Pumpkin Bread

This bake was a set up for choices: a or b? Pumpkin bread or peanut butter cookies? Eggs first or oil? You do it or me? One big pan or two little pans? With a recipe that is a two part dump recipe (dump wet and mix, dump dry and mix), almost any choice works. Meanwhile, using the “a or b?” construction encourages a child to reply with longer utterances that recast the question into a sentence, instead of “yes/no.” Six months ago, if I asked, “Belle, do you want to crack eggs first or pour oil?” she would have said “eggs!” Three months ago, “I crack eggs first!” Now, “I want to crack eggs first, I no want to crack eggs, I’m a little bit scared, I want you crack eggs!”

Scraping pumpkin into the bowl
When I let her stabilize the can against the bowl, rather than forcing her to accept my help, there were actually fewer pumpkin splatters.

Once finished with option A, I can ask Belle what else we need to do, working on her recall of option B. If she resists that choice again, I can offer “b or c?”

Meanwhile, offering choices that have no wrong answers builds independence and a positive emotional bond between caregiver and child – especially since Belle frequently hears me say “no!” as we try to keep certain toys away from Buddy.

Greasing the pan
I actually don’t preheat til Belle starts greasing the pan – the timing works out almost perfectly.

Belle’s confidence continues to grow in the kitchen, and she’s started taking over certain tasks completely independently. Since it doesn’t really matter if there’s extra Crisco greasing the pan, Belle gets the pan, the giant jar of Crisco, and the paper towel – and I walk away until she tells me she’s done, at which point I do a quality check.

Like all good things, this totally backfires when she wants to then scoop potent spices like cloves out of the bottom of a narrow necked jar without help but what can you do? I let her splatter pumpkin and tip cloves, but kept the actual spice scooping out of her reach (because quarantine grocery shopping is a bit hit or miss).

Scraping into pans
Now taking suggestions on how to practice the wrist movements without holding a three pound, batter-filled weight at the end of my arm.

The scraping – can to bowl, bowl to pan – was tricky for Belle, since it engages at least two motions: a firm rotational movement along the side of the container and a lighter pulling movement toward the edge. Too much force while pulling can splatter, while too little force can leave batter in the bowl. To the tune of “I want to do it mineself!” I loosened the pumpkin and batter, held the heavy bowl (but not the light can), and let Belle try her best. Periodically, I’d scrape down the sides and give her back the spatula – practice makes perfect, right?

Buddy scraping
Buddy, age 1, wants to bake too.

Meanwhile, Buddy stayed out of trouble by eating lunch, then getting to play with the mixing bowl and measuring cup afterwards.
Pumpkin bread ready for the oven

Skills targeted:

  • Cognition: a/b choices
  • Language: expanding sentences
  • Social-emotional: independence, positive caretaker bonding
  • Manual strength and coordination: can opener, scraping
  • Fine motor: spice scooping


  • Mixing bowl
  • Mixer
  • Spatula
  • Can opener
  • Small bowl for cracking eggs
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • 3 loaf pans, 1 loaf pan and 1 9×9 pan, or 1 9×13 pan

Pumpkin bread

Recipe (30 min prep, 45-50 min bake, yield: 3 loaves or 1 loaf and 1 9×9 pan)

This recipe is based off the Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread found on Allrecipes, though we cut the sugar by half on our first attempt. We find that 1 1/2 cups of sugar makes a delicious sweet bread, and that 1 cup of sugar makes it slightly less flavorful. We’ll probably continue to tinker with the sugar and spice content to boost flavor while reducing sugar – keep an eye out for a molasses variation – but this is unlikely to have a sugar-free version (unless it is all sugar substitutes). We love it because it uses an entire can of pumpkin, and because the bread lasts for more than a day in our house. It could probably be muffins but we haven’t tested the timing on that yet.

  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin purée
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c vegetable oil
  • 2/3 c water
  • 1-1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3 1/2 c flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Add to a large mixing bowl: 1 can pumpkin purée, 4 eggs, 1 c vegetable oil, 2/3 c water, and 1 c sugar. Add an additional 1/2 c sugar for more flavor. Mix until oil is fully incorporated, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add dry ingredients: 3 1/2 c flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cloves, and 1/2 tsp ginger. Mix until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Grease pans well, then pour batter into pans. Smooth the top with a spatula.
  5. Bake 45-50 minutes, or until the top has cracked and a toothpick inserted comes out dry. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for several days to keep from drying out.

This recipe is part of our coronavirus/Covid-19 quarantine bake-along. See the previous recipe here: Mac & Cheese. See the next recipe here tomorrow.

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Pumpkin bread pin

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