Saturday, November 10, 2007
I've always associated the smell of pumpkin and spices with home. However, when I stopped and thought about this as I mentally assembled my ideas for this post, I realized that I didn't know why. My mother doesn't cook and she's not big into lighting candles, so our house never actually smells of pumpkin or spices in the fall. But as I stood at the stove breathing in the aroma from gradually thickening pumpkin butter, I made the connection. When the scent of cinnamon, pumpkin, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg comes wafting through the air, I know the holidays are near and that's why I think of home. Perhaps that feeling is even stronger this year since I haven't seen a single familiar face in four months. But that will be remedied soon enough. Thanksgiving -- and a trip home -- is only a week and a half away!
One thing you're sure to notice as recipes and posts accrue on this site is that I'm rather fond of the NordicWare cast-aluminum cake pans available (sometimes exclusively) at Williams-Sonoma. I picked up the pumpkin patch pan last fall, but was so busy with managing a tour and Notre Dame football season that I never actually used it. When I packed it into a box in July for my big move out West, I decided that I had to try it out this fall or I couldn't justify owning it. Well, I wish I wouldn't have waited so long because this was the best pumpkin cake I've ever had. In fact, it also trumps any pumpkin bread I've ever had. It is incredibly moist, but not in that oily, where-are-my-elastic-waistband-pants? sort of way, and I think the balance of spices is spot-on. It doesn't need frosting, powdered sugar, or adornment of any sort because it is delicious as is -- and pretty, too, if you use a neat pan.
A Williams-Sonoma recipe
Yields 24 cakelet halves (or cupcakes)
3 1/3 cups flour
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 3/4 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1 2/3 cups pumpkin puree
Have all the ingredients at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and flour the wells of a pumpkin patch pan (or regular cupcake/muffin tin); tap out excess flour.
In a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Add the brown and granulated sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Beat each addition just until incorporated, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the pumpkin puree and beat until incorporated.
Divide half of the batter between the wells of the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted near the center of a cake comes out clean, 18-22 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and then invert them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Wash pan and repeat baking steps with remaining batter.
Labels: Cakes and Cupcakes