The magic of simple desserts

As long as I’ve been baking, I’ve made endless different recipes of pumpkin bread. For many years since college, I used the recipe from my resident advisor from my sophomore year dorm, who was so kind and generous as to regularly make pumpkin bread, pumpkin ice cream, and other fall treats for the residents of our hall. But of course, I got curious to try and tweak many other recipes I’ve stumbled upon. And since, I’ve settled on a variation of Smitten Kitchen’s pumpkin bread, which uses an entire 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree and is topped with cinnamon sugar to create a decadent and crunchy “lid” on top. Quick breads like pumpkin or banana bread are so easy and quick to make that I rarely think of them as special or “occasion” bakes. They just seem like the type of thing you’d bake up when you wanted to have some decadent treat, but you didn’t want to put too much time, effort, or thought into something homemade. It’s the no-brainer crowd pleaser. And I always use coconut oil in place of vegetable oil, as I find that coconut oil keeps the bread more moist for much longer.

As last Christmas was the first Christmas we’d gone back to Australia with Kaia baby in tow (plus, I was still pumping!), I really did not want to spend that much time cooking or baking anything. So I found that I had left a can of pumpkin in Chris’s parents’ cupboard from the last time we were there (in 2019!), and then decided to use it for this same Smitten pumpkin bread. Thank goodness for the pumpkin being canned, so I knew it was still good to use! I didn’t think anything of it — I quickly whipped up the batter, poured it into an oiled loaf pan, put it in the oven, baked it for 65 minutes, and out it came. I didn’t even remember to bother with the cinnamon sugar topping. We brought it as a dessert for Boxing Day, and I couldn’t believe how many of Chris’s relatives raved about it. Even the young kids enjoyed it and kept coming back for more. Chris’s cousin, who is visiting this week, was totally obsessed with it. He kept coming up to me to compliment how good it was and said it was the best pumpkin cake he’d ever had. He even reminded me how much he liked it in the lead up to this visit, so I figured I’d indulge him and make the bread for this visit. So I made it this afternoon for him and his daughter to enjoy for the remainder of their trip.

Times like this are always a gentle reminder that while I may want to make something that looks fancy, has “different” flavors or textures, or has many elements or nuances of flavor, that the average person really doesn’t care for all that fussiness or hoopla; most people are satisfied by the simplest treats and desserts, the ones that are not fancy or expensive but are simply delicious and make you happy. In the end, the lemon bars, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and pumpkin bread will still win everyone’s hearts.

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