Pumpkin Cake Delight

Jan 21, 2016
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When I was growing up, during the cold seasons, each mother, grandmother, aunt or whoever the household’s baker was, did the pumpkin squares on heavy rotation. For those of you who are not familiar with this type of dessert, it’s basically roast pumpkin flesh thrown together with some sugar and spread between two layers of sweet dough that is baked, after which cut into squares, sprinkled with icing sugar and served.

In our household, my grandmother made the pumpkin squares and everyone loved them; everyone except me, that is. I hated them. Not only did I dislike the moist texture and the smoky-sweet taste of the pulp that’s tucked between the two layers of soggy dough, but since they look exactly like apple squares, which I loved and still do, I took many a enthusiastic bite, only to discover with disappointment I was in fact sinking my teeth into pumpkin squares. The worst part was when she’d bake a batch of each, pumpkin and apple, and she’d throw them together on a serving plate and they were so frustratingly hard to tell apart, I usually gave up trying to guess which is which and just ended up not having any.

Years later, having yet to develop an affinity for pumpkin, someone offered me pumpkin cake. I remember thinking why would anyone want to tarnish the delicious idea of cake with something as repugnant as pumpkin? Though hesitant at first, I was persuaded to have a bite. I was dumbfounded. I felt as if though I had been kept in the dark all these years. I had no idea pumpkin could be so incredibly good. And ever since that late discovery, I too have been on a roll, October through February, every year; pumpkin has found its way in my salads, cakes and breads. I usually buy a few during high season, roast the flesh and freeze it in portions to be used for desserts. And right at the beginning of autumn, I like to simply roast pumpkin sections and drizzle some honey on top and sprinkle everything with walnuts, for a quick and healthy fix. I guess I’ve become quite the pumpkin lover after all.

This particular cake recipe I like because, as a carrot cake lover, I love a nice variation of that. And this cake does just that. It puts the sweetness and the moistness of the pumpkin to good use and the combination with the cream cheese frosting is perfect. Also, I have to admit the caramelized pumpkin seeds are the perfect addition. And even though it’s fairly easy to make, it’s a pretty enough cake to serve at dessert even at a fancier dinner party.

Pumpkin Purée

1 pumpkin, washed and halved

1 Tblsp coconut oil or butter, melted

Preheat oven to 180C/250F. Cut the cleaned pumpkin into quarters and place them rind down, in a baking dish. 45-60 minutes. Scrape off the flesh and whizz in a blender or food processor until smooth. If not using right away, bag in 250g/ 1 cup portions and store them in the freezer until ready to use.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Caramelized Pumpkin Seeds
210g/1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour1½ tsp baking powder½ tsp baking soda1 Tblsp plus 1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg powder

¼ tsp ground cloves

250g/1 cup puréed pumpkin

200 ml/1 cup sunflower oil

1 1/3 cups sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

large eggs, preferably at room temperature, separated

Preheat your oven to 160C/325F. Grease a 20cm/9 in cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and grease that, too. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into a bowl and set aside. With a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a handheld mixer, combine the pumpkin, oil, sugar, and salt. With mixer set on medium speed, add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer set on low speed, add the flour mixture, and mix just until combined. In a clean bowl, whisk the three egg whites until are frothy and stiff. Fold them carefully into the batter with the aid of a rubber spatula. Pour the cake batter into the pan and bake in the center of the oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes, then release on a serving plate.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

120g/8 Tblsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

225g/8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

250g/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp lemon zest

To make the frosting, use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or a handheld mixer and beat together the butter and the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until the frosting is smooth. Add the lemon zest and beat the frosting until incorporated.

For the Caramelized Pumpkin Seeds:

60g/½ cup raw pumpkin seeds

15g/1 Tblsp sugar

15g/1 Tblsp unsalted butter

In a small saucepan over medium heat, caramelize the sugar until it is turns golden-brown. Once the sugar has darkened, add the butter and stir quickly until it has melted and the sauce is smooth. Add the pumpkin seeds and stir to coat them in the sugar sauce. Transfer the seeds to a plate lined with baking paper until they’ve cooled and hardened.

Assembling the cake

When it is completely cool, top with the cream cheese frosting. Break up the caramelized pumpkin seeds with the aid of your hands and sprinkle them on top of the frosted cake. Serve and enjoy!

DSC00437-2DSC00490DSC00525 DSC00533DSC09913DSC09933 DSC09942Recipe adapted from here

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