Happy Birthday, Chief! You’ll always be a puppy for us…

Birthday requires cake. Obviously.

The other day I saw a compilation of cakes by Food & Wine, a sort of  “bucket list of cakes.” You can check it out here. According to the article, if you bake one of those cakes each month, at the end of the year you will become a very accomplished baker, mastering all techniques that matter.  Danger attracts me, because I was immediately mesmerized by the list and next think I knew, the first one was in the oven. No idea what makes it a “snacking cake” but the name has a good vibe. Plus, it mixes two flavors I love, maple and pumpkin. I am not too wild about pecans, but it’s always good to have an excuse to crack open that bag hibernating in the freezer.  This cake is incredibly easy to make, smells amazing, and everyone raved about it.  Now, before  you get too excited: NO, I am not baking the other 11 cakes.  And YES, this is my final answer.

Snacking Cake

(adapted from Food and Wine magazine)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 ounces pecans (about 1 to 1 + 1/3 cups)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons demerara sugar for sprinkling

Heat the oven to 325° and grease an 8-inch square cake pan,

In a medium bowl, whisk together the two types of flour, cinnamon, and salt and set aside.

In a small frying pan over medium-high heat, toast the pecans until fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Transfer half of the nuts to a small food processor and pulse until a coarsely ground flour forms. Roughly chop the remaining pecans over a cutting board into small-sized pieces. Add both the pecan meal and loosely chopped pieces to the bowl of dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, brown sugar, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla extract until very smooth. Gently fold in the dry ingredients until incorporated. Using a spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth out the surface of the cake batter with the spatula and sprinkle the demerara sugar evenly over the top. Bake for 45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top of the cake should be crispy from the scattered sugar-coating.

Let the cake cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.


to print the recipe, click here



Comments: The cake is baked in an 8-inch square pan, so it is reasonably small. Food and Wine lists 8 servings, but I cut it into 20 small squares so that more colleagues could be happy in a cold and foggy Monday morning.  Perfect antidote for that type of day, if you ask me.  What I loved the most about it was the crust that the demerara sugar formed while baking. Delicious contrast with the brownie-type cake underneath.  Notice the lack of leavening agents, the cake is pretty similar to a one-pan brownie, easy and straightforward. Pecans were perfect, but I bet walnuts would work equally well.

Cake number one was pretty painless, I must admit. I like to leave the game while I’m winning, so I’ll stop right here. Although a certain gentleman is lobbying quite heavily for a particular six-layer coconut nightmare. Yeah, when pigs fly over Kansas wearing pink tutus.


Hi, my name is Molly Merlot, I am awfully cute, but I promise you, I don’t fly!

(photo published with permission from Wilson Creek Winery)


ONE YEAR AGO: Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup

TWO YEARS AGO: Sweet Fifteen!

THREE YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flaxseed Sourdough

FOUR YEARS AGO: Green Beans with Miso and Almonds

FIVE YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

SIX YEARS AGO: White Bread



  1. That picture of the piggy is awesome! Wilson Creek Winery holds a special place in our hearts. It was the one where Mike and I first got our start! Love, love, love it! And your cake looks divine. I would gobble that right up. But above all else – happy birthday to Chief from all of us!!! We love and adore him.🙂


  2. All of these recipes look so good on this blog. I do have a question that’s sort of off topic. What do people in Brazil traditionally eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner? From the research papers I’ve read, it’s bread and coffee for breakfast and beans and rice with meat for lunch and dinner.


    • Definitely coffee and very good bread (baguette type, or French bread) with butter. Nowadays, though, most people will rather have yogurt, cereal, fruits together with black coffee. But when I was growing up, the traditional breakfast would be bread & butter “pao com manteiga” and black coffee or coffee with a little milk in it (we call it “cafe com leite”). Black beans and rice are pretty much a staple in every Brazilian home. I would not say that we eat it daily. For instance in my home my Mom would alternate and sometimes have pasta, sometimes mashed potatoes. But it is true that rice and beans were always available, and then some type of meat as the main course. Meatless meals were pretty much unheard of when I was growing up. This is also changing a lot now…


    • Pat, so nice to see you here, what a nice surprise! Chief was in horrible shape around Thanksgiving, we even had an appointment set for him to be put to sleep. That morning he got up all better, and… the rest is history. The old man simply won’t give up! 😉


  3. Sally, how fortunate you are to have your fur kid for so long. You have taken good care of Chief!
    The cake sounds awesome, I love maple, pecans and dark brown sugar in the same recipe. Thanks for the post.


  4. Buon compleanno, Chief!
    This does sounds like a great cake, Sally, and I like the idea of baking a different cake every month as a means of learning various techniques. The only problem is that I’d be eating all 12 cakes. I noticed you cut this one into 20 pieces. Considering my situation, I guess it would be better if I left it as-is. That way, it wouldn’t sound nearly as bad to say that last night I “ate a piece of cake” and not “20 pieces of cake”.


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