Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cake of the Week: Spiced Pumpkin Latte Cake

Every October people go crazy for pumpkin lattes. They're like a bizarre seasonal drug – every coffee shop carries a version, and suddenly the question is, Have you had your pumpkin latte yet? These caffeinated concoctions fall somewhere between a guilty pleasure, religion, and addiction. Devotees praise the latte’s deliciousness, while simultaneously bemoaning the effects on bank accounts and waist-bands nationwide.  They’re expensive and high calorie, but 'tis the season, right?

Clearly, being myself and doing what I do, I took the beverage inspiration and turned it into a cake. Spiced Pumpkin Latte Cake. Yes.  

Saturday afternoon I was feeling lazy. I started a run but aborted mission about 3 minutes in (it just felt awful), and walked back home.  After a brief sit-up session I decided that it was dance-around-my-kitchen-and-bake time. Aka my favorite time.

I cranked up Pandora to Kenny Chesney (believe it or not, sometimes I listen to music other than ZBB), closed my door in the interest of minimizing the Mollie-singing my roommates would have to experience, and started baking. 

I saw this Pumpkin Spice Cake recipe on Not So Humble Pie a couple weeks ago. It’s super simple and doesn’t require any odd ingredients. But be warned: it makes a ton of cake. I made three layers and the finished cake was so huge that it didn’t fit under my cake-dome. I wish I’d measured it in inches, just to be able to report back…but let’s just settle for gi-normous and call it a day. 

My one addition is the most important part – one capsule of finely ground espresso mixed into the batter. The resulting cake isn’t super coffee-y. It’s more subtle, much like a pumpkin latte. If you like an extra shot in your latte, by all means add another tablespoon of espresso to this cake. 

And the frosting…oh the frosting. SO FREAKING GOOD. My usual cream cheese frosting is half cream cheese, half butter. But this recipe is half cream cheese, half whipped cream. It’s light and not overly sweet and absolutely divine. Seriously, I dipped my finger into the bowl and the heavens opened up and angels started singing. True story. 

Spiced Pumpkin Latte Cake
yields or 3 8" or 9" cake rounds
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg (I cheated and used the usual grocery store ground nutmeg. It would probably be even better with freshly ground, but I'm just too lazy.)
  • 1 cup golden brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin puree (This is slightly more than one can - most are 15 oz - you'd be fine using one can.)
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 capsule or 2 1/2 tablespoons finely ground espresso powder

Preheat your oven to 350°F and prepare two 8" or 9" round cake pans with a light coating of non-stick spray and then line the bottoms with parchment. Or you can spray and flour them. 

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Once sifted, give it a good mixing with a whisk to ensure everything is evenly distributed and then set aside. 

In a second large bowl, add the brown sugar and a third of the pumpkin puree. Combine the two with a spatula, pressing firmly to ensure there are no rogue lumps of sugar.  Once lump free, add the remaining pumpkin and oil. Blend with a whisk and then add the eggs, one at a time, stirring with the whisk to incorporate after each addition. 
Add the dry ingredients a third at a time, blending after each addition. Add the espresso powder. 

Divide the batter between your pans and place into the oven on a lower-middle rack.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. 
Let the cakes stand in the pans on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Then unmold onto the racks and turn right-side up to cool completely. 

Ms. Humble's Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields enough to frost a 8" or 9" double layer cake. 
  • 1lb (16oz) cream cheese, softened but still cool
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream (use the ultra heavy 40%+ cream if you can find it)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

Sift the powdered sugar and add the cream cheese to the bowl of your mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat them thoroughly until fluffy and completely smooth/lump free. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream to nearly stiff peaks, then add the whipped cream into the cheese mixture, scrape down the sides of your bowl and quickly and briefly beat to combine. Do not over beat.

Assemble your cake by trimming any humps off the top of the cake and place trimmed side down on your serving platter. Tuck strips of parchment under the cake to protect the platter during frosting, if desired. Dollop a generous amount of frosting onto the first layer-and smooth into an even layer, about 2 cm thick. If you're going for three layers, repeat with the second layer. Then frost the entire outside of the cake. 

To store, keep refrigerated for up to five days.  Keep the cake well covered to prevent it from absorbing any odors while in the fridge. Allow to stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving.