a good start, too!

    Hi culinarywannabe- Thanks. I think luck really does play a part!!

  10. Those look adorable!

  11. I am praying praying and praying that I don’t have a picky eater! I’ve been lucky – my husband likes most things, so I mostly get to cook whatever I want. I sure hope that doesn’t change in the next few years, because I refuse to make multiple meals!! This cake looks soooo good! I don’t think a little piece like that would be big enough for me!

  12. Just remember that food habits change QUICKLY! Once upon a time, Mateo dined on rabbit, quinoa and roasted root veggies…. now, we’re lucky if he eats half a toast with cream cheese. The horror. So he might be all smug now, but let him tell us what his three year old eats!
    Great post, btw!

  13. Boy would I love to have a piece of that!

  14. Great pics. I started this comment with come on Aimee he’s not that picky but only because we have such fond memories of the video of him with the large crustacean. Out of the blue Small sometimes asks if we can watch it.

  15. Those are so beautiful, really nice photos.

  16. Emeline’s right. Check back in with him in about 3 years and I’ll bet he’ll have a whole different story. My daughter happily ate anything I gave her until she was about 4 1/2.

  17. Did you seriously whip that up with a toy mixer? kudos!

  18. jealous. Awesome looking pumpkin "bars" though. Right up my alley.

  19. I love pumpkin anything and especially with cream cheese frosting. Can't wait to try this.

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