November 7, 2012

Pumpkin Cake


Yes, another recipe featuring winter squash. As someone who eats a plant based diet and enjoys seasonal produce, I have no choice but to maintain my enthusiasm for squash. Luckily it's easy because they're delicious, and pumpkins are the most festive of the winter squash bunch. 

Little Smith is in love with both pumpkins and cake (kek), so I decided to make him a treat and dug up this Martha Stewart recipe which is an old favorite. I felt sort of brutal cutting open a sugar pumpkin that he has been carrying around like a pet for a week, but after the initial trauma he settled down and waited for his cake.

I should say that I am not above using canned pumpkin, I actually love the taste of canned pumpkin pie which always seems slightly denser than the fresh version. I am using cans less and less these days though for two reasons; I've grown increasingly worried about BPA in the linings (I know... there is always something to worry about and it's probably fine, but that's me), and also there is a passage in Barbara Kingsolver's 'Animal Vegetable Miracle' where she talks about how we have grown so out of touch with our food that we think 'can of pumpkin for pie, big orange thing for doorstop'. Every time I pop open a can that quote nags at me, so I guess I'm roasting out of guilt. Feel free to embrace that can, which does make this recipe more speedy.

Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing: recipe by Martha Stewart (note that Martha's recipe also calls for walnuts on the top- super yummy but we went nut-less this time)

for the cake:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (plus more for greasing pan)
  • 1 2/3 c flour (plus more for dusting pan)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
  • 1/2 c warm milk
for the icing:
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 c sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tsp milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch cake pan with butter, then line the bottom with parchment and grease the parchment. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out any excess. Set aside.


Sift together the flour, spices, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.


Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the eggs until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, beating after each addition. Add the puree and the milk and beat on low speed until combined.


Add the flour mixture in three parts, beating on low speed until just combined. Scrape batter into pan and bake for about 55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Remove and cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack.


For the icing, melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium high heat, until it is medium brown in color, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the butter into a bowl, leaving behind and burnt sediment in the pan.

Mix in the sugar, vanilla, and one tablespoon of the milk. If the icing is too thick, add the reserved tablespoon of milk. Let sit for 5 minutes, then use immediately. 

*(let your toddler lick the spoon if you want him to love you forever.)


Place the cake on a serving dish. Pour the icing over the top of the cake and spread smooth with a knife, allowing the edges to drip over. Leave the icing to set up before slicing.


This cake works equally well for a special occasion or just an extra sweet breakfast. The buttery icing has a surprisingly complex flavor that is very addictive.


We all has seconds (and then Big Smith and I snuck thirds). I'm actually thinking about grabbing one more little sliver as I watch the presidential acceptance speech at 1:38 in the morning. That sounds like a plan, nothing like a little sugar rush right before bed. Enjoy!

17 comments:

  1. wow this looks delicious! Must try - it reminded me of pumpkin cake my grandmother used to bake, which also had dried fruit through it. When she came to visit she would pack one in her suitcase and one in her carry on luggage :-) x

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  2. Well hello there lovely cake, please come and stay with me for a while..! :-)

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  3. Looks delicious. Even if you had to put an end to that pet sugar pumpkin.

    And Little Smith has a Rody?! What a lucky boy. I see one in Alice's future as I love the fact it can deflate to store!

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  4. And hooray for staying up to watch the President's speech and now being up at 6:30AM! :-/

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  5. Yummy delicious!!! Passing this on to my eldest, who is the baker among us, for immediate use!

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  6. Beautiful pictures! And I love Animal, Vegetable, Miracle! Great quote, too. I always go for canned pumpkin because I never see the real deal out at the store. Are you finding them at farmers' markets?

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    1. Thanks, yes we have a big farmer's market here (Wilson's in Lexington) that always has them, but Whole Foods also has sugar pumpkins in the winter squash section. They go on sale at some point every winter as well. The can works too though :)

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  7. Oh, that looks so yummy! This would be perfect for a November brunch.

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  8. That quote is so true and something I'm often guilty of myself. Your cake turned out beautifully. Looks so simple, but full of flavor. Wish I could grab through the screen and try a sliver. :)

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  9. Gosh that looks so delicious...and professional. I bet he soon got over the trauma of the pumpkin "killing" when he got a taste of that cake. Good for you for not using canned. I worry about BPAs too. Nothing like having kids to make you worry about everything!

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  10. oh wow that looks so yummy!

    we don't have canned pumpkin here in australia (well i've never seen it?) so to have a recipe that uses fresh...that's something i could make!

    my mouth is watering :)

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  11. Yum! I love all things pumpkiny.

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  12. Oh, just love the shot of him licking that spoon!
    That icing looks perfect...
    Ronnie xo

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  13. So glad I visited your blog today - this is now the leading contender for Audrey's birthday cake! :) Yum yum yum!!

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  14. I loved that book! Pinning the recipe!

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  16. SO pinning that recipe too.

    Gosh, LS is sooo beautiful.

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