October 10, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Cake

It has been raining non-stop for about a week now. My neighbor's backyard is looking lake like. I can't go for a run without risking eyeball lacerations and wet socks (what's worse than wet socks?). This is sit-inside-and-pout weather; I need get-outside-and-perk-the-hell-up weather, Brisbane! So what do you do when you're sad and the rain in coming down in apocalyptic bucketfuls? I like to bake.

I'm an unabashed emotional baker, which works out well for my coworkers and for my inner peace. I don't know what it is about baking that soothes me: the gratification of making the people around me happy, the process of creation, or maybe all the memories of Mom and I making sugary treats at ungodly hours just because we felt like it.

My desperate love of fall flavours led me to try my hand at a pumpkin spice loaf. I can't get pumpkin puree down here, so I had to improvise. I found an American-esque pumpkin at the farmer's market that I was promised would be sweeter and more delicate than Australian savoury pumpkins. I cooked and boiled half of it up and used that in place of the puree. I'm pretty proud of the fact that I strayed away from the recipe's proportions and still ended up with something edible. Not just edible: delicious. This cake/loaf filled my house with the smells of Fall.

I adapted this recipe from this one I found on Smitten Kitchen, a site which has changed my cooking life forevermore. I didn't have muffin tins or a loaf pan (what is wrong with this picture?), so I increased the amount of flour and baking soda and cooked it for five minutes longer. I am a really big fan of these squares - they get better with each one you have (and since I decided that dinner on the night I made these should be three squares eaten consecutively, I know this for a fact). I'm a big fan of the crunchy sugar topping, which gives it an extra kick of cinnamon that lingers in the back of your throat. Next time, I think I'll throw in more chocolate chips and experiment with some orange zest.

Go. Bake. Be happy.

Pumpkin Spice Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (wheat would be nice, too)
1 cup mashed fresh pumpkin, strained of excess juice (some would puree this in a blender: I didn't and it worked out fine)
1/3 cup grapeseed (or vegetable) oil
2 large eggs
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/4 cups brown sugar plus 1 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8x8 cake pan (you can use a loaf pan or muffin tins, as well - see original recipe).

Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, oil, pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until well mixed. Stir in the flour until just combined. Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tbsp sugar in another bowl. Put the batter in your cake tin and sprinkle over with chocolate chips and cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

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