Say the word “pumpkin” nowadays and images of pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice milkshakes and even pumpkin spice yogurt and cheesecake come to mind. I’m old enough to think only about pumpkin pie.

As a little kid, I remember only liking one kind of pie — pumpkin. Oh, and skip the crust please. I still remember my mom preparing pumpkin pies for the oven, but carefully saving just a bit of pumpkin out to place in a bare mini pie pan and baking it just for me.

I’ve come to enjoy crust with my pumpkin pie, as well as pumpkin bars and pumpkin bread. All three are a fall tradition at our house.

Pumpkins are a fruit that have been around for more than 5,000 years. Here are some fun pumpkin facts according to

• The word “pumpkin” showed up for the first time in the Cinderella fairytale. In 1584 a French explorer called them “gros melons,” which was translated into English as “pompions.” In the 17th century they were referred to as pumpkins.

• The original jack-o-lanterns were made with turnips and potatoes by the Irish.

• Pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica.

• Over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin are produced each year in the United States. The top producing states are Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California.

• Morton, Ill., is the Pumpkin Capital of the World. According to the University of Illinois, 95% of the pumpkins grown in the U.S. are harvested in Illinois. Morton claims to produce 80% of the world’s canned pumpkin.

• 80% of the U.S. pumpkin crop is available during October. Out of the total 1.5 billion pounds, over 800 million pumpkins are ripe for the picking this month.

• The world’s heaviest pumpkin weighed more than 2,600 pounds. The largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 3,699 pounds.

• Each pumpkin has over 500 seeds.

However you choose to enjoy your pumpkin, whether in a delicious baked good, a hot cup of coffee, a pancake or even an ice cream treat, make sure to do it this month!

Thomas can be reached at

Pumpkin Poke Cake


1 ½ C granulated sugar

1 C vegetable oil

15-oz can pumpkin puree

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 C all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Caramel Sauce

1 C brown sugar

½ C unsalted butter

½ C milk

1 tsp vanilla extract


16-oz package cream cheese

½ C heavy whipping cream

1 tsp vanilla

8-oz container whipped topping

½ C chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir until combined. 

Add remaining cake ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix until just incorporated, being careful not to over-mix. 

Spray a 9x13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray, and then pour batter into the cake pan. Bake cake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and let cool on a cooling rack. 

Add brown sugar, unsalted butter, and milk to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat to make the caramel sauce, frequently stirring until thickened. Remove the pan from the burner, and add vanilla. Let the caramel sauce cool. 

Poke holes in the cake with the end of a rounded wooden spoon. Pour caramel sauce over the cake and push into the holes, making sure to reserve some sauce for the top of the cake. 

Beat the cream cheese until smooth and then mix in the powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla. Fold in the whipped topping, and then spread the cream cheese mixture over the top of the cake. Decorate the top of the cake with drizzles of caramel and chopped pecans.  

Notes — Use a round wooden spoon to poke holes in the cake. If you don't have a wooden spoon, use the back of any round handled utensil that is about 1/4 inch wide. Recipe and photo courtesy of

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened

1/2 C canola or vegetable oil

1/2 C pure pumpkin

1 C granulated sugar

1/2 C powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

4 C all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Pumpkin Spice Glaze

2 C powdered sugar

3 to 4 Tbsp heavy cream

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, baking mats, or spray with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, add softened butter, oil, pumpkin, sugars, vanilla and eggs. Use a handheld blender (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) and blend together until smooth and combined.

Add the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Blend together on low speed just until combined and no flour streaks remain.

Take about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball (about the size of a golf ball) place 12 dough balls per cookie sheet.

Dip the bottom of a glass cup into granulated sugar and press down on each dough ball to flatten. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes and then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

To make glaze, combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Use more or less milk depending on how thick you want the frosting. Spread onto each cookie and let sit for several minutes to harden.

Notes — Make sure that to use the pure pumpkin not the pumpkin pie filling. Makes 4 dozen. Recipe and photo courtesy of

Pumpkin Pie Twists

1 8-oz can crescent rolls

1/2 C pure pumpkin puree

3 Tbsp butter, melted

3 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Cream Cheese Icing:

1/4 C unsalted butter, softened

1/4 C cream cheese, softened

1 C powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking mat. Set aside.

Unroll crescent dough and lay down as 4 rectangles on prepared baking sheet. Spread pumpkin onto 2 of the rectangles. Place the other 2 rectangles on top of the pumpkin. Press edges together. Brush melted butter on top of rectangles. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice.

Using a pizza cutter, cut both rectangles into 6 strips.

Twist each strip a few times and sprinkle with remaining pumpkin pie spice. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

To make icing, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer in a large bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Fill a sandwich bag with cream cheese icing, lock it shut and snip off a tiny corner of the bag. Ice tops of each pumpkin pie twist and enjoy. Makes 12 twists. Recipe and photo courtesy of

Pecan Pumpkin Waffles

2 C all-purpose flour

1/4 C brown sugar, packed (optional for sweeter waffles)

2 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp salt

3 large eggs, separated

1 1/3 C buttermilk

1 C canned pumpkin

5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/4 C maple syrup

1/3 C chopped pecans

Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Place all remaining wet ingredients in a medium bowl or measuring jug and whisk until smooth. Fold in the beaten egg whites.

Add the wet to the dry ingredients and fold together just until combined. Do not overmix, a few lumps are fine. Fold in the pecans with 2 to 3 stirs.

Cook the waffles in a waffle iron per the manufacturer's instructions. To make the waffles crisper and keep them warm, place them on a rack on the lowest oven setting until all waffles are done. Recipe and photo courtesy of

Easy Pumpkin Pie Bars

Crust and topping:

1/2 c unsalted butter melted cooled to room temperature

1/2 c light brown sugar

1 and 1/2 c all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves


1 and 1/2 cups pumpkin pie mix from a can, not puree

1 large egg

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Prepare a 8-inch square pan by greasing the bottom and sides. Line with parchment paper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Add melted butter and mix until crumbly dough forms. Reserve about 3/4 cup of the mixture for the topping.Press the remaining dough into prepared pan. Set aside.

Place all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer and mix until all combined.Pour over crust. Sprinkle with the topping mixture. Bake for 28 to 32 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Cool completely in pan. Cut into squares.

Notes — Refrigerate leftovers in a covered container for up to 3 days. For the best crumb topping, cool butter completely after melting. Recipe and photo courtesy of