Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Pie with Brandied Ginger Cream

Cover recipe from Fine Cooking, November 2008
Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Pie with Brandied Ginger Cream
FinePumpkin3November magazine covers typically feature either roast turkey or pumpkin pie.  Already having roasted a turkey from Living, I was stuck with pumpkin pie.  I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie at all.  For me, it’s always a disappointing end to a nice holiday dinner.  A lover of other pumpkin things, there’s something about the texture and flavor of pumpkin pie that just doesn’t appeal to me all that much.  Every year I try a new version… hoping to find a new one that will be a winning recipe. 

Fine Cooking is one of my favorite cooking magazines.  They have great contributors, and the recipes reflect the style and ingredients of the way I prefer to cook.  This pumpkin pie recipe from last year’s November issue looked like it was worth a try.  It was described as a spiced-up, rich and silky pie, and that caught my attention at once.  The intro to this recipe recommends taking the time to freshly grind the spices for the pie… that they’d add a depth and vibrancy you just don’t get with the pre-ground variety.    I did this, and I agree- lots of flavor and fresh scents.  Freshly ground black pepper and brandy are also included in the pie.  You don’t taste either one, but I’m quite sure they lend importance to the end result.  The texture is lighter and creamier than the typical pumpkin pie.  The whipped cream is genius… ginger-flavored with a touch of brandy.  I don’t think I’ll ever make plain whipped cream again.  I’ve finally found my Pumpkin Pie recipe… one that I can actually look forward to eating after turkey dinner.  I would not hesitate for a moment to recommend this to my readers.

FinePumpkin2Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Pie with Brandied Ginger Cream
Source:  Fine Cooking, November 2008

For the crust
1/2 tsp. salt
 1-1/2 cups  (6-3/4 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
10 Tbsp.  (5 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
For the filling
15-oz. can pure pumpkin
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp. brandy
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon stick (or 1-1/2 tsp. pre-ground cinnamon)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch freshly ground cloves (or 1/8 tsp. pre-ground cloves)
For the cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbs. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. brandy

Make the crust:  In a small bowl, stir the salt into 1/3 cup very cold water until dissolved. Put the flour in a food processor and scatter the butter on top. Pulse until the mixture forms large crumbs and some of the butter is in pieces the size of peas, about 8 pulses. Add the salt water and pulse until the dough begins to come together in large clumps, about 7’ll still see some butter pieces. Shape the dough into a 1-inch-thick disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a circle 16 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to a 9-inch ceramic, metal, or glass pie plate, easing the dough into the bottom and sides and then gently pressing into place. For a traditional crimped edge, trim the overhanging dough to 1/2 inch from the edge of the plate. Fold the overhang under and crimp decoratively. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight, or freeze for up to 2 weeks.

Blind-bake the crust :  Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Line the chilled pie shell with parchment and fill it with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until the sides have just set and look dry, 16 to 20 minutes (lift the parchment to check). Remove the weights and parchment and bake until the edges are light golden and the bottom is pale and completely dry, about 5 minutes. If the dough starts to bubble while baking, gently push the bubbles down with the back of a spoon. Let the crust cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
Make the filling and bake the pie:  Heat the oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin, eggs, egg yolk, cream, and brandy. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, pepper, and cloves. Whisk the sugar mixture into the pumpkin mixture.Pour the filling into the cooled piecrust. Bake until the pie is set around the outside but still slightly wet and jiggly in the center, about 1 hour. The filling will continue to set as it cools. Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days before serving.
Make the cream just before serving:  Whip the cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until it forms very soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, ginger, and brandy and continue whipping until it forms medium-firm peaks, about 30 seconds longer. Dollop in the center of the pie, leaving a band of filling visible around the edge of the pie, or dollop on individual servings.

Make Ahead Tips:  You can make and freeze the crust up to 2 weeks ahead.  The pie may be filled and baked up to 2 days ahead.

Serves 8 to 10

Notes from Culinary Covers: 
*In the picture on the cover of the magazine, the crust of the pie has been sprinkled with sugar crystals.  I missed that, unfortunately, but it does add some sparkly pizzazz that I would include next time.
*It’s important to note that I am severely crust-challenged.  I never, ever have great luck with making any sort of crust.  This crust was basic, and it was simple as could be- easy to handle.  I didn’t have to re-roll it.  I had no problems at all, and it turned out to be flaky and delicious too.
*For my crust, I crimped the sides but then wanted to do something a little more decorative.  I rolled out the scraps and punched out circles with a cannoli tube, overlapping them around the rim of the crust.
*I freshly ground the cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper, but used pre-ground for ginger and cloves.
*The lighter and creamier texture made this pie quite different than a classic pumpkin pie.
*The whipped cream was so amazing.  Leave the brandy out if you’d like, but it’s not overwhelming and I loved the subtle flavor.

Did this recipe deserve the cover?  Most definitely!  In my honest opinion, it’s the perfect pumpkin pie, and that’s exactly what the recipe cover is trying to convey.

Lori is the founder of She's a professional recipe developer and food writer, and she's the author of The Recipe Girl Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: April 2013). Beyond food, Lori enjoys traveling, being outdoors, running, and maybe even singing a little karaoke. The mountains near Lake Tahoe are home for Lori and her husband of 18 years. They have an 12 year-old son who blogs at

24 Responses to ““Along Came a Spider” Cake”

  1. 1

    VeggieGirl — October 22, 2009 @ 5:33 am


  2. 2

    Maria — October 22, 2009 @ 7:28 am

    What a festive cake. I personally hate spiders, but I like this one!

  3. 3

    Mariah — October 22, 2009 @ 7:45 am


    I agree with you — this recipe did NOT deserve the cover! I saw an easier-looking spider cake recipe on Laura’s Best Recipes that would work well for me, as I’m soooo not the decorator type. Here it is:


  4. 4

    Sandie (Inn Cuisine) — October 22, 2009 @ 7:55 am

    Great concept for a food blog. Love your honest thoughts about this recipe too!

  5. 5

    Barbara Bakes — October 22, 2009 @ 7:59 am

    I can live with a cake mix, but I refuse to use the canned frosting. Cute idea though! I’m enjoying the reviews!

  6. 6

    Elle — October 22, 2009 @ 8:21 am

    Well, it *looks* great, even if it didn’t live up to it’s expectations. Bummer!

  7. 7

    Sonja — October 22, 2009 @ 8:57 am

    Adorable cake! Looks like a cute cake to make for the kiddies in a pinch! Love reading your “notes” on the recipes.

  8. 8

    Margaret — October 22, 2009 @ 9:17 am

    Yeah, I saw that. looked cute, but not cover material. Thanks for making/reporting.

    take a look at july 2008 for a possible future ‘cover’ report.

    Enjoy reading.

  9. 9

    Phoo-D — October 22, 2009 @ 9:32 am

    Despite being a dud in flavor your presentation is stunning.

  10. 10

    Michelle — October 22, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

    It’s creepy cute. I don’t know if I’m discerning enough to know the difference between homemade cake and a box mix.

  11. 11

    noble pig — October 22, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

    This came out amazing and it’s so easy to make!

  12. 12

    inhel — October 22, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

    I really think it is a fantastic job. Keep up with good recipes.

  13. 13

    Pam — October 23, 2009 @ 5:56 am

    Your cake was very interesting…so I had to go and see where it led, like a halloween maze…..great blog you have and a fab. job done!

  14. 14

    Jessica @ How Sweet It Is — October 23, 2009 @ 7:00 am

    I LOVE this cake. It is so sharp for Halloween! I gotta try to make it.

  15. 15

    TasteStopping — October 23, 2009 @ 7:09 am

    First, this looks amazing. Second, as a baker (and sometimes decorator), I truly appreciate your straight-forward assessment of the recipe. Not only do you give fair criticism, but you go one step further to offer some really helpful tips, in case anyone is tempted to try it after seeing your gorgeous result. My feet are pretty firmly planted in the make-it-from-scratch camp, and I’m wondering what the additions called for in this recipe might do for one of my cakes? I’ll have to keep it in mind.


  16. 16

    RobinSue — October 23, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

    I am one to use the cake mix in a pinch or when it is for kids who can’t tell either. Funny they would use a box cake mix cake for the cover- but I think we are in such a hurry-up world, that is what folk’s seek out sometimes. You did a great job on the spider even though you said it was a pain!

  17. 17

    Slickriptide — October 23, 2009 @ 7:26 pm

    Hey, Lori.

    I was wondering – Is it possible that you missed a trick by choosing pureed pumpkin over pumpkin pie filling? I ask because you seem to have been concerned about the sugar but the real flavor component would be the pie spice.

    Reading the recipe, I got thinking about a coffee-house experience I had some time back. A local coffee house offered aztec spice mochas. If you’ve ever had aztec spice chocolate, you can imagine that it tastes pretty good as an espresso beverage.

    I visited my regular coffee house and they didn’t have aztec spice but they offered to try approximating it by mixing pumpkin spice with an ordinary mocha. The result was interesting. It wasn’t a particularly faithful version of aztec spice (which has some “hot”, pepper flavors in it) but it was decent regardless.

    With that experience in mind, I look at this cake recipe and wonder if one point of the pie filling is to mix the pie spice flavors with the chocolate cake to get a “spicy chocolate” flavor. My local grocer sells “pumpkin pie spice” bottles in the spice section. Maybe a couple of tablespoons of pie spice in addition to the pumpkin would have been in order to fully replicate the intended flavor of the recipe.

    • Lori Lange replied: — October 23rd, 2009 @ 8:13 pm

      Slick- Excellent point!

  18. 18

    Katrina — October 24, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

    It looks fun. Although I’d have a hard time biting into the leg of a spider or something! ;)
    Love your new blog, Lori.

  19. 19

    Rachelle @ "Mommy? I'm Hungry!" — October 24, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

    Everytime we are at the grocery store waiting in line, the kids are always “Eeek! A spider!” when we see that magazine lol!

    Yours looks great!! I would’ve had a heck of a time with the sprinkles, that’s for sure! lol

  20. 20

    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — October 24, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

    Lori – just saw the new blog (I’ve been offline for a few days preparing for a dinner party)… I love it! What a great idea… Can’t wait to see more of your cover recipes!

    Not sure this would have been my pick of recipes for the cover, although it is very festive/seasonal, which they love in magazines.

  21. 21

    Sues — October 25, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

    Omg yours looks even better!! But I agree, not really a cover recipe!

  22. 22

    Louise — October 26, 2009 @ 9:53 am

    Guilty. I have been know to doctor up a few boxed cake mixes in my time. However, I am so bad at copying templates. I’m sure it’s my deep aversion to sewing which causes it. I too appreciate your frankness when it comes to this luring cover. Thanks for sharing, Lori

    P.S. I have found adding a few dribbles of very hot water to the canned frosting makes it less sweeter and easier to spread. In this case, I may have tried a bit of heated orange juice if the notion occurred.

  23. 23

    megan — October 27, 2009 @ 8:46 am

    You did a great job on the spider. I never have very good luck with stencils because they always seem to bleed on me. Job well done!!!

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