Monday, November 8, 2010

Pumpkinadoola in Cakeroola Bippity Boppity Boo!!!

Nothing announces the onset of fall quite like the sudden appearance of autumnal squash in stores everywhere, especially pumpkin. The pumpkin has become a seasonal staple, from jack-o-lanterns to old-fashioned pumpkin pie. While it’s been years since I’ve carved a pumpkin, I have certainly made my share of pumpkin pies, and have explored a number of variations as well (including a Bourbon Pumpkin Pie for a dear Kentucky friend). Yet one context for pumpkin that is often overlooked is cake, where the spiced flavors of the classic meet a whole new realm of texture, not to mention the option of luscious cream cheese frosting! I needed to bake a cake for a Murder Mystery Dinner party I was hosting, and wanted a real show-stopper. Picture this: it's the 1940s, a terrible blizzard is raging outside, the guests are enjoying lavish hors d'oeuvres and drinks, and...oh, did I mention a valet was found dead in the kitchen? Basically it was one HUGE catering/hosting event for me, and the stress meter was at code red! Nonetheless, it was a GREAT party and everyone loved it! The cake HAD to be a centerpiece, naturally, so I chose to employ a decorating technique I had seen a while back in a Taste of Home Halloween special issue – a (literal) Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.
A hardy plant, pumpkins can be grown on every continent except Antarctica (who'd have thought?). The United States is one of the world’s largest producers, harvesting over 1.5 BILLION pounds of pumpkin every year!!! Halloween and Thanksgiving have made the squash an extremely popular product for the Fall season. Given its versatility, we see the pumpkin as the focus for a number of festival competitions: carving contests, pie competitions, and giant pumpkin weigh-offs (the world record holds at 1,725 pounds!!! Imagine trying to make a jack-o-lantern of that!) All the above according to Wikipedia.
That all being said - this cake was DELICIOUS! I doubled the recipe in order to make the "pumpkin" shape. I omitted the walnuts, and needed a LOT of yellow food coloring to achieve the appropriate hue of "pumpkin" (I had run out of red food coloring thanks to all the red velvet cakes I've made the past 2 years). The best part about this cake is that both the presentation AND the decadent flavor will leave your guests "dying" for more ;-) 

(Literal) Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted via
serves 15-20 

  • Cake: 
  •    - 4 cups white sugar
  •    - 2 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  •    - 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  •    - 2 (15-oz cans) canned pumpkin
  •    - 8 large eggs
  •    - 4 cups all-purpose flour
  •    - 6 teaspoons baking powder
  •    - 4 teaspoons baking soda
  •    - 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •    - 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  •    - 2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

Cream Cheese Frosting:
   - 4 (8-0z) packages cream cheese frosting
   - 1 cup butter, softened
   - 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
   - 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For cakePreheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 12x18 inch pans. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine sugar and oil. Blend in vanilla and pumpkin, then beat in eggs one at a time. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in nuts. Spread batter into prepared 12x18 inch pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

For frosting: In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar. Remove 1/2 cup of frosting, and dye the remaining frosting orange. The reserved portion should be dyed green. Store in the refrigerator after use.

For assembly: level the bottoms of the cake to make them flat; set aside the extra cake. Place one half, top side down, onto a cake platter - spread 3/4 cup to 1 cup orange frosting across the half. Top with the second half, and spread with the remaining orange frosting. Stuff the cut cake into the stem, ad shape part of it into a stem - frost the stem with the reserved green frosting.