Food & Wine

Pumpkin bread heads cakeward

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Robyn Budelli’s pumpkin bread/cake

During the season of pumpkin, I’ve developed a ratings system for when a recipe hits peak gourd: spicy enough to wake me up, moist enough to remember its slimy orange source material.

This autumn Los Altos resident Robyn Budelli’s go-to pumpkin bread recipe earned accolades from the newsroom and posed the question: Doesn’t this really qualify as a cake? It might be shaped in a loaf and sliced like a bread, but its tender, rich crumb is unmistakably decadent, perfectly suited to a newsy tea time.

Quick breads such as pumpkin, banana or zucchini rely on the relatively modern use of baking soda and baking powder for a “quick” raise in the oven. (Prior to broad consumer access to chemical leavening, cooks relied on yeast, eggs, steam or ingenuity to raise baked goods.) Most modern cakes also use chemical leavening – so ultimately the line of demarcation between a loaf cake and a quick bread comes down to a nebulous classification based on shape, texture, sugar content and what time of day people tend to want to eat the end product.

“The bread keeps well and is always moist ... good for breakfast, dessert or any time of day,” Budelli said of her pumpkin bake, which contains a generous portion of sugar.

She got the recipe years ago from Mountain View resident Sue Krueger, who in turn had baked it as large muffins that their mutual friend Kerry Vermeer sold at Lappert’s Ice Cream and Coffee at Rancho Shopping Center.

Their original source material can be found in the 1969 Junior League publication “San Francisco A La Carte,” which Budelli received the year she got married.

“I absolutely love to make it at this time of year,” she said. “I have given the cake as hostess gifts, brought it to countless events, and I make it every year for my neighbors for a homemade Christmas treat.”

Loaf pan sizes vary tremendously among kitchens – use the pans you have for this recipe, or try a large bundt pan dusted with powdered sugar (requires 1.5x ingredients), or a mini bundt tin (bake 25 minutes) or cupcakes (bake 20 minutes).

Food editor Eliza Ridgeway wants to hear stories about the recipes and cookbooks (maybe even ingredients?) that keep you coming back, year after year. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Pumpkin Bread (Cake!)

• 1 1/2 cups sugar

• 1 2/3 cups all-purpose or gluten-free flour

• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

• 1 teaspoon baking soda

• 3/4 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon cinnamon

• 1 teaspoon cloves

• 1 teaspoon nutmeg

• 2 eggs, well beaten

• 1/2 cup oil

• 1/2 cup water

• 1 cup canned pumpkin

Preheat oven to 325 F. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and mix eggs, oil, water and pumpkin in another. Combine until well blended.

Pour batter into two buttered and floured loaf pans.

Bake 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans, then remove bread onto rack.

Recipe can be doubled or tripled and freezes well.

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