Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Rich Pumpkin Custard Cake


There are those times when you want something different, something special, but still yet familiar. That is what this cake is. It's a very rich, flavorful pumpkin dessert, perfect for special occasions. I made it for one of the desserts we enjoyed over Thanksgiving and both pie and cake eaters loved it.
I know the holiday we most often see pumpkin deserts is over with, but this cake is worth it to make for any up coming holidays parties where desserts are a must. 
With the extra moisture the custard provides, this cake can easily be made a day or two ahead of time, but wait until you are ready to serve it before frosting and coating it with the shortbread crumbs. Don't skip the crumbs, they add their own flavor and texture and make this cake just that much more delicious! 

Now before I share the recipe for this cake, I'd like to show you how to bake your own pie pumpkin for pie filling. I don't believe it's more cost affective to make your own pumpkin puree, unless you grow your own pumpkins, however the flavor is certainly better than anything that comes from the can. 

 1. Preheat oven to 350°. Using warm water wash the outside of your pumpkin to remove any dirt. With a sharp knife slice pumpkins in half and then remove seeds with a spoon.

 2. Place pumpkins cut side down on a rimmed cookie sheet or in a oven proof baking dish. There are a variety of different "pie" pumpkins and the moisture content is different. Pie pumpkins have better flavor than regular jack-o-lantern style pumpkins, they also have a much lower moisture content. If you don't use a cookie sheet or baking dish with a rim you risk having juice run out of the pumpkins and burn on the bottom of the oven. Not at all appetizing to have a smoke flavor in your puree!

3. Bake pumpkins in a 350° oven for 45 - 90 minutes. Pumpkins are done when you can easily stick a knife or fork in them. Allow pumpkins to cool, then scoop flesh out of shells. Puree pumpkin in a food processor, a food mill or even push through a mesh sieve.

4. Place pureed pumpkin in a tea towel or any non-terry cloth towel. Bring the corners of the towel together and squeeze out excess liquid. With the two pumpkins I had I easily squeezed out several cups of liquid. If you did not do this step your pumpkin baked goods would be mush because of all the extra moisture. Use puree immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer. 

Now on to making this cake!

What You'll Need
For 3 layer 9" cake

Pumpkin Custard*
4 large eggs
3 cups pumpkin puree (approx. 1½ 15 oz. cans of pumpkin)
3/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups milk
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves

Pumpkin Cake*
1½ cup unsalted butter
2¼ cups brown sugar or rapadura
4 large eggs
2¼ cups pumpkin puree (2+ 15 oz. cans of pumpkin)
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2½ tsp. aluminum-free baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon 
1 tsp. powdered ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup buttermilk**
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Shortbread Crumbs for Garnish*
1 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. un-refined sea salt
2 cup unbleached white flour or whole wheat pastry flour

Cream Cheese Frosting*
12 oz. cream cheese
 1/2 cup butter
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3-5 cups powdered sugar

*ALL ingredients MUST be at room temperature before making any part of this cake, this includes ingredients for the icing and the shortbread garnish.

**No buttermilk on hand? Simply mix 3/4 cup milk with 3/4 tbsp. of lemon juice or vinegar. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes before using.

Getting Started
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place rack in the center of the oven.

2. Grease three 9" cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment. If you only have two cake pans that's fine, you will cook the cake in batches. There are two ways you can line the bottom of your cake pans. You can do the usual circle of parchment at the bottom of the pan. If you go this route your cake must cool in the pans before it can be removed because the custard is very fragile when it's hot. Alternatively you can cut a parchment circle out that has 2-4 tabs on it. See example below. This allows you to lift the cake out of the pan before it's cooled. If you only have 2 cake pans this can be very helpful or you'll have to wait an several hours before you can bake your third layer of cake.
Example of how to cut your parchment if you want to lift the cakes out of the pan. See below.

For the Pumpkin Custard 
1. In a large bowl whisk  together the 4 eggs, then add the rest of your ingredients. Whisk them all together until smooth and well mixed. Set mixture aside.

For the Pumpkin Cake
1. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes on medium speed. Add in your eggs one at a time, thoroughly beating mixture until each egg is well incorporated.

2. Mix in the pumpkin puree and vanilla, stirring or beating with a mixer on low, until batter is smooth.

3. In a small bowl mix together all of the dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in three parts, alternating with buttermilk. Start and end with the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed between each addition.

4. Pour 3 cups of batter into each cake pan, reserve 3 cups if you only have two pans. Spread cake batter out in pan and then gently spoon two cups of the pumpkin custard mix on top. This will fill a regular cake pan to within a 1/3" or so. The cake does not rise much, but as a precaution you can place the cake pans on a cookie sheet to catch any possible batter they may run over. I've made this cake 3 times and so far haven't had a problem.

5. Bake cakes in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until done.You should be able to insert a toothpick into the middle of the cake and have it come out clean when it's done. It's very similar to baking a pumpkin pie and checking for doneness.

6. Allow cake to fully cool before removing from cake pans, then run a knife around the edge of the cake. Once cake has cooled it's easiest to place you hand on top of the cake and flip in onto your hand and then flip it onto the surface where it will be iced, so that what was the bottom of the cake in the pan is still the bottom of the cake once it's removed and put on a plate or work surface.

If you used the parchment tab method, run a sharp knife around the edge of cake and then lift the cake out of the pan. It's okay if the cake bends some. If you have someone who can help you, it's easier to have 4 hands lifting the cake out instead of just two.

For the Shortbread
1. Cream butter and then add the rest of your ingredients. Thoroughly mix all ingredients together then press the dough into an un-greased 8" x 8" pan. Bake in a 350° preheated oven for 30-40 minutes. Edges should be very slightly brown when shortbread is finished.

2. Allow to cool in pan, then remove shortbread and chop or break up into crumbs. Set aside.

For the Frosting
1. With all ingredients at room temperature cream them together until you have a creamy and light frosting. If you use 3 cups of powdered sugar the frosting will have a stronger cream cheese flavor (which personally I prefer). If you use up to 5 cups powdered sugar the frosting will be more sweet than cream cheesy and you'll have plenty of frosting to do a thick layer on the cake.

It's pretty straight forward. This cake assembles like most others, but you have to take care to gently spread the frosting on each layer or you risk tearing the custard. If you haven't noticed already I show this cake with the shortbread crumbs all over the cake and also just on the side. In the end I prefer the crumbs all over, however if you want to duplicate the cake with the crumbs on the side only, the design on the top of the cake was done by simply running fork tines through the frosting.

There's no secret way to coat the cake in the crumbs other than gently sprinkling and patting them into the frosting. There should be enough crumbs to coat the whole cake with a little left over. Sprinkle the extra shortbread crumbs on some vanilla bean ice cream!


1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness...this is so elegant! I love the short bread crumbs and wouldn't dream of skipping them. Very beautiful :D


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