Recipe test: NYT Chocolate Pumpkin Layer Cake

Chocolate pumpkin layer cake

Forget about the other things you have planned for this weekend. You need to make this New York Times Chocolate-Pumpkin Layer Cake. You’re probably already buying a pumpkin or two for carving. Add a good eating pumpkin to your cart, check out my pumpkin puree instructions here, and you’ll be well on your way to the perfect October dessert.


This recipe is easy and works as written. First prepare your cake pans. Parchment tutorial is here. Then sift together the dry ingredients.


Cream together the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy. The recipe says to mix for 3 minutes, but this is a variable amount of time, depending on the softness of your butter. It usually takes me more than 3 minutes to get any combination of butter and sugar to be light and fluffy.

With the mixer running on low, beat in the eggs one at a time. Allow the eggs to mix between additions so that the mixture comes back together. Add the pumpkin puree (Libby’s works too, but fresh puree is amazing). At this point the mixture will look curdled, but that’s okay.

Add flour in three additions and mix just until it is incorporated. Do not overmix the flour into the batter or your cake will end up rubbery. Mix in the chocolate chips and pecans just until they are incorporated.

Bake at 350°F until the cakes spring back to the touch and a skewer comes out clean. Cool, and prepare the icing.

Chocolate pumpkin layer cake

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a water bath. Because I did not have unsweetened chocolate, I used semi-sweet chocolate and cut out 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar. However, I felt the frosting was overly sweet, and recommend following the directions for unsweetened chocolate. While the chocolate is melting, beat together the butter and powdered sugar, then add the melted chocolate and vanilla.

To frost the cakes, place one layer bottom-side down on your plate or cake board. Spread 1/3 of frosting over the top, then place the second cake upside-down on top of that frosting, so that the bottom (flat side) of that cake is now on top. Spread next 1/3 of frosting on top of the top cake layer. Then spread remaining frosting around the sides of the cake.

You’ll now probably have a mess of excess frosting hanging off the top edge of the cake. Smooth the sides the way you want them, then going around the cake, make one short pass over the top edge of the cake and remove the excess frosting. You’ll make one pass along one edge of the cake, scrape the excess frosting back into the frosting bowl, then turn the cake and do it again. Repeat this until you have gone around the whole cake, and you should now have a smooth top.

Chocolate pumpkin layer cake

To pipe a design without a piping bag or tips: use a Ziploc sandwich bag. Take the excess frosting that you just scraped off the top edge of the cake and put it in a Ziploc sandwich bag.
Snip a 1/4″ hole out of the corner of the bag, and you can now pipe along the top and bottom of the cake.


Now cut, eat and enjoy!

Masters Mama Chocolate pumpkin layer cake

Peach Blueberry Cake anyone can make

There’s nothing like a perfect peach.


And nothing like turning a perfect peach into an even better dessert.

Blueberry peach cake

A few weeks ago we had a tree full of ripe peaches and the corresponding debate about the best way to use them. Luckily, Epicurious came through with this awesome recipe for peach blueberry cake. Find the original recipe here.

This cake totally rocks. It falls somewhere between a cake and a pie, and is light enough to enjoy any time of day. I decreased the sugar in the fruit from the original recipe, giving me zero qualms about serving this morning or night. The best part about it? Anyone can make this. I mean it. You do not need any special skills or equipment.

Start by making the crust. The recipe calls for pulsing it in a food processor. If you don’t have one, just mix together the dry ingredients, then use two knives to “cut in” the butter to combine it with the flour. Use a spatula to add in the egg and vanilla to finish the dough.

The recipe also calls for using a springform pan. I always use a regular pan lined with parchment on the bottom. Find my parchment tutorial here. Press the crust into the pan, then chill while you make the fruit filling.

I made a couple of changes to the original recipe for the fruit filling. First, I substituted 3 Tbsp. tapioca flour for the 2 Tbsp. flour and 1 Tbsp. tapioca. I had tapioca flour on hand and didn’t feel like grinding tapioca. I also cut the amount of sugar back to 1/4 cup from the 1/2 cup in the original recipe. For the filling just toss everything together and spoon into the crust. Easy as… peach blueberry cake.


The Epicurious recipe says to bake it at 400°F, but that’s a bit high for my liking and people seemed to have issues with burning on the bottom. I baked it at 350°F and had no problems. Ovens vary, so I would start checking it at about an hour. Since I used a regular cake pan, I cooled it at room temperature a bit, then chilled it in the refrigerator to set up.

Getting it out of the pan is a little trickier than a regular cake, but not too bad. Make sure it is chilled and the fruit has set up. Run a knife around the edge to loosen the crust, then cover the top of the cake with a plate or cutting board. Turn everything upside down so that the plate/cutting board is on the bottom, and gently shake to turn it out. If it resists releasing, turn it right-side up and warm the bottom over a burner on your stovetop. Do this by moving it around for 10-15 seconds over a warm burner to slightly melt the butter in the crust. Then flip it back and try again and it should release. Place your serving platter atop the bottom crust (which is now on top), then flip it back over. Finally, cut, eat and enjoy!

Peach Blueberry Cake

EASY Chocolate Whiskey Cake

You have no idea what my family had to go through for this post. They had to test not one, but two versions of this New York Times Chocolate Whiskey Cake recipe. It’s right up there with the potato famine, the Five Points slum, or perhaps it’s just the luck o’ the (1/4) Irish.

New York Times Chocolate Whiskey Cake, dutch processed cocoa

I made the first version of this for my 11-year-old’s birthday last Monday. Being a Monday, and Mondays being a long run day, grocery-shopping/errand day, and oh, by the way, early release from Bainbridge schools day, I needed something easy. And fast. That would still be a treat. This cake fit the bill perfectly.

You don’t need a fancy mixer to make this cake. And it tastes great on its own, without the need for frosting or any other time-consuming garnish.

On Monday when I made the cake, I followed the recipe exactly as written, though as I’ve said in the past, I don’t use a springform pan. Find my simple trick for releasing cakes from regular cake pans here. The variable ingredient between the two versions of the cakes was the cocoa powder.

I prefer my chocolate to be dark and strong, and therefore use dutch processed cocoa (which tends to be darker) in most recipes. However, if baking soda is the type of leavening used, dutch processed cocoa can cause the recipe to be overly alkaline. If this is the case and the alkalinity is not neutralized, you’re going to get a less desirable final product. This recipe does use baking soda, but does not specify the type of cocoa powder to use. So I went dark. The dutch processed cocoa.

The result was a super dark, somewhat dense, moist chocolate cake with a depth of flavor from the coffee and whiskey. It was somewhere between a cake and brownie in texture, with a strong dark chocolate flavor.

New York Times Chocolate Whiskey Cake dutch process

New York Times Chocolate Whiskey Cake with dutch processed cocoa powder

But I was curious. How would it differ if I used traditional (natural) cocoa powder but kept everything else the same?


New York Times Chocolate Whiskey Cake with natural cocoa powder

This version of the cake was lighter, more cake-like in texture, and more mild in flavor. I would guess that this is the intended version of the recipe and two out of three McDevitts polled preferred this one to the other.


But the adults in the household liked the darker flavor of the first cake, and Mike didn’t mind the denser texture. If you’re really torn about which to choose, try both. It’s a fun experiment.

This is a great recipe, and if you’re looking for something to accompany your corned beef and cabbage this week, this is it.