Pumpkin Spice Cake

Editor’s note – catastrophe!!  I had all these great pictures of the cake, and the kids in their costumes (see below), but then my camera freaked out and somehow has eaten the pictures.  It also won’t take any new pictures.  Something about the memory card maybe?  Either way, not awesome.

After having a brief mini-meltdown, I made a double batch of consolation pumpkin muffins (recipe needs work, stay tuned) and decided to post this anyway.  The cake was delicious and the recipe was already typed out, so up it goes.  GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE!  Apologies for the photoless post.  Anyone know anything about digital camera repair?

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Now, I love making layer cakes, but you don’t really come across that many reasons to make them in everyday life.  So I had to take advantage of the office Halloween potluck.  We’re pretty serious about our potlucks.  Three big tables of food, decorations, little kids in costumes trick-or-treating around the office, the whole nine yards.  The perfect excuse for a cake!

I don’t have one of those cake carriers, so I brought the cakes, frosting, and plate separately and assembled the cake there.  It worked out pretty well, and my friend Sasha helped me decorate it, but note to self: get one of those!  It turned out really cute.  Wish you could see it . . .  =(

Pumpkin Spice Cake
adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (packed) brown sugar (whichever kind you have)
  • 1 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 15-oz can pure pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest

Put the oven rack in the center and preheat to 350.  Butter 2 9-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans.  (Save the parchment scraps!  They will come in handy for frosting.)  Sift the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt into a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the spices together.  Reserve one teaspoon for the frosting, then add to the rest of the dry ingredients.  With an electric mixer or in a standing mixer with paddle attachment, mix sugars and oil in a large bowl – it will be grainy.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing in well after each one.  Add pumpkin, vanilla, and orange zest, and mix well.  Add flour and mix until just incorporated.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, and smooth out the tops.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.  Cool completely in the pans on a rack.  When cool, loosen the edges with a table knife and invert the cakes onto a rack or a plate.  Peel off the parchment.  If the cakes are really round on top, you can flip them over and trim down the domes using a serrated bread knife.  Since that’s the cook’s treat, you’re really hoping for domed cakes…

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Cooks Illustrated

  • 10 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 16 oz (2 pkgs) cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces each, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of one orange

Using either a standing mixer with paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat butter, sugar, and reserved spice mix until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes.  Add cream cheese, one piece at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla and orange zest, and beat until no lumps remain, about 30 seconds.

Place one cake right-side-up on your serving plate.  Tuck parchment scraps leftover from baking under the edges of the cake, to catch stray frosting.  Plop a big dollop of frosting in the middle, and use an offset spatula or a table knife to spread the frosting evenly toward the edges, stopping just a little short of the edge.  Put as much or as little as you want in there, but remember you still need to frost the outside!  Keep a glass of hot water nearby, and if your knife is sticking to the frosting, give it a quick dunk into the water every now and then.

Place the second cake top-down on top of the frosting, making sure it’s centered and even.  Frost the top, again from the center out.  Now the sides.  I like to go around, section by section, just to slap enough on there to cover – don’t worry about neatness yet.  Just get enough on there so the dark cake doesn’t show through.

When the cake is evenly and fully covered, take the spatula or the flat side of the knife and smooth out the top and sides of the cake.  I (actually Sasha) decorated mine with halloween candy we had sitting around, but candied orange peel or candied pecans would look really nice.  When you’re all done, gently pull out the parchment scraps from under the cake and your plate should be nice and clean!

Now, imagine that there’s a picture of a moist, rich, fluffy, autumny cake right here.  Sigh.

The most awesomest jack-o-lanterns ever

Ever since the grocery store became overrun with squashes and gourds in the last few weeks, I’ve been wanting to carve pumpkins, for probably the first time since I was a kid.  As it turns out, the art has substantially evolved since then . . .  I stumbled upon zombiepumpkins.com, which has an AMAZING collection of patterns and helpful tips.  You just print out the pattern, trace it onto the pumpkin by poking little holes along the lines, and then cut along your lines.  I used a cheap serrated steak knife for most of the carving, but for the really small stuff I used a long screw.  This is when it pays to be a pack rat, because you always have random useful stuff like that lying around!

Happy Halloween!

When in Napa. . .

. . . go to Bouchon Bakery!  Their baguettes are perfect, their macarons are enormous, and everything is delicious and lovely.  After finishing a conference in Napa (rough life, I know), I detoured up the road for pastries and some lunch.  This little fig tart was light and bright, though it could have been a little figgier for my taste.  Nevertheless, beautiful enough to share.

There’s No Justice in Pies

Alright readers.  I confess.  I have been a bad, bad Asian.  Maybe even a Bsian.  I have neglected you and that just isn’t right.  But I’m back, and with a tale of injustice so gripping it is sure to vaunt me back into your good graces.

It should be clear from the start of this tragic tale that I recognize my role in all of this.  I do.  I take full responsibility for my actions.  I appeal instead to a higher order, a more universal justice, to right this grievous wrong.

Ok.  So Yuan, for reasons which are not important here, was recently going through another rash of giving away his stuff.  He does this every now and then.  Seriously, like half my movie collection is Yuan’s.  The Princess and her wuzzband bought his Wii for $75 and it came with a free car.  Not gonna lie, these purges of his are pretty awesome.

So Yuan asked me if I wanted his blue pie plate.  Not remembering him having any pie plates, because he doesn’t make pies, I assume it’s one of those blue Pyrex things, because why would he have a nice pie plate if he doesn’t make pies?  I’ve got plenty of Pyrex pie plates, so I decline – I’ve already got his whole stereo and a bunch of other stuff, so I figure I’ll share the wealth.

A few days later I was over at Yuan’s, and saw a little pile of stuff he’d set aside for the Princess.  On top of it is this lovely deep-dish blue enameled pie plate with fluted edges…..and my world comes crashing down around me, like a wave of ice water full of stinging hornets.  F@%#!!!!  THIS IS THE BLUE PIE PLATE?? I TOTALLY want this pie plate!  And Princess gets it now??  She doesn’t even make pies!! Ohhhhhhhh how gorgeous my pies would look in such a classic vessel!  It even matches my other bakeware!  I mean, imagine what THIS would look like in if it was in a nice pie plate….

Lattice-top blueberry pie, made only because I love to make pies

Or this…..look at how the plain old pie plate is making the whole thing look just a little sad…also let’s note that I made another pie.

Apple pie

With delicious streusel top

How many pies has Princess made over the last 6, maybe 7 months?  NARY A ONE.  She did send me a picture of a casserole she’d made in the pie plate.  I cried that night, readers, tears of fury and indignation…  Ok, not really, but come ON!

So now, of course, the Princess won’t relinquish the damn thing.  She just cackles and promises that she’ll will it to me.  Knowing her that girl’s gonna outlive me just for spite!  Everyone, of course, thinks this is hilaaaaaaarious, and they just looooooove to taunt me about the blue pie plate.

IT WILL BE MINE!  Mark my words, readers, it will be mine.

Except that I was up at the Princess’ place this weekend and was fully planning to steal it, and then forgot.  Sigh.