Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

We just had our fall Social Work department dinner last weekend. As we were signing up for what we would bring, I pleased to see that Debbie signed up for her Pumpkin Cake.  It wouldn't be the fall supper without it.  It is a tradition.  It is so delicious.  It's the most moist, perfectly pumpkin, slightly cinnamon-y cake with lick-your-fork cream cheese frosting.  I anticipate it every time.  I had never tried to make it myself…until this week. What was I thinking?

When I asked her for the recipe to the cake she recited the ingredients and proportions.  I was impressed.  When I asked her for specific directions for making the cake she replied, "You make it like you make a cake! You know: cream the first few ingredients, add the dry, just make a cake."   Debbie is a no-nonsense woman.  She is practical, intentional, and wise.

She always brings the unfrosted cake, along with a container of cream cheese frosting already prepared and frosts it on location.  How smart is that? No worrying about the frosting getting messed up, or the cake getting smashed in transit. (This cake doesn't require the "melding" time of having the frosting on for a day or so because this cake is so moist.)

After frosting the cake she handed the bowl to my husband for licking clean,  knowing his intense love for cream cheese frosting.  She just knows.  I'm telling you, the woman is wise. (This post was another day she spoke wisdom in my life that I wrote about.)

After eating a slice on Friday night, and wishing for another slice, I decided to make it as soon as I could buy a can of pumpkin at the store this week.  Lucy and I made it together and I told her my plan was to send a slice to each of the kids' teachers.  That way I could bless the teachers and restrict my eating of it to a couple of slices!  I knew I would whittle away with a slice here, and a bite there, and a fork-full here all week if I didn't ship it off.  

Lucy and I made the cake.  It is really fast to put together.  Yesterday I sliced pieces and put a "Happy Fall! We are thankful for you! love, The Hunts" post it notes on the containers.  My kids took them to their teachers.  Hopefully they felt the love and gratitude we tried to channel into the cake!

This recipe is so simple, it's hard to believe.  It is so good.  

from Debbie Simpler

1 cup canola oil
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 can pureed pumpkin
2 cups flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350˚.
Place oil, eggs, and sugar in mixing bowl.  Blend well.  Add pumpkin.  Blend well.  Add dry ingredients.  Mix thoroughly. 
Grease and flour Bundt pan (or use my favorite- Baker’s Joy)
Pour batter into pan.
Bake for 50-60 minutes depending on your oven.
Test for doneness with toothpick.  It should come out clean.
Let cool in pan for 10 minutes.
Using a table knife shimmy around the edges.
Turn cake out onto cooling rack. 
Cool well.
In the meantime make the frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
4 cups of powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix together the cream cheese and butter until thoroughly blended. 
Add powdered sugar.  Mix until smooth.  Add vanilla. 
When cake is cooled frost cake.


 If you are excited about Pumpkin season, check out these Pumpkin Muffins, or this Pumpkin Syrup for Coffee, or these Pumpkin Whoopie Pies that I wrote about in years past.  And if you have a Trader Joe's in your city, just walk in the door and you will be inspired- pumpkin butter, and breakfast  bars, pumpkin bread mix, herbal tea, and pumpkin cranberry scone mix. Of course I couldn't resist buying several of these items.  

I hope you can find a reason to make a Pumpkin Cake (or two) this season! 


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cobbler Crumb Bars

It's September but these days are still feeling like summer here in Tennessee.  I am ready for fall weather and so are my kids!  We can't wait for relief. 
One benefit, however, to these ever-lasting hot days is the good produce we are still getting.  
Corn on the cob, tomatoes, cucumbers, fruit.  My neighbors have blessed us with a steady stream of amazing tomatoes this summer.  What a gift! 
Last week I found these beautiful artichokes at Trader Joe's and had to buy them and make them the main dish. 

Isn't this beautiful?
It's like a flower. 

Summer on a plate

I will be sad to say goodbye to peaches! I wish they had been more bountiful and affordable in my life this summer.  They are one of my very favorite foods.

We had a picnic lunch gathering and I was to bring a dessert to share.  I thought it should be a bar or cookie for ease of serving and eating.  But I really was wishing for something like COBBLER! That's when I thought of these bars.  I had never made them but the recipe is from an old Everyday Food magazine that I had looked at many times.  It seemed like the best of both worlds.

Though the original recipe called for fresh blackberries, I made it with fresh blueberries and diced fresh peaches.  It was so delicious and easy for picnicking.  I love that it has a cake bottom, fruity filling and crumbly, but not too crumbly top.  It's like a hand held cobbler!

borrowed from Martha Stewart Everyday Food Magazine

6 Tbsp. butter, melted; and ½ cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
½ cup packed light-brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
10 ounces (or enough to make a layer in the pan) of fruit (blackberries, raspberries, peaches, strawberries)

Preheat oven to 350˚
Butter (or spray with cooking spray) an 8-inch square baking pan.  Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhand on two sides; butter and flour paper, tapping out excess.

Make topping:  In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, and ¼ tsp. salt; add 1 cup flour, and mix with a fork until large moist crumbs form.  Refrigerate topping until ready to use.

In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining ¾ cup flour, baking powder, and remaining ¼ tsp. salt; set aside.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat room-temperature butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy; add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture. 

Spread batter evenly in pan; sprinkle with fruit, then chilled topping.  

Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 40 minutes. 

Cool completely in pan.  

Using paper overhang, lift cake onto work surface; cut into squares. (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

The recipe doubles well.  

This is a little trick I use when I am needing to transport a dish and either it is too warm to
cover with wrap, for fear of wetness from condensation forming;
or if it is too awkward to get foil or saran to stay put.
I just use one of my largest tea towels and tie it by corners in the middle to
create a covered "package' for transporting.

I made the bars a second time when we were celebrating my Dave and our friend David's birthday.  I cut large slices and served it with vanilla ice cream (so it can be a plated dessert as well).   I made it with fresh raspberries that we found on sale at the grocery that week.  It was also a great variation. I haven't yet tried using frozen fruit, but I imagine it would work fine.  I'll let you know.

October is just around the corner, as hard as that is to believe.  Soon it will be time for pumpkin spice everything.  So, quick, grab some fruit and make some Cobbler Crumb Bars!