Cream Cheese Rippled Pumpkin Bread

November 12, 2009 at 2:41 am 188 comments

Last week I turned in my senior quote. I did a slight twist on Harriet van Horne’s quote and submitted, “Baking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.” Every aspect of my life, baking no exception, intertwines with heartfelt emotion, passion, and optimism. I have always been, and will always be, a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve.

I’m the kind of person who is confident about true love, believes that all people deep down are born good, and can’t help but suspect that karma really exists. I have never been someone who places priorities on logic and cold hard facts, but instead intuition and what your heart is telling you.

English, history, and topics involving different cultures and philosophies are predictably my favorite classes. I despise science and math. To me, those subjects emphasize a detachment that I can’t get past. I don’t see the beauty in numbers and unchanging, unemotional laws.

It seems that I would see baking the way that I see everything else – throw my soul into it, use feel instead of precise measurement, and consider recipes more like suggestions. There’s such a romance to imagine being in the kitchen without notes, just using your heart to produce something beautiful, and yet, it’s just not how I work.

On Halloween, my friends D- and M- came over to bake. If they were expecting me to approach baking the way I see the rest of the world, with a carefree attitude and sentimental lightheartedness, they were surprised. They did all the measuring and mixing themselves, but they had to be as precise as my standards. As M- measured out the flour, I showed him how to fluff it up in the bin, fill the cup using a spoon, and level it off with a knife. I showed D- how to use the scale when portioning the cream cheese.

M- began to use the wrong side of the knife to level the sugar, using the curved edge and measuring out less than the full cup. When I pointed this out, he rolled his eyes and said, “Jeez, Elissa, baking isn’t a science.”

Without even thinking, acting on pure instinct, I told him, “Yes it is.”

Yes, there is a romance to imagine someone working without recipes, knowing the exact feel of the dough. But I’m not experienced enough to know everything by feel and create recipes in my head. And while I’ll frequently swap ingredients in recipes to match my preferences, I am as exact and scientific about measuring as possible. While it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of my outlook on the world, it works for me.

In science especially, I find the need for precision exhausting. I’m not patient enough to pipette liquid into a beaker drop by drop to get exactly 30 ml. I just get bored repeating the same experiment five times to get enough trials for an accurate average. But weirdly enough, this is one of my favorite parts of baking.

When I chop and measure out exactly 4 ounces of chocolate, using my little scale, I focus so intently that I don’t think about anything else. Classes, college apps, my social life – none of it even makes an appearance when I bake. It’s not possible for my mind to totally clear while I have so many responsibilities, but there isn’t much room left over to think about my grades while I’m weighing 100 grams of sugar.

It was weird to realize that I see baking as a science, but I stand by it. I love knowing how the ingredients work together, seeing how a slight change in ingredient or technique can drastically change a dessert. Even though I love the idea of an Italian grandmother making gnocchi by memory, or a patient baker kneading dough entirely on feel, I also love the way I feel when the scale reads exactly three ounces. Somehow, I can see a beauty in that too.

The pumpkin bread that I made with D- and M- was devoured in minutes that night at a Halloween party. When I arrived with the warm loaf, only one person was hungry enough to cut a small slice. But when he went back to practically inhale another, everyone followed, and the loaf was cut into huge square chunks until every last crumb was gone.

I’ve made this pumpkin bread every autumn since 2005. I still have the same recipe that I printed out in 7th grade, and it hasn’t changed a bit (besides an orange smudge in the corner.) It’s just that good. This pumpkin bread is very moist, with just enough spice and pumpkin flavor. The cream cheese ripple is so, so good – if I would change anything, I might double the cream cheese filling.

Everyone at the party liked the still-warm loaves, but I happen to like the texture and flavor after the bread has aged a few days. The recipe makes two loaves, so you can find out for yourself or give one away to a friend. What do you think I did with the second loaf, after I brought the first one to the party? :)

Cream Cheese Rippled Pumpkin Bread
From Joy of Baking
Makes two 9″x5″ loaves

Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounce package (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Pumpkin Bread
1 cup (110 grams) toasted pecans or walnuts [optional, I leave them out]
3 1/2 cups (450 grams) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
2 cups (400 grams) granulated white sugar
1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 – 15 ounce (425 grams) can pure pumpkin
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9″x5″ pans.

For the Cream Cheese Filling: Beat the cream cheese just until smooth in a stand mixer or food processor. Add the sugar and process just until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, processing just until incorporated. Do not over process. Stir in the flour. Set aside.

For the Pumpkin Bread: Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl and set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs until lightly beaten. Whisk in the sugar and melted butter, then stir in the pumpkin, water, vanilla extract, and (optionally) nuts.

Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture, being careful not to overmix. A few streaks of flour are fine. Divide the batter in half. Take one half and divide it between the two pans. Pour half of the cream cheese filling into each pan, then top with the remaining half of batter. Smooth the tops and bake an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool loaves to room temperature.

Printer Friendly Version – Cream Cheese Rippled Pumpkin Bread

Entry filed under: Breads. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

The Confidence Cookie For Mom, Dad, and Grandma

188 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Elissa's Dad  |  November 12, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Oh Baby…it is just because you don’t see the beauty and elegance in numbers and laws. The universe is as beautiful a place of interaction of matter as the batter for your macaroons or the dough for the perfect chewy bagel.

    Love you always and I love seeing your heart, even when it is on your sleeve and rolling its eyes at me.

  • 2. Alana  |  November 12, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    This looks so yummy!!

  • 3. Anna  |  November 12, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Beautiful photos, beautiful writing. Thanks for posting :) That bread looks so yummy!

  • 4. Margarita  |  November 12, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Yum, I can almost smell it!!!!!!!!! Really, I can almost smell it. :) Beautiful pictures. I don’t cook and I don’t bake but I think you’ve inspired me to make some kind of bread with lots of nuts. That’s a big inspiration I want you to know. I have a thing for nuts. I can make some nuts with a little bit of bread around it. lol Yummy, yummy. You have no idea how you’ve inspired me. I might even have to try to put in a little cream cheese. Imagine how your writing touches people. Thank you. :)

  • 5. nutmegnanny  |  November 12, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Pumpkin and cream cheese are one of my favorite combination’s….yum!

  • 6. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction  |  November 12, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Your bread looks beautiful! I love the pretty ribbon of cream cheese.

  • 7. Jill  |  November 12, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    What a great post! You do such a great job of expressing yourself and your thoughts–I really enjoy reading them. Baking is a science, but the thing I love about it, is the creativity that comes from following the recipe and measuring the ingredients exactly. It doesn’t seem like it would make sense, but it does. Your bread is beautifully delicious looking! :)

  • 8. Cate  |  November 13, 2009 at 12:33 am

    C’mon, don’t pretend like Stats isn’t revelation after beautiful revelation. How can you not get emotional when confronted with the pure joy of SRS tables? :(

    That bread looks delicious, obviously. I can’t believe it’s two weeks since Halloween; I feel like I’ve missed my opportunity for pumpkin pie! Which, say what you will, is a million times better than any pumpkin bread ever could be (even with cream cheese ripples!) on account of my treating it as little more than a (tasty) receptacle for half-bottles of whipped cream at a time *is a horrible person*. On the other hand, cream cheese ripples! Hm.

  • 9. linda  |  November 13, 2009 at 3:39 am

    your dad is cool…this post & his comments brought a smile to my 5:35 AM face…
    bookmarked this pumpkin bread for w/e baking…looks very pretty & delicious…if the second loaf is around how about cutting for all of us! :)

  • 10. Jennifer  |  November 13, 2009 at 7:55 am

    These are lovely sentiments, my dear. When baking, I also find contentment from measurements. Perhaps it’s the promise of a perfectly sweet ending no matter what else is going on around me. This looks like some mighty scrumptious bread!

  • 11. Dolce  |  November 13, 2009 at 9:08 am

    This is a lovely bread. I don’t know if you saw Food Mayem recipe on a cloud top Pumpkin bread, she had a great outcome with a bizarre experiment on the matter.

  • 12. Larie  |  November 13, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I don’t necessarily think science and math are characterized by a lack of emotion or any kind of personal detachment. I love to bake, and I’ve got stacks of poetry and fiction books hiding away, but I’m also a chemist – still in graduate school, working on my PhD, actually. I think it requires a kind of passion to be able to pursue anything that you like :) Love the recipe, I’m bookmarking it to try very soon.

  • 13. debbmarie  |  November 13, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I love all things with cream cheese! This looks like a great recipe. It is on my holiday baking list.

  • 14. Sara@SproutedKitchen  |  November 13, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    ooo this looks amazing! Im not a huge cheesecake fan, but if it is swirled in things? Love. Great work!

  • 15. Cousin Sharon  |  November 13, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Looks great, am going to try it. I love all things made with pumpkin. Have you ever made viennese brownies? Another great recipe with a cream cheese ripple.

  • 16. Dorothy  |  November 14, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    I hope you never lose your passion! How beautiful. And the bread looks wonderful too!

  • 17. Heather  |  November 14, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    I’m trying this recipe out right now–I can’t wait until the bread comes out of the oven! I tasted the batter, and it’s DELICIOUS. I’ve also made your gingersnaps, and they’re a hit at my school when I share them with my friends. :) I love your blog, and I think you’re a very talented baker–keep at it!

  • 18. Hillary  |  November 14, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Do you offer photography lessons? Hehe…you take beautiful pictures. I’d love some advice:

    To the season of pumpkin,

  • 20. Sue  |  November 15, 2009 at 5:26 am

    Beautiful photos, wonderful post, yummy bread!!!

  • 21. Inês Oliveira (Portugal)  |  November 15, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Sorry, couldn’t help but posting!
    You are amazing!
    I’m also 17, turning 18 in a week, and I also love to cook, but since I left home for college I find it very hard to have time to make/have any kind of meal (specially a decent one!)!
    I loved you blog. I wish I had your hability for cakes! I don’t make them very often, I use to experiment and develop my skills with main dishes. And you take really good pictures too!
    Keep up the good job ;)

  • 22. lisanosaurus  |  November 15, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    I feel exactly the same way. I was never really fond of math or science, and I shunned anything in relation to them. I hadn’t really thought about how baking was a science until I actually took a class that scientifically explained every detail of how baking works and happens. I think it’s addicting learning how to create, and because of that addiction, people end up following the science of proportion, accuracy and precision with complete devotion and heart. It’s that strive for that perfect cake that keeps it easy, it’s what keeps us baking. <3

  • 23. christine louise  |  November 16, 2009 at 10:18 am


  • 24. Dara  |  November 16, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    I absolutely love your blog! Both the skill of your writing and photography are amazing. If there’s one thing I love more than cooking and baking it’s (food) photography, and you present both so beautifully. Keep ’em coming!

    –Vancouver, Canada

  • 25. Katya  |  November 17, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I can sympathize with you. When I bake or cook it’s a break from my hectic school life. It’s junior year for me, so it’s important I do well and yet I have to strike that perfect balance between working hard and maintaining my sanity. Hence, my passion for food.

    By the way, this pumpkin bread is next on my list of things to bake!

  • 26. Laura  |  November 17, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Although these look amazing, you’re wrong about one thing: you are a scientist. It just so happens that your laboratory is a kitchen; your chemicals are flour, sugar and butter; and your science is also a delicious form of art.

    • 27. Elissa  |  November 17, 2009 at 5:17 pm

      Laura – Exactly what I wanted to say! :)

  • 28. Baking Monster  |  November 17, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    The bread looks Tantalizing Elissa! I hate math and science to but have also found theres a lot of both of those things in baking. My high school offered a culinary Chemistry class it was pretty cool. I love baking when I’m stressed out it takes everything away. :)

  • 29. Colleen  |  November 18, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I stumbled across your blog via a link from the Seattle Times website. I must admit, even at 23 years old, I am a horrible cook (burned food is a normal dinner) but am trying to get better. I love your entries and writing style. Thank you for sharing your experiences! When you said you feel cooking to be exacting like a science, I realized it is not only something I would like to learn but something I am excited to try. I feel inspired to really push forward into the world of good food.

    I’ll be attempting this delicious looked pumpkin bread for Thanksgiving. Thanks for providing the recipe! I can’t wait to hear about what you work on next!

  • 30. Nic  |  November 18, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    I followed the gorgeous picture of you bread Via foodgawker and oh! what a find. I love anything pumpkin and the addition of the cream cheese swirl makes this sound decadent. I’ve already decided that I’m going to bring a loaf of this to my Thanksgiving hostess as a gift and devour the other on my own.

    Keep up the fantastic work, Elissa. You seem to be equally gifted both in the kitchen and with a pen (err, keyboard?). Can’t wait to dig around some more on your site to see what other goodies are waiting to be discovered.

    =) Nic

    P.S. I believe in karma too!

  • 31. Marie-Sophie  |  November 19, 2009 at 11:58 am


    I have a question on the recipe – in germany we don’t have canned pure pumpkin; I would have to buy a pumpkin, cook it, puree it and then use it – so how much would I need and how much pure pumpkin is in a can??

    Sorry, very practical question – but I’d just love to bake this bread over here as it sounds great for one of those rainy November days where you just meet up with some friends at home, chat and … have some of that yummy bread :-)!

    chocolaty hugs from Germany!

    • 32. Elissa  |  November 19, 2009 at 2:45 pm

      Marie-Sophie – I’ve never made pumpkin puree from scratch before, but I did a little research and it looks like one “pie pumpkin” (about 6 inches in diameter) produces 2-3 cups of puree. This recipe calls for 15 oz of pumpkin, which is around 1 3/4 cups. So it seems that one 6″ pumpkin would be enough for this recipe. On the Joy of Baking site, where this recipe comes from, Stephanie suggests you use a small pumpkin like a Sugar Pie, Baby Bear or Cheese Pumpkin. Let me know how it turns out! :)

  • 33. Ashley  |  November 19, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    This loaf combines two of my favourite things! It looks so awesome.

  • 34. Nancy  |  November 19, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Do you have a copy of On Food & Cooking by Harold McGee? It’s all chemistry and physics!!

    From a chemistry teacher who loves to cook.

  • 35. Sis  |  November 19, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Lovely bread and I’m baking some tonight. :)

    Also learned something new – I didn’t know there was a Joy of Baking website. Headed there next, LOL.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • 36. linda  |  November 20, 2009 at 5:21 am

    just wanted to say i baked this recipe & it was perfection…& delicious… such a lovely recipe… i used smaller loaf pans & had some left overs for a few cupcakes…i purchased more pumpkin & am going to bake & freeze!
    thanks for a “new” favorite for my family!!

  • 37. dollydoesdesserts  |  November 20, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Hey it’s gorgeous. AND YOU KNOW WHAT…. I think you can cut the bread really well and neat. I won’t be able to do such a great job even with a good knife, seriously!

    Nice work, take care :)

  • 38. Sophie  |  November 20, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I can see why the loaf was devoured so quickly, looks delicious. I have to agree that baking is a science. I’m usually a pretty impatient baker, so my recipe experiments usually come out a little funny the first time… precision is usually the key! :)

  • 39. Amy  |  November 20, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Read the article in Seattle Times, and LOVE your blog. Your parents must be so proud. You’re definitely going places!

    Love your pictures, your writing… and maybe someday actually get to taste your baking. :)

    All the best with college application, driving, love, baking… and hope you find yourself a career where you can do everything you love everyday.

  • 40. Olga  |  November 20, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    I too read about your blog in the Seattle Times. What an inspiration you are!! I just started cooking/baking within the last year and your blog has given me some great ideas!!

  • 41. Kimberly  |  November 20, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Elissa, read your blog because of Nancy Leson. My daughter, who is now a Senior in college use to be her nanny. Made your cream cheese pumpin bread. Oh yum… youngest son came home from school and ate 5 pieces!! Keep up the great work!! Can’t wait to try your dads bagels!! Those looked AMAZING!!

    Sounds like you have an awesome family! Many blessings to you and your lovely parents. They must be so proud! Keep grounded and looking foward to your future in cooking!

  • 42. Colleen (Shelton, WA)  |  November 23, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    This looks so yummy. I came upon this recipe because I am Facebook friends with one of my sister’s friends who this morning posted that she was making Pumpkin Bread. I asked if she was making it from scratch or a box and she said scratch and posted the link to your blog. Your photography is amazing. I used to take photography when I was in HS and you are making me miss it. I feel like I could taste the food through your words and pics. I am excited to make this for the holidays. I will now be checking your blog for more yummy adventures in baking. Thanks for sharing. Blessings in all your endeavors, I can tell you will be successful at whatever you put your hands to :).

  • 43. Marie-Sophie  |  November 26, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Thanks for answering my question on the pureed pumpkin made form scratch! :-)

    And just a little thank you for writing down this recipe with gram measurements as well … in Germany we don’t really measure in cups (it’s even hard to find a cup measurer) but use scales.

    So having cup measurements always is a bit of a guess for me … which one of my coffee cups is an American “cup” :-)

    So if you could do that more often, that’d be great!

    christmas market hugs from Germany (they’ve just started all the christmas markets here with mulled wine, loads of christmas cookies, gingerbread and the smell of yummy spices everywhere :-))

  • 44. indigo  |  November 26, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    your blog is great! i am trying out this recipe (it’s in the oven as i type this) and so far it smells amazing!

  • 45. lavienouveau  |  November 27, 2009 at 9:20 am

    this looks truly delicious!

  • 46. Sarah  |  November 27, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    This bread was delicious!!! I made it yesterday for my family and they gobbled it up so fast! I doubled the cream cheese part, but still had some leftover. I am thinking of making more for the weekend, except I might add in chocolate chunks or dried cranberries… or something. Also think I’ll sub some applesauce for the butter and reduce the sugar. Not that it was sweet, but oooh boy a whole cup of butter? So yummy, but not exactly health-friendly. LOL

    It doesn’t need anything done to it though- it was delicious!

  • 47. Katryna  |  December 5, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    This bread looked delicious! So, I decided to make it tonight. My bread wasn’t the beautiful brown yours is though and the top was uneven. I was wondering if you did anything special to keep it from getting dark brown and how you kept it so even on top.

    • 48. Elissa  |  December 5, 2009 at 9:32 pm

      Katryna – I’m not sure what to tell you :( I’ve never had that problem before when baking this bread. If you’re sure you measured everything correctly and didn’t overmix, it could just be your oven, since every oven is a little different, or maybe the size/type of pan you used. Maybe your oven racks were set too high? If you see the bread browning too quickly on top, you can cover it loosely with aluminum foil (pretty sure that would work, since it works for pie crusts) and continue to bake until cooked. For keeping the top even, I smooth out the top with a spatula and rotate the pan halfway through baking, but even that doesn’t always ensure an even top. Hope it works out better next time!

  • 49. Katryna  |  December 6, 2009 at 1:45 pm


  • 50. Anonymous  |  December 13, 2009 at 4:56 am

    That’s nice that you wear your heart on your sleeve, but it will get crushed in college. I would say “don’t go”, but thanks to psycho feminists, we’re all expected to trot away and waste 4 -6 years of our lives being miserable, so we can get a job to pay off the debt from those miserable years.

    Don’t be brainwashed.

  • 51. Adventures in the Kitchen « The Seeker  |  December 14, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    […] Without even thinking, acting on pure instinct, I told him, “Yes it is.”” via 17 and Baking:  Cream Cheese Rippled Pumpkin Bread […]

  • 52. Marcella  |  December 26, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    i was drawn to read and see your recipes, but was devoured by your writing!! wow…..

  • 53. John  |  December 26, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Has anyone tryed this with Oranges ?
    I am a Diabetic and we sometimes use Oranges to boost our selves until we can regulate ourselves this would be a great asset for us at it can be made then wrapped and saved for later consumption if needed or for a fast treat or dessert.

  • 54. Jen  |  December 26, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Quite surprised that someone so “scientific” about baking would use canned pumpkin. Try the real thing and you will see that the two just don’t compare.


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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