Pumpkin Cake with Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream

Heavenly Cake Bakers
Heavenly Cake Bakers

This week’s cake is a Pumpkin cake, for Halloween. Rose has a few of the “outtakes” on her blog. I wish my outtakes were that pretty! The cake part of this one is really, really easy, but the frosting has more than a couple of steps. You have to caramelize sugar, make a crème anglaise (which isn’t quite crème, given it contains no cream, but I’ll allow it…), make an Italian meringue, then whip the various parts together with butter.

Here is my finished cake.

Almost Finished Cake
Almost Finished Cake

I started by pulling the pumpkin I cooked, pureed and froze a week or two ago out of the freezer to thaw while I got the other ingredients out. That ended up taking too long, so I eventually defrosted it in the microwave.

Frozen Pumpkin
Frozen Pumpkin

Here’s the rest of the wet works.

Wet Ingredients
Wet Ingredients

Since this is the first cake I’ve had to follow Rose’s instructions for removing the skins from walnuts, I ended up discovering that it isn’t walnuts I dislike. It’s the bitterness of the skins. Who knew? Basically, the process is: toast the walnuts in the oven for 7 minutes, then take them out and rub them in a clean kitchen towel to loosen the skins. Break them up coarsely to mix into your flour mixture, discarding as much of the skins as possible. I found it easiest to get the skins off if I broke the nuts up a bit before the rubbing process. I used fresh nutmeg in this cake. My microplane rasp from Lee Valley Tools does a great job of grating nutmeg. It ends up quite a bit finer than what you get pre-ground, so the flavours permeate better, in my opinoin.

Flour and walnuts
Flour and walnuts

After you have the ingredients ready, all there is to do is mix them up, and pour them in the pan. I don’t know if I did something wrong, though, because Rose’s recipe says to scrape the batter into the pans and smooth the surface with a small metal spatula. My batter was much too liquidy for that, so I just poured.

Ready for the Oven?
Ready for the Oven?

I baked mine in a fairytale cottage bundt pan that I got from my sister last Christmas. I’m ashamed to admit it (sorry, sis!), but this is the first time I actually got up the nerve to use it. I’ve used the heck out of the 10″ Nordic Ware cake lifter she gave me at the same time, though! I was thinking of decorating in some sort of a haunted house kind of a theme. Well… that didn’t end up happening.

Oops.
Oops.

When Rose says to use baker’s joy, go find some baker’s joy, people! I’ve never kept cooking sprays in the house. Jay has a spray bottle of oil he uses for cast iron and grilling, and I’ve always just used shortening and flour for cake release. Think I’m gonna find me some nonstick spray with flour and try this pan again sometime. Oh well. I dug what pieces I could out of the pan, to see if I could just hide the problems, but ended up just cutting off the one intact tree, and making it a flat square-ish cake.

Can I hide the problems?
Can I hide the problems?
Nah. We'll just make it a flat cake
Nah. We'll just make it a flat cake

So, now it’s time to focus on the frosting.

First, make the caramel, then add the milk, then egg yolks, and make a crème anglaise. I actually followed the lead of a few others and made this the day before.

Making the Caramel Crème Anglaise
Making the Caramel Crème Anglaise

Here’s my mise en place for the rest of the buttercream.

Caramel Crème Anglaise and other ingredients for frosting
Caramel Crème Anglaise and other ingredients for frosting
Butter, for creaming!
Butter, for creaming!
Sugar, for Italian meringue
Sugar, for Italian meringue

And… here’s the completed buttercream. I added a bit of Americolor “electric orange” gel colour to brighten it up a touch.

Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream
Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream

After I frosted the cake, I used some leftover gumpaste from my cousin’s wedding cake in august to make some “pumpkins”. I used a mini apple cutter for this, and trimmed off the little leaf.

Gumpaste "Pumpkins"
Gumpaste 'Pumpkins'

Since I brought the cake to work on Friday for a potluck, I waited until I got to work to set the pumpkins on the cake, because otherwise they probably would have more or less melted due to contact with the butter.

I think the cake was a hit. One of the comments I got a couple of times was that the frosting complimented the cake perfectly.

One other thing that made me grin a little. One co-worker gestured at a Frankenstein cupcake cake and asked if I’d brought it. I said “No, I brought the orange pumpkin cake.” I noticed after he’d eaten lunch, when he went up for dessert, the only thing I saw on his plate was a piece of my cake. 😉

One other thing I want to mention. When Rose specifies a temperature for various components of a buttercream, pay attention! The other night, my mousseline gave me no end of trouble, but I hadn’t really taken the time to get the components to the exact 70 degrees. This time, I made sure, and had no real trouble at all. Had to slow down once to warm the mixer bowl with my hands (we keep our house pretty cool), but that was it.

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8 thoughts on “Pumpkin Cake with Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream

  1. Too bad about the cake sticking in the pan… I hate when that happens! We can’t get baker’s joy here in Australia so I have to rely on butter/shortening and flour… Your shot of the buttercream in the bowl looks amazing and makes me think I did something wrong with mine.. yours looks so much lighter and fluffier… mine seemed a little greasy and dense. I need to practice… 🙂 Lovely cake!

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    1. I have to admit, I have no idea whether mine’s right, either. The raspberry mousseline I made for the almond cake was a lot denser, but it also curdled horribly at one point during beating — I just kept beating the snot out of it, and it came together eventually, but really had the texture of butter. This one was definitely lighter, and it didn’t ever truly curdle (when it looked like it was starting to break, I stopped and warmed it over a bowl of warm water), but it wasn’t really a normal frosting consistency either. It was almost too soft. I did use a handheld mixer, and poured the sugar syrup directly from the pot, instead of into an intermediate container. I also undercooked the syrup by a couple of degrees, figuring by keeping it in the hot pan, it would continue cooking a bit. Then I basically had the pan in one hand, and the handheld mixer in the other. Poured a little syrup in, hit it with the beaters, pull the beaters back to the other side of the bowl, pour a little more syrup, and so on. This time I didn’t end up with any sugar mess stuck to anything other than the beaters.

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  2. i know what you mean when you said you haven’t got the nerve to use the cottage pan. i’m always afraid of the cake sticking in bundt pans, even though i love those cottage pan and some nice castle ones, i dare not buy them! Thus i always end up buying the non-stick round version with plain simple design…:p

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  3. Faithy: So far, I have yet to have real success when I use anything other than a standard round or square pan. I’m thinking it has to be because of my lack of baker’s joy or a similar product. I usually walk by the “oil product in a can” section in the grocery stores without a second glance, but I guess I need to take a closer look next time I’m in the grocery store. I suppose it could also be due to the fact that with round/square, I can use parchment paper as “release insurance”.

    Barbara: The cake crumbs were great for breakfast on their own. Hm. Cake for breakfast again. This is becoming a theme for me! I do have a bunch of cake crumbs in the freezer from past baking projects that I’ve been intending to turn into cake “truffles”, but haven’t gotten around to trying it out yet. Do you coat them in chocolate or something to make them look presentable?

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