Part 1: Cake!
Exhibit A. One can of delectable organic pumpkin. Innocent, yet alluring. One of the usual suspects as October rolls around, it can be incorporated into a zillion different recipes, from savory to sweet and back again. Pumpkin found its way into my heart as a kid, when I was the only cousin willing to try the “gross looking” pie, and it is still one of my absolute favorites. I get really fired up about fall cooking, and the squash family is largely responsible.
Going toe to toe with a legit, for reals pumpkin is a chore. It can be awesome – I’m sure many of you have toasted pumpkin seeds on your way to making a jack o’ lantern, and perhaps you’ve even roasted the whole thing to make your own puree, because you’re brave. I wasn’t feeling brave this weekend. And that is why the lead picture for this post is a can, not a blob of pumpkin guts. Because sometimes, albeit rarely, a canned fruit or veggie is okay. Especially in this case, when I could find a nice organic product at the grocery, with ONE ingredient – pumpkin.
This lil can turned into a whole lot of deliciousness. One half went into a decadent pumpkin spice cake with a caramel cream cheese frosting. And because I cannot stand to waste food, and the leftover pumpkin was calling to me from the fridge, I found a fantastic way to use the rest…but we’ll get to that later.
For now, it’s cake time! I found this recipe a while ago in Bon Appétit. It’s an offering from Sarah Patterson Scott, co-author (with Connie Green) of The Wild Table, a book on foraged food and recipes coming out later this month. Maybe Sarah expected me to forage for my pumpkin, and for that, I apologize. But honestly this cake needs no apologies. The original recipe creates a two layer cake, but I cut it down to one because I was looking for something smaller and more casual, but still all schmaltzy and rich and covered in buttery heavenly frosting, with a feisty hint of citrus. So the recipe below is tweaked a bit from Sarah’s, but works like a charm. The frosting is labor intensive as it requires one to make caramel from scratch, but it is well worth it.
So this is Part 1 of Pumpkin Two Ways…fancy. Stay tuned for Part 2…Not So Fancy!
Pumpkin Spice Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Sarah Patterson Scott, via Bon Appétit
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 of 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange peel, plus a bit more for sprinkling
1/2 of 1-pound box of powdered sugar
1/4 cup plus a splash heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt (or a smidge more if you want the caramel a bit salty, which I did)
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 stick unsalted butter (2 tablespoons), room temperature
Preheat oven to 350˚. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan, tapping out any excess flour.
Whisk first 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat pumpkin, sugar and oil in another large bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate between additions. Mix in orange peel. Add flour mixture, beat on low speed just to blend. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean about 30-33 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto rack, turn top side up and cool completely.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup powdered sugar evenly over bottom of a small nonstick skillet (you are about to make the caramel, get ready!) Cook over medium heat until sugar melts (do NOT stir yet - I know it's hard, but you'll wreck it). Continue cooking until sugar turns deep amber, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute. Carefully stir in 1/4 cup cream, vanilla, and salt - things will get mighty bubbly here. Stir until any caramel bits dissolve. Stir in remaining splash of cream. Strain into a small bowl, and cool to room temperature.
Sift remaining powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, scraping down the bowl with each addition. Beat in cooled caramel. Taste, liberally. Cover and chill frosting until firm enough to spread, about 2 hours.
When ready, frost cake evenly. Sprinkle cake with a bit more grated orange zest for a punchier citrus flavor, if desired.