Pumpkin and chocolate coffee cake: butter free and lactose free without giving up on taste

Hello everyone and welcome back! We are approaching Christmas so a pumpkin cake could sound out of season but the truth is that the stores still have tons of pumpkins for sale (probably at a convenient price), and pumpkin lovers (as I am) just love pumpkin flavor all year long! I would add that this cake would be perfect even for those that are not particularly fond of pumpkin because the pumpkin flavor is just a hint that only a true pumpkin expert can detect ;-).

This delicate coffee cake is moist, light and very tasty, thanks to a bit of cocoa powder and chocolate chips added to the batter, and pretty light since there is no butter at all, but just vegetable oil.   Apart for its deliciousness do you know why you should try this cake?  Because there is no need to pre-bake or steam the pumpkin: once peeled and cut in pieces, all you will need is a food processor to puree it!

This recipe is not part of my family traditional dishes. I found it in this wonderful Italian food blog “Barbiemagicacuoca.it“, tried it, slightly modified it and since my family and I loved it, I thought It would have been nice to share it with you… enjoy!

INGREDIENTS FOR A 10″ round springform pan

9 oz (or 0,50 lb.) pumpkin already peeled and cut in pieces (250 gr.)

1/3 cup water (80 gr.)

1/2 cup vegetable oil (100 gr.) my favorite is coconut oil

2 eggs

1 tbs. vanilla extract

3/4 cup brown sugar (150 gr.)

2/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (80 gr.)

2 cups all porpose flour (300 gr.)

3 tbs. cocoa (20 gr.)

3 tsp. baking powder (16 gr.)

1 pinch sea salt

optional: cinnamon to taste


Put the chocolate chips in the freezer to chill.     Peel and cut the pumpkin in small cubes (remember to take away the seeds) and in a food processor puree it with the water, oil and vanilla extract (it will take a few minutes, and the consistency will never get too smooth, but it is not big deal, once the cake is baked you will not notice any lumps).

With an electric whip, whip the eggs and sugar until fluffy and shiny. Preheat the oven at 340 F.

Add the pumpkin puree to the eggs, at low speed, and ultimately the flour, sifted with the cocoa and baking powder. Add the cinnamon if you like.

Add the sea salt and chilled chocolate chips to the batter.

Spread evenly the batter in a previously greased spring pan  and if you like decorate the top with some M & Ms. Bake at 340 F. (170 C.) for about 50/60 minutes. My daughters and I had fun picking candies colored with orange and brown to match with the pumpkin and chocolate color, but you can absolutely decorate the cake differently or even not decorate it at all: it will taste great anyway! 

Let the cake cool off, remove from the spring pan and serve.


Tips: – Any kind  of pumpkin works for this recipe but if possible I would use those with a green skin because they will make the dough fluffier.

– To make this cake you could use any kind of vegetable oil however I would discourage the use of olive oil because it tastes too strong and would ruin the pumpkin flavor. My favorite oil to use is the coconut one, not only because is healthier but also because it matches perfectly with the chocolate and fades behind the pumpkin flavor.

It would really make me feel proud knowing you intend to try this pumpkin coffee cake for a sweet breakfast or as tasty treat!

If you’ll ever give it a try and like it, please 

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Witch’s fingers: you are still in time for a creepy but cool Halloween treat!

Although I usually have a lot of Halloween spirit (no pun intended!) 😉 this year I have been quite indifferent to it all, a little bit as if I still lived in Italy. I think it is because we’ve been seeing Halloween decorations, costumes, and candy in the stores since the day after “unpack your backpack” night at the kids’ school. Lucky my little girls brought me back to reality, reminding me that in the next few days there will be Halloween parties at schools and daycares.  And although treats are not expected, they’re definitely welcomed!


So, I decided to give this very popular recipe a try (I bet you have  already seen these cookies in  Halloween articles, blogs or magazines.)  After picking this one from my favorite Italian cooking blog (giallo zafferano),  I created these (BELIEVE ME!) super fast, easy, and awesome creepy butter cookies! Well, truth to be told, I should not take all the merit, since Letizia (6 years old), Livia (almost 4 years old) and Lorenza (almost 2 years old) helped a lot! Because this recipe requires very few steps, and the modelling part (I mean to give the dough a finger shape) is really easy, the kids loved helping! Plus, the pastry doesn’t need to rest in the refrigerator before to be worked: you can start making the cookies right away!

If you’d like to to refresh your memory on how Italians celebrate Halloween, take a quick look at my past post about Black cats and Ghosts Halloween pastry cookies.



1 stick of butter (cut into pieces)

14 oz. (or 1 and 3/4 cup) all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 medium sized egg

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract

1 pinch of salt

22 blanched almonds

1 Tbs. light colored preserve (apricot, orange or peach) to attach the almonds to the cookies

strawberry preserve for the pretend “blood”


In a big bowl, mix the sifted flour with the baking powder, powder sugar, butter pieces, egg, salt, and vanilla or almond extract. USE YOUR HANDS!

Once the dough reaches a compact and uniform consistency, form a loaf and make small balls of dough, using about 0.8 (25 gr.) of dough for each one. I have to be honest: since it was the first time I’ve tried this recipe, I use the kitchen scale to make balls of the right weigh/dimension.. ERGO, my daughters helped me ONLY in the next steps.

Now, you (and your kids!) can start rolling the dough balls into fingers. With the palms of the hands, roll each ball until it creates a tube shape of about 4 inches (10-12 cm). I have to be honest again: I didn’t have the patience to take out the ruler, so I used MY index finger as a model! To make the fingers look lifelike, I suggest making them thinner just before and after the knuckle joint and then, to add detail, using the dull edge of a knife to create the wrinkles in the knuckles. Again: I used my index finger as model. You can do the same!

To finish the fingers, take one of the peeled, blanched almonds and dip one side in the light colored preserve of your choice, and apply it to the tip of the cookie finger with a little pressure: it will look like a fingernail.

Pre-heat the oven to 365 F. (180 C.).  Cover a baking sheet with parchment and arrange the fingers at least one inch apart.

Cook for no more than 12 minutes…. and before serving, dip the end of the fingers in strawberry preserves to make it appear even more horrific!!!

HOW COOL! YOUR KIDS WILL ADORE THESE COOKIES!!! Now it will be even more fun deciding how to present your cookies… Arranged next to a skeleton skull? Covered with creepy spiders? Your choice!



 Tip: – These cookies can last a week if stored in a cookie jar or in a dry and cool room.

          – My favorite way to enjoy these cookies is soaking them in warm milk or tea, for a perfect SPOOKY HALLOWEEN TEA PARTY!

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

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Ghosts and black cats crust pastry cookies

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Many of you may be wondering if we celebrate Halloween in Italy… A few years ago, Halloween was something completely foreign to us.  The closest kind of celebration we had (in which everybody dressed up and wore a mask) was, and still is, “Carnevale” which is a festivity very similar to the Brazilian Carnival celebrated in February. Thanks to the media and the globalization in Italy, we now celebrate Halloween (in addition of Carnevale, of course!) but we still have plenty to learn from Americans about how to decorate our houses and yards for this spooky celebration. Now that I live here, I could not resist to the temptation of making some Halloween treats, and for the occasion, I used an easy and fast Italian recipe (in Italy it is used mostly for Christmas cookies)- so easy that my 4 year-old daughter could help me!

INGREDIENTS for about 40 ghosts

1 stick of butter

1 egg

1 pinch sea salt

5 oz. sugar

few drops lemon flavoring (or some lemon zest)

a pinch of baking soda mixed with 1/2 tbs of apple vinegar

1 and 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

FOR THE FROSTING: 2 tbs. water and 1 tbs powdered sugar


In a bowl, mix very quickly together the flour, butter, sugar,  lemon flavoring,  the sea salt and the baking soda (already mixed with the vinegar). USE YOUR HANDS ;-).

cookies pastry

You should obtain a ball like this:

Put the pastry in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.

Then roll out the dough on a floured board and cut it with a ghost shape.

Bake at 365 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes, until they appear lightly golden.

Make the icing by dissolving the powdered sugar in the water.

Pour the icing on the cookies and allow it to dry. Paint the eyes and mouth with a black decorating pen or sparkle gel. For the black cats, I used the same recipe and steps but instead of white sugar in the cookies, I used brown sugar and instead of the lemon flavoring I used the almond extract. To decorate the cats, I also colored the icing with few drops of black food color. For the eyes, nose and whiskers I used a decorating pen and a tube of ready-to-use colored icing. HAVE FUN!


What is your favorite Sugar cookies recipe? Would you care sharing it with me?

I really hope you like my recipe, and please, if you do,

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Much thanks,