Genius Recipes

This Genius Pumpkin Bread Keeps Astonishingly Well for Days

Perfect for afternoon-slump snacks—or mailing to someone you love.

December  2, 2020

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Founding Editor and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

If you’ve ever found yourself in the company of a pumpkin bread cobbled with chocolate chips, you know the visceral joy of pulling off soft fistfuls, well past the allotment of a single neat slice.

Now imagine that same squishy loaf, glowing a deeper orange, with a fluffier crumb. The chocolate chips are now bittersweet chunks; the glaze extra glossy and, instead of pow-in-the-kisser sweet, faintly savory; the top a-crackle with toasted pepitas and cacao nibs.

This thoroughly modern pumpkin bread is the brainchild of pastry chef Nicole Rucker—who now runs Fat & Flour, a tiny, glorious pie shop in Grand Central Market in L.A.—from her days as Gjelina restaurant’s general manager and pastry chef (and sometimes barista).

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Top Comment:
“With the amount of spice the recipe calls for, honestly the garden variety butternut or - even easier - canned pumpkin holds up very well, esp. if the olive oil is used. Roasting and pureeing takes a lot of time for a "qucik bread".”

Starting from a pumpkin tea cake recipe in the Tartine cookbook, which Nicole calls “a perfect recipe in itself,” she set to deepening the flavors everywhere she could, turning to the staples she had ready access to at Gjelina: notably, crates of local kabocha squash (then used in an agnolotti dish) and lots of good-tasting olive oil.


Roasted kabocha squash has almost-neon orange flesh that’s uniquely dry and creamy, making it ideal for baking tender, fluffy cakes (more moisture can lead to more gluten development, aka tougher, drier cakes). (1) And, as I’ve said time and again, oil in cakes also acts as a buffer against overzealous gluten, leading to batters you’re less likely to accidentally overmix and loaves that defy going stale for days. Olive oil, specifically—unlike vegetable oil and its ilk—tastes like something you want to eat.

Which brings us to that glaze, which might be the most genius takeaway of all. Because why would we whisk just powdered sugar and water, when we could be drizzling in a few buttery spoonfuls of olive oil too? As Nicole told me, “The oil in the glaze makes a really rich and viscous shiny glaze for the surface of the cake,” emulsifying effortlessly and anchoring the straight sweetness with a little fruity heft. (2)

As much as this cake will bring joy in your own home for days, it will really sparkle dropped on a neighbor’s doorstep or in other distanced hand-offs to loved ones. While I haven’t tried shipping it myself, I imagine it would pass the test, given that, after baking two cakes for the video above, I finished the last slice over a week later and it was still squidgy as ever. In fact, I love the flavor most on days two and beyond, though I’d never stop you from cutting into a warm cake dripping with sticky glaze, if that is what your heart desires. (3)

Your giftees will be just as happy as if a cozy, classic pumpkin bread sidled up next to them, and one bite will send them ringing you up for the recipe. What is the deal with this pumpkin bread??? (4) I predict the texts will say. And you’ll have plenty to share.

(1) Kabocha is great for pies, too! Nicole’s pumpkin pies at Fat & Flour are actually Caramel Kabocha pies. If you can’t find kabocha, red kuri is a good substitute.

(2) Nicole has used the same glaze-emulsifying trick with brown butter and coconut milk before. Mm.

(3) If you’re not feeling loafy or you want the cake in an even more shareable form, here’s a tip from Nozlee Samadzadeh, one of two genius tipsters who sent in this recipe: “I've never actually made it in a loaf pan—I've made it in a Bundt and, memorably, in a mini-cupcake pan, with the glaze and one pepita per cupcake, to take to a friend's Prospect Park wedding reception!”

(4) Others will disagree, but in cases like these, I think "bread" and "cake" are completely interchangeable.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]-thanks to Nozlee Samadzadeh and Ali Slagle for this one!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jenbakes19
  • MaryMary
  • Marta
  • Eliz
  • Rosalind Paaswell
    Rosalind Paaswell
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Jenbakes19 December 7, 2020
On homepage the picture of this loaf looks exactly the same as pumpkin loaf
MaryMary December 6, 2020
Going to steal that olive oil glaze for raisin bread, banana bread, and French toast!
Marta December 6, 2020
I baked the squash, put it in my mini processor to purée and it va ame a ball... as in when you are making bread dough... can I save it? I must have over baked it???? 🙁😬
Kristen M. December 7, 2020
Hi Marta, sorry to hear it! Yes, it sounds like your squash may have gotten a little dried out—if it's not too late, you could try working in some water while you're pureeing it until it looks more like the puree in the video above.
Eliz December 5, 2020
I have a question about cinnamon. I have both Saigon and Ceylon in my pantry, and I find they have a dramatically different impact in recipes. I assume most people are using Saigon cinnamon in their recipes, but I would like to be sure. This site often posts recipes with gourmet ingredients, and I like to produce recipes as exact as possible to the original before trying my own spin. Can you tell me what you use in this recipe? And should I always assume a recipe is calling for Saigon cinnamon unless noted otherwise?
Kristen M. December 7, 2020
Great question—it depends somewhat on your personal taste and how much you like cinnamon. I've been using Saigon cinnamon, and the cake has had a pretty strong, warm, cinnamony presence. I could also see Ceylon or other more gentle varieties of cinnamon being nice as well, and letting more of the nutmeg and kabocha flavor come through.
Eliz January 5, 2021
Wonderful. You sold me on the nutmeg comment. I prefer it over cinnamon.
Rosalind P. December 4, 2020
A comment and a question. Comment: glaze recipe quantity can be reduced by half or more to get the glazing shown here. Question: (don't judge me, please?) ) Not a chocolate lover. Looks like the amount of chocolate is such that it can't be just omitted. Would a substitution of nuts or raisins or both in an amount equal to the amount of chocolate work? Or are the fat and liquid in the chocolate necessary?

Kristen M. December 4, 2020
I personally wouldn't halve the glaze because I usually like pouring it all over (when I'm not trying to synchronize drizzling with my toddler), as does Nicole. But if you want less sweetness, by all means, halve. As for the chocolate—you could leave it out and the bread would stand up, but nuts or dried fruit are always welcome in my book. You can get a sense how much chocolate is in the recipe from the vertical photo above and adjust for how many chunks you want. It seemed like a lot of chocolate to me at first, but the ratio felt perfect when I started eating the loaf.
Rosalind P. December 4, 2020
Thanks as always for your attentive care!
Brenda J. December 4, 2020
I always put fresh cranberries (chopped a bit) and nuts in my pumpkin bread. Might taste good in this bread too.

Eliz December 5, 2020
Hi, fellow chocolate non-lover. My partner and I are both part of club. I often will just substitute a high-quality white chocolate or a blonde chocolate (which is increasingly more accessible now) in place of regular chocolate. Of course, if you also don't like white chocolate, then this suggestion won't work. We love it. This also doesn't work for all recipes, as sometimes milk or dark chocolate are essential ingredients in the balance of a recipe, but I don't think that's the case for this one.
Ellen N. December 2, 2020
Has anyone tried baking this in a sheet pan? I've been donating baked goods to a shelter, and with a sheet pan I can cut the pieces into a "brownie" size and shape to share further. Any thoughts?
Kristen M. December 4, 2020
Thanks for asking—I haven't, but I think it would be amenable as long as the volume fits well (i.e. the batter fills the pan but doesn't overflow it), since it has worked well in mini muffin pans.
Rosalind P. December 4, 2020
Watch your baking time. 🙂
Kristen M. December 4, 2020
Stephanie A. December 2, 2020
Can you sub gluten free AP flour for the AP flour in this recipe - cup for cup? Or by making any other changes to make the recipe GF? It sounds fabulous! BTW, try 1 tsp each ground allspice and clove instead of all cinnamon plus the nutmeg. We’ve been baking ours that way for yrs - YUM! Look forward to trying this recipe - GF👩🏼‍🍳
Kristen M. December 4, 2020
Yes, cup for cup should work just fine! And thanks for the alt spicing :)
MaryMary December 6, 2020
I am celiac and successfully substituted almond flour. Baked 8 minutes longer.
SGSF December 2, 2020
Great recipe from a great recipe. For those with instant pots it is incredibly fast and easy to steam the squash to extract the flesh - and the little squash can be put in whole and then when cool enough to touch broken open. Scoop out seeds and scoop out flesh. It's a little less dry than the roasted, but barely. Super easy. With the amount of spice the recipe calls for, honestly the garden variety butternut or - even easier - canned pumpkin holds up very well, esp. if the olive oil is used. Roasting and pureeing takes a lot of time for a "qucik bread".
Kristen M. December 4, 2020
Great tip on the Instant Pot! Since kabocha is especially dry and creamy, Nicole recommends draining more watery purees like canned pumpkin or butternut in cheesecloth, which also takes it out of the realm of true quick bread. But I will say roasting the squash has felt worth it, even to a curmudgeon like me, because it's so hands-off and you can get bonus puree to smear on toast, stir into pasta sauces, and so on.
Pcaswell76 December 2, 2020
Any idea if you can easily make this gluten free by substituting a gluten free flour like Cup for Cup for the all purpose flour?
Kristen M. December 4, 2020
Yes, I think it should work fine!
Mary T. December 14, 2020
I used the 1:1. Worked fine; needed longer oven time
Nicola M. December 2, 2020
Any thoughts on what to substitute for the eggs and make it vegan?
Kristen M. December 4, 2020
Flax eggs are the swap that I hear about most consistently working—here's a bit more on that and other egg substitutes:
Nancy H. December 2, 2020
Dear Kristen: Thank you for saying (whispering actually) that roasted pumpkin/squash seeds are "not that great". I've always thought that their lack of impressiveness indicated that I just wasn't getting something that everyone else was - how do you make those shells edible, anyway? Anxiously awaiting the secrets that are sure to pour in!!
Jacquie P. December 2, 2020
I never really liked them either! But I have found that boiling them for a couple mins makes them a little softer to bake like normal. I've added everything from salt and pepper to cinnamon and sugar... but also need to be in the mood for doing it because it is kind of a pain too. I get it!
Nancy H. December 3, 2020
Much appreciated Jacquie - I will certainly give it a try when the mood strikes..... lots of time for experimenting these days! Everyone stay safe and well :)))
Kristen M. December 4, 2020
We got a few very compelling seed/guts suggestions from the community that are at the end of this week's podcast—I'm going to try them next time and will probably not complain as much!