Kandy & Ginny’s Pumpkin Pie Squares

A few weeks ago I was tempted by some custardy-looking bars on the table after the first service at church. When I asked Pat, who had volunteered to host the coffee and snack table that day, she told me that they were pumpkin pie squares. I bit into a bar and was pleasantly surprised to discover that one could enjoy a piece of pumpkin pie while watching one’s diet. Pat had cut her squares into inch and a half pieces, so I assumed that each piece had only a few calories.

Since Jerri and I usually sit near the front of the sanctuary, we are nearly always among the last people to shake hands with the pastor and head to the coffee table. Looking around, I did not see anyone heading for the snacks, so I asked if I might take another of the half dozen remaining bars. I’m sure that the two bars still had a lot fewer calories than a piece of pie with whipped cream.

I was hooked by those tasty morsels and asked Pat for the recipe. “It’s in the church cookbook,” she told me. “It’s Kandy Schaffer and Ginny Hoogheem’s recipe, and we like it a lot. You must have a copy.”

So I went home, found A Little Taste of Heaven, published in 1990 by the United Methodist Women of our church, and made Pumpkin Pie Squares. Unless you hate pumpkin pie, this is a recipe you will want to add to your repertoire of desserts.


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1 can (12 to 13 oz.) evaporated milk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T softened butter


Preheat the oven to 350º and lightly grease a nine by thirteen-inch baking pan. Use a fork to mix the flour, oatmeal and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Soften the butter and cut it into the dry ingredients. Pat this crust mixture into the bottom of the pan and bake for fifteen minutes.

While the crust is baking, beat together the pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, salt and spices with an electric mixer. Pour the pumpkin batter into the crust and return the pan to the oven. Bake for twenty minutes.

Stir the pecans, brown sugar and softened butter together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the nut mixture over the partially cooked pumpkin and continue baking for about thirty to thirty-five minutes or until done. Check for doneness with a table knife inserted near the center of the pan. If the knife comes out clean, the bars are done. If not, bake another five minutes and check again.

NOTE: Kandy and Ginny both died within the last few years and the list of those who contributed recipes to A Little Taste of Heaven when it was published in 1990 includes many more who have passed away. I think this little cookbook is a memorial to those women (and a few men) who cooked and loved their families, church and God. Every time we follow one of their recipes, we affirm that those who are gone are not forgotten.

Michelle’s Coconut-Walnut Coffee Cake

For the morning coffee at church one Sunday, Michelle served this delicious coffee cake. I asked for permission to publish the recipe on my blog, and she was kind enough to email me her recipe for Coconut-Walnut Coffee Cake.

She introduced it with a brief explanation.

“When I do coffee at church I like to make something new. So I go through my many many cookbooks and find something that I have all the ingredients for and make it. It’s a fun challenge and I find things that I wouldn’t have made otherwise. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not, but most of the time it’s good.”

A woman of courage and imagination: I am not sure that I would be brave enough to try a new recipe when I was committed to serving the result to a hundred or more people the next morning.

Michelle also noted that the recipe called for a teaspoon of salt, but that she used only a quarter teaspoon. Since I think that salt is a flavor enhancer, I used a half teaspoon the first time I made this cake, and we liked the result. Later I made it exactly according to the recipe, and we liked that also. I would not use more than half a teaspoon, but use your judgment. Either a quarter or half-teaspoon seems okay, but I agree with Michelle that a full teaspoon seems excessive.

This cake is a version of spiced coffee cake, but the combination of flaked coconut and walnuts makes it especially flavorful.


1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts


If necessary, chop the walnuts, then grease and flour a nine by thirteen-inch pan and preheat the oven to 350º.

Beat the sugars, eggs and vanilla into the oil in a large mixing bowl. Measure the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a sifter and sift the dry ingredients by thirds into the egg mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Stir just until everything is well moistened. Fold in the coconut and walnuts.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for forty to forty-five minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick. If it comes out clean when you insert it near the center of the cake, the cake is done. Be careful not to overbake it.

Cool on a rack and enjoy.

NOTE: Michelle also noted that she didn’t have any buttermilk in her refrigerator, so she soured a cup of regular milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Thanks to my wife’s advice, I do the same when I forget to buy buttermilk, and the results are always fine.