Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake

November 20, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, layer cakes, sweet things | 6 Comments
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brown butter pumpkin layer cake

I know that I’ll be making a pie for Thanksgiving dinner, so I’m getting the craving to stuff my face with cake out of the way ahead of time.  I’ve actually been itching to make this Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake ever since I saw it on the cover of  Fine Cooking last year.  And it was everything I’d hoped for in a spice cake, complete with cream cheese frosting and a crunchy topping.

If you are ambitious, you can make your own pumpkin purée by roasting a squash.  If you are lazy, like I am, you can just open a can.  The canned stuff works just fine, in my opinion, and you always know what you are going to get.  Anyway, you have to go through the extra step of browning butter a couple of times, so why make things too hard on yourself?  Actually, making browned butter is no big deal, and it’s totally worth it in terms of flavor.  It makes an especially gorgeous addition to the cream cheese frosting, giving it that slightly nutty taste and beautiful taupe color.  The browned butter baked into the cake gives the pumpkin and spices extra dimension, and because you use it as a liquid fat, you mix the cake by hand.  I love that!  I thought about skipping the pecan and pepita topping, but I’m glad I didn’t.  It’s crunchy and kind of Cracker Jackey caramelized.  I can’t wait to make this again next fall (or possibly sooner…)

P.S.:  Don’t forget to enter my BOOK GIVEAWAY, if you haven’t done so already….

Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake— makes 8-12 servings
adapted from Fine Cooking, Issue 107

Steph’s Notes:  You can substitute 1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin purée for homemade, if you like.  If you do choose to make the purée, you can do so up to 2 days ahead.  The frosting amount is a bit on the skimpy side.  I made it work, but there wasn’t a lot of extra play around with.  If you’d like more leeway, I’d suggest a 1.5x recipe.

for the purée (if not using 1-1/2 cups canned):
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 medium-large Sugar Pie pumpkin, cut in half from stem to bottom and seeded

for the cake:
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk

for the topping:
 1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2/3 cup pecans
 1/2 cup unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas
 2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. table salt

for the frosting:
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
pinch of salt
5 oz. (1-1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar

-Make the pumpkin purée (if not using 1-1/2 cups canned): Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 9×13-inch baking dish with the oil. Put the pumpkin halves in the dish cut side down and bake until tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Let cool. Peel the pumpkin and purée the flesh in a food processor until smooth. You’ll need 1-1/2 cups of the purée for the cake. Refrigerate or freeze any remaining purée for another use.

-Make the cake: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.   Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans).   Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. In a large bowl, whisk 1-1/2 cups of the pumpkin purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.

-Make the topping (while the cake bakes):  Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.

-Make the frosting:  Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids.  With an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, brown sugar and pinch of salt on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

-Assemble the cake:  Put one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting on the layer and top with the second layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Arrange the topping  on top of the cake and serve.  The assembled, frosted cake can be covered with a cake dome and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature.


Tuesdays with Dorie: Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake

June 22, 2010 at 1:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 27 Comments

dressy chocolate loaf cake

Amy of Amy Ruth Bakes showed us that a loaf cake can be fancy, too, with her choice of Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake for TWD.  I baked this the week before I went to London…glad I did, because I packed on a couple extra (now totally unwanted) pounds on that trip, and I may have had a hard time justifying making this afterward!

Both the cake and the frosting contain a good amount of sour cream.  Chocolate-sour cream frosting is on my list of “world’s tastiest stuff.”  The heaviness of the cake is cut by two layers of jam sandwiched in-between.  I don’t usually go nuts for fruit and chocolate combos, but I must say that this was tasty! 

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or read Amy Ruth Bakes.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

The Cake Slice: Lemon-Poppy Seed Cake with Almond-Cream Cheese Frosting

May 20, 2010 at 5:12 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 13 Comments

lemon-poppy seed cake with almond-cream cheese frosting

I almost forgot to bake this cake.  That’s not quite true…I didn’t forget about the cake, I just didn’t realize the 20th is already here!  For the month of May, we Cake Slice Bakers have mixed it up a bit and are throwing back to last year’s book, with a recipe for Lemon-Poppy Seed Cake with Almond-Cream Cheese Frosting from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes.

It’s pretty, isn’t it?  Something about this cake seems so sweetly charming and old-fashioned…like something my grandmas might bake (except for my grandmas have never been much into baking).  Underneath the almond-cream cheese frosting is a light white cake, flecked with lemon zest and poppy seeds.  I added a few drops of lemon oil to the batter, just to enhance the lemon flavor.

The lemon oil was my only tweak to the recipe (also not quite true…I cut back on the almond extract in the frosting just a tad), although I did a wackadoo two-fifths of the original amount of batter and frosting (I only wanted to use two egg whites).  I baked the cake in a quarter sheet pan, then cut it into three strips for frosting and stacking.  I like the change from the usual round layer cakes, although I do find squares and rectangles to be a bit trickier to frost.

lemon-poppy seed cake with almond-cream cheese frosting 

Poppy seeds are so freakin’ cute!  Their amazing ability to get absolutely everywhere, though, really isn’t.

Here’s a printable link to the recipe…it’s really a keeper.  Better yet, get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne.  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our mile-high cakes this month.

The Cake Slice: Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting

April 20, 2010 at 7:30 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 22 Comments

banana cake with chocolate frosting

This is the second time I’ve made a banana cake with The Cake Slice Bakers.  The two are quite different, but my reaction is the same:  bananas make for a darn good cake!  The cake itself was so moist and flavorful.  I can see it being great with a little cinnamon or espresso powder mixed in, or re-engineered as a snack cake.  It’s one I’ll make again, for sure…

…The chocolate frosting, though was a different story.  It turned super thick after I added the last addition of powdered sugar.  So thick, that I couldn’t spread it.  Rather than toss it in the bin, I put it over gentle heat until it just started to soften.  Then it was use it or lose it time, so I immediately swiped it on the cake in one pass.  I think I did a reasonably good job, all things considered, but can you see how the frosting looks a little dry and crackly?  It tasted good, and had quite a fudgy consistency, actually, but I think I’ll go with a tried-and-true chocolate frosting next time and save myself the stress.

Here’s a printable link to the recipe.  Or get your hands on a copy of Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott.  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our banana cakes this month!

The Cake Slice: Red Velvet Cake

January 20, 2010 at 1:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 20 Comments

red velvet cake

The Cake Slice Bakers are baking up a true slice of Americana this month– Red Velvet Cake.  Even though this cake has been super trendy in recent years, and I even though make a giant batch of it at work every day, I’ve never been so enthusiastic about red velvet.  All that food coloring makes me a bit uneasy.  A good thing about making it at home, though, is that you can control how much Red 40 does or does not go into it.  Just like the other time I made red velvet here, I used only a couple drops of gel coloring…more of a “rust velvet,” I guess.

I generally think cream cheese frosting and red velvet go hand-in-hand (although where I work, we use a cinnamon buttercream), but this recipe has a boiled milk frosting with coconut and pecans.  That’s new to me, but I really do think the frosting made it the best red velvet I’ve ever had (probably because it reminded me of my most favorite cake, German chocolate)!  And the texture of the cake’s crumb was great, too…soft and, of course, velvety.

Here’s a printable link to the recipe. Or get your hands on a copy of Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott.  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our red velvet cakes this month!

The Cake Slice: White Chocolate Layer Cake

December 20, 2009 at 1:11 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 20 Comments

white chocolate layer cake

As I type, we are in the midst of the first big winter snowstorm here in NYC…so it seems only appropriate that I share with you this white-on-white White Chocolate Layer Cake chosen by the Cake Slice Bakers this month.  I’m not super keen on white chocolate, so I probably would have bypassed this recipe if not for the group, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s the toothachey sweetness that really bugs me about white chocolate, but for every element of white chocolate here (it’s in both the cake and the frosting), there is an element of tanginess to balance it out.  For the cake, it’s buttermilk.  For the frosting, it’s cream cheese.  The cake is moist and soft, and c’mon, let’s face it…cream cheese icing would make pretty much anything taste good…so whats not to like here?

Here’s a printable link to the recipe.  Or get your hands on a copy of Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott.  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our white chocolate cakes this month!

The Cake Slice: Burnt Sugar Cake

November 20, 2009 at 1:11 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 32 Comments

burnt sugar cake

I almost forgot about this posting!  My head has been somewhere else, and the date kind of got away from me.  Oh well, here it is in all its sweet glory: the Burnt Sugar Cake for this month’s Cake Slice.

A burnt sugar syrup (really a dark caramel simple syrup) is the key to this recipe.  Both the cake and the frosting have a nice dose of this syrup, giving them a very eye-catching soft caramel color.

The cake itself is nice– a dense crumb, but moist.  Thanks to heaping amounts of powdered sugar added to the sugar syrup, the frosting is, predictably, very sweet.  While my husband was a big fan, it was a bit too much for me…I made a bee-line to my toothbrush after each slice! 

burnt sugar cake

Here’s a printable link to the recipe.  Or get your hands on a copy of Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott.  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our sugary cakes this month!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake

November 17, 2009 at 1:00 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 45 Comments

chocolate caramel chestnut cake

Last week was kind of crappy.  First, we suffered the latest disappointment in the mulit-year saga known as “R and Stephanie vs. the NYC real estate market.”  I often wonder if owning a little place here just isn’t in the cards for us.  Then, two of my favorite coworkers gave notice and will be leaving the bakery before the end of the month.  This will certainly put a damper on my workplace socializing (the only reason I really even go to work, ‘cuz I barley get paid–ha!)…not to mention that thinking about going into the busy holiday season understaffed is giving me major agita.  Losing myself in my kitchen for a bit to make this Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake for TWD was a nice distraction, and probably kept my head from exploding.

The first thing I noticed when I looked at the recipe is that this cake has several steps and requires a few unusual ingredients.  I’m pretty lucky that I can easily find chestnuts and sweetened chestnut spread without a embarking on a major hunting excursion or having to pay for online shipping.  In fact, at Sahadi’s I found cans of the fancypants Clement Faugier spread for about $5–not too shabby, and I should get more before they realize it’s a steal and jack up the price.  I’m not super wild about chestnuts, but that spread is so yummy…I have quite a bit leftover, so I’m looking forward to using it in something else soon.  Any suggestions?

I split up the work (and the dishes– did I tell you that I have the world’s tiniest sink?) over two days.  On night one, I made both the caramel ganache and the glaze.  On day two, I baked the cake and assembled the whole shebang.  I made half a recipe of cake and glaze, and deciding to go easy on things (yeah, right), just a third of the ganache.  To bake the cake, I spread the batter in a quarter-sheet pan (about 9″ x 13″), rather than baking it in a taller square pan.  Not only does it cook in less than 20 minutes (instead of almost an hour), but there’s no sawing the cake into layers (I always seem to do a hack-job on that)…just cut the sheet into three strips of equal width and stack with the filling.  Easy-peasy.

I looove sparkly things, and actually have a huge collection of luster dusts.  After I dusted the whole chestnuts in gold, I couldn’t help but blow the stuff all over the top of the cake, too.  Super shimmery.  And super tasty.  My favorite parts were the end pieces, because they had extra glaze!  This is a luxurious (not to mention expensive) cake…seems kind of a shame to not to have made it for a special occasion, but it sure made a crappy week better.

chocolate caramel chestnut cake

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan(it’s also here on Epicurious).  Read Second Dinner, where Katya posted it earlier this month, and don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

The Cake Slice: Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake

September 20, 2009 at 1:32 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 37 Comments

triple chocolate fudge cake

Oh…Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake…the last cake The Cake Slice Bakers are making as a group from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes.  Sad, but just because the group will be moving on to a new book next month, Sky High won’t be gathering dust on the shelf.  After thirteen cakes, it has proven to be one of my favorite books, and I want to make just about every other thing in it!

This cake is like a high-class Ding Dong (although when and where I grew up, they were called “King Dons“).  If you were raised, as I was, in a house where such “crème-filled” delicacies were banned, then it will make you very happy.  A moist and dark devil’s food-like cake (made with mayo…but don’t be put off, because you’d never know!) is filled with a white chocolate mousse and frosted with chocolate sour cream frosting.  A piece of advice…my white chocolate filling seemed a bit too soft to use straight away, so I stashed it, still in its bowl, in the fridge for about half an hour to firm up before using it.

 triple chocolate fudge cake

The cake is so rich and good– I think we’re seeing this book off with a bang!  Here’s a printable link to the recipe.  Better yet, get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne…you won’t be sorry.  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our sky-high cakes this month, and stay tuned for next month’s new book!

The Cake Slice: Pistachio Petit Four Cake

August 20, 2009 at 1:47 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 26 Comments

pistachio petit four cake

With marzipan roses on top (however garishly colored–oops!), this Pistachio Petit Four Cake from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes may be the ultimate ladies’ treat– something that you’ll want to eat with your pinkie curled in the air. 

It’s not just for the girls though…R was completely happy to have it as his birthday cake this past week (want to see last year’s, or the year before’s?).  And he’d have been crazy not to want it.  Pistachio butter cake stacked with rolled marzipan, apricot jam and chocolate ganache make for a layered affair that is not just beautiful to look at, but tastes beautiful, too.

Sounds like a lot of fuss for a cake, but it’s completely worth it, and it’s not really that hard…at least not compared to stuggling through the petits fours glacés section of a French cooking school curriculum!  Buy the jam, and what the hell, buy the marzipan, too.  Even though there were instructions in the recipe for homemade marzipan, I confess that I just got the stuff in a log (one log worked great for the six-inch cake I made, but if you are doing a full-sized cake, I’d suggest two).

Here’s a printable link to the recipe.  Better yet, get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne.  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our sky-high cakes this month.

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