“Soup Nights” Part I: But First — Pumpkin Brownies with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting!

Pumpkin spice bars with a cloud of fluffy, marshmallow-y cream cheese frosting.

Pumpkin spice bars with a cloud of fluffy, marshmallow-y cream cheese frosting.


Leave it to me to thumb through a soup cookbook, and end up making a dessert recipe first.

I may subscribe to the philosophy that “Life is short; eat dessert first.” But I’m usually too guilt-ridden to follow through on it.

So I did have a proper dinner beforehand, but my attention was always on what was to come.

Namely, “Pumpkin Brownies with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting.”


It’s from the new cookbook “Soup Nights” (Rizzoli) by food writer and cooking teacher Betty Rosbottom, of which I received a review copy.

You’ll find all manner of soup recipes in here, from chowders to gumbos to bean-laden ones to others hearty with grains.

What I particularly loved, though, is that Rosbottom includes recipes for salads such as “Haricots Verts, Cherry Tomatoes, and Chorizo”; sandwiches such as “Lobster BLTS”; and yes, desserts such as “Lime & Ginger Cream Cheese Bars” — so you can create a full, satiating meal. With every soup recipe, she offers up suggestions on what other recipes in the book to serve with it.

So I actually did make the soup recipe that goes with these brownies. But I admit I made the brownies first.

Although they are referred to as brownies, I found them kind of a cross between carrot cake and spice cake. They have a denser texture, but aren’t necessarily chewy or fudgy like the term “brownies” would imply.

The pumpkin brownies right out of the oven.

The pumpkin brownies right out of the oven.

The batter, laden with pumpkin puree and spices such as cloves, ginger and cinnamon, gets swirled in the pan with a cream cheese-egg yolk mixture. That mixture was runnier than I expected. And when the brownies bake up, you don’t necessarily detect a prominent swirl pattern throughout the bars. It’s more subtle, with a lighter streak here and there if you really look hard.

After cooling and chilling the pumpkin brownies, they get slathered with a frosting of cream cheese, butter, confectioner’s sugar and maple syrup. The fairly sweet, glossy, almost marshmallow-y frosting doesn’t ever set hard but stays swirly soft even after refrigerating.

The bars taste of autumn. Enjoy them out of the fridge after letting them come to room temperature. Or do as my husband did — microwave one for the briefest of seconds just to take the chill off and leave the cake ever so slightly warm but the frosting still thick and sturdy.

Yes, this is from a soup book.

Yes, this is from a soup book.

Pumpkin Brownies with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

(Makes 9 brownies)

For the Pumpkin Brownies:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the baking pan

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the baking pan

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Generous 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese

2 tablespoons sugar

For the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting:

5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup


Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch baking pan and coat with flour, shaking out any excess.

In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high for 30 seconds. Gradually add the brown sugar, beating until it is completely incorporated, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the whole egg and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla, beating just to blend. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Add the pumpkin and beat until well blended, a minute or less. Fold in the pecans by hand and spread the batter evenly in the baking pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, egg yolk, 2 tablespoons sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until well blended and smooth. Drop heaping teaspoons of this mixture into the batter in the pan. Using a table knife, gently swirl the mixture into the batter to give it a marbled appearance.

Bake the brownies until firm and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool brownies in the pan to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled, about 45 minutes.

For the frosting, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add the powdered sugar. Beat until well blended, 3 to 4 minutes, then beat in the maple syrup. Chill until just firm enough to spread, 30 minutes.

Spread the frosting over the top of the brownies, making decorative swirls with a metal spatula or the back of a knife. Refrigerate the brownies until the frosting is set, 1 hour or longer, then run a knife around the inside edges of the pan to loosen. Cut into 9 squares. (Brownies can be prepared two days ahead; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

From “Soup Nights” by Betty Rossbottom


Plus “Soup Nights” Part II: Roasted Carrot, Parnsip & Garlic Soup


More Pumpkin Goodness: Pumpkin Cozy Rolls


And: Pumpkin Almond Cake with Almond Butter Frosting


And: Pumpkin Spice Minis


And: Pumpkin, Sage and Browned Butter Cake


And: Pumpkin Swirl Ice-Cream Pie with Chocolate-Almond Bark and Toffee Sauce

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  • Yum, I love anything pumpkin! I agree that it’s odd that it’s called a brownie when it looks more like a spice cake, and it doesn’t include chocolate! But I’ll eat it anyway because I love pumpkin spice.

  • Perfect dessert for tonight! 🙂

  • What a beautiful blog! My first visit to your site! Thank you for cooking from my new book, Soup Nights and giving the spotlight to my pumpkin brownies. Your photos are gorgeous and your description of the “brownies” and their marshmallow-y frosting are right on. Hope your readers enjoy trying them!

  • Fall is my favorite time of year, and the pumpkin brownies are the perfect dessert for it! Yumm…

  • Now these look amazing. Props to you for eating dinner first…. no way I’d have the willpower with these beauties around!!

  • even though pumpkin isn’t my favorite, i’d go to town on these because of that glorious frosting! what a surprising and delicious find. 🙂

  • I love the idea of pumpkin brownie…and yes, the frosting sure adds a nice touch to it.
    My husband will go crazy for these brownies…
    Have a great week Carolyn 🙂

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