My Grandmother's Pumpkin Bread

My Grandmother’s Pumpkin Bread

My Grandmother’s Pumpkin Bread, to me,  is the “pinnacle” of Quick Breads. It’s a gorgeous bread, very moist, perhaps just a bit dense, and redolent of spices that signify fall. Heavily flavored with spices that must have, at one time, been quite exotic, cinnamon, clove. This bread, too, has the lovely crust with the signature crack that signifies a good quick bread.

My Grandmother's Pumpkin Bread
My Grandmother’s Pumpkin Bread

I never saw my Grandma’s recipe box until after her death, and as I went through the yellowed, faded cards I saw recipes that were familiar (Salmon Loaf, Ham Loaf, Apple Cake with Caramel Rum Sauce – go Grandma!) and others not (Prune Whip). Her Pumpkin bread, though; this one I set aside. I knew I’d be making it very soon.

It was fun to see that Grandma’s recipe box reflected the evolution of ingredients as items became available to the home cooks.  Some of her older recipes for Quick Bread (and pie crusts) used melted fat, then lard, then shortening and only later evolved to cooking oils. It’s the shortening, an item I seldom use, that is responsible for this bread’s amazing texture and moistness. Feel free to substitute butter.

Back in the 60’s, no family gathering was complete without an array of quick breads, served on a platter. Walnut, Date Nut, and of course the ubiquitous Banana Bread always put in an appearance, but this bread was my all out favorite.  The recipe makes two loaves, and freezes well, but make one for home and bring the other to your next fall gathering or to the office. You’ll find, I think, that everyone will be absolutely charmed.

My favorite way to serve? Sliced thickly on a plate, a bit of butterscotch or caramel sauce drizzled over, and a dollop of Brandy Spiced Whipping cream. (Just whip your cream as usual and add about a teaspoon of brandy and pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, apple or pumpkin pie spice.)

This recipe makes two loaves (larger ones, not the smaller ones I typically see at a store) for a cost of $3.35, or $1.68 a loaf.

Recipe:  Pumpkin Bread

makes 2 loaves, ten slices each

  • 2/3 cup shortening or butter
  • 2 2/3 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 16 ounces canned pumpkin (if you’re buying a 15 ounce can, or even a 29 ounce can and dividing it, don’t worry about it, the bread will still be fine.)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 1/2 cups flour

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream shortening with sugar, add eggs, pumpkin and water.

3. In another bowl, sift together rest of ingredients, or place in bowl and whisk together.  Add to pumpkin mixture.

4. Pour into two greased loaf pans and bake for about one hour at 350 degrees.  (This may vary depending on what size you use – the bread will darken a bit and crack.  It’s done when a toothpick put about halfway between the edge and the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.)  As with all baked goods, do not overbake.

Note:  I usually bake this in a 9 x 5 bread pan because I have two – it is slightly more elegant looking (taller) when baked in an 8 x 4 pan.  If you bake in a Pyrex pan, turn your oven down 25 degrees.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Applied:

  • This is a perfect example of a recipe I know I will make more than once this year:  When I bake it, I’ll measure out the dry ingredients for another and put in a Ziploc, labeled, in my cupboard.  Next time I want to make it, I’ll have half the recipe done.
  • Shortening:  Keeps forever, I’ll buy during the winter holidays when it’s most often on sale.  Manufacturers have made an effort to reduce trans fat, but it is still something I use sparingly.  Cost 14 cents.
  • Sugar: Often on sale before any Holiday, especially at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.  I’m not a heavy year round baker, so I try to stock up at these times.  You’ll especially see the smaller bags on sale.  Last bought 10/11, 4 lb for $1.69, 42 cents a pound.  Cost for this recipe is $1.12.
  • Eggs:  Eggs are often on sale during almost any Holiday that normally includes baking.  I sometimes find coupons or specials giving discounts or free eggs when you buy other items.  (Sausage is a good example.)  Stock up when they’re inexpensive because they last for weeks in the fridge.  The date on the container is a ‘buy’ date, and you can expect them to last a good six weeks to two months at home past that date.  I last bought at $1.79 for a dozen, not a sale price, so my total for this recipe is 60 cents.
  • Pumpkin:  I’m not much for most canned fillings, but pureed pumpkin is a huge exception.  I stock up during the winter holidays when they reach their lowest prices.  If the large cans are cheaper, I’ll divide them for a recipe and freeze the other half in a Ziploc bag.  I’ve generally found that unless you’re growing your pumpkins and canning, it’s not worthwhile at the store prices to make homemade puree, and the recipes I use are generally so heavily spiced with cinnamon, clove, ginger and/or allspice that I’ve not noticed a difference in taste.  American Test Kitchen noted that Libby’s has the best rating.   Last bought October 2011, 29 ounce store brand for $1.79.  Libby’s 29 oz was $2.79.  Cost for this recipe is 90 cents.
  • Spices, baking powder and baking soda:  Around 10 cents.
  • Flours:   Flour last bought on sale for $1.69 for 5 lb.  A five pound bag has 20 cups sifted and about 17 cups not sifted.  (This is why many bakers sift or weigh their flour. I generally just stir well and lightly spoon into cup.  Some recipes will actually say to scoop the flour, in which case you should use that method.)  Again, buy during the holidays.  See Pantry Items for more discussion.  Cost for this recipe:  41 cents.

Kitchen & Cooking Hacks:

Measure butter/shortening by displacement of water.
Measure butter/shortening by displacement of water.

When measuring Shortening, Lard or Butter that isn’t in sticks, use the displacement method. Fill a measuring cup with cold water, leaving out the amount you with to measure. For instance, in a two cup measuring cup, if you wish to measure 1/2 cup of shortening, fill with 1 1/2 cups of water. Add shortening until the level comes to 2 cups. Since it floats, you may need to press down slightly on the fat to submerge for an accurate measurement.


Per Serving: 266 Calories; 8g Fat (27.1% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 42mg Cholesterol; 314mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat; 2 Other Carbohydrates.

Put Your Own Spin on It: 

Although we like this plain with butter (and reheat it in the microwave for a moment with a pat of butter after it’s cooled) this bread would be wonderful in thick slices with a dollop of brandy spiced whipping cream, or even drizzled with caramel sauce.

My Pay Off:

Two loaves for less than the cost of one small, rather mediocre loaf at the grocery store.  I also know exactly what’s in it, and it takes only minutes to mix up.  We sometimes eat quick breads like this for breakfast – it’s certainly no worse than many cereals or pancakes.

I’m curious what you think of this Old Fashioned treat, Pumpkin Sweet Bread.  We think it’s perfect for fall, or anytime!  I hope you like it.

Recipe made October, 2011

4 thoughts on “My Grandmother’s Pumpkin Bread”

  1. Brandy spice whipping cream? Whaaa? I’ve never heard of such wonderfulness!

    Now I must make this for sure. : )

    Off to see if I even have brandy in me cupboard…

    1. LOL, Lolly…I suggest you add a touch of brandy to sweetened whipping cream until you like the taste…if you go the other way around you might be overcome before you get it on the pumpkin bread….

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