Everything I need to know in life, I am learning from my dog.

She’s a mess, but she’s an amazing little mess, and I learn a lot from how she lives her life. Here are all the ways she’s teaching me lately.

1. She takes time to smell the roses — literally (especially if the roses have recently been peed on, but I digress).

I only recently started to appreciate this about her; it used to annoy me. When I take her outside, I’m always in a hurry to get back inside, get to work, or get to bed. She likes to explore, though, sniffing each blade of grass with intense concentration, evaluating the pheromones of all the dogs there before her, finding interesting plants to pee on, and investigating the occasional mushroom. I’ve noticed with some sadness lately that she seems rushed and nervous, knowing I’m going to pull her away from her survey at any moment. Why am I in such a hurry? I’m resolving now to wake up a little earlier, stay outside with her a little longer, and maybe smell the roses (not as literally, perhaps) a little more myself.

2. She stays positive. She’s been limping recently due to a back injury, but I’ll be darned if she doesn’t limp right up to me with a bone in her mouth, ready to play fetch! Now that’s optimism. (And that’s also a guilt trip, since she knows I’m gonna say no!) Personally, if I get so much as a cold, I can become a huge Chocolate-Chip-Cookie-Dough-eating baby. I could use some of Byrd’s positive attitude.

3. She wiggles. It’s just cute! Okay, I guess it might be kind of weird if I start doing this one.

4. She asks for what she needs. I can be pretty passive at times. Sometimes I’m shy about my desires or needs, so I’ll just hint at them or hope people can read my mind. This can produce miscommunication and frustration. Byrd, on the other hand, is about as direct as she can possibly be. If she wants me to throw her bone, she sets it on my foot and howls like a banshee. When she needs to go out in the middle of the night, she stares at me and cries. When she wants her food, she spins in circles until I put her bowl down. She may not be verbal, but she makes her needs known, and therefore they get met. If I want my needs to be met, I need to be just as straightforward.

5. She lets people know that she loves them. However, she does this with full frontal licking attacks (sticking her tongue up my nostril is her favorite), so perhaps I should find different tactics. Perhaps.

6. She’s not perfect. Did I mention that she’s a mess? Evidence:

    -I had to take a sick day during the second week of school to take her to the vet because she periodically just kind of falls apart (knee, hip, back, allergies, upset tummy, you name it).
    -She’s one of those expensive fluff-balls you have to groom every month.
    -She had an accident in the floor today. And yesterday.
    -She also barks at loud noises (and soft noises. And silence.) Basically, this (language warning!).

She feels bad about these mistakes when admonished, but she’s resilient, and she continues to believe that she deserves my love. Why can’t we be like that? When I make a mistake, I feel like I just kicked a kitten or shut down a children’s hospital. I feel like I don’t deserve people’s mercy or love. But you know, there’s only so much you should punish yourself for goofing up!

7. She may be a mess, but she’s worth the trouble. And I am, too.

Even now, Byrd is teaching me. I’m currently learning all about the joys of relaxation from listening to her snore on the blanket beside me, sleeping off a busy day of pooping on my carpet. I’ll carry her into my bedroom in a moment for our bedtime, but before that, I wanted to tell you about possibly one of the best pumpkin recipes I’ve ever tasted. It’s not as cute as a fluffy poodle, but it is incredibly delicious (something poodles probably aren’t. I don’t ever want to find out if that’s true or not.)

This cake isn’t really “German” as in the nationality, but it includes the filling from German Chocolate Cakes (which are named in honor of Sam German, an American who created a product for Baker’s Chocolate.) It’s a moist, simple pumpkin skillet cake with a layer of gooey, rich toasted pecan and coconut filling ladled over top. Mike and I ate it with ice cream (duh) and a totally excessive drizzle of caramel sauce, swooning with every bite. You’re going to LOVE it.

What does your pet teach you?

One year ago: Cheap and Simple Taco Pockets
Two years ago: Gulab Jamun with Caramelized Bananas
Three years ago: Homemade Puff Pastry and Vol-au-vents
More WBB pumpkin recipes can be found here!

Gooey “German” Pumpkin Skillet Cake

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, with filling adapted from David Lebovitz
Yield: about 8 servings

This cake is INSANE and easy and you just have, have, have to make it. That is all.

Cake Ingredients:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup toasted pecans (optional, see note in directions)

“German” Filling Ingredients:
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 ounces butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped (see note in directions)
1 cup unsweetened coconut, toasted (see note in directions)

Note: To toast your chopped pecans, spread them on a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees F for about 6 minutes or until fragrant, stirring a couple of times. Toast coconut the same way, stirring often (it might take less time, however: maybe 4-5 minutes total). Don’t be scared and pull the nuts and coconut out when it’s pale — let it get good and dark, but not burnt.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet (I used a 10-inch) over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the vegetable oil, sugars, and vanilla and remove from heat. Let this mixture cool until the pan is no longer hot (about 5 minutes) so you won’t scramble your eggs.

Add both eggs to the butter mixture, whisking them well to combine. Whisk in the pumpkin. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice (Note: it’s kind of lame to use another bowl for this and I think you should be able to just dump all your dry ingredients on top and whisk them in well, but I was too chicken to try. If you just dump them in, please let me know how it goes!)

Stir in the toasted pecans if you’re using them. Bake your skillet cookie for 15-35* minutes, or until the edges are getting golden and the center is still soft (a toothpick inserted into the center should come out with some moist crumbs, but no liquid batter).

While your cake bakes and then cools for a bit, make the filling. Place the butter, salt, toasted coconut, and toasted pecans in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream, sugar, and egg yolks over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened, coats the spoon, and reads 170 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Pour this mixture over the coconut mixture and stir until the butter melts. Let the mixture cool completely (I set mine in the fridge once it was almost cool to thicken it some more.) Spread the cooled mixture over the surface of the pumpkin cake. Eat immediately (preferably straight from the skillet, with heaps of vanilla bean ice cream!)

*Depending on your skillet, this cooking time can really vary. I’d start checking at 15 minutes and then check every couple of minutes after that with toothpicks. Make sure to look for moist crumbs, not a clean toothpick. If you overbake, it might be dry!

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51 Comments on Gooey “German” Pumpkin Skillet Cake

  1. Vickie
    September 26, 2012 at 4:12 am (9 years ago)

    Yummy!!! Can you make this in a bunt cake pan?

  2. Kate Cleveland
    September 26, 2012 at 4:28 am (9 years ago)

    *insert long whistle of appreciation here* This recipe is so nuts (no pun intended 🙂 ) I might just have to try it. Zang. How do you think it would taste with Gingerbread?

    As a former dog groomer, I can honestly say that I think that poodles are the most fun to groom. You can be so artsy with them! Very smart dogs, poodles… yeah, that, AND cuddly.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      September 26, 2012 at 4:35 am (9 years ago)

      Yum, I think it’d be great, Kate! And I agree with you about smart AND cuddly (though I’m rather biased!)


  3. Kylie
    September 26, 2012 at 4:39 am (9 years ago)

    Oh my gosh, YUM! This looks innnncredible. I can’t wait to make it. Thank you for sharing! I bet it would go great with some pumpkin ice cream, too.

    Also love your list of life lessons from your dog. I can relate to several of them with my cat. For instance, the asking for what he needs thing. Whether it’s food, love, play time, or rest, it’s obvious. Sometimes it reminds me that I don’t have to be so passive sometimes and just ask. It’s ok. Also the ridiculous display of affection. I could use a lesson in that a bit more often at times, too.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      September 26, 2012 at 4:41 am (9 years ago)

      Aww, Kylie, I’ve been hankering for a kitty (I think Byrd would like one, too!) but I’m undecided. You’re making me want one! 🙂

      Thanks, girl. Hope you love the cake!

  4. Ala
    September 26, 2012 at 5:18 am (9 years ago)

    I appreciated this post so much. It’s coming at a time when things are personally getting really hard–just a lot of unexpected stressful things happening while I’m also bracing myself for the upcoming term–and this was an excellent reminder of how much the small things in life matter. You should definitely smell the roses literally; I haven’t done that in a long time (because of the yellow jackets! no kidding), but I will do it first thing tomorrow morning. I spent tonight baking, and I realize now that I need to take more time to enjoy these kinds of moments rather than stress about all the things I should be doing instead. Thank you again for putting things in perspective, and sharing a great recipe!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      September 26, 2012 at 5:22 am (9 years ago)

      Aw, Ala, thank you so much — your comments are always so thoughtful and brighten my day; I’m happy that this post could brighten yours just a little bit! I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through a personally difficult time — I so identify with that lately, and my heart hurts for you. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do, and in the meantime, smell some roses <3 Thinking of you!!

  5. Lou
    September 26, 2012 at 9:31 am (9 years ago)

    I LOVED this post and felt compelled to comment! Not only does that cake look delicious (will have to use real pumpkin instead of canned, as I’ve never seen canned pumpkin here in grocery stores in Australia!) but your lessons learned from Byrd were just so….spot on! You can tell from this post and others that you adore your dog, and it’s such a joy to see. She’s lucky to have you and vice versa!

    Hmm…what have I learned from my dog? Well, sometimes Dexter (4yo yellow Lab) likes to play with others, sometimes he likes to go off on his own and do his own thing. Either way, he is happy and content. He reaffirms that it’s okay to go off and do your own thing sometimes, that you don’t always have to be around others to enjoy life. He also teaches me the power of unconditional love. I know that’s a bit cheesy, but true!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      September 26, 2012 at 11:12 am (9 years ago)

      Aw, I love that, Lou!! Dexter sounds like a sweetie! Thank you for your sweet comment!

  6. DessertForTwo
    September 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm (9 years ago)

    Awwww, such a sweet story, Julie! 🙂

  7. Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie
    September 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm (9 years ago)

    I’ve seen other gooey skillet cakes but this one is so perfect for the fall!

  8. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe
    September 26, 2012 at 3:07 pm (9 years ago)

    Julie, you are becoming the queen of skillet cakes! I can’t wait to try this one – I am crazy about everything pumpkin lately (but really, who isn’t?). I just need to find myself a partner in crime to share it with – otherwise I may eat the entire thing. Which actually doesn’t seem like such a bad thing at the moment…

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      September 26, 2012 at 3:14 pm (9 years ago)

      I have to confess, Mike and I ate the entire thing! That was a little much. LOL. I hope you love it!

  9. Susi Matthews
    September 26, 2012 at 7:46 pm (9 years ago)

    This looks *amazing* and you’re right, I’m going to have to make it. I’m trying not to bake too many fattening stuff since Da Honey (I still get a thrill typing that since the new romance is definitely a keeper) is trying to lose weight and I’m definitely supporting staying healthy!

    “…evaluating the pheromones of all the dogs there before her, finding interesting plants to pee on, *chuckle* I have always said that dogs are “checking their p-mail.” Don’t know if I came up with it or stole it, but it seems so apropos.

    We can ALL learn things from our pets. The primary one of ‘taking time” is the most important one, I think. They’re with us for such a short period of time, that if we can learn to slow down and appreciate and emulate their loving natures, we’re healthier and happier for it, I know.


    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      September 27, 2012 at 1:41 am (9 years ago)

      LOL! I love it! P-mail!

      I ALSO love that you’re still with the new guy! I guess we have to stop calling him the new guy now! haha. That is so sweet. So glad you guys are happy!

      I am really snugglin’ Byrd every day since my parents’ dog died after a long (but still so short for her people!), happy life. You just realize how short your time with them really is!

  10. Jackie
    September 26, 2012 at 10:02 pm (9 years ago)

    What an amazing post. I think that you are lucky to have your dog and your dog is lucky to have you. I also think that even people without pets can get a lot of wisdom from this post. Plus, the cake looks insanely delicious!

  11. Sabrina Smith
    September 26, 2012 at 10:16 pm (9 years ago)

    LOVED THIS POST!!! I can’t wait to send it to Mr. Salivation Army, I want him to bake this for me and I want him to follow our little Maggie lead as you are now doing with Byrd! Thank you for this!

  12. Jan
    September 26, 2012 at 11:29 pm (9 years ago)

    Well I was crying by the time I got to the end of this post. I was just telling my beloved Bindi that I would not tell her to hurry up and go anymore!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      September 27, 2012 at 1:43 am (9 years ago)

      Aw, thank you, Jan!! This will make you laugh. This was my Facebook status tonight after posting this:

      “I totally tried to give Byrd more time to smell the roses (read: pee on the roses) like I said I would in this post. She proceeded to bark at the neighbor for 20 minutes and then poo on her own leg. So that went well.” 😉

      Aren’t they sweet? Love our pets <3

  13. Holly
    September 27, 2012 at 2:19 am (9 years ago)

    I can’t wait to try this. I love skillet cakes, warm with ice cream.

  14. Sandra
    September 27, 2012 at 2:24 am (9 years ago)

    I love, love, love this post! We had to put our rottweiler down a couple of years ago. My heart is still broken. I’m also looking forward to trying this recipe.

  15. Y
    September 27, 2012 at 2:41 am (9 years ago)

    Looks delicious! I’ve yet to have an ultimate pumpkin dessert.. maybe this will be the one!

  16. Jenny @ BAKE
    September 27, 2012 at 10:35 am (9 years ago)

    your photos are absolutely stunning! they just say autumn to me! this is such a lovely post, you obviously adore your dog so much! I can’t wait to live somewhere I can have my own fuzzball of joy!

  17. Colette @ JFF!
    September 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm (9 years ago)

    Your pup sounds adorable! And you’re killin’ me w this skillet cake. I want to plunge into my monitor to grab a bite. Muhaha

  18. Averie @ Averie Cooks
    September 28, 2012 at 7:28 pm (9 years ago)

    You wayyyy outdid yourself! The topping/filling just looks out of this world good! I love German Chocoalte, or German Pumpkin 🙂

    Pinned it!

  19. Beth R
    October 18, 2012 at 10:02 am (9 years ago)

    Just found you this a.m. from a post on FB that led me down a long and winding path to you !
    I am pinning like crazy and LOVE what I have found. It’s like a tresure chest that I get to dig in with both hands. But almost better than the pics and recipes that I MUST try is the love you share for your furball. I am also a dog mama and can’t imagine the day when they go to heaven without me. Those furry, frito smelling, brown eyed babies can teach you lessons everyday if you listen to them. They have a way of filling every inch of your heart with love for them. Dog lovers are like no other and my fur-daughters have made me a much kinder person. Wonderful post today, thank you.
    Now to decide which pumpkin recipe to try first ?

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      October 21, 2012 at 1:56 pm (9 years ago)

      Aw, I’m so glad you found me, Beth! I feel the SAME way about my dog — and I love your description, because I know JUST the frito smell you’re talking about 🙂 So sweet!! I hope you LOVE whichever pumpkin recipe you choose!

  20. Joanne
    October 24, 2012 at 7:54 pm (9 years ago)

    Oh my goodness! I love the ice cream in the middle – that’s my kind of cake!

  21. CTY
    July 29, 2013 at 5:01 pm (8 years ago)

    So glad I found this site. Can’t wait to try this. I made the Gooey Chocolate Skillet cake last night. it was everything it promised. I am going to make it in my mini Dutch ovens and serve with ice cream. I was figuring the recipe would make 4 minis. Also, I make my own ice cream so I will probably do a vanilla bean cinnamon swirl to go with it.

  22. jesse
    September 30, 2013 at 11:35 am (8 years ago)

    Hi, I just recently subscribed to your blog and have been enjoyed it very much. I clicked this link because the skillet cake sounded divine and I love anything made in my favorite cooking tool! I just wanted to let you that although I plan to make this recipe this weekend for my family, I was even more touched by this post. My Bassett hound is getting older and for some reason im starting to notice it more and more. The slight limp when she gets up from the extra nap and the gray hairs shes starting to show. It describes my Daisy to a T and wanted to thank you for posting it. It made my day and made me think of her and how much she is a part of my heart and soul.
    Take care, J.Hermiller

    • Julie Ruble
      October 3, 2013 at 7:24 pm (8 years ago)

      Awww, Jesse! Isn’t it so hard when our pups start to get older? It’s killin’ me with Byrd right now… she has the “cloudy eyes” and her fur is just a little thinner than it used to be. She’ll always be my baby! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Wishes of great health and longevity for your Daisy!


5Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Gooey “German” Pumpkin Skillet Cake

  1. […] When we returned home I told him if he gathered the potatoes and the corn I would see what I could do with the pumpkin pie.  I already knew that I wasn’t making pumpkin pie because my pie crust is best if refrigerated or placed in the freezer for at least a half hour.  So I ventured on the internet to see if I could find a pumpkin skillet cake and for sure I found a FANTASTIC one.  The original recipe can be found here:  http://willowbirdbaking.com/2012/09/26/gooey-german-pumpkin-skillet-cake/ […]

  2. […] When we returned home I told him if he gathered the potatoes and the corn I would see what I could do with the pumpkin pie.  I already knew that I wasn’t making pumpkin pie because my pie crust is best if refrigerated or placed in the freezer for at least a half hour.  So I ventured on the internet to see if I could find a pumpkin skillet cake and for sure I found a FANTASTIC one.  The original recipe can be found here:  http://willowbirdbaking.com/2012/09/26/gooey-german-pumpkin-skillet-cake/ […]

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