Pumpkin Lovin

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Pumpkin Cupcake Karas 3.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

This time of year you can’t turn around without a pumpkin or nine staring you in the face. Every storefront has trotted out at least ten or twelve for the window display, and the Stanly Ranch Pumpkin Patch is rockin’ and rollin’ with its hay bale maze, giant sunflowers, and pumpkins of every size and color. Though the decorative pumpkin frenzy will die down after Halloween, the edible pumpkin bandwagon is just getting going in wine country. It’s one of my favorite seasons for sweets.

Pumpkin doughnuts with maple glaze make the quintessential autumn breakfast at Sonoma’s charming Harvest Moon Café, particularly when paired with the excellent Uncommon Grounds coffee they serve. Crunchy on the outside, cakey on the inside, and fabulously sticky on top, these are textural delights that actually will fill you up.

In Napa, you’ll find a more delicate pumpkin incarnation at Kara’s Cupcakes. The moist, tender cake is packed with pumpkin flavor and spice, and crowned with an irresistibly tangy cream cheese frosting and chocolate flower. I dread the day they will be removed from the menu. Down the street and across the bridge, dueling cupcake parlor Sift battles for supremacy with their “Punkin” cupcake, topped with swirly pumpkin-peanut butter frosting.

Sweetie Pies Bakery takes sweet pumpkin lovin’ even further with pumpkin whoopie pies, pumpkin cheesecakes (with spicy gingersnap crust and hazelnut sour cream topping… be still my heart… literally), their award-winning pumpkin pies, and for breakfast, chocolate chip pumpkin muffins and quickbreads.

Chocolate and pumpkin can’t be combined too frequently in my opinion, and I don’t typically like to pollute my chocolate with other sweets. The squash’s earthy, bittersweet character complements dark chocolate beautifully, though, and makes for an unique and exciting pairing. Try a scoop of organic Pumpkin Pie ice cream from Three Twins on top of your next brownie sundae and tell me you disagree.

Stanly Lane Pumpkin Patch
10am-6pm Wed-Sun through November 1
3100 Golden Gate Dr (at Stanly Lane, off 12/121), Napa
707.480.4479
www.ds-Produce.com

Harvest Moon Café
487 First St. West (near Napa St.), Sonoma
707.933.8160
http://harvestmooncafesonoma.com

Kara’s Cupcakes (in Oxbow Public Market)
610 First Street, Suite 19, Napa
707 258-CAKE
http://www.karascupcakes.com

Sift: a Cupcakery (inside Cake Plate)
1000 Main Street Suite 100 (at First Street), Napa
707.240.4004
http://www.siftcupcakery.com/

Sweetie Pies Bakery (inside Hatt Building)
520 Main Street (at Fifth), Napa
707.257.7280
http://www.sweetiepies.com/

Three Twins Ice Cream (in Oxbow Public Market)
610 First Street, Napa
707.257.TWIN
http://www.threetwinsicecream.com/