Pumpkin Bread with Sweet Cream Cheese Butter


Between us, I was all about pumpkin way before the current pumpkin-spice craze. An early adopter, if  you will. For starters, I was obsessed with those little mellowcreme pumpkins as a little girl (not really pumpkin, but still.) I’ve always been a pumpkin pie enthusiast and would beg my grandma to let me help her bake Thanksgiving pies…or at least lick the bowl. I live for pumpkin pie for breakfast. Pumpkin pancakes, too. “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is my second favorite Peanuts special (A Charlie Brown Christmas is number one, obvs.) I put Pumpkin Pie Spice in my coffee all year round. If pumpkin ravioli are on the menu, that’s what I’ll order. When the horrific pumpkin shortage threatened fall baking, I hoarded as much as my pantry could hold. My point is, I really, really love pumpkin and have for a long time. Also, for the record, Hocus Pocus was my favorite fall movie WAY before it was cool.

Pumpkin bread can be overshadowed by its’ more glamorous and fancy compadres, like cupcakes and pies. But when done well, it’s a real treat. There’s nothing like a warm slice of pumpkin bread and hot cup of coffee on a quiet autumn morning before the rest of the house is awake. A few moments of delicious solace before the craziness begins. Of course, those moments are ruined by dense, bland, overly sweet pumpkin bread. My beloved pumpkin deserves better. Unfortunately, since pumpkin is by nature so moist and thick, many recipes result in a heavy pumpkin brick, rather than a little slice of heaven.

Luckily, I happened upon this recipe and now rest assured that wet, heavy and bland pumpkin bricks are a thing of the past. This bread is substantial but not dense. The earthy, sweet flavor of pumpkin shines through, complemented by the traditional spices. I’ve used pumpkin pie spice to simplify things, but of course you can create your own mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. The pumpkin and spices are cooked on the stovetop to evaporate moisture and concentrate pumpkin flavor. Cream cheese is added to the batter to add richness and a little edge to cut through the sweetness. The topping is cinnamony, brown sugary goodness. And, while completely optional, I added a cream cheese butter that flirts dangerously with the idea of being frosting. But if we call it butter, then it’s appropriate to put it on bread which means it is a perfectly acceptable breakfast. Right? Right. You can always count on me for a good rationale 😉

This recipe makes two loaves, which means there’s plenty to share. Keep one for yourself and give another to a neighbor or co-worker. Or eat one now and keep one in the freezer, in case of a pumpkin emergency. Happy fall baking!


Pumpkin Bread with Sweet Cream Cheese Butter



  • 5 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp softened butter
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 tsp salt


  • 2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk, mixed with 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice and allowed to sit 5 min (or buttermilk)

Sweet Cream Cheese Butter

  • 4 Tbsp softened butter
  • 8 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Combine ingredients for topping in a small bowl with either fingers or a spoon until the butter is incorporated into dry ingredients. Set aside.

Prepare loaf pans. Spray two 9 by 5 (or 8 1/2 by 4 1/2) inch loaf pans with baking spray. Place loaf pans on a rimmed cookie sheet and set aside. Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a medium saucepan, cook pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice over medium heat about 6-8 minutes, until thickened and slightly dark. Turn off the heat and add both sugars and vegetable oil. Using your fingers, break cream cheese into small pieces over pumpkin mixture until all cream cheese has been added. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes to warm the cream cheese, then whisk until no lumps of cream cheese remain.

Whisk eggs and milk/acid mixture (or buttermilk) together, then whisk into pumpkin. Add flour to pan and gently fold into pumpkin mixture until combined. Divide batter evenly between pans and sprinkle topping over the pans.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Remove from oven and allow to sit in loaf pans for 15-20 minutes. Then carefully remove loaves from pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make sweet cream cheese butter: whisk all ingredients together until smooth. You can also mix ingredients with hand or stand mixer.

Makes 2 loaves and enough sweet cream cheese butter for each loaf.

Bread recipe slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

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