Today was my first real day of fall. I brought two spectral pumpkins home to the porch, a petite ivory one & a stately albeit pockmarked blue-gray one, and then I made this cake: a cornmeal & pumpkin coffee cake, moist with crème fraîche and topped with a salty-sweet pepita streusel & a buttermilk glaze. October is my month, my absolute favorite month. I always do spectacular things like run away and fall in love in October. These days it’s even more spectacular. It’s everything I was ever running to or falling for: trips up to the Blue Ridge Mountains to eat fried hand pies & buy pumpkins so large two grown men can barely haul them onto my porch, elaborate carving rituals (Cthulu & the eye of Horus have been designs of Halloweens’ past), trips to haunted forests constructed for the season on remote farms, reading of H.P. Lovecraft, and warm, spiced baking with earthy things like pumpkin, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes. Recipe & more after the jump….



I make no secret of having a quiet gothic streak a mile wide; carrion is, in my opinion, a florescent subject for a poem, and the harvest moon of September leaves me electric. The moon pulls at me like the tides. Celestial bodies sigh and shift their weight, and I’m new. Sure, I’ll always love summer swims and warm tomatoes, but in the end summer can keep its tans, party anthems, and all my personal failures. It will always belong to a different sort of creature, a ruddier sort. I’ll stick to my pallor and darklings, thank you. I’ll keep my leaves, embers, and razor blue sky.


My  ghostly pumpkins, the pale vanguard of fall, are stationed at the front door beneath the abandoned web of a fat spider the size of a quarter that fell dead some days ago. The truth is, while I love all of fall’s post card nonsense, the sweaters and burning leaves, I really love it for the telltale cool winds, the dark encroaching, the days like sucking your breath in through your teeth. It’s the brilliant last gasp of all that was hardly promised in spring, that swelled in summer. I love to watch it all burn up in a fit, all smoldering colors and trembling before it falls silent. Autumn is my memento mori, and I never feel more alive than when the leaves are dying all around me. The twilight is brilliant; in death’s theatrics, there is a promise: this is not it, you’ll be ok.

This cake is a welcome offering to the season, a house warming gift to pallid pumpkins. And I’d rather get to the eating of the pumpkin now before it’s been done a little too much for my taste & I have to move on to gourds less travelled. Right now, it’s been months, and I’m still excited about eating pumpkin. This cake is a first draft. And it’s amazing. How? Ratios.


I just want to say that baking without a recipe is a satisfaction unlike any other triumph in the kitchen. It makes you feel brave & brilliant (mostly). I attribute my personal baking fearlessness to Michael Ruhlman’s book, Ratio. This cake doesn’t fit strictly into one of his ratio categories. It’s somewhere between a sponge and a quick bread. But his ratios give me the parameters and within them I roam. They give me a ballpark; using them I know if I seem to have way too much or too little of something. Sometimes, I push my experiments and they fail. Sometimes, this cake happens.

The ratio is, very roughly 2 parts flour: 2 parts liquid: 2 parts sugar: 1 part egg : 1 part fat. It’s incredibly moist, I’ll say that. And I add in an additional 1/4 cup of buttermilk to the “wet ingredients” because pumpkin is a dryer wet ingredient. I’m in love with it, and I was frankly  beaming with pride to no one in particular when it came out of the oven until my  friend Sarah (whose 6 beautiful children I had the pleasure of making biscuits for last night!) came over & I was able to send her off with half.



Note: I used some of my own homemade ginger crème fraîche in this cake. Store bought regular stuff would be totally fine if don’t have a couple of days to let the crème fraîche do it’s thing, but in case you want to know how to make it: I just mix 2 parts cream with 1 part buttermilk in a mason jar. I stir it. I throw in a handful of candied ginger. And then I let it sit in my kitchen window sill uncovered for about 2 days, stirring occasionally, until it’s thick and tangy. I strain out the ginger, and then store it in the fridge.

This fall is so full of writing, cooking, new projects, and promise, and I can’t wait to share it all with you! Rebekka & I spent monday shooting the first Local Milk video: Buttermilk Biscuits! And we also shot a little extra clip demonstrating how to clean cast iron without water, using just salt and coconut oil. That’s how I keep mine seasoned, shiny, and beautiful. When baking something like this cake in my cast iron, I just rub on some coconut oil (or fat of choice), and it’s good to go.

Oh! And this coming weekend Rebekka, Hannah, and I are going mushroom foraging up in Cumberland, TN (I will be a proud, official member of the Cumberland Mycological Society!). I’m so excited about this; I think it involves a waterfall and definitely some picnicking. Photographs & a mushroom recipe will be sure to follow. I also have a little pop up shoppe tentatively slated to open up on November 1st featuring southernmade provisions for the kitchen, things like reclaimed dogwood bread boards, spalted tiger maple spatulas, natural, hand dyed linens, and more! And then, most exciting of all, we’re heading to Birmingham for a long weekend of hanging out with friends, eating Frank Stitt’s (one of my heroes!!) food, & exploring.

Oh…and one last thing, I swear! If you’re local here in Chattanooga you can catch me on 3 + You on Channel 9 Thursday morning. I don’t know what I’ll be making. Probably some version of this cake! If you’re not local, I’m sure I’ll post the link after it’s all said and done. It promises to be a laugh!

Summer lovers, don’t mourn. Everything in it’s season. Here’s a cake to celebrate or cheer you up, whichever suits you best!


crème fraîche, cornmeal, & pumpkin coffee cake + pepita streusel

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 1 9" cake

This is my dream coffee cake. Spicy, moist, with a nice salty-sweet streusel & tangy buttermilk glaze. I can't rave about the texture of this cake enough. It's so soft and moist; you have to try it. Trust me on this one. The cornmeal, crème fraîche, pumpkin, buttermilk, and pepitas are a dream together.


    For Cake
  • 175 g (roughly 1 1/2 cups lightly packed) cake flour
  • 75 g (roughly half a cup) cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 125 g (a heaping 1/2 cup) coconut oil
  • 240 g (roughly 1 cup packed) brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125 g (1/2 cup) crème fraîche
  • 125 g (1/2 cup) homemade or high quality pumpkin puree
  • 60 g (1/4 cup) buttermilk
  • For the Streusel
  • 60 g brown sugar
  • 50 g all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup roasted & salted pepitas (little green pumpkin seeds!)
  • For Glaze
  • 2 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar


  1. Heat oven to 350°F and grease a 9" cast iron skillet or cake pan.
  2. In a mixing bowl sift or whisk together the first 9 ingredients. Set aside.
  3. In a second mixing bowl mix crème fraîche, pumpkin puree, and buttermilk. Set aside.
  4. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream but coconut oil and the brown sugar until well combined.
  5. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each is incorporated.
  6. In three additions add the dry and wet ingredients, starting with the dry and ending with the wet. Mix to only just combine; don't over mix.
  7. Pour batter into skillet and bake for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the streusel.
  8. Combine all ingredients for the streusel except the pepitas using two knives to create a crumbled, sandy mixture. Mix in the pepitas.
  9. After 20 minutes remove the cake, sprinkle the streusel on top, and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center come out clean save a few crumbs.
  10. While cake cools, make the glaze by whisking the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at time into the buttermilk. You can add more sugar to make it thicker or more buttermilk to make it thinner as you please.
  11. Drizzle glaze over cooled cake & serve with coffee!


This recipe was developed using weight measurments, not volume. I cannot speak to the results you will get using cups, but I'm pretty sure you'll be just fine! That said, I highly recommend getting a scale for baking. They're cheap!





75 Responses to crème fraîche, cornmeal, & pumpkin coffee cake + pepita streusel

  1. I’m making this cake for sure. I’ve heard that creme fraiche is easy to make but have never attempted to make it (going homemade all the way to do your recipe justice). Thanks for the lovely post.

  2. I love cakes like this. Plus, anything with streusel has me screaming for more. Love this!

  3. GiGi says:

    “I never feel more alive than when the leaves are dying all around me.”


    This cake looks outrageously good, too. Can’t wait to make it.

  4. Nic Miller says:

    Have just harvested the Butternut Squash triffids on my allotment and am having fun devising all manner of edibles w/ them. Last night we had butternut risotti w/ sage, Pecorino and Parmiggiano. Tonight I am going to make your cake but will substitute Cobnuts chopped into rubble for the Pumpkin seeds. We planted a cobnut tree on our allotment eight years ago and have a fine crop. The tree stands sentinel over the grave of our cat who died last year and is underplanted w/ Welsh Poppies in the Spring and Cyclamen Coum in the autumn. The speckled leaves of the latter peep through the Butternut tendrils. They hold their own. Foliage is Queen in the Autumn.

    Have you pickled under ripe black berries Beth? We are trying this out this Autumn. They need to be darkly pink, not green w/ a little give to their flesh. We add aromatics that we feel compliment- Juniper berries, a little Chambord liqueur, dark red wine vinegar slightly reduced in the pan, a little cinnamon and star anise. I will let you know how it turns out. We got the idea after macerating these berries in some alcohol last year alongside the sloe gin and home made Melon-cello.

  5. Beth, a lovely read! I always look forward to your posts as they stir my soul!

    Speaking of Mycology, have you read any of Paul Stamets books? The plant nerd in me has me reading Mycelium Running? Paul is one of the leading experts in the world on Mushrooms, etc http://www.fungi.com/about-paul-stamets.html

  6. Goodness, this just takes the cake (ha!). The photos are gorgeous, the cake looks delicious, and I adore reading your posts. I’m excited to see that Buttermilk Biscuit video!

  7. Lindy Jacoby says:

    This looks so yummy! I can’t wait to try it.

  8. Rona Roberts says:

    Thinking this might also make up well with sorghum, though it would alter ratios. Fun to play with (at least in my mind!) The dark imagery, both photographic and linguistic, adds a thrill to this soft September afternoon. You’re a wonder, Beth. Thank you.

    • beth says:

      Rona I *almost* put sorghum in it. I was so close I had my hand on the jar. I think it would work really well. I would add it in with the sugar/fat at the beginning and maybe cut back on my liquids a smidge. I’m working on a more secret version of this cake that does involve sorghum & sweet potato…so… yeah!

  9. This look delicious, I love it when pumpkin recipes start appearing!

  10. Rebekka says:

    I can testify, hallelujah, that this cake is even more delicious than you are no doubt imagining. Beth is a GENIUS. And a very nice one, too :)

  11. Kristin says:

    Would it be terrible to put this in a 12-inch cast iron pan? Or should I stick to a 9-inch cake pan? I only have a 12-inch cast iron, which I just bought, and as I am obsessed with finding things to use it for, would love to try this … would the cake turn out too flat in it, do you think? Could/should I ratio everything up a bit to compensate?

    • beth says:

      Don’t worry about upping everything…I think it’ll be great in a 12″, thinner, but great. I would adjust the cooking time though. Start testing with a cake tester earlier, maybe around the 35-40 min mark.

      • Kristin says:

        Thank you so much for the advice! and PS … sorry for being all business in my original post. This recipe just screamed “Abandon all small talk and figure out how to make me NOW!”

  12. Kasey says:

    Ah! What a beautiful way to welcome Fall! Love.

  13. your styling… so dark and cool and lovely. also: how did you read my mind? i literally just made a version of this cake the other day but with a coffee vanilla glaze. i love your use of cornmeal. do you think i could sub goat yogurt or cultured coconut milk for the creme fraiche? wish i didn’t have to but… allergy, ya know.

    • beth says:

      You could absolutely sub either one of those and it would be grand. I love using cultured coconut milk in breads, biscuits, and cakes…it’s totally the vegan buttermilk! The yogurt would probably come closest to the creme though.

  14. Mel says:

    I just copied this down to bake today! My friend’s birthday is next week, and every year she requests something with pumpkin. Excited to try this!

  15. solanah says:

    Amazing. Perfect flavors for the first signs of fall. This is my first time making on of your recipes and I can’t wait to try something else!


  16. Natasha says:

    Oh I love this. Cornmeal cake of any kind is one of my favorites. That delicate crunch is hard to beat. I actually have been playing around with a go-to cornmeal cake of my own and am hoping to post it soon. Yours looks superb! The idea of pepita streusel is so enticing! Lovely as always, Beth.

    PS: I will definitely be getting my hands on Ratio–sounds right up my alley!

  17. jacquie says:

    while I know that according to Chinese medicine the heavens are closest in the summer months as far as i’m concerned they return closest to us in the fall and winter.

    the recipe looks scrumptiousness and I can’t wait to try it. thanks.

  18. […] Creme Fraiche Cornmeal & Pumpkin Coffee Cake + Pepita Streusel via Local Milk […]

  19. Raquel says:

    Me encanta tu trabajo, me parece magnífico. Deliciosa receta y maravillosas fotos, saludos desde España

  20. sara says:

    This looks SO yummy and totally perfect for fall! :)

  21. you are so creative and so wonderful at what you do! never stop producing such deliciousness, please!?

  22. interesting combination … your photos are dreamy

  23. Hein says:

    Divine recipe and beautifully photographed!

  24. Dervla says:

    i love the idea of baking in ratios … and yes, the promise of fall is so much more than any other season. Bring on the darkness.

  25. Boyd Greene says:

    I love your photos! Very beautifully crafted.

    Your writing is very nice as well.

    I love to cook so this recipe looks like a great one for me!

    Sounds like you have a lot planned for October. Have a blast!

  26. stacy cooper says:

    Thank you for the most gorgeous fall cake-the cornmeal makes the texture just heavenly! I doubled your recipe for a big bundt to take to a housewarming and a small cake just for us, both of which disappeared in a hurry. Ratios made it easy to sub freely with what was on hand: 50/50 stoneground whole wheat and white flours; Greek yogurt for creme fraiche; unsalted butter filled out my scant cup of coconut oil. Maple syrup and cider carried autumn into the glaze…it was so darned good I skipped the struesel and simply topped the glaze with a handful of roasted pepitas and candied ginger. A new favorite for sure, and maybe even spicier next time!

  27. […] back fall weather so I can make these two dreamy pumpkin treats and inaugurate my pumpkin colored Mr. Rogers […]

  28. Corina Nika says:

    Oh Beth! This looks so amazing, can’t wait to try it. Waiting for the proper weather to do, you know some cold and rain :)

  29. […] Crème Fraîche, Cornmeal, & Pumpkin Coffee Cake + Pepita Streusel from Local Milk […]

  30. This cake sounds great and looks beautiful! Love that is has pumpkin in it and pumpkin seeds on top.

  31. Your blog is breathtaking.
    The layout, the photos and best of all the recipes are creative.
    I will have to share this cake in my next friday links!

  32. […] Creme Fraiche, Cornmeal & Pumpkin Coffee Cake + Pepita Streusel  […]

  33. Julia says:

    Hi! the cake looks/sounds delish! I tend to use sprouted wheat flour for all my bakes goods. Do you think it will work? Would I change the amount of baking soda / baking powder? or add cream of tartar? Thanks!

    • beth says:

      From what I’ve read, you should be fine without having to increase anything. But I have never done it myself, so I can’t say with 100% certainty!I say go for it!

  34. eme says:

    “It’s the brilliant last gasp of all that was hardly promised in spring, that swelled in summer.” = perfect.
    And the cake = perfect too. Made it tonight with slight variations using ingredients on hand (pecan oil for coconut oil, whole wheat pastry flour for cake flour, and greek yogurt for creme fraiche/buttermilk). Baked in a 9 1/2 springform pan while simultaneously roasting beets. Delicious.

    • beth says:

      Oh! I like the sound of that. Pecan oil, whole wheat, and yogurt. I’ll have to give that one a whirl myself. So happy you enjoyed it!

  35. I just stumbled across your site. Gorgeous design, and lovely photography.

  36. Lindsay says:

    I’ve had this recipe open in a browser tab, begging me to try it, for weeks now, and am happy to say that last night I found time to sneak away to the kitchen and make it — with what I had on hand. Which meant substituting fresh salted butter for coconut oil, sour cream for the crème fraiche, and walnuts instead of pepitas (where did they go? I could have sworn they were in that cupboard just last week…).
    The result was gorgeous and heavenly, and my lovely coworkers have made quick work of it. I had to bring it in to the office, after all; such delicious things must be shared.
    I can’t wait to try it again, with all your original ingredients. Or perhaps with more new ones: rye flour, pecans… the gears are turning.

  37. Lisa says:

    I think I have a girl crush on you. Also, this cake rocks. I’m eating it right out of the pan as I type this.

  38. Daniella says:

    ” I feel most alive when the leaves are dying all around me”… How true! That’s how I feel about Fall, so energized and full of love for a new season. I can’t wait to see this video of yours! I’ve never made biscuits before, perhaps now is the time.

    • beth says:

      It’s an electric time of year for me every single go around. Ok, maybe even a little manic. But you know… take it as it comes!

  39. Rachel S says:

    This post is one of the most gorgeously written pieces about fall that I have ever laid eyes on, blog or otherwise. I myself am a fall baby; I love and identify with all of the beautiful descriptions of autumn that you used. Brava! You are a fantastic writer, Beth!

    • beth says:

      Thank you so much…I seriously appreciate every single kind comment about the whole writing thing. It’s an enterprise fraught with self doubt… so thanks!

  40. Carly says:

    Just made this with my precious last bit of American brown sugar (not possible to find in Germany) and it was worth every last crumb! Absolutely stunning. Now the only problem is figuring out what to do with the rest of the cake….have you tried freezing it by chance?

  41. Rachael Tamar says:

    I made the cake last night. Despite my inability to pull of a decent looking streusel (butter too warm maybe?), it was so delicious!! It was my first time cooking with a scale and my first recipe from your blog and it won’t be the last! The leftover creme fraiche is a plus too. Thank you!

  42. […] Pistachios (I think it’s sweet enough without the brown sugar), Fig and Hazelnut Muffins, Creme Fraiche, Cornmeal, and Pumpkin Coffee Cake + Pepita Streusel, Maple Oat Breakfast Bread, Roasted Pear & Cranberry Chocolate Chunk […]

  43. […] Recipe slightly adapted from Local Milk Blog […]

  44. […] Creme fraiche, pumpkin, and cornmeal coffee cake  […]

  45. stephanie says:

    Holy expletive! I know I’m a year late and a dollar short making this, but it was so perfect the other night with store bought creme fraiche, I just had to try it with homemade using candied ginger, but mine is so delectably velvety thick and viscous I can’t for the life of me figure out how to strain out the candied ginger…suggestions?

  46. Ellen Weiler says:

    Kindly clarify – when you say brown sugar, do you mean light brown sugar or dark brown sugar? Also, is the butter unsalted? Thank you. Your recipes and photographs are truly inspiring.

  47. […] Recipe slightly adapted from Local Milk Blog […]

  48. […] Créme Fraiche, Cornmeal and Pumpkin Coffee Cake by Local Milk. Perfect to serve if you have people coming over.  […]

  49. Ellen Weiler says:

    Okay – I had a bakefest yesterday with my friends and this we deemed this OUTSTANDING! What a triumph. The texture of the crunchy salty pepitas against the fine crumb of the cake with the slightly sweet hit from the buttermilk glaze – a triumph! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  50. Melody says:

    When making the CRÈME FRAÎCHE do you really want to let it sit out at room temp?? Wouldn’t it spoil? Any help would be awesome !! Thanks

    • beth says:

      Actually it’s the sitting out that turns it into creme fraiche! The acidity prevents the growth of bad bacteria, but it’s good bacteria that’s responsible for the thickening!

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