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.
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.
Here’s the rest of the wet works.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s my mise en place for the rest of the buttercream.
And… here’s the completed buttercream. I added a bit of Americolor “electric orange” gel colour to brighten it up a touch.
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.
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.