Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

There’s no doubt about it, pumpkin is a quintessential flavor of fall. Although I appreciate pumpkin in all its forms, I especially love it in desserts. Pumpkin desserts are no stranger to the Sweet Precision kitchen. In past years I’ve made pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cookies, and pumpkin tiramisu. I’ve even written a post about how to make your own pumpkin pie spice! This year, I’m adding to the lineup with some tasty pumpkin bread that is sure to leave your kitchen smelling divine.

This week marked the four year anniversary for Sweet Precision. I made my first Sweet Precision post on October 4th, 2012. Looking back, Matthew and I were just beginning what would be a one year long distance relationship with him moving to Ann Arbor to start his PhD program. I was continuing to enjoy life in Washington DC, but found myself feeling alone in a city that we had once explored together. I needed something to funnel my newfound spare time into—and a new baking blog was the perfect project.

Since then, it seems as though time has flown. I’ve moved to Ann Arbor, Matthew and I have gotten married, he has completed four years of his PhD program, and we’ve even welcomed a new puppy into our family! In the midst of all this, I’ve continued baking and blogging.

What an amazing 4 years it’s been. Posts come and go (perhaps not as often as they once did), but what makes this whole blogging experience so amazing is your contribution as readers and followers. Thanks for reading my posts, trying out the recipes, and leaving your thoughtful comments. Here’s to another year of baking mishaps and masterpieces in the Sweet Precision kitchen!

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from All Recipes 

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Adjust oven rack to middle and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two 9×5 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake for about 60 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Avoid getting rims around the edges of quick bread loaves by greasing the baking pans on the bottom and only 1/2 inch up the sides.

Pumpkin Butterscotch Muffin Tops


As a baker, it always feels good when someone appreciates the fruits of your labor in the kitchen. While Matthew doesn’t have a sweet tooth like I do, there are a few items that he frequently requests from my baking repertoire. Enter these delicious pumpkin muffin tops. The first time I made these cookies was Matthew’s first year of graduate school. Since then, I get about a yearly request for said cookies. When I was struggling to come up with a dessert to bring to a picnic this past weekend, he calmly looked at me and said “I think people would really enjoy your pumpkin muffin tops.” A couple days later when he saw me looking at the recipe he added, “We could always… (insert innocent pause) save just a few cookies for us to eat.” Uh huh. Game well played Matthew. Given the title of this post, you know how this story ended.

This is actually the second time I’ve posted these cookies on Sweet Precision. This updated recipe has more spices (hello ginger and nutmeg) and more butterscotch chips, because… butterscotch. I was excited to break out my first pumpkin recipe of the year because it signals that autumn is almost here. I saw my first sign for a pumpkin spiced latte last week which truly signals the start of the season! So break out a can of pumpkin, embrace autumn, and give these delicious cookies a try!


Pumpkin Butterscotch Muffin Tops
Makes approximately 24 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups butterscotch chips

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger together in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix the oil, pumpkin, and vanilla until blended. Mix in the flour mixture to incorporate it. Mix in 1 cup of the chips.

Using an ice cream scoop with a 1/4-cup capacity, scoop mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 1/2-inches apart. Use a thin metal spatula to smooth and flatten the rounds. Sprinkle remaining chips on top of the cookies.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, about 16 minutes. Cool them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
When baking cookies, it’s best to put one batch at a time in the oven. Cookies need to bake on the middle rack for even baking. If you can fit two pans on the middle rack without touching, you’ll get the baking results you want. If you add additional sheets of cookies on higher or lower racks, they might bake unevenly. You may save some time, but the cookies will suffer.


Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons


As much as I love spending time in the kitchen baking, there is one part of the process that I really detest. I hate going to the grocery store. I’ve hated grocery stores and grocery shopping all my life. My list of complaints could go on forever—from inadequate parking, to confusing store layouts and poor food selection—it seems as though the deck is always stacked against me when I walk through those sliding doors.

Given my grocery store-averse personality, I often plan my desserts around what ingredients I have at home. If a recipe requires only a few items that I don’t have, I’ll prioritize that recipe over one where I’d need to purchase more items. All this leads us to these delicious coconut macaroons. What inspired me to bake these cookies? I only needed two items from the grocery store—an obvious win in my book.

So let’s chat about these cookies a little bit. Coconut can be a pretty polarizing ingredient when it comes to desserts. If you aren’t a fan of coconut, steer clear of these little beauties. I brought these cookies into work this week for a baby shower. I usually do most of my baking on the weekend when I have more leisure time. When it comes to work-week baking projects, I’m always on the lookout for something that comes together rather quickly. These cookies take about 15 minutes of prep work and need about 15 minutes in the oven. It doesn’t get any easier!

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups melted semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, coconut and salt. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla using your hands until well blended. Use an ice cream scoop to drop dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about golf ball size.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until coconut is toasted. Once cooled, dip cookies in melted chocolate and cool completely on waxed paper.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
I chilled my mixture for 15 minutes before baking. This helps things firm up a little bit and produces a rounder shaped macaroon that is perfect for dipping in chocolate!

Homemade Pop Tarts

As a Minnesota girl at heart, the heat and humidity of summer can feel a bit oppressive at times. I’m usually okay up to about 80 degrees, but anything beyond that is just… hot. Add in some humidity and I’m far from a happy camper. The heat and humidity have both settled on Ann Arbor recently, and it leaves me dreaming of mild autumn days. That being said, the hot days of summer do bring some things that I love. Matt and I recently went camping which was great, and who doesn’t love s’mores cooked over a campfire?! We also went on a kayaking adventure, which (minus one tip over) was a fun time. The passing of the summer solstice also reminded me that summer never lasts forever. The change is ever so slight, but I can already tell it’s a little less light when I wake up for my early morning workouts.

But enough about the passing of the seasons. Let’s talk about revamping a classic breakfast “dessert” many of us love. When I was growing up, I never ate Pop Tarts for breakfast or even as a snack. It wasn’t until later in life that I tried one and I was far from impressed. This homemade version elevates Pop Tarts from a simple “meh” to a definite “wow” factor. While you can’t stick these in a traditional toaster, you could pop them in a toaster oven. However, I think you’ll find they are just as delicious at room temperature. I made these to bring to a brunch and I found myself wishing that I had some left over to snack on when we got back home!

Homemade Pop Tarts
Original Recipe from Smitten Kitchen 

Pastry Ingredients 
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk

Cinnamon Filling Ingredients
1/2 cup (3 3/4 ounces) brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to taste
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg, to brush on pastry before filling

For step-by-step directions along with beautiful pictures, check out the original recipe at Smitten Kitchen. You will also find some suggestions for alternative fillings such as chocolate and jam.

Heather’s Helpful Hints 
There is a fine art to rolling out pastry dough that only comes with practice. I’m still learning as I go along but have found two things that always help with the process. First, always work with well-chilled pastry; otherwise, the dough will stick to the counter and tear. Second, never roll out dough by rolling back and forth over the same section. Each time you press on the same spot, more gluten develops that can toughen the dough.

Red, White, & Blue Flag Cake


Happy Flag Day dear Sweet Precision readers! Usually Flag Day is one of those holidays that sneaks up on me. I don’t realize it’s the day until I see small flags lining the sides of residential streets. This year, I actually noticed the holiday coming up when I looked at my calendar last week. Since Matthew has been busy teaching his class this summer, I’ve had a little more time on my hands during the weekends. I decided to put that time to good use—in the kitchen—this past Saturday!

So let’s chat a little bit about this flag cake recipe. This recipe takes some serious planning and dedicated time in the kitchen to pull off. The end result is more than worth all the time you’ll spend leveling and assembling your cake… I promise! This cake has been on my baking “to-do” list for quite a while, but I knew it would be a big undertaking—and it WAS! However, if you want a show-stopper cake, it simply doesn’t get any better than this. There are several versions of this recipe floating around on the internet. I chose to go with one posted on the All Recipes website. Below, I’ve shared the recipe directly from the website, but I’d also recommend watching the video which I found to be extremely helpful.

American Flag Cake Recipe
Makes approximately 16 servings

3 (10.25 ounce) packages white cake mix
9 egg whites
1 cup vegetable oil
3 3/4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons clear vanilla extract
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 tablespoon blue food coloring
1 cup white chocolate chips
10 cups fluffy white frosting
1 tablespoon white chocolate chips, or as needed
2 tablespoons white sugar, or as needed
1 4-inch round paper or cardboard stencil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and line 4 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.

2. Combine white cake mix, egg whites, vegetable oil, milk, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl. Beat for 30 seconds using an electric mixer on low speed. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 more minutes. The batter will still be slightly lumpy.

3. To make the red cakes, measure half the batter into a separate bowl and whisk in red food coloring. Evenly transfer the red batter into 2 of the 8-inch prepared cake pans; smooth tops of batter with a spatula. Transfer half of the remaining uncolored batter into a 3rd prepared cake pan; smooth top as before. This will be the white cake portion.

4. Add blue food coloring to the remaining uncolored batter in the large mixing bowl; fold 1 cup white chocolate chips into blue batter until combined. Transfer batter to remaining prepared 8-inch cake pan; smooth top of batter with a spatula.

5. Bake all 4 cakes in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove the cakes from oven and place onto cooling racks until cooled completely.

6. Run a knife around edge of each cooled cake. Invert cakes, remove pans, and peel off parchment paper. Use a sharp knife to trim tops of cakes flat and even.

7. Cut both of the red cake layers and the white cake layer in half horizontally. You will have 4 thin red cake layers and 2 thin white cake layers.

8. Place a 4-inch round stencil on top of 1 thin red cake layer; cut out a 4-inch red cake round. Repeat, placing stencil on 1 thin white cake layer to make 1 4-inch white cake round. Center the 4-inch round stencil on the blue cake; cut out and remove center portion covered by the stencil to make a blue cake ring.

9. To assemble the cake, you will need 2 thin 8-inch red cake layers, 1 thin 8-inch white cake layer, 1 4-inch thin red cake circle, 1 4-inch thin white cake circle, and 1 blue 8-inch cake ring. Reserve the leftover thin red cake layer and other cake pieces for making crumbs for decorating.

10. To assemble cake, place 1 8-inch thin red cake layer on a cake pan and frost the top generously with white frosting. Place the thin 8-inch white cake layer on top of the red one, and frost the top. Place remaining 8-inch thin red cake layer atop the white one. Frost the red layer.

11. Place the blue ring cake on top of the 2nd red cake layer and carefully frost the inside of the blue cake ring. Gently fit the 4-inch white cake layer into the blue cake ring. Frost the top of the 4-inch white center. Place the 4-inch red cake layer on top of the white one. Gently press small cake circles flush with the top of the blue ring.

12. Frost the entire outside of the cake generously with the remaining frosting. To serve, cut cake into wedges. The inside of the cake will reveal its layers of red and white stripes and blue field with white chocolate chip stars in every slice.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
One of the keys to successfully executing this cake is ensuring that your cake layers are level. You can accomplish this with a serrated knife or with a cake leveler. Once your cakes have come out of the oven and cooled, use your knife to remove the dome and you will have flat layers to work with! I also found that it was helpful to freeze my cake layers overnight before assembling everything. Freezing your cake layers makes them easier to work with for the final assembly. When frosting your cake, you might also find it helpful to do a crumb coat first. This is a light layer of frosting that will lock in all the crumbs so they don’t appear when you do your final icing. There are great videos online that cover all of these topics!