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A First Foray: Slightly Swirly Pumpkin Brownies

Swirly Pumpkin Brownies

A few weeks ago, after Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt’s house, I had my first taste of pumpkin pie. I know this will seem both unbelievable and incredibly sad to the pumpkin pie enthusiasts among you, but I can’t lie: until recently, I believed pumpkin was possibly the grossest thing one could put in a pie.

In fact, that first bite of flaky crust and spiced filling was my first taste of pumpkin ever, pie or otherwise. With the exception of the roasted seeds, I’d never seen this autumnal accessory as something you’d want to eat. Of course now I’m a pumpkin convert. It might have taken 26 years, but I returned to the UK determined to make up for lost time.

Swirly Pumpkin Brownies

So when I bought a pumpkin at the farmer’s market on the weekend, I knew my first pumpkin preparation would have to be a good one. I opted to bake with my squash rather than cook it, figuring that something familiar was the safest bet. At first I thought of scones but soon reconsidered, as I’ve made several for the blog in recent weeks.

One recipe popped up in my searches with insistent frequently: Pumpkin Swirl Brownies. Originally from a Martha Stewart recipe and adapted by the inimitable Smitten Kitchen, these seemed like just the ticket. Andrew loves brownies, and I’ve never posted one here before, so I got to work.

Swirly Pumpkin Brownies

I can never leave a recipe alone, and I opted to use brown sugar as well as white here. I wish I could say that this was because I prefer its dark, molasses-like flavour or that it works so well at this time of year (both of which are true), but really I was just low on the pale stuff. I also switched out the cinnamon and nutmeg for that wonderful British invention, mixed spice. Not to be confused with allspice, mixed spice is a fragrant blend of cinnamon, coriander, dill, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. (If you can’t find it where you live, I bet pumpkin pie spice would work just as well for this, but throw in some coriander as well. It really makes all the difference.)

Swirly Pumpkin Brownies

I rather ruined the presentation of these, unfortunately. Deb noted that they were difficult to swirl, so I really went to town with my spatula, resulting in very little swirl at all. Still, these were a delicious first foray into baking with pumpkin, and a perfect teatime treat for this time of year.

Note: If you’re looking for a very fudgy brownie, keep looking. Despite all the chocolate, butter and eggs, I’d describe these as having a heavyish cake texture, rather than a brownie-like density. They do improve over a few days, though, and keeping them in the fridge will fudge them up further.

  • Slightly Swirly Pumpkin Brownies
  • adapted from this recipe at Smitten Kitchen
  • makes 25 small but thick brownies
  • 4 oz butter
    6 oz dark chocolate, chopped
    1 3/4 cups plain flour
    1 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. salt
    4 large eggs
    3/4 cup castor sugar
    1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
    2 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 cup pumpkin purée, either canned or chopped, steamed and mashed
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    1 tsp. mixed spice
    1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F. Prepare an 8 x 8″ baking pan by buttering it (if not nonstick) and inserting a length of parchment to cover the bottom and two sides. (Butter the parchment lightly, too.)

    2. In a medium (not too small!) saucepan over very low heat, melt together the butter and chocolate until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside.

    3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

    4. Using a stand mixer or hand beaters, beat together the eggs, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Gently beat in the flour mixture as well.

    5. Pour half of this batter into the saucepan with the chocolate, and stir with a spatula until smooth and uniform. Add the pumpkin purée, oil, mixed spice and cinnamon to the other half (still in the bowl or stand mixer) and beat until combined.

    6. Layer the batters in the prepared baking pan, starting with half the chocolate one, then half the pumpkin one, and so on. With a knife or small spatula, swirl the two batters together, reaching right down to the bottom to mix the two. (Whether you want to over-swirl or under-swirl is up to you; over-swirling will give a more uniform flavour, while under-swirling is prettier.)

    7. Bake for 40-45 minutes until just set. Cool in the pan for about 20 minutes before using the parchment ends to lift to a cooling rack. When completely cool, cut into 25 square pieces.


  1. Chris says:

    Presentation smesentation… These look really yummy.. I’ll have to make sure Lil sees this in hopes she’ll make some.. :)

  2. Larissa says:

    I have made these before, they are soooo goood.

  3. Maya says:


    Can you buy canned pumpkin in England?

  4. Ele says:

    Chris- Yes, definitely show Lil. Or you could always make these FOR her…?

    Larissa- I liked them, but I would have preferred them to be fudgier. I guess I like my brownies to be brownies and my cakes to be cakes.

    Maya- You can, it’s imported from the States usually. Any specialty food store or large grocery store should have a section for imported stuff. In fact, my local food shop has a random mix of American stuff (Nestlé chips, marshmallow Fluff, Crisco, Oreos) and carries it. But I wanted to use a real pumpkin- after all, it’s a blog about cooking with vegetables!

  5. Larissa says:

    Hmm, when I made these they were very dense and cakey, but then again I used canned pumpkin. I think fresh pumpkin done yourself retains more water hence creating a lighter baked good.
    They are still yummy though :)

  6. Dana says:

    At our Thanksgiving table we have a pumpkin pie expert. She has been faithfully making them since I was 3 years old and that was a long time ago. I still don’t like pumpkin pie. I love squash but I just don’t have a taste for it in desserts. You make a compelling argument for these brownies (and love the photos) but I still think I would prefer my brownies plain. Sorry. :)

  7. Ele says:

    Larissa- That’s how they were for me, too- dense and cakey. Probably too dense to pass for an actual cake, now that I think of it. I guess I just like brownies to be VERY dense, with no hint of “cake” at all. I like to feel slightly ill after eating a good brownie ;)

    But you’re very right about the pumpkin- I think mine did retain a lot of water, which probably made them lighter.

    Dana- I haven’t had enough experience with pumpkin desserts to decide whether I like them, yet. Andrew is with you, though. He gets quite upset when I try to put things in brownies! Case in point: he said he’d like these if I called them “cake” but once I said they were meant to be brownies, he was disappointed.

  8. Susan H. says:

    I made these yesterday for my friend’s birthday. Mine came out quite a bit denser than Ele’s look, and I did use canned pumpkin. Still not the brownie for those who like ‘em really dense and fudge-y, but I like a cakey brownie so I’m happy. I am pitching them to people as “neither fudge nor cake nor brownie” and that seems to be working. :)

    I used very dark chocolate, and if I make this again I’ll probably add a little more sugar.

  9. Ele says:

    Susan- I love that you’re “pitching them”, ha ha! For some reason that just makes me laugh ;) You’re right about the sweetness, I cut the sugar waaay down on these.

  10. Susan H. says:

    Ele – LOL, yes, I did have to pitch them, because the friend I made them for makes pastry for the local co-op. She has very discerning taste. :) And she really liked them!