Pumpkin bread should be quick to come together, confident in pumpkin flavor, and moist as can be. Our test kitchen set out to nail all of those components—and then some—to create a pumpkin bread that’s everyday enough to make on a whim, but addictive enough to crave all fall and winter long. (Do we need to tell you that it’s ridiculously good with coffee? You knew that already.)
Here’s the scoop: Instead of a meager cup or so of pumpkin puree, we used an entire can. This means intense squashy flavor, bright orange color, and increased moistness. On that note, we also opted for neutral-flavored oil (canola or vegetable both work) instead of melted butter. Compared to butter-based cakes, oil-based ones are lighter in texture, more tender in crumb, and stay moist for longer. And to lean into the cozy autumn vibes, we settled on mostly dark brown sugar, for its molassesy, caramely flavors. We used a small portion of granulated sugar in the batter, plus some for a spiced sugar crust (more on that soon).
Now, about those spices: If you ask us, pumpkin pie spice—a blend you can find at just about any supermarket—is a win-win. The blend is made with pumpkin in mind and you only need one jar in your spice cabinet (is yours as out-of-hand as ours is?), a total game-changer when you consider all the ingredients potentially included: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, star anise, and the list goes on. If you’d like, you can swap in a custom blend. We added a smidge more ground ginger, in addition to the pumpkin pie spice, because of the way ginger highlights pumpkin’s flavor and keeps the loaf from tasting too sweet. What’s more, combining some pumpkin pie spice with sugar and using this mixture to coat the interior of the greased loaf pan creates a spiced sugar crust, making the edges of the pumpkin bread just as great as the interior.
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1 hour 10 minutes
Spiced sugar crust
Salted butter, at room temperature, for greasing the pan
1 1/2 tablespoons
pumpkin pie spice
2 1/3 cups
(298 grams) all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons
1 3/4 teaspoons
pumpkin pie spice
(15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan with salted butter. Combine the 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar and ¾ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice in a small dish and stir to combine. Pour most of this spiced sugar in the loaf pan and tap around, so a thin layer completely coats the interior of the pan. Dump any excess back into the dish and reserve—we’re using it later. Set the loaf pan on a rimmed sheet tray (this makes getting the loaf in and out of the oven a lot easier).
Add the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and ginger to a large mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add the pumpkin puree, sugars, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract to a separate, slightly smaller mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add this liquidy pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients, then use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir until smooth (a few small lumps is okay, it’s better not to overmix.
Pour the pumpkin batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the top with the reserved spiced sugar mixture.
Bake for about 70 minutes (rotating halfway through and checking frequently toward the end), until a sharp knife or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the pan cool until it’s warm enough that you can comfortably touch. Turn out the loaf onto a cooling rack to cool completely, domed side facing up. Serve in thick slices.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.