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pumpkin pecan spice cake

All Photos: Lisa Lotts

Pumpkin Pecan Streusel Snack Cake


Chock-full of pecans and topped with a crumbly streusel, this pumpkin-filled snack cake will convert even the biggest pumpkin spice haters

If you have a pumpkin spice hater in your house, this cake may be your salvation.

Here we are, smack in the middle of pumpkin spice season. This can be heaven or hell, depending on who you’re talking to. In our house it’s a bit of both. My daughter and I enjoy pumpkin spice and those warm autumn aromas that permeate the senses. My husband, on the other hand, definitely does not.

He’s kind of like fall’s version of the Grinch: “I must stop pumpkin spice from coming, but how?” runs through his head all season long.

In an attempt to keep the peace, I usually stay within apple, pear and cranberry guardrails of seasonal baking, but the other day at the market, I did the unthinkable. I bought a can of pumpkin. Then I made a pumpkin pecan streusel snack cake.

I had just finished drizzling the glaze over the pecan streusel when he came into the kitchen and saw the offending dessert. Shaking his head, he asked, “Why?”

I shrugged my shoulders, “It’s not for you … It’s for me and Emily," I said confidently. “I’ll give some to my parents,” I rationalized. “You don’t have to have any,” I defended. He turned on his heels, shaking his head again.

Nothing more was said until that night after dinner when he was poking around the kitchen, looking for something sweet. Mind you, there was ice cream in the freezer, but he went over to the cake. My cake.

He cut a small sliver and tested it with the kind of trepidation a kid has when he’s facing a plate of liver and onions. His eyebrows lifted in surprise. Then he sliced off another piece and popped it in his mouth. “It’s not too pumpkin-y,” he said as he chewed. “And it isn’t overly spiced.” Then the words I never thought, I’d hear: “It’s good.”

“You … like it?” I asked, stunned.

I felt like little Cindy Lou Hoo watching the Grinch carve the roast beast. My husband, who hates pumpkin and pumpkin spice, ate a quarter of a sheet cake that night. And, later, he lopped off another slab to have with his coffee the next morning.

Pumpkin Pecan Streusel Snack Cake
Serves: 12
Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Total time: 1 hour and 20 minutes, plus cooling time

Streusel Topping
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs

3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons half and half or whole milk

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with nonstick oil spray. Line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the inside of the pan with 5 inches of overhang on both long sides of the pan. Spray the parchment paper with nonstick oil spray.

To make the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter and, using the tips of your fingers, roll and crumble the butter into the dry ingredients until it reaches the consistency of wet sand. (You should be able to take a handful in your fingers, press tightly, and the mixture will hold together, but it should also separate easily when you sprinkle it from your hands.) Add the pecans and toss to combine.

To make the cake: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, mace and cloves.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugars, pumpkin puree, applesauce, canola oil and eggs. Add the sugar mixture to the flour mixture and whisk together until thoroughly combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and evenly smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the batter.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through baking. Let cool to room temperature.

To make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and 3 tablespoonns of the half and half until the sugar is completely incorporated into the glaze. Add the remaining half and half by the teaspoon, if needed, to create a pourable glaze. 

Drizzle the cooled cake with the glaze. Using the overhanging parchment paper, gently lift the cake out of the baking dish and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares and serve.

Author image

Lisa Lotts is a freelance writer, food photographer, recipe developer and owner of the blog, Garlic & Zest. Her work has been featured in a multitude of online outlets including Honest Cooking, Men’s Fitness, Today, Better Homes & Gardens, BuzzFeed and Shape, to name a few. Her food photography stretches beyond her blog and she styles and shoots dishes for restaurant menus and websites, and she aspires to photograph a cookbook. Having grown up in Southeastern Virginia, she has a natural affinity for well-seasoned cast iron skillets, Smithfield ham, soft-shell crabs and old fashioned oyster roasts. Lisa's approachable fare tastes like home.