Confession number one: This isn’t a pumpkin cake. I know that shining title says pumpkin, but it’s really pureed butternut squash. Which is a type of pumpkin. So we will just deal with that one.
Confession number two: I’ve had a tough time this week, the toughness mainly existing as a sort of internal monologue as I trundle through my life in Aberdeen. I’m not going to lie, it’s tough as heck, but cake is getting me through. Lovely, thick, soft autumnal cake. Cake therapy.
Confession number three: My inner torment has been batting away all desires to roll up my sleeves and bake this cake which has been stewing in the blog section of my brain for weeks now. But as we are approaching the end of the month and Halloween will soon be a distant memory, I thought I best get myself in gear and get baking and blogging.
Cake confession over (three slices and five ‘hail butter and sugar’s please) I’m feeling better. Never let it be said that therapeutic baking isn’t the best way to beat, mix and bake away the blues.
Pumpkin spice has somehow managed to evade me for some time, namely because in Stirling we had no Starbucks (no, Underground doesn’t count) and missing out on a delicately flavoured coffee meant the combination was left to the Americans. But that sweet blend of creamed, amber coloured vegetable sprinkled with cinnamon and ginger can’t be missed forever, and certainly not nowadays with Pinterest and American blogs filling up my favourites on Safari. I am even listening to this Pumpkin Spice playlist. Yeh, obsessed.
So let’s take flavour combinations. This cake is nothing like a delicate sponge; it’s more of a dense, gingerbread like consistency which improves with age. No creaming of butter and sugar, more of a muffin mix than anything, with slicks of melted butter and frothy eggs combining this toffee coloured batter together. Toasted nuts bring a fragrant nibble to the crumb and the cup of pumpkin puree adds a little extra bit to the overall slice. Smoothed with a simple lemon frosting and topped with that autumnal berry bramble, this cake is stylish elegance that gives more to the season than an overtly sickly fondant cupcake with a pumpkin etched on top. Autumnal elegance is sweet spice, the vegetable of the season and a zest of lemon to blast away the blues. Happy Halloween readers.
You Will Need
For the Cake
300g self raising flour
300g soft light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs, beaten
200g unsalted butter, melted
1 lemon, zested
A small handful of walnuts, lightly toasted
1 cup of pumpkin puree (see tip)
For the Frosting
400g cream cheese, softened
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (use the one zested for the cake)
Fresh blackberries to finish
Tip: Pumpkin puree can be bought in cans, but can be hard to find. To make a homemade version, scoop out the seeds of a butternut squash, peel and cut into cubes. Boil in large pan for about 20 minutes until soft, then drain and leave to steam dry for 5 minutes. Mash or puree with blender until smooth and use as described. Pumpkin puree can also be used as an alternative to mashed potatoes with plenty parmesan or used in a vegetable soup.
Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan/gas 4. Grease and line two 20cm sandwich tins with baking parchment, the set aside. Whisk together the flour, sugar, spices, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Whisk together the melted butter and eggs and pour into the dry mix. Fold together and stir in the lemon zest, toasted walnuts and the pumpkin puree. Divide between the two sandwich tins and bake for roughly 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the cake tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the frosting, beat together the butter and icing sugar until smooth, and then add the cream cheese and lemon juice and whisk until fully incorporated. Level the cakes off with a bread knife and place the first cake right side up and the top bottoms up for a level top. Take the top cake off and smooth over a neat layer of frosting for the middle with a palatte knife, then place the top cake back on, bottoms up. Add half the frosting to the top of the cake and smooth all over the top and down the sides with a palate knife. This is called the crumb layer, and will smooth over any lumps and bumps before the final coat. Make sure it’s even and leave to set slightly for half an hour. Return to the cake and add the remaining frosting to smooth over a final layer. It doesn’t need to be neat, a few swirls here and there will give a rustic feel. Top with fresh blackberries and serve in wedges.