Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake

Maple buttermilk pie, pumpkin chocolate cheesecake, and spiced pear pie

Jordan: Pie Month is technically over, but with Thanksgiving so late in November, we didn’t have a chance to share our holiday desserts with you, and it seems a shame to hold onto these for a full year.

Kitra: Plus, it’s always pie month in our hearts.

And cheesecake is a perfect transition recipe, since no one really knows how to classify it.

I’ve been making pumpkin chocolate cheesecake bars for yearsssssss.

Way way back in the day, Kitra used to get daily Better Homes & Gardens emails to our shared email account, and this came from that phase.

See also that blueberry charmer from a while back.

There were also what must have been monthly batches of lemon rosemary cupcakes… but the pumpkin chocolate cheesecake bars were the highlight.

And it seemed like there was real potential to make them flashier. They’ve already got three layers, but in a bar it’s kind of hard to tell. So why not magnify the whole thing!

Besides, cheesecake bars—while convenient—don’t have that show-stopping Thanksgiving dessert vibe that a full-sized cheesecake does.

Plus, we wanted to keep our forks working their full-tine jobs. (This joke killed me, and Jordan hates it. You decide.)

We also made two other pies for Thanksgiving. (Yes, we only had six people and two of them were children, this is a perfectly acceptable pie-to-person ratio.)

We hit the three categories of Thanksgiving pie: Orange, fruit, wildcard (Nut? Custard? Jello? Whoppers?)

Nothing but a pie tin full of Whoppers. Just like grandma used to make!

That was an autocorrect that we ran with. Anyway.

Our fruit pie was a pear version of Molly Yeh’s hawaij apple pie, which I liked but Kitra found too imperfect to share on the blog. (Though let’s all appreciate the beautiful pie crust braids she did on the top of that one.)

I’d recommend the pie we made last year if you’re looking for a spiced pear pie.

The other pie was a maple buttermilk custard pie from the Four and Twenty Blackbirds cookbook. It reminded me of the period where I ate maple-yogurt overnight oats for breakfast every day, in the best possible way. Mapley and tangy and very simple to put together.

It was delightful, but we just made my ideal custard pie so anything else was going to be a bit of a letdown. Also, I just have something against sour cream.

Still, if you have the cookbook (or want to try any of the versions floating around other blogs), it’s worth making.

If you’re looking for a dessert that pulls out all the stops for your holiday tables though, look no further than the cheesecake.

Slice of pumpkin chocolate cheesecake
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Chai Creme Brulee Pie

Kitra: It’s November, which is when we reveal ourselves to be traitors.

Jordan: The truth is, we both prefer pie to cake in almost all cases.

I feel that way about cake compared to… Most desserts. Ice cream? Hell yes. Flan? Sure. Cookies? Totally. Cake? Eh, depends.

Which is actually part of why this project exists. We’ll make pie on our own, given even the slightest reason to do so. But cake? We really would only make cake for birthdays (of people who don’t like pie), and we had a few go-tos that we didn’t stray far from.

We weren’t developing a massive backlog of unmade pies. But we both had dozens of cake recipes that seemed interesting but we had no occasion for.

However, in November we shake it up. It’s almost Thanksgiving! No one is making cake in November. November belongs to pie.

It’s the perfect excuse for us to unzip these human suits and reveal ourselves to be the pie lizards that we actually are.

This creme brulee pie turned out to be on both of our “to make” lists. I love a good custard pie, and Kitra loves setting things on fire.

That is wildly incorrect.

But it was funny. In reality, Kitra hates fire but puts up with it for the sake of creme brulee.

We made this week’s decision over “breakfast” (it was noon, okay) in my local cafe/spice shop, where the idea of not throwing a handful of spices into an otherwise classic creme brulee seemed like a PROBLEM.

This was the result. Imagine a cross between your favorite chai latte and a perfectly smooth pumpkin pie, and then cover it in not-quite-burnt sugar.

Or, imagine creme brulee, and I guess put some pastry around it so you can pick it up in your hand and get it into your body faster. 10/10.

Kitra’s first words upon taking a bite were “I love this. This is a perfect pie.” And while there is room in this world for many perfect pies, I agree that this is definitely one of them.

If you don’t already have a deep need to be eating creme brulee pie, please reassess your priorities. Because you’re wrong, and probably a bad person. I don’t make the rules.

We’re signing off here before Kitra gets even more aggressive, but we’ll leave you with the recipe. Enjoy.

You know what needs to be done.

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Molasses Coffee Spice Cake

Molasses cake with sauce on the side

Kitra: Welcome to fall.

Jordan: Kitra claimed a copy of Everyday Dorie from our father and if ever there was a cookbook made for fall, it’s this one. Glancing through it, every recipe that jumped out at us just screamed FALL.

I had bookmarked a couple of fall baked goods to start with, including this cake which just fascinated me. It looked so simple and yet had a combination of very strong ingredients. Seemed like as good a place as any to hop in.

For a cake with (as Kitra says) very strong ingredients, it’s surprisingly subtle. There’s molasses, there’s coffee, and there are tons of spices, but none of them particularly stand out from the rest. This is not a molasses cake, or a coffee cake, or a spice cake. It’s all of the above.

It comes together as… Brown and warm. You can’t quite tell how or why, but that’s what you know about it. Which makes sense, given the number of warm brown ingredients.

We’ve been trying to find a good way to describe it, and I think the best we can do is “comforting.” It’s not flashy, it’s not extravagant. It’s a cake that is there for you when it’s raining outside and you just want to eat something kind-of-but-not-too sweet.

And because it’s both pretty thin and not too sweet, it’s easy to imagine eating a bunch of slices at once.

Though it doesn’t demand that you eat it all at once. We’ve made those kind of cakes before (hello, pecan browned butter cake) but this isn’t one of them. This is a cake that allows you to have a slice and walk away satisfied. Which, as anyone who has ever eaten way too much sugar at once and suffered the consequences later knows, is sometimes a good quality in a cake.

And if you leave it be for a day or two, you’ll be rewarded. The flavors settle into each other on the second day, and the glaze settles into everything, creating a slightly moister cake.

Is it our favorite cake we’ve ever made? Not necessarily, but sometimes you just need a cake that feels like a reliable lumpy sweater, and this is that cake.

Molasses cake with sauce on the side
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Russian Honey Cake

Kitra: This was a cake I’ve wanted to try forever. It looked like a fun icebox-esque cake, and I LOVE ICEBOX CAKES. And then I turned on it.

Jordan: See, the problem is that Kitra forgot that she doesn’t really like sour cream.

According to my notes from the day we made this, sometime in Hour 3 of sour cream thoughts I said, “Sour cream is both gooey and sticky at the same time. It’s like milk that ate too much.” Which, in retrospect, makes no sense. But I stand by it.

Let’s hold up a second though, because we’re not selling this cake well. We made a crucial mistake in testing this cake, which is that we had a slice before it had time to sit. If you’ve ever made an icebox cake, you know that the magic is in letting everything meld together and turn into one beautiful whole cake rather than just layers of cookies and filling.

I had about 2 bites and rejected the whole thing as irreparably sour cream-y. But the next morning… HONEY CAKE. No longer was it a sour cream pile, but rather a lovely cake.

It has a somewhat cheesecake-like flavor, but with a cakier consistency.

The process for this cake is fascinating, to say the least. You basically turn honeycomb candy into a cookie dough that tastes exactly like the outside of a Cow Tale (other people ate those, right?). Bake those Cow Tale cookies, and layer them with a very soft and hard-to-manage sour cream mixture. Chill, do it again, and so on. I though we failed so many times. My freezer still has sour cream blops in it.

Yes, the process is a little wild, but we’ve included our tips in the recipe. Honestly, if you can be patient with the frosting (or go for a naked cake), it’s not that bad.

(We did not go for a naked cake, which is how we ended up with this as-seen-on-TV blo-pen special look.)

Also, a disclaimer: our pictures of the inside of the cake were all taken before I transported the leftovers across town in my purse, and therefore before the cake had a chance to settle. They are not representative at all of the final texture of the cake. They’re just prettier than the aforementioned blo-pen look.

Good luck.

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream Cake

A chocolate layer cake with ice cream and raspberries between the two layers

Kitra: Sometimes, most of the time, it’s really unbearably hot in DC. And nothing is okay unless it’s made of ice cream.

Jordan: However, I didn’t grow up eating (so-called) ice cream cakes. You know, the kind that are just layers of ice cream and some crumbly bits and sub-standard frosting on top. I don’t know that I’d ever had one of those before a few years ago. If so, I’ve completely erased it from my memory.

I recall a period where we had a lot of Dairy Queen ice cream cakes in the freezer, but it seems like that may have been after Jordan went to college.

I don’t believe in cakeless ice cream cake. Kitra, meanwhile, just googled pictures of DQ cakes and whispered “Yeah, these guys” to herself. But because this is a cake blog and not an “ice cream shaped like cake” blog, we went with something that involved actual cake.

And since our dad was in town, we made it gluten-free. Which, may I add, is one of the true gifts of ice cream. The cake part is harder, but not that hard.

If you do gluten-free baking with any regularity, we highly recommend the America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten-Free cookbook, which we purchased a while after our dad was diagnosed with celiac.

That cookbook was a lifesaver. WAFFLES THAT TASTE LIKE REGULAR WAFFLES Y’ALL. It had been a long time since we had eaten regular tasting desserts. And their cakes are so genuinely good that I made them regularly for events in high school.

A lot of the time we prefer gluten-free foods that taste like an improvement on their regular counterparts—we both own a copy of Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flours for this reason. However, if you want a gluten-free chocolate cake that tastes exactly like a regular chocolate cake, ATK is where it’s at. That’s what we did here.

Also, if you’re making an ice cream cake, you should use ice cream that you actually like. We used Tillamook, since they recently started distributing in DC and as an Oregonian I feel it is my responsibility to single-handedly uphold that market.

We’ve included directions here that will make your life easier, but I want to emphasize this up front: do not let this cake break you. It will be fine. I promise.

And whatever you do, don’t think “eh, this will be fine without a mold.” Put the ice cream in the damn pan and save yourself.

(Kitra might have had to leave the room for a bit while we were assembling.)

(It was so horrifying. Be better than us.)

I feel like we’ve done a terrible job of selling this so far, but it really is a delicious cake.

It’s also ice cream cake. It sells itself.

Go, make ice cream cake and make the best of the last terrible bit of summer.

Chocolate ganache sliding over the edges of an ice cream cake
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Slab Pavlova with Roasted Cherries, Berries, and Earl Grey Whipped Cream

Pavlova topped with whipped cream, roasted cherries, and blueberries

Kitra: This post comes to you from the great state of Oregon (est. 1859) and also from the past. More specifically, the Fourth of July.

Jordan: We were visiting our dad in our hometown and wanted something that was gluten-free for him but was also festive, because when you have a cake blog you’re not allowed to let Independence Day pass without doing something red-and-blue. It’s a rule.

We’ve been looking at pavlovas for a while, because Jordan found a technicality that says they count as cake.

It’s not a technicality, it’s Wikipedia! The title of the article is Pavlova (cake). It counts..

And since my favorite dessert is an Eaton mess, which is basically the same thing (albeit less pretty and with wildly different ingredient ratios) I’m an easy sell.

Pavlova, if you’re not familiar with it, is essentially a giant meringue, generally topped with fruit and whipped cream. You can make it in elegant shapes, or you can just go rustic and free-form it.

And when I saw Erin McDowell had a recipe for a slablova, it was so fun to pronounce that we had to go with it.

It’s like slab pie, only instead of rolling out pie crust you’re just throwing a bunch of egg whites and sugar together and forgetting about them in the oven.

Everyone loves a slab pie.

We were also making a roasted cherry sorbet (which we also recommend, so we doubled the cherries and used those as a topping along with blueberries. We also added an Earl Grey whipped cream, because Kitra will never pass up a chance to add tea to something.

And I have no regrets about it. It brings another flavor to the dish, and allows you to cut the sweetness of the Pavlova.

I did find the pavlova itself to be a bit on the sweet side, but I also topped my portion with weird store-bought almond whipped cream. (Don’t ask.) If you’re going with a store-bought whipped cream, first of all don’t do that, but second of all, you’ll want to make sure you use some unsweetened fruit to keep it from being overwhelmingly sweet.

But really, don’t do that. Even an infused whipped cream is so, so easy.

Overall, a nice change of pace and a good dessert for a lazy summer evening in the backyard.

Pavlova topped with whipped cream, roasted cherries, and blueberries
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Honey Pistachio Cake

Slice of honey pistachio cake on a plate with the full cake and a mug in the background

Jordan: This is a good cake.

Kitra: I’d make this again on a non-Cake Day. It was so easy, so low stress, and so damn good.

One of the best effort-to-outcome ratios we’ve ever had for sure.

This all started with honey powder that we picked up on trip to New York over 2 years ago. As soon as we saw it, a pistachio cake with honey frosting was the goal.

Like baklava, but in cake form and without having to wrestle phyllo dough. The cake has a great pistachio flavor, nutty and not too sweet.

The frosting is so delightful, I’d like to put it on everything. The topping adds just the right baklava flair (and more pistachios!).

Honestly, we don’t know what else to say about this cake. We ate it in total silence: no critique, no chit chat. Just cake.

Top-down image of pistachio cake with honey-glazed pistachios on top
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