Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cake of the Week: Pumpkin Chocolate Cakebars

My mom asked me recently if I had any major Cake of the Week issues, like a recipe that totally didn’t work, so I had to start all over again.

Hmm, no. Actually, I’ve had pretty good luck. Some things are better than others, but nothing has been disastrous.


I have a reputation in my family as a bad cook (undeserved and totally unfair, right???) Part of this is just straight up malicious lies…but the other part is due to the fact that I like to experiment and modify recipes. Baking is a science – it’s chemistry – so sometimes experiments work…and sometimes not so much.

Ultimately, after a few ohno-ohno-ohno moments, my baking adventure worked out. I call them Pumpkin Chocolate Cakebars.

I based them off of this recipe for Houdini Bars (get it? because they disappear!). I started out following the recipe (kinda sorta), but instead of yellow, I used dark chocolate cake mix. The original recipe calls for one egg, and 1 stick of butter. But I found that this turned the cake mix to glue. I couldn’t even mix it – I thought my eggbeater was going to putts out on me this batter was so thick! So I started improvising. I like cake-y desserts more than brownie-bar desserts, so a cakier chocolate component struck me as a good idea (see my recipe below for ingredients).

As for the topping, the original bars had coconut and walnuts (which I am sure would be amazing), BUT to continue on with the EatRunRead pumpkin-love, I decided to make a pumpkin cheesecake topping.

So what’s the problem, you may wonder? Well, because I had made the chocolate cake/crust thinner by adding more water and egg, it was lighter. So the heavier cheesecake component didn’t stay on top, it sunk into the middle.

I first baked it for 50 minutes, took it out, and let it cool for about 20 minutes. At the time of taking it out of the oven, it looked done. When I went to cut into it to serve myself a piece…moment of truth in any baking venture…oh no. Totally raw in the middle! So guess what I did?

a) panic

b) throw the whole thing out

c) throw it back in the oven to bake it longer?

If you guessed a and/or c, you are correct! If you guessed b – you obviously don’t know me well enough and should go back and read more about my true love of cake.

Usually it is not a good idea to put something back in the oven…but what choice did I have? I covered the edges with tinfoil so they wouldn’t get overdone. 20 minutes later at 350* - viola! Crisis averted. I don’t know that I would make it again – cake mix in bar form is not my fave (I’m more of a layer cake person), but it did come out tasting pretty yummilicious! 

Pumpkin Chocolate Cakebars

For the chocolate cake:

1 box chocolate cake mix

3/4 stick melted butter

2 eggs

1 cup water

For the cheesecake:

8 oz cream cheese

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups confectioner's sugar

1/2 cup chopped roasted walnuts

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Set aside a generously greased 9x13-inch pan.
  2. Place all the cake ingredients  a large mixing bowl and beat on low speed with an electric mixer until the ingredients are incorporated, about 1 minute. Spread the batter into the bottom and partially up the sides of the baking pan and set the pan aside.
  3. Place the cream cheese in the same mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Add the rest of the cheesecake ingredients and beat on low speed until smooth and combined, about 1 minute. Pour mixture over the crust and smooth the top with a spatula. Scatter the nuts, if you've chosen to use them.
  4. Bake the bars until the edges are well browned and the center is firm to the touch, about 60 minutes. If it looks like the edges are browning too quickly, cover them with tinfoil, to let the center bake through. Transfer the baking pan to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving (do not score the bars while still hot!)