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Turn a Pumpkin Carving Mishap Into This Cake

I've got pumpkins and squash on the brain lately. The first few squash made their way into my farm box this week, but not before I unknowingly spent $6 ($6!!) for an organic butternut specimen at Whole Foods. Let me repeat—butternut squash. Six dollars. What's that about the economy going to hell? Today, I had a pumpkin-shaped chocolate as my "afternoon dessert," a ritual I strongly encourage all of you to adopt. And over the weekend, I had the pleasure of driving around Sonoma at sunset and passed a bunch of pumpkin patches, filled with white and orange orbs. I would have bought some, but as everything I put on my stoop gets stolen, I just admired from afar.  Now I wish I'd bought a few sugar pumpkins so I could use fresh pumpkin puree for this handsome coffeecake. It looks like just the thing to ring in the season. Invite over a handful of friends for Sunday brunch and serve this, or bake it up on Sunday and bring it to some lucky ducks at your office Monday morning. Note: if you can't find fresh cranberries, they are available frozen at Whole Foods. And they don't cost $6 a bag.

Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Coffeecake

Fresh cranberries burst with tangy flavor, but dried cranberries are also excellent in this nut-laced quick coffee bread. The batter goes together in short order for a delicious breakfast or brunch flourish or a welcome sweet snack with coffee later in the day. If you want to freeze the cake, just cut it first; the serving pieces will heat almost instantly in a microwave.

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white or yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup pumpkin or winter squash purée, canned or homemade
1 cup fresh or dried cranberries
3 tablespoons demerara or raw sugar


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch square baking pan.

Spread the walnuts in a small baking pan and bake until lightly toasted, 8 to 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, sour cream, and pumpkin and beat with a large whisk or an electric beater until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix just until incorporated. Stir in the cranberries and 2/3 cup of the nuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining 1/3 cup nuts on top and sprinkle with the demerara sugar.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan to room temperature, then cut into 12 rectangles. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or wrap tightly and freeze for up to 1 month.

Serves 12


Courtesy of A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash, Lou Seibert Pappas, Chronicle Books (2008). Photographs by Maren Caruso.