Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pumpkin Cake Squares + Baked Spice Cream Cheese Frosting

        I know I am a little late pumpkin excitement. October has already passed and peoples initial "gee-wiz its back!" has long been replaced by dreams of stuffing, turkey, and most importantly, pecan pie. Today though, I denounce the end of the thrill of pumpkin to bring it back because I am just not done with it. Not even pumpkin in particular, but the winter squash family. Oh my goodness, butternut squash is what I want warm, melting in my mouth on the daily right now; and I am not the biggest fan of stuffed vegetables, but an acorn squash, filled with cranberries, wild rice, and some nuts is enough to drive me into autumnal bliss without even seeing the outdoors. 
       I considered mixing up the squash in this recipe for a funkier note (and that is totally allowed), but I realized, I had not had one of the ultimate combos of the season yet. I had not combined pumpkin with cream cheese and you best be darned, I am not letting November go by without eating those two together. I mean really anything you give me an excuse to put cream cheese icing on, I will; but paired with spices and pumpkin-tangy, sweet, warm, and rich in deep was time. I broke out the cream cheese, while the scents of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger awoke my nose. I broke into the bag of semisweet chocolate morsels (and admittedly, did nibble on two or three), while the pumpkin called my name from the cabinet.
       These squares were made as my second dish to the La Veta weekend (I mean what is a weekend in the mountains without a freshly baked treat making you want to wiggle your feet in thick socks in happiness). These cake squares are the type of thing you cut into, take a small piece while talking to your friends and feeling the comfort of the flavors find your taste buds. All of a sudden, you find yourself having gone back for another one...and a third. The pumpkin gives the cake deep moisture, and takes away any overly sweetness. It works to balance a warm spice mix and stand up to their powerful notes. The cream cheese baked on top has a sweet touch that sinks down onto the cake and adds a milky mouth feel. It provides the cake an additional moist topping without the overt sweetness sometimes present in frostings. Instead of overpowering the pumpkin cake, it all simply balances together in a wonderful bite of pumpkin-cream cheese bliss Sigh...feel free to take me back to the pumpkin squares now...and for that matter I wouldn't mind returning to La Veta.  
Makes 1 9x13, or 2 8x8 

2 1/3 C all-purpose flour
2 TSP cinnamon
1/4 TSP ginger
1/4 TSP nutmeg
1 dash of cloves
3/4 TSP salt
16 TBSP butter, room temp (2 sticks)
3/4 C brown sugar
3/4 C white sugar
1 large egg
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
2 TSP vanilla extract
1 1/2 C chocolate chips (semisweet)
8 OZ. cream cheese
1/2 C sugar
1/2 TSO cinnamon
2 TBSP whole milk
 *You could also double the cream cheese layer to make a thicker coat. I have not done this but I think I would the next time.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and prepare the baking dish(es).
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, spices, and salt.
3. In a larger bowl, beat the butter to begin the creaming, then add in the sugars and continue to cream until the mixture is light and fluffy.
4. Add the egg and continue to beat until incorporated.
5. Add the pumpkin puree and vanilla and beat until incorporated.
6. Switch to a spatula or spoon and add flour in 2-3 additions until just incorporated. Fold in around the sides and bottom to make sure all the flour is mixed in.
7. Fold in the chocolate chips. 
8. Pour the batter into the pans and spread evenly with the back of a grease spatula.
9. In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, milk, and cinnamon, until well combined.

10. Scoop the cream cheese mixture over the pumpkin batter and gently spread with a knife (try not to push down to hard which will begin to mix the pumpkin and cream cheese instead of keeping two layers). 
11. Bake for about 50 minutes until the inside is fully set, an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the edges have started to brown.
12. Remove and allow the cake to cool before cutting into squares.

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