pumpkin swirl brownies

A couple of years ago, I was wandering around at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market when I found a vendor selling brownies.  I’m not much of a cake-for-breakfast kind of person, but there was something about these particular brownies that attracted me; they had pumpkin in them.  And if anything can entice me to eat a cakey dessert with coffee…in the morning…it’s pumpkin.  The other thing I found intriguing about this vendor’s brownie (and I would so give them a shout-out if I could remember who they were), was the cayenne pepper.  Cayenne pepper!  This was a complete stretch for me at the time, but they promised the heat at the finish would be very subtle.

One bite and I was a believer.  I immediately came home and perused dozens of recipes before I found this one (Martha Stewart to the rescue).  While any brownie swirled with pumpkin would probably do, the cayenne pepper is truly the star of the show.  People eat them and say, “There’s something about this brownie I can’t explain.”  When I tell them it’s probably the cayenne, they’re as shocked as I was…but now they’re believers, too.  These are perfect any time: with coffee, as a lunchbox treat, or a late night snack. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts or other nuts


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan or dish. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter lining.
  2. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture.
  4. Divide batter between two medium bowls (about 2 cups per bowl). Stir chocolate mixture into one bowl. In other bowl, stir in pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan smoothing top with a rubber spatula. Top with half of pumpkin batter. Repeat to make one more chocolate layer and one more pumpkin layer. Work quickly so batters don’t set.
  5. With a small spatula or a table knife, gently swirl the two batters to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle with nuts.
  6. Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.

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