“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”-George Eliot
It’s that time of year again; time for pumpkin patches, enjoying the rich fall colours, planning for Halloween and celebrating Thanksgiving.
Autumn is my favourite time of year! I love the rich hues that paint the trees across the city and parks. I love the crisp breeze that rushes through my hair as a walk about the city. I love the beautiful sweaters and scarves that grace the shop windows. I love the excitement of children as they play among the fallen leaves.
Most of all I love the warm feeling of snuggling up with some warm apple cider and a good book.
We celebrated our Canadian Thanksgiving over 2 weekends so that more people were able to come. It is difficult to get everyone together at one time since many of our friends and family members live out of town.
When preparing a Thanksgiving meal, I tend to break with the usual tradition of roasting a turkey with all of the trimmings by tasting new recipes with my family. This year we enjoyed pork tenderloins with a white wine tarragon sauce for the first celebration and a leg of lamb roasted with rosemary and garlic for the second. Everyone pitched in a brought something toward the meal so it was a true group effort. I love spending time with family over the holidays.
Instead of baking the traditional pumpkin or sweet potato pie I baked a pumpkin cake with brown butter icing sprinkled with candied pecans. The cake is packed with flavour and the icing is rich and buttery; a perfect match to the sweetness of the candied pecans.
It could be baked for any occasion, but I thought pumpkin was an nice autumn treat for us to enjoy.
“When autumn darkness falls, what we will remember are the small acts of kindness: a cake, a hug, an invitation to talk, and every single rose. These are all expressions of a nation coming together and caring about its people.”
Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Brown Butter Icing
Makes 12 to 16 servings
Pumpkin Pecan Cake
½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, softened
1¼ cups (310 mL) packed, light brown sugar
1 cup (250 mL) fresh or canned pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
1½ cups (375 mL) unbleached cake and pastry flour
½ cup (125 mL) ground toasted pecans
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
¼ tsp (1 mL) baking powder
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2 mL) each ground ginger, cinnamon and allspice
1 tsp (5 mL) orange zest
½ cup (125 mL) buttermilk
2 cups (500 mL) chopped candied pecans
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
Grease sides of two 9-inch (1.5-L) round metal cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Beat in pumpkin and vanilla until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whisk fl our, ground pecans, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and orange zest. Stir into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, making 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of wet. Scrape into pans; smooth.
Bake in the centre of oven until a cake tester comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Let cool in pans on rack for 10 minutes. Turn out onto racks; peel off paper. Invert; let cool.
To assemble the cake, brush any crumbs from cake layers. Cut each in half horizontally. Place 1 layer, cut-side up on cake plate. Spread with about ¾ cup (175 mL) of the icing. Sprinkle evenly with ½ cup (125 mL) of the candied pecans. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining layer, cut-side down. Spread entire cake with a scant cup of the icing to mask. Refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes. Spread cake with remaining icing and decorate with remaining pecans.
Brown Butter Icing
½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter
8 oz (250 g) cream cheese, softened
¼ cup (60 mL) brown sugar
1¼ cup (310 mL) confectioner’s sugar
For icing, in a large heavy skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns a golden brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a bowl and let stand until the little bits sink to the bottom, about 5 minutes. Transfer to freezer and chill until firm, about 15 minutes. Scrape the top of the butter from the bits at the bottom; discard bits.
Transfer brown butter to bowl with the cream cheese and brown sugar. With an electric mixer beat until the brown sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until incorporated and fluff y, 1 to 2 minutes.