by Victoria Piccione
These days, one is considered “basic” if she (or he) admits to being pumpkin-obsessed. But I would argue that there is nothing basic about pumpkin. If anything, it’s one of the season’s richest flavors. It has an earthy warmth that’s just begging to be paired with chocolate. It adds spice to one’s life and eases the cruel transition out of Daylight Savings Time. And this snack cake or, more fittingly, golden bars of heaven are certainly not basic.
Last year, I made pumpkin bread nearly every three weeks, starting in October and ending in April, not because it was finally no longer winter but because I’d run out of canned pumpkin. I consider this pumpkin bread pretty much unbeatable: it’s the perfect breakfast, perfect afternoon snack, perfect dessert, perfect bedtime treat, and perfect post-exam pity food. But as someone who regularly and genuinely laments that there are far, far more recipes that exist than I can possibly try in a lifetime, I’m always aware of the need to explore new options, and an email from one of my favorite blogs instructed me on exactly where I ought to go adventuring.
When an email titled “Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Streusel Cake” arrives in your inbox, full of mouthwatering, tantalizing photos, you don’t just let it pass. You don’t simply archive it and let it disappear into the depths of cyberspace. You struggle not to lose your head until you try your hand at creating it yourself. Or at least I do. I couldn’t wait. It had started to invade my dreams.
These bars are dense. They are rich. And they are moist. They’re perfectly studded with chocolate chips, and the spices are subtle but balanced. I had some salted caramel sauce on hand from these divine apple crumb bars, so naturally I couldn’t resist adding some to the pumpkin. And inspired by the pumpkin bread that I can never get off my mind, I threw in a handful of butterscotch chips, for they bring pumpkin to the next level, in some inexplicable way.
There’s nothing particularly fancy about the cake. It’s simple, and it’s easy to whip together. While I’d still have no shame in eating a piece for breakfast, there’s definitely something about the cake that’s distinctly more dessert-like. Pumpkin pie can be polarizing – it’s sort of a love-it-or-hate-it food – but these bars fall entirely on the love-it end of the spectrum.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Streusel Cake
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
For the cake:
2 cups flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp.
¾ granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree*
1 cup chocolate chips
⅓ cup butterscotch chips
For the streusel:
⅔ cup flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
6 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup chocolate chips
Optional: salted caramel sauce
*When I first made this recipe, I didn’t realize it called for 1 cup of pumpkin puree rather than 1 can of pumpkin puree. The bars were still delicious (though a bit wet), but could’ve used some more spice. For a more cake-y consistency, stick to the 1 cup of pumpkin puree. I think that 1 can (which is nearly 2 cups) makes for a tasty, moist bar if you just add a dash more of cinnamon and nutmeg.
1) Preheat oven to 350°F, and butter and grease a 9” x 13” cake pan.
2) In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3) In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Add the pumpkin puree, reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Evenly spread the batter in the prepared pan.
4) Pour about a half-cup of salted caramel sauce over the batter, swirling it into the batter. Smooth over with a rubber spatula.
5) For the streusel, combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Using your fingertips or a fork, add the butter, working it into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the streusel over the top of the cake, then top with chocolate chips and drizzle with salted caramel sauce.
6) Bake in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the sides pull away from the pan and a toothpick comes out clean – there may be some streaks of melted chocolate. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Enjoy – serving with an additional drizzle of salted caramel sauce to be extra indulgent!