My late aunt’s recipe for Pumpkin Bread with a buttery, cinnamon crumb topping, makes a great fall breakfast, dessert, or snack. Recipe makes two loaves, so you can enjoy one now and freeze one for later, or surprise a friend with a sweet treat.
My late Aunt Ellen (“Auntie El”, as I called her) made the best pumpkin bread. The texture is a cross between a classic pumpkin bread and a NY crumb cake, with the perfect amount of spice, and a buttery streusel topping. It’s an eat-this-with-a-cup-of-coffee type treat.
Before she passed away, Aunt Ellen gave me the recipe. I was in college at the time and tucked her hand-written recipe card away in a binder. Some time later, I decided to make the bread for our family.
Completely abandoning my usual mise en place baking routine that day (and a good reminder of why measuring out your ingredients beforehand is a good idea), I dove in started making the pumpkin bread from the top of the recipe down.
“Add the flour in 3 additions,” Aunt Ellen wrote. I paused my stand mixer and flipped the card to the front, scanning the ingredient list to see how much flour I needed.
Flour. Flour? At this point, I was saying the word aloud repeatedly. There was no flour listed for the batter. She’d forgotten to write it down.
Finding myself with a mixer-ful of pumpkin, butter, eggs, and sugar, I guesstimated how much flour looked right that day. Let’s just say: I guessed wrong.
I later figured out the right proportions, and we’ve enjoyed many batches of Auntie El’s pumpkin bread since.
Making Moist Pumpkin Bread
Yes, I used the word that everyone loves to hate. Moist. But, it really is an accurate descriptor when making the best pumpkin bread!
There’s nothing worse than dry bread (or any cake or quick bread, for that matter). Many pumpkin bread recipes call for oil along with the pumpkin puree to give the loaves their moist, sliceable crumb.
Aunt Ellen liked to use butter. Of course she did. Hello, family resemblance!
Instead of melting the butter, she softened it and creamed it with the sugars in her recipe. Creamed butter is usually more of a cake-making technique than one for quick breads, but it works here and makes a delectable loaf.
She also used a mix of dark brown sugar and granulated sugar. Granted, the dark brown sugar does mute the pumpkin-y color of the loaves a bit, but I like the subtle flavor it adds. I’ve also made it with light brown sugar with success, when I’ve wanted a more vibrantly-colored batter.
My aunt always topped her pumpkin bread with a buttery cinnamon streusel. It’s a somewhat unorthodox addition to pumpkin bread. Before tasting Aunt Ellen’s recipe, I’d always eaten this type of quick bread plain, with a schmear of maple butter or cream cheese.
It’s something a little different, and everyone I’ve served this to has absolutely loved it.
The topping couldn’t be easier to make. Since it uses melted butter, you don’t have to cut cold butter cubes into the flour and sugar. (It’s similar to the crumb topping I use for my Miniature Apple Raspberry Pies, with cinnamon and brown sugar added.)
The streusel bakes up golden, buttery, and completely irresistible. One of those little crumbs just begs to be plucked off of the top of the loaf when no one’s looking, doesn’t it? Not that I would know about that firsthand or anything!
Serving and Storing Pumpkin Bread
This pumpkin bread is good on day one and even better on day 2, when the flavors have had a chance to meld. I like to store it on the counter, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.
Two days is my limit on this bread for room temperature storage. Longer, and the moisture content risks molding, the bread gets a bit heavy, and the crumble topping loses some of its texture.
Since the recipe makes two loaves of pumpkin bread, I almost always wrap and pop one in the freezer once it’s fully cooled. I also like to freeze it as individual slices for convenience.
The bread freezes well up to 2-3 months, perfect for when a pumpkin bread craving comes calling on short notice. Just defrost and lightly-warm for the best texture and flavor.
Pumpkin Bread with Crumb Topping
- 1 cup all purpose flour (125 g)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup light brown sugar , lightly packed*
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled
- 1 cup unsalted butter , softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup dark brown sugar , lightly-packed
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 15 ounces pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 2-½ cups all purpose flour (312.5 g)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup chopped pecans (optional, but recommended)
- powdered sugar , for dusting (optional)
Make the Crumb Topping
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, and salt. Stir in melted butter until combined and small crumbs form. Set aside.
Make the Pumpkin Bread
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in the middle position. Butter two, 1- to 1.5-pound loaf pans. (Minimum dimensions: 8.5" x 4.5" x 2.75") Set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition.
- Scrape the bowl and beat in the the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree. The mixture might look curdled; this is ok.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to the pumpkin mixture in 3 additions, mixing until just combined. Stir in chopped pecans, if using.
- Divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Top each with half of the topping, very gently pressing it into the batter.
- Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaves comes out clean, or with just a few crumbs.
- Let loaves cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar, slice, and serve.